As we sat on the haveli’s terrace soaking in the post-sunset glittering lights along the lake, the snooker place across the street played jarring western pop. Instantly, memories of the Arizona desert, its cactii scents, pop music as a release from grad school stress – all came barreling into the desert valley experience of here and now. It took a second, but it felt like an entire minute. It is this exhilaration of travel that I live for – a reconciling of home and away in one magical moment.
This pretty city is breathtaking by day and night – Lake Pichola is clearly the crowning glory. On it, by its bank, crossing it on a bridge or viewing it from a vantage view point, it just sits there and sparkles. Its pretty palaces are either privately maintained as a museum (City Palace) or turned into fancy hotels (Jag Mandir Palace, Lake Palace). The city spreads out in a European town layout – an old town touristy center, the newer city around it, a central train station, green spaces, pretty lakes, accessible hilltops and charming homestay havelis. By dusk, the city bursts into glittering little jewels as the monuments’ floodlights turn on, and the muezzin’s call to prayer merges seamlessly into the evening chants at the temple. Grab a rooftop seat anywhere along the lake, and let your senses soak it all in. The food – ah, this is where we were a tad stuck. The cafes catered to the western tourists, and we could not find authentic daal-bhaati-churma in the old city at all. Oh well, the omelettes were excellent and we did find an awesome organic eatery :)
So what new and cool thing did I try this time around? I’ve always wondered about exploring a still-waking-up new city on an early morning jog, dodging surprised locals, sleepy cows and feral dogs. Well, we did just that to poke around the east bank of the lake, to well-tucked-away ghats that opened into lovely lake-view vistas. I admit, I’d only try this if I had a dog-lover with me and there was a good omelette (or erm, a fat paratha) waiting when we returned!
Many times in those three days – at the lakeside, atop a hill, and in the middle of the city palace – we have turned to each other and exclaimed in tandem “I want to live here someday!”. Now THAT’s a first :) There are no factories to run and silicon chips to design in Udaipur, tourism is the only biggest industry. But if someone gave us a haveli to run, we’d bend over backwards to learn to make a mean omelette, just to watch Lake Pichola sparkle outside everyday :)
We still had ten days to meander around other Rajasthani jewels, but my partner-in-crime’s work beckoned us back home. We still have our eyes set on this north-western corner (in shoulder season; seriously, where were all the tourists?!). We’ll be back ;)