What a difference a day makes.
We went to Mandu on a Saturday without booking a room. When we got there, there wasn’t a single hotel room available. We had two options:
a) Drive to a town 40 kilometers away in the wrong direction from our next destination
b) Stay at the dorm rooms attached to the local Hindu temple.
We elected to do the latter and stayed in a room that was decked out in the latest in 19th century Turkish prison chic.
The next day we drove to Udaipur, easily one of the most romantic places in India. To celebrate, we checked into the Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel. It’s a converted haveli (mansion); one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever stayed at.
Here’s the view from our room:
This sunset greeted us from our room on the first night:
Candles floating amongst flower petals greeted us outside the room:
After two consecutive days of 10 hour drives, you have no idea how good this felt!
The highlight of Udaipur is the City Palace. It looms over the city:
It has some of the most beautiful carved stone windows I’ve ever seen. Every room seems to be designed in a unique geometric pattern, some with stained glass:
Sometime’s it can seem like a bit much. This room kind of felt like being in a bad 70’s disco:
The Maharaja of Udaipur wanted an elephant, but had to settle for a horse:
This caused nothing but problems for his official portraiteurs who were unsure of how to render the princely battle beast:
I’m just kidding about him wanting an elephant; he had lots. It was never explained why he put a trunk on his horse (he wanted a helephant to give the enemies hell? Sorry for the bad joke); I can’t think that riding into battle on a crippled horse made out to look like a baby elephant would be that intimidating to your opponents.
There’s an interesting mathematical construct called a Menger Sponge. It’s a fractal that you create by doing the following:
a) Start with a cube
b) Remove the middle third of the cube
c) Repeat to infinity
The result is a structure that has infinite surface area and no volume. It’s just a mesh of incredibly finely connected points.
It’s the sort of thing you’d end up with if you told an engineer to carve you something and you’d pay her based on the amount of dust she brought you.
If you were a Jain and told a craftsman to build you something and you’d pay by the dust, you’d end up with something like the temples at Delwara just outside Mt. Abu.
The temples are pure marble carved into the most intricate patterns. Lotus flowers burst out of lotus flowers which are surrounded by elephants and monkeys and ducks and gods and too much to even imagine.
Alas, you can’t take any photos there, so you’ll have to settle from some metaphotos. Here are some photos of photos of the temple (this is getting as recursive as the process of carving the temples):
Mt. Abu is a curious place. It’s like a Niagara Falls or Atlantic City for Gujaratis. They swarm here to hang out on the weekends and it’s still busy during the week. There are overflowing family restaurants and arcades. Vendors hawk peanuts and candy floss. The hotels even have names like the ones in Niagara Falls:
Hordes of people trek out to Sunset Point to watch the eponymous event:
In the rush to get there, some folks sacrifice their dignity and take a push cart rickshaw:
But the sunset isn’t the only thing to see here. Wendy’s a pretty entertaining site as well. All these boys wanted their photo taken with her:
We’ve both had our photos taken with countless people and shaken innumerable hands. The oddest experience was when a police officer walked up to me, gave me his phone number and insisted that I call him when I get to Canada. He actually wanted my phone number to call me, but since I technically don’t have one right now, I had an easy out.
Another great little moment came when we walked up a hill to Toad Rock (which looks nothing like a toad). We passed a miniature temple and the priest insisted I take a photo of him in front of it. Check out that beard:
He also insisted that we have a drink of holy water, slapped a dot on our head and gave us a ceremonial mint. It was a little surreal.
To get to Mt. Abu from Udaipur you need to take the highway. It’s a magnificent highway cut out of rock, set against the rolling hills that intermittently appear in Rajasthan. It’s also weird as rocks have fallen off the cliffs and onto the highway and simply been left there. Some rockfall has been there for so long that there are now plants growing on them. As you can guess, the highway isn’t too heavily trafficked.
The other cultural difference on the highway is the tendency of some Indians to wail in tunnels. I think a few people on our bus had never been in a tunnel before and they began ululating when we got inside. There were a lot of tunnels and a lot of wailing…
I had a new dish called a nargis kofta at Arbuda restaurant. It’s a boiled egg wrapped in vegetables. Served on a kashmiri pulao (rice with candied fruit and cashews) it made a delicious – if sweet – meal:
I also had an interesting treat called a kutchi dabeli at Cafe Coffee Time. It’s a puff pastry containing curried potato, peanuts and pomegranate seeds. Delicious.