The train from Mumbai to Udaipur

We took our time on Sunday morning. Our check-out had to be done by 12 o’clock – plenty of time for packing. Our train was leaving only around 4pm. A tip – take plenty of bank cards with you. Out of 7 cards we have in total only one worked to make the payment for the hotel.

Our train would leave from Bandra Terminus. We decided to get there by local city train. We were very lucky to catch one that was stopping only in the biggest train stations. Less people and less travel time. Win-win. We got out in Bandra station (not the same as Bandra terminus(!)). From there our plan was to get to Terminus, leave our bags there and go for lunch in one of the cafes in Bandra recommended by Foursquare or LP.

We had our first tuk-tuk ride. Who needs to go amusement parks if you can have the same sensations for 10 Rs each! There were 6 (driver included) of us in the small bug like vehicle + our big backpacks + the luggage of the other passengers. I was squeezed in the middle of he back seat. I could not see much. Just feel all the countless bumps of the road, speeding, breaking, honking and repeat. Luckily it lasted only about 10 minutes.

The only option for leaving the bags in the station was a sort of ware house/storage cabin which was called “the cloak house”. It looked very open and like no one really be looking after things, so we decided to take our backpacks with us. We took another tuk-tuk to get to our chosen cafe Candies. The locals seem to be big fans of the place, but for us that was not too much of success, though our stomachs got filled and it was much cheaper than the other places we went to.

We got back to the train station about an hour before the train would leave, about half an hour before the departure we could embark. We were sharing our compartment with two lovely students: Shikha and Megha  who were going back to their home town Chittoragh for Diwali that will take place this year on 11th November. We had very interesting conversations about local food, cinema, education and weddings. Since they are only 120km away from Udaipur, who knows, we might visit them one day.

We had the train dinner – it was much, much better than the train lunch that we had on the previous train. There were some 4 sauces + raita + rice + chapattis. Some of the sauces were quite spicy, but raita comes handy in those cases to make some less spicy.

By 10pm we were ready for sleep. In the train you get clean sheets + a pillow and blanket that keeps you nicely warm. This time we were traveling in 2AC – only 2 bed on top of each other + a curtain that separates you from the passage. I don’t know if it is the night train, the destination or the class, but there were way less salesmen this time. I would actually loved to have some masala chai after the dinner, but there was no one offering that this time.

On the way to Panorama hotel

The night on the train went by smoothly. Around 7 am when the sun came we were up, by 9 am we arrived in Udaipur. The first minutes in the city brought us 2 surprises. First – we saw cleanest station so far in India, no trash lying around, nice and clean tiles. Stijn is convinced that the station in Udaipur is cleaner than the one in Mechelen. He might be right. The second surprise was the temperature. It was after 9 am and we were absolutely comfortable. No heat, no sweating. Of course it should not come as a big surprise, we are some 1300 km to the North from our first stop in Goa.

Udaipur is the city of lakes, the white city of Rajasthan state. For the last few years it has also been a popular destination for pre-wedding photoshoots. A possible interesting location for Stijn.

We found our next stay via Airbnb. Panorama guest house offered free pick up from station, which we happily accepted. In India you have to listen very carefully and sometimes be quick-witted and inventive. We were looking for our drive who was supposed to have a paper with my name on. There was no such driver. But quick enough some one was asking, if we had an arranged driver from “Panorma” hotel. No, no… no Panorma. But wait, Panorma vs Panorama… could be it! And it was. For a while I thought that I have misread the name of the guest house in the description, but once we got there it turned out that Panorma is Indian pronunciation for Panorama. 🙂

Within 10 min tuk-tuk drive in rather early morning we saw more tourists than during our whole stay in Mumbai. This is going to be the new reality.

When we booked our room, we had not done much of a research. We were not even sure, where exactly the guest house would be. We were very surprised to realise that we are located on an peninsula that is enclosed by lake. Our room in the 3rd floor and has a beautiful view on the lake and the opposite side of the city. We see temples, lake side houses and the City palace.. We have a small terrace and kingsize bed, tv that we have never turned on and satisfying bathroom. The price was two times cheaper than Mumbai. We were happy!

