Udaipur Tour

After a lovely meal last night overlooking the lake, we were up early this morning and onto the ferry over to the landing stage. We were met by Vikram and our guide for the morning, Chadhra. Clearly one of the warrior caste, but with a great sense of humour, and excellent English, without ever having been to the UK.

He explained that Udaipur has a population of over half a million, based upon the precious metals, granites and marbles of the region, but that tourism is now the biggest industry following the filming of The Jewel In The Crown for TV and of Octopussy, the James Bond movie. Now all the worlds great stars come here to be married, or to entertain the others at the weddings. Madonna, Lady Gaga and Lionel Ritchie recently. And today at our hotel, the president of the Maldives ( not Moldova! ). Boy do these guys travel in style! What an entourage.

Anyway, Chadhra took us to the King’s Palace, his museums and gardens, and got us in before the general opening, which was a stampede! And it was amazing. The oldest monarchy in descendants in the world – over 70 consecutive monarchs. Needless to say, a humble abode!

The melange of architectural styles is fabulous, from Moghul, Arabic, European etc, and the use of glass and mirrors is truly stunning. Then onto a temple, which was very interesting, but no photos allowed. Because the King’s son is getting married here later this month, everyone is practising their singing and dancing, and it actually seems very similar to Native American Indian culture.

And I’ve made up the ceilidh band with the Indian squeeze box – bellows and keyboard, but very different design – called a melodian, I think!
We had a great time driving around Udaipur, and then walking back to the hotel through the old town. You can see why they like you to arrive by their boats on the lake!!

20140105-173129.jpg

20140105-173142.jpg

20140105-173119.jpg

20140105-173229.jpg

20140105-173252.jpg

Udaipur

We made the journey to Udaipur with ease. The trip from the hotel to Mumbai airport was very different from our arrival. The driver chose the coastal route where a new motorway makes it an easy journey as well as giving spectacular views. We did pass some more of the slums but the guide assured us that whilst they are grim-looking from the outside, inside they will have all mod cons—washers, tv, marble floors etc. The popular opinion is that food is cheap & plentiful & that rarely does anyone go hungry. It is the price of property that prevents people moving on & often they are sitting tight knowing that they are themselves occupying prime development sites.
At Udaipur airport the local agent + car & driver were waiting for us. The agent saw us on our way from the airport & another one met us at the hotel jetty. Vikram is our driver & he will now be with us until the end of our holiday. From airport to Udaipur town took about 30 mins & Vikram delivered us to the jetty from which the boat took us & our luggage across Lake Pichola to our hotel —The Leela Palace. The hotel is lovely & definitely made us welcome. We were greeted by local musicians & were showered with rose petals & had our photo taken. The hotel is about 4yrs old & is spacious with lots of water features & polished marble. UK ‘elf&safety’ would have a fit if they saw it! The one very noticeable thing was the pronounced drop in temperature. We now know why we have been carting warmer clothes around with us. We did have dinner outside but wearing scarves, sweaters, shoes & socks & with a gas heater belting out at maximum revs.

Will upload photos ASAP——having wifi problems.

Mumbai (con’t)

We had a wonderful evening last night, in an Arabic/Syrian restaurant on the 20th floor overlooking the Gateway To India. Great party, on a par with the best, but only missing the fireworks.

After a lie-in and a late breakfast, we went out into Mumbai and it’s markets. As you see more of Mumbai and get to relax into it, so it grows on you. But for the telecoms readers, the street furniture has to be seen to be believed. (See pic!) we also had our first traffic accident today, and fortunately we won! The old Fiat taxi lost. But no-one seemed too concerned.

First stop was to the lunch box men. It’s such an unbelievable story that it must be true. Many of the 6.5 million daily commuters are men and they like to have proper, hot meals at lunchtime, prepared at their homes. And so a team of lunch box men pass through the suburbs in the mornings picking up metal food containers from their homes and taking them to the stations on planks on their heads. They slide the planks onto the commuter trains, which are met at the termini by more teams, who sort out the boxes and deliver them to the men at work! The process is then reversed to return the empties for the next day!! This is amazing in itself, until you hear the numbers, which are into the billions, yes billions, each year, with next to no false deliveries. And now more amazing still – the boxes have no names on them!!! You can’t make these things up.

Everything about Mumbai is about scale–an inexpensive place to live except for real estate prices, which are the 3rd highest in the world. It’s just continuous heaving motion, all the time, everywhere. Once you’re used to that, then it’s fascinating.

We went into the food markets first, and the displays, range and quality of everything was astonishing. We felt like the tourists in St Antonin who photograph all the things that we in France take for granted. And whilst there are beggars, and callers etc, and very few Caucasians there, you feel very comfortable. We bought lots of nuts for not a lot. ( to digress, we saw some cashew trees in flower on the backwaters, and they’ll be laden with nuts in a few weeks! ) It reminded me of Leeds Market in my youth!..

After that it was the cloth, material market–simply amazing. An area the size of the whole town of St Antonin given over to just materials. We could have bought some gorgeous rolls! From there onto the silver area, the accessories area, the stainless steel area etc. it was truly fascinating.

To be with someone local, who knows her way around was wonderful. We’re just back and writing this up before something go eat this evening and then packing to leave tomorrow about 11.00 for the flight to Udaipur, where we’ ll be moving north into some much cooler weather, we believe.

We hope that the photos capture the scale and movement of Mumbai.

20140101-190138.jpg

20140101-190156.jpg

20140101-190205.jpg