Ranakpur to Udaipur

Well, it wasn’t so bad a night after all. We sat up till late talking about obscure heavy metal bands and drinking all the beer in the hotel. All two bottles of it that they’d bought earlier in the day from the market for us, so we could hardly turn it down!

Come morning, we set off at 10am to go to the Shri Ranakpur Jain Temple down the road. Lonely Planet gives this one a big push – 29 sections, 1444 pillar each of which is different from the others. Thing is, it was also closed to non-Jain until midday and we weren’t going to stand around for two hours to get in. We got to see around the outside and it is a formidable looking structure, but those pillars eluded us.

The Jain, as far as we can ascertain, are a sect of Hindus who seem to follow very strict guidelines. They dress all in white, and women have pink plastic “masks” over their mouths when out in public. Our driver had been pointing them out when we saw them at the roadside from time to time, though they’re easy to spot due to the white robes.

From there, we settled in for the three-and-a-bit-hour drive to Udaipur. The scenery once again changed slightly, and we saw more windy roads and mountains. At one point, my ears popped so I guess we were getting higher!

Along the way we stopped to take some snaps of a water wheel being driven by two hefty cows. As we clicked away, we were accosted by the usual rag-tag bunch of kids after spare rupees, foreign money or pens. As usual, we had large denomination former and neither of the latter to give out. It didn’t stop the kids trying, though.

That was the only interruption to our journey and we made it to the Dream Heaven Guesthouse – recommended by the girls in Delhi – around 2pm. After climbing three floors (including a scary, ricketty outside spiral stair) to get to the reception, we discovered they were full. At least we’d not carted all our bags up.

I’d spotted a sign for the Panorama, which Hans recognised as being recommended in Lonely Planet. We walked over there and found that it, too, was full! Udaipur seems a popular place with foreigners and Indians alike. However, we were told that the brother of the man who runs Panorama had just opened a new guest house – which we had parked outside.

So back we walked, and checked into the Hotel Hanuman Ghat. A nice enough place, and as convenient for everything as just about every other hotel in the immediate area. Basically, where we were was the guest house district. Over nearer the lake is the upmarket hotel district where the quality goes up, but so do the prices.

We took a stroll along and across the river, watching some people doing washing in the calm water. A couple of kids went for a swim, as did one oldergent – fully clothed! – before stripping off to dry his togs. Lunch was at a restaurant by the bridge nearest our hotel. There was a large group of orientals sat there when we arrived, all chowing down on Korean food. Hans scared them by talking in fluent Korean, which earned a lot of giggles fromthe girls. Well, his parents are Korean even if he, by his own standards, doesn’t look it.

My stomach hadn’t been feeling great, I think more down to the travel than diet, so I settled on a plate of chips and a cheese and tomato pizza. Hans tucked into some of the Korean cuisine which he rated quite highly.

Our daily internet stop was next. A slow connection, but a cheap price and I cleared up a mountain of emails. We also looked into flight prices and hotels in Mumbai, hopefully all of which we’ll make a decision on tomorrow once we get a couple of mails back.

In the evening, we headed up to the roof top restaurant for a bite to eat and a film. Amost everywhere in Udaipur shows (or at least say they show) Octopussy each evening. Three of the palaces and one of the Maharajah’s cars (a Roller) were used in the film so it’s a bit of a touristy thing. It seems the locals have become a little bored with the film, though, so we ended up watching Superman Returns and Crank from a pirate DVD instead. Pretty enjoyable, in all fairness. Hans reckons the special thali he had was the best meal he’s eaten in India so far. I settles on chicken fried rice, which was also rather nice, washed down with a large bottle of Kingfisher.

At various points in the evening, fireworks exploded around us. It’s wedding season in India right now, and apparently it’s causing problems. Like virtually every country in the world, the population is increasing. Everyone wants to get married at around the same time for traditional reasons and they’re running out of venues. Calls have been made to extend curfews in some cities so that they can squeeze extra weddings in each day.

Then to bed with an early rise in the morning. As the streets nearby are narrow and precluded parking, our driver had to leave us and said he’d be back at 9am prompt the next day. Hans was going to have to shift his backside out of bed at a reasonable hour for once!

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