I was a bit night-in-train hangover, so we laid low. Breakfast in the guest house restaurant, lunch too. In the afternoon we were ready to go for a little exploration tour. Crossing the pedestrian bridge takes you to another world. Many more tourists and a same-same shops full with Indian-ish clothes, leather bags, jewellery and “local art school” paintings. And of course the men working in the shops trying to get you in to their kingdom for “just looking”. This happens mostly in the same way. Either they just point their finger to something inside and say something like “Look inside”, “Good price”, “Just looking, don’t buy”. Or another strategy is asking “What is your name” and “Where do you come from”. Walking around the city, those are the most common questions. Even if you think that you are talking with someone genuinely interested in you asking these questions, you mostly get disappointed when mostly after the third or fourth sentence, their shop, art school or tailor shop.

Later in the evening we found a nice square close to the lake to watch the sun go down behind the hills.

The day had been long, so all I desired for the evening was a bottle of cold Kingfisher. In most of the places there would be alcohol on the menu, but in the menu of our guest house’s restaurant was stated “serving special drinks”. We decided to try our luck. We got our cold beer served from chilled glasses (I am not sure that it is the best way how to serve beer, but will do for one evening). We had it together with cheese naan.

Visit to the City Palace

For our second day in Udaipur we had planned to pay a visit to City Palace, but first we had slow breakfast. By now we had established that the restaurant of our guest house is not our favourite place to eat. Should look for something else.

By noon we were finally out of our room and ready to conquer the city. We were equipped with our water bottles, but we forgot to get some snacks (cookies). That will have consequences latter.

Entrance to City Palace was 250 Rs per person + 250 Rs the camera fee. We skipped audio or real guide option, since we are trying to be responsible about our spendings. The palace dates back to 16th century. The exposition starts with exhibition of the arm or the kings of Udaipur. If you are into weapons, wars and kings, then it could be interesting for you, but I have a feeling that I paid too much attention to the first part. I have certain amount of patience and attentiveness that I can dedicate to an exhibition. If I spend too much of it in the beginning – there is nothing left for the end. So – beware, there is much more to see. There are a lot of  second quality paintings illustrating the feats of Maharana Uday Singh as well as historical local style paintings depicting different occasions from the past. Elephant fights was one of my favourite topic. The paintings are large scale, but depicting of the events and people is in miniature and form “birds eye” point of view. The fine brush work when showing people, animals and flora is very precise, but when it comes to filling in the architectural elements and plain ground or water one can easily spot lack of time or investment.

Bird Cages in City Palace of Udaipur

Bird Cages in City Palace of Udaipur

I enjoyed the architecture and design elements of the palace the most. Wondering from one room to another, crossing several inner gardens you can observe mixture of different centuries, styles and techniques of decoration. All I missed were real birds in the birdcages that decorated one of the inner roof gardens.

The exhibitions of the palace is big and it take long to go through it. After 2 hours I started to get hungry (here the cookies would come handy). In one of the last parts different textile, painting and photography galleries are placed. I would have liked to spend more time here. Especially in the photo gallery where photos from 2nd part of 19th century and 1st half of 20th century were exposed.

But we had to eat. The big question – where? We did not have our Lonely Planet bible with us and Foursquare didn’t seem very helpful. So Stijn just asked a random local guy what he would suggest. And that’s how we ended up in Millets Of Mewar. We had read about the place before and had passed it several times, as it is very close to our guest house. It was love at first sight!

From now on we would eat there at least once a day (sometimes 3).

We spent the evening in our room – reading, writing and editing photos. We decided that for the following days we would try to stick with “do/visit one thing a day” concept, not to exhaust our selves too soon.

We also decided to stay in Udaipur a bit longer that we had planned, cause it seems that the city and the surrounding area has a lot to offer. We also found a cheaper guest house (also part of the Millets of Mewar). We will move there in few days.