Monday, 11 October 2010

If Bognor Regis was in India...

The Rajasthani dance and music evening in Udaipur was brilliant. It took place in an open-air courtyard inside an old haveli, and featured a puppet show with traditional Rasjasthani marionettes, plus several dances by women with pots of fire on their heads, or covered in bells, and all accompanied by musicians singing and playing drums. The final number was a woman who danced balancing pots on her head - each time she went to get another pot we thought she couldn't possibly balance any more, but she ended up dancing with a collosal stack of 10 pots on her head!

On our final day in Udaipur, we took a boat ride around the lake, which was very picturesque and a lovely way to spend an afternoon. On the way back we saw the Maharani's palace guard doing some exercises, all in a very impressive uniform (with the senior guard sporting a really incredible moustache). In the evening we wacthed fireworks from the rooftop of our hotel as it is the beginning of a 10-day Durga festival. We both really enjoyed Udaipur - it was much friendlier and cleaner (relatively speaking) than other places we've been. There's a really green movement to keep the city clean and a lot of the guesthouses have solar panels on the rooftops. We also had one of the best meals we've eaten here - an amazing cheap thali in a place across town where all the locals go and eat - not touristy at all, and people keep coming round to heap more rice, curries and chapatis on your place until you can't eat any more. And all for R70 (about 99p)!

View from the boat across the lake in Udaipur. In the distance is the monsoon palace on the hilltop, and in the foreground is a posh hotel on an island in the middle of the lake (both locations feature in Octopussy, of course):

The palace guard in Udaipur:

We've now moved on to Mount Abu, which sounded really nice but has left us both quite disappointed. It's Rajasthan's only hill station, and a lot of Indian holidaymakers come up here to escape the heat. The views from the bus as it slowly wound its way up into the hills were incredible, and the town itself is on the shore of a pretty lake surrounded by lovely hills. However, the atmosphere isn't great. It's like a crap British seaside town, with loads of tacky shops selling tat and bb guns (for some reason). We've had more hassle here than anywhere else - we get stared at 24/7 and people keep taking photos of us on their camera phones which is getting really infuriating (sometimes people ask first, sometimes they don't - we've taken to saying no when given the option, otherwise it would take forever to get anywhere).

On the plus side, we've met some really nice backpackers, and Charles, the son of the owner of our guesthouse, is really nice. He took a group of us out to see the Durga festival in action a couple of nights ago - we watched live music as one by one the children and a few of the women started dancing in a big circle until they were all in unison, clapping and twirling and doing a dance that involved tapping two sticks together. Yesterday we went to visit the Dilwara temples, which is a Jain temple a short walk outside town. The temples were really crowded with tourists, but they were really beautiful - the most intricate marble carvings I've ever seen. Photography isn't allowed inside the temples so I can't show you what I mean, but they really were exquisite. Apparently the marble-carvers were paid according to the amount of dust they collected from the carvings, in order to encourage them to carve ever more intricate designs.

Today we may do a trek with Charles in the hills around Mount Abu, which I hope will leave us both feeling better about the place! Tomorrow we're moving on from here, which we're both glad about. The weekend holidaymakers have gone back to the cities today so it's not quite as mental here as when we arrived.

The Durga festival celebrations in Mount Abu:

Sunset at Nakki Lake in Mount Abu. The lake is full of people on pedalos:

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