Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 18th: They're finally here!

Tommy and Denise finally arrived safe and sound. If we weren't in India where cows are sacred we probably would have killed the fattened calf and thrown a feast. Everyone was so excited, but no one more so than those two. We spent some time getting (re)acquainted and learning about some of the details surrounding their Visa troubles. Funny that the moment they arrived, the frustration surrounding those troubles was all instantly cut in half for all of us.

We hit the ground running today playing the role of tourists. We wandered up to the City Palace and with the help of a local tour guide took in the beauty of the grounds, courtyards and ornate detail of the glass inlays, etc. The enormous structure and elaborate decorations were a stark contrast to the buildings and surrounds that we had become accustomed to in Bhindar. Another difference between the two places is that the city of Udaipur caters so well for western tourists. An abundance of tour guides are waiting at the entrance to the City Palace ready to escort the next group through the palace, many of them are at least bilingual. Our guide had clearly had a lot of practice and had even worked some humour into his routine. The ladies in the group were invited to see a picture of the queen, which was actually a mirror (hee scored points there) and Dave was told that he looked like James Bond. He was a smooth operator indeed.

And just like many other aspects of life in Udaipur, there are connections everywhere. When you finish with one business person, they will often refer you on to a friend and their business. The end of the tour was no different as our guide brought us to his friends shop and we were treated to an in-depth lesson on how pashmina garments are made. We also took a boat ride around Lake Pichola and had 'tea' at the Jagmandir Island Palace. We met the owner of the tailor shop (from last night) at the island palace and learnt that he also runs a tour company. As we have come to know, it pays to diversify in India. It was indeed another day full of amazing sights, sounds and tastes.

Just as we have discovered during our time in Bhindar, there is a high level of curiosity that surrounds us wherever we go. While we meandered through the streets of Udaipur, the locals are ever so keen on finding out which country we're all from. It was fun the first few times, but it became even more entertaining when we started picking random countries. The trick was checking if the local actually knew the location of our random country. For instance, I was suddenly from Iceland, Dave from Cote d'Ivoire and Bob from Djibouti. Not surprisingly, the last two always elicited the best responses. 

Prior to dinner Dave and I headed back to the tailor's for a fitting (the owner had returned from running his tour). Dave's three shirts fit perfectly and with some minor adjustments my jacket should be ready tomorrow. We had dinner at Ambrai Restaurant located lakeside, under the open sky, and with an unobstructed view of the City Palace. It's stunning when it's all lit up. Dinner was delish too.

We left the restaurant and were on a mission to head back to Govinda's Cafeteria for some more of the "best ice cream in Udaipur." The disappointment on our faces when we realized that the entire market place was shutdown and each store locked up tighter than a drum was undeniable. Apparently preparation for holy day begins at sundown. Here's hoping Govinda's shop is open tomorrow, as it will be another day of sight seeing, bargaining and wandering this amazingly diverse city. So at some point in the day, we'll want some good ice cream!

Anya Malda 
DWC Participant 
Udaipur, India: October 2014

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