Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Described in our books as a “fairytale city” built around 7 lakes surrounded by hills and filled with palaces, I had high expectations for my b-day weekend in Udaipur. I was sure to keep these expectations in check because after being in India for three weeks I know that although there is great beauty to be seen it is usually amid a lot of unpleasantness.

To my delight Udaipur did not disappoint and even exceeded my expectations. We arrived Friday evening and quickly set off to have dinner at a recommended restaurant. We had our meal on the water’s edge with great views of both the City Place and Lake Palace which has been converted to a luxury hotel. Our hotel in Delhi had even given me a b-day cake to take with us to Udaipur and thanks to the wedding season being in full swing we even had fireworks. Not bad for a birthday dinner miles away from home and friends.

Our guide the next day was my favorite yet…his English was close to perfect and he was very open to my incessant questions about Indian culture. He, himself, was to be married in 4 days and he gave me a lot of insight into the actual ceremony and even more into the pressure put on these young people to be wed. His marriage, like most in India, was arranged and he had only twice met his bride-to-be…each time for no more than 15 minutes. Can you imagine?

My favorite part of the day and maybe of my time in India was our trip out to these 11th century Hindu temples. He had asked us if we were interested because it was about 30 minutes outside of Udaipur but promised us they were something really special…and they certainly were worth the drive.

Not only were the temples themselves beautiful works of art but the setting couldn’t have been more serene…surrounded by green wheat fields in the valley of hills. I’m afraid none of the pictures we took of the temples themselves do them justice. Each was made of marble but one had every square inch of its interior filled with intricate carvings depicting the stories of the Hindu gods. It was truly exquisite. However, it was the tranquility we all found just sitting outside these temples that was the true treasure. I believe it was the first time outside of our hotel that I really felt at peace since being in India. I could have sat there for hours enjoying the gentle breeze and quiet calmness that enveloped us…it was a perfect end to our day.

Thanks to a later flight, Sunday was spent by the pool and enjoying a leisurely late lunch. We had originally been annoyed at our travel agent for being unable to secure tickets for the earlier flight with everyone else. However, it seemed we were the lucky ones because the poor group had their flight “preponed”. I’d still like to know if that is even a word (Beth?). Either way, apparently the airline chose to move their flight from 1pm to 9am without any notice. Missing their flight they were forced to take a later flight to Mumbai, have a layover there and not arrive in Delhi until about 10 minutes before us and we had a 6:50pm flight out of Udaipur. Ouch.

Next weekend we are supposed to go to Varanasi which is a religious center for Hindus…the rituals are supposed to be amazing to witness. A team member mentioned that most rituals forbid photography so we’re toying with staying in Delhi. After the horrible travel day they all experienced we may be the only ones actually going anyway.

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