I agree that Udaipuris a lovely place. Lakes, palaces, temples and forts abound in this relatively quiet city in southern Rajasthan, as do touristy hotels and restaurants that serve sub-par food and overpriced clothing to swarms of inappropriately dressed tourists. It is also where the James Bond film Octopussy was filmed, a fact you cannot miss from the multiple hotels screening it nightly, for several decades now. (Can you think of a better recipe for insanity?) We were here on the tail end of the tourist season during a 3 day festival that among other things, celebrates married ladies. Not speaking Hindi myself (yet), I am still hazy on the intricacies of this celebration. Suffice it to say that it was colorful, spiritual, and refreshing to be in a crowd and not be oogled by dozens of sexually repressed men.
|gaungar: festival for women|
|animals and art of Udaipur|
One evening we set out from our hotel with no real plan in mind. We walked towards the city gardens in the hope of finding something interesting to do. After gaping at a tree full of long tailed, black faced monkeys, and a spell of sliding around in a nifty playground, we followed the sound of music to a small Hindu temple where festival activities were in play. Seated on the ground were men, women and children, clapping, drumming and singing into a highly amplified sound system. When they noticed us leaning on the wall listening to them, they beckoned us in and sat us down, placed tambourines in our hands, marked us with bindis and fed us…you guessed it, thali! We were told that we must eat every morsel of food on our plate lest we anger the god(s) from which it was sent. (We did, of course.) It was special to feel welcome in this small celebration. Ryan even got draped with a silky orange scarf around his neck, another detail that is lost on me due to my ignorance of the religion and language. (Hindi lessons…here I come!) We capped the evening off with a gondola ride up to the top of a hill which houses a small Karni Mata temple. This is a temple which reveres rats. Being close to the city, however, I think that it pales next to its sister temple in Bikaner (our next destination). The two dozen or so white rats here are contained in an enclosure full of fresh fruit and vegetables. In Bikaner, I hear that the Karni Mata temple is an altogether different affair…
|night time fun in Udaipur: ropeways, hindu festivals, and city lights.|
|in the city palace|
Anyhow, in order to get tasty food in Udaipur, (unless you want a real cup of espresso and a slice of pie, in which case park yourself in Café Namaste right there in the tourist quarter) you must hop in a rickshaw and go another neighborhood. We were directed to the Old Hotel Natraj by a friendly Indian fellow as a famous thali joint. It was a tasty and fast paced experienced, in which we were seated and served, and never asked what we’d like or offered a menu. The whole time we sat there, there was a steady stream of servers coming around to refill our bowls, or to add rice and chapatti to our plates for what amounts to an all-you-can-eat dining experience. This is what makes thali the best bang for your buck if you are a hungry hippo. Even if you are only hungry enough for the initial serving, at 80 rupees (about $1.50), it’s not a bad deal at all.
Natraj Hotel and Dining Hall
22-24 City Station Road (Raj)
Phone 0294-2487488, 94147 57893