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India: Udaipur

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Once again we had an early start to get a local train from Ajmer station to Udaipur from Pushkar. We were the first in the hotel's restaurant and it seemed like the servers had been woken up just to feed us. I robbed some Vegemite from our Australian buddies and semi-conscious we hopped into the tuk tuks on our way to the station.

The train journey was 6 hours and it wasn't as 'luxury' as the first one we had from Delhi to Agra (we didn't get fed), however at this point we all feel much more acclimatised to India. We were sat in rows of three and we (Lauren, Justine and I) were facing an older lady who sang loudly to her music player, and a middle-aged couple. It was a bit of a cramp especially considering the fact we all had many bags to stuff away but generally the journey was pleasant. We chatted, slept a bit, played cards, read and played around with the chunky prison-esque shutters and bars on the windows. One other novelty (which I cringe slightly to admit), was throwing our rubbish out the window - only copying the rest of the carriage of course. It felt very naughty and wrong but it also felt appropriate at the time.

As we alighted from the train, bums and backs a little stiff and sore, we were transported to Hotel Vishnu Priya. The hotel was very big and modern, with a large lounge area that included an unusual mini-fountain with some carp swimming around. We had lunch in the hotel café (probably the most confusing service yet) that was really delicious and insisted on a nap. A few hours later, refreshed (ish), Raj took us on our orientation walk. He led us alongside some paintings depicting the history of Udaipur on one long wall running through the town. We then stopped at Janak Arts where we met a trendy looking enigmatic man with long floppy hair and very good English. The 'shop' was an arts centre (and also a hotel) for miniature painting; something Udaipur is famous for. Said gentleman (we'll call him Janak) and another artist talked us through the process of creating miniature paintings, the history and present day art. One of the things we learned was that the paintbrushes use squirrel tail hairs and camel's eyelashes. They did reassure us that they don't kill the animals they just take the hairs they need from them. Whether or not we believe that is another matter. Anyway the paintings are typically of peacocks, elephants, camels, gods and goddesses. The artist then painted little (very detailed) murals on our fingernails ranging from colourful birds to a fornicating couple. We were all suitably impressed and when Janak offered a whole range of activities to us such as painting class, palm reading, henna tattoos and a cooking class, we all lapped it up and booked in. Lauren and I decided on the painting class and henna tattoos - because we're soooo artistic. But that was for the following day...

That evening Raj took us to the 'Cultural Show' at Bagore Ki Haveli where we saw traditional live Indian music, dancing, puppets and a mini-play (in Hindi and English). The pièce de résistance was a hexagenarian lady in full Indian dress dancing and standing on glass with 11 clay pots balancing on her head. Every time the lady went to the side of the stage (where we were sitting) to have another 2 or 3 pots put on her head we were all gasping and screaming in disbelief. It was all very theatrical and fun. We also met another group doing a G Adventures tour but theirs was the 'Comfort' level (the highest) and ours was 'Yolo' (the lowest). As expected this group were much older and posher than we were. The British lady we spoke to was from London but lived in Bristol now. When I mentioned that we were moving to St. Werbughs I saw her face stifle a grimace. Her response to my question on whereabouts she lived was 'Clifton, dahhling!'. Dear oh dear. But she was nice enough and it was fun to see her shock at what our tour entailed; local buses, squat toilets and god forbid - street food.

For dinner we went to a very swish restaurant called Tribute. The service here was outstanding, but it made me miss the befuddlement we'd gotten used to. The meal was amazing (if a little expensive) and I got very drunk off-of ONE pina colada. Classic Aisha.

The next day was our first free one. We could do whatever the hell we wanted and naturally, we didn't know what the hell we wanted! Luckily we'd already pre-booked our painting class and 10am so paying close attention to our orientation walk from the previous day we managed to find our way to Janak Arts. We chose our subjects; a mor (peacock) for me and a haathee (elephant) for Lauren. Following the tutor's instructions we painted our mini masterpieces and Lauren's in particular came out brilliant. When we'd finished, Janak came down and decorated our hands and Lauren's arm with henna. Janak took a particular liking to Lauren and asked that I leave her in India. We were impressed with our hennas at first but after a few days and more time in India we realised it was pretty crap and pretty overpriced. We should have gotten a woman to do it. They both rubbed off in 7 days (he said they would last 3 weeks).

Unsure as to what to do next we climbed the 4 flights of stairs to the top of Janak Arts to see over the city. The weather at this point was well and truly scorchio and we were all desperate to get our skin out, but alas this wasn't appropriate until Goa. We walked around the shops for a bit, mainly trying to find a supermarket or a pharmacy (which we didn't) and then head back to the hotel. On the way back we had a wander round the Tibetan market and found nothing remotely Tibetan (except a few of the traders themselves). After a bit of a snooze we ventured back out for late lunch, following the well-placed signs for the eco-café Millets of Mewar that I'd found online and was desperate to go to. Although it was much further away than we'd anticipated, it was worth it. A fully organic, ethical little eatery who's dishes were built around the grain millet. We bought some museli, cookies and anklets ('cos we're suckers for little coopertives) and went back to Janak arts where the rest of the group were finishing their cooking class.

Because we're creatures of habit and also lazy, we went back to Millets of Mewar the following morning for breakfast with Mona. This time there was only one poor boy (probably 14 years old) looking after the whole café on his own. Consequently our orders took a while and were a little wrong but the food was still amazing and thankfully Mona loved it too. We met two British men who were also travelling around India and recommended going to see a Bollywood film where we had in Jaipur. They enthusiastically and gratefully took down the details we gave them and for the first time I felt like a proper traveller with knowledge and stuff. The one stain on our breakfast was the fact my monthly cycle decided to make an early appearance while I was sat Indian-style on a beautifully embroidered cushion. Luckily I caught it just in time. Fucking womanhood.

The three of us, keen to do any activity remotely cultural besides eating, shopping and walking around, decided to travel up Karni Mata rope way; a cable car up one of Udaipur's highest hills. At the top there were numerous viewpoints and meandering pathways so we went for an explore, as you do. A number of times we were spooked by the local monkeys and screamed and jumped like proper little girls. At one point Lauren knocked down a sign, shit herself and her and Mona ran off leaving me confused and on my own and wondering whether they'd been attacked by a rabid monkey.

We went back to the hotel where the rest of the group were at the pool celebrating Australia Day. We had some yummy homemade mojitos and decided not to get semi-naked along with our pals. Goa awaits after all. We then all tried to go to the City Palace for evening drinks but were told we needed our passports (which we didn't have on us). After losing Raj in the confusion of it all we found a restaurant that we thought was the one he'd chosen (it wasn't) that had a lovely view over the lake and all of the palaces. We spent far too much on food and cocktails but considering it was also India's Republic Day (when no one's supposed to drink) we were just glad we'd found some booze full stop. I must mention also that the tuk tuk driver that took us to said restaurant told us he was related to the King who'd founded Kama Sutra and that this King died young because he'd had too much sex. Legend.

To finish the evening off Raj sourced us a bottle of rum and we all shared it in Hattie and Michael's hotel room, getting to know each other better and showing off our best (cough worst) yoga moves.

Posted by advensha 23:49 Archived in India

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Sounds like you're both fully immersed. Spot on X

by Fizz Benfield

Hey Aisha, I am loving these blogs. Very entertaining and colourful. I feel like I am there with you. Brilliant! Joanie xx

by Joan Jones

Creating/painting a lovely picture there aish x x

by Lil

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