Our first train ride in India was quite a wake-up call. We were able to secure reserved 2nd class tickets, so at least the benches were padded and we had guaranteed seats. We joined hundreds of other people in the car for a multi-hour trip where we squished three to a seat and some people were forced to stand. Most everyone we spoke with before coming to India raved about train travel…I’m not exactly sure why…the train is almost always hours late and always extremely FULL! Like every minute there is an announcement on the loudspeaker, “We regret to inform you, but the train to Udaipur is 4 days (I kid) late.” It didn’t make too much difference because we were still able to catch our connection on the overnight “sleeper class” (prisoner) train without too much hassle.
Except we hadn’t really eaten more than a butter sandwich and a pack of chips, nor had we dressed for arctic temperatures, nor did we have bunks in the same car, nor did we speak the language necessary to negotiate where we were supposed to sleep when our bunks were already filled, nor could we turn off the high beam light above Joshua’s head, nor could we refuse the help of the darling men who decided to take us under their wing and show us how to put down our beds and tell us when to get up in the morning. We are lucky, lucky travelers.
We arranged transportation from the railway station in advance, so we had the leisure to accept the offer of chai from our new train friend before heading into the city. (Again, I’ve been forced to become a tea drinker!)
Our hostel was central to the many attractions in the Venice-like water city. We spent many a night smoking sweet paan masala flavored hookah on the rooftop overlooking the water. We braved the early morning cold for an “authentic” rooftop hatha yoga class at a local’s house. It was a cross between calesthenics and blowing your nose with a few poor form sun salutations thrown in which he said would cure any ailment we had including Joshua’s train-induced sinus infection…but at least we got some amazing masala chai to wrap up the class – this is bad, I actually have preferences now (heavy on the ginger and a dash of black pepper).
We spent an afternoon wandering the alley streets that surround the lake. Several times we made it to the edge of the water to find women bathing and washing clothes.
Although, I’m not sure what they expected to clean with the condition of the water!
We visited the lake palace and admired the beautiful wedding preparations. (Kind of jealous of the amount of amazing smelling fresh flowers!) Forget more cowbell…more jasmine, please!
Without paying the extra money for the sunset tour we tried to capture the City Palace at best light…for the photographer traveling with us–it was easy!
Finding a room that wasn’t full of people was another story.
We managed to secure a few shots on that front as well because Ella has mastered the head wiggle when asking permission.
But, as soon as we stopped looking busy, finished admiring the details or decided to take a rest, we were bombarded with requests for photos. At one point, Joshua and I were sitting on a bench made for two (or two and a half if he was sharing it with someone smaller) and we were approached for a picture. Instead of standing behind us, the guy sat on our laps…I felt like Santa, except this was a full grown man! And the best part was he started a trend that continued for 15 minutes before we had the courage to walk away.
Udaipur is built for buying things. They’ll make suits, dresses and jackets all by hand in a day (which Ella got and it eventually saved her life). They have beautiful leather purses which I couldn’t negotiate to a price I felt comfortable paying and now I’m kicking myself…it’s hard to know what will be worth carrying and what will just take up space. Lesson learned–the hard way!