|They say Udaipur is the "Venice of the East". Sure, I guess it has water and classical architecture, but in my opinion, to call cities "the Venice of blah" or the "Paris of blah" ends up taking away from the city you're ACTUALLY in. Udaipur doesn't have the canals of Venice, and Venice doesn't have cows stealing carrots from street vendors. So while the nickname admittedly sets the scene, this post is all about the classy city of Udaipur!
Udaipur is much more laidback than the other Indian cities we've been to so far. The street noise is a mere dull roar and you can walk around with only a small chance of getting flattened by a tuk tuk. The overall look of the city is also different from what we've seen so far. It's built around a man made lake, and the Taj Palace hotel, which appears to float in the middle of the lake, makes a beautiful centerpiece. Too bad it costs $2200/night to stay there. We left the Taj Palace to James Bond, and stayed in the $16/night Dream Heaven Guesthouse down the street (by the way, this is actually one of the more expensive places we've stayed).
Besides spending time on the guesthouse's spectacular rooftop terrace and wandering the city's bazaars, we spent a day taking classes! First, there was the Rajasthani miniature painting class. Miniature painting is something you really have to see to believe... these paintings are in such fine detail, they are done with a paintbrush made from ONE HAIR from a squirrel's tail! I painted an elephant and Ryan painted a peacock - it took us nearly 3 hours. Now consider that, in some of the palaces, we saw paintings the size of a twin mattress. We left the class with two bookmark-sized paintings and a ton of respect for the artists.
Later that night, we were whisked off to a house on the outskirts of town, where an adorable little lady named Mamta taught us how to cook a Rajasthani thali (a combination of about 5-7 different dishes). It was everything an Indian cooking class should be - complete with Mamta laughing at the shapes of my pakoras, and yelling at us for not stirring the vegetables fast enough. We left there with very full bellies, a pocketful of recipes, and a batch of Mamta's homemade masalas.
We spent three nights in Udaipur, then hopped on a plane to Goa, where we are currently having a candlelit seafood dinner on the beach with our feet in the sand and $2 beer in our hands. The bill just came. $27.
This is the life.