A leisurely start with an 8:00 buffet breakfast. After packing we take photos with our driver Sureesh, as it is his last day with us. We travel from Khairwa back along country roads through small villages and past farms and shepherds with their flocks we go. Shailendra also puts on another movie, this time a comedy called Three Idiots. We are now climbing into nearby hills towards one of the best Jain temples, Chaumukha temple. We stop at a craft village about 11:30 to see carpets being hand woven while morning tea is taken. The temple opens at noon and we time our arrival for just after this. We have to pay a fee for using cameras. Shoes are also removed and left in racks. After taking the stairs up to the main part of the temple we are greeted by priests who put a golden tikka on me, Rex and Graeme. The ladies somehow avoid them as they want us to make an offering. We wander around taking photos. The marble is beautifully carved. After a circuit we exit down the stairs and put our shoes back on. We continue on stopping for a snacky lunch in a hill station with peaceful shaded gardens. As we approach Udaipur we are diverted away up the tollway. Apparently there is a huge political rally in the city. Amazingly we also have to dodge herds of goat and sheep on the tollway as well as the odd cow! Finally we get to cut back across to wards the city. Once in the old part we still keep getting diverted away from where the rally is being held. The tricky bit is being able to gain access to the road that goes to our hotel. Finally we cross a bridge over a small lake and reach our hotel, Swaroop Vilas, a lovely white building. While we wait for our room keys we farewell our driver Sureesh and give tips to him. He is heading home to Jaipur and our next trip is on the overnight sleeper train back to Delhi. Our room is on the third floor and is room 503! We rest for a while then take a shower. Hot water is an issue. So too is the wifi not working. I type the journal for a while then we head to the rooftop terrace across from our room for drinks and dinner with our group. I have a chicken curry with rice while Karen eats a cheese kofta dish. We share a naan bread. Lots of chatting and drinking precedes a reasonably early night. On our TV we note that the cricket has been washed out again. It is cooler here and we use our fan but not the air-con. We are even able to open the windows without having hot air come in.
Sunday October 27th
I wake just as the sun is rising. There is a clear view from our window over two cupola domes at the front of the hotel and it makes a great photo. We take breaky in the restaurant then meet in the lobby at 9:00. Shailendra has organised tuk tuks to take us down into the old town to the Jagdish temple of Vishnu. We have a lively local guide there and also at the City Palace which we tour after a brief stop at an ATM. From the outside it doesn’t look as impressive as some of the other palaces. However the inside is pretty good. The museum of silver items is considerably impressive. Also the courtyard used by the maharana’s wives and concubines is enormous and is now used for weddings. From there we move on past the maharana’s current residence which is next door and through his gardens to the lake. At midday we takes boat ride around the lake past many fine hotels and buildings, the most impressive being the Lake Palace. We stop at another island for a while then make the trip back along the other side of Lake Pichola to our starting point. From there Shailendra takes us to lunch at The Whistling Teal, a restaurant in a small garden. The snacky lunch of spring rolls and veggie club sandwich is enjoyed in this peaceful place. The group is then free to split up for a free afternoon of shopping and wandering the market area. Karen and I follow the narrow streets past the temple, the clock tower and one of the large gates at the edge of the old city before making our way back to the hotel. Along the way we have purchased some more bangles and T-shirts as well as a new shirt for me. We take a rest and I type a bit. Then We take a shower ready to go out to dinner. Once again we go in tuk tuks. We head into a different part of the old city to Ambrai restaurant which is at the end of a small peninsula with outstanding views of both the City Palace and the Lake Palace. It is a lovely setting. Musicians quietly play in the background as we have a drink. Unfortunately Tina is unwell and returns to the hotel. Dinner of chicken muglai for me and a fruit and veggie curry for Karen accompanied by naan and rice follows. I finish with butterscotch ice cream as Karen enjoys another small pot of masala tea. Our journey back in the tuk tuks is another bumpy but fun ride. We make it into bed just before 11:00.
Monday October 28th
Woke up to see another excellent sunrise from our bedroom window. About 8:00 we go down to have another nice buffet breakfast. At 9:00 we meet in the lobby for a quick briefing from Shailendra. We also meet up with Prem, the Delhi guide who will accompany us on the train tonight. Shailendra is unwell and will leave us this afternoon at the station. The day is free for looking around, resting shopping and yes, finally using the wifi here at Swaroop Vilas. We do some emails, blogs and rest until our midday checkout. We have done a bit of rearranging and repacking of our backpacks to fit things in better. At midday we check out and pay. Our bags will be stored for the rest of the day until we leave at 5:00. We go up to the restaurant for a light lunch. We share a naan bread which I have with sweet corn and chicken soup. Karen also has fruit salad and ice cream which is a pale orange colour. We then return to the shop where we purchased the T-shirts yesterday to upsize to large as the medium ones seem small. They are happy to swap and of course we buy more! Next we go to a bag shop where Tina and Graeme have purchased a suitcase. We look at various cases and bags and end up buying a nice purple duffle bag with wheels. We drop all this back to the hotel and then walk up to the old town. We cross the bridge and wander a bit then come back over on a pedestrian only bridge. We start to go towards the big temple and find a clothes shop where we make a few more purchases.
If we had found this shop yesterday we probably would have had some clothes tailor made. He has some lovely stuff. Next we top up our money supplies at an ATM. We make it back to the hotel about 4:00 in time for last drinks on the rooftop bar. At 5:00 our bags are loaded up into two cars and we head to the railway station. It is a bit of a sightseeing tour of the new part of Udaipur. When we arrive two guys have a slight disagreement over who will take the groups bags on a trolley to the train. The winner loads up and we wait with our bags on the platform for the train to arrive. While we wait we take it in turns to stock up on biscuits, chips and water for the journey. When it arrives Shailendra tells us our berth numbers. We are in 13 and 14. Apart from Ross and Marge, who are in the next carriage, the others are nearby. We are in a section of six sharing with a family of four, mum, dad and two boys. The train pulls out at 6:17, just two minutes late! It doesn’t take long for us to strike up a conversation with our fellow passengers, Basu – a doctor, Rita, his wife – a fashion designer and fashion school manager and their two sons, aged 12 and 6. They are from Udaipur and are going to Delhi, where Rita is from, and then on to Thailand for a three day break before the Diwali Festival. Rex joins in and gives the boys some toy mini koalas. After a while they are ready to eat and kindly offer us some. At first we refuse politely but they are quite insistent and soon Karen, Rex and I have a plate of rice, egg curry and chicken curry from their now obviously abundant supply. They are well prepared!
The food is delicious. We continue to chat. After a while Graeme comes from the next section and joins in, then so does our guide Prem. It is a memorable evening. About 8:30 Basu starts to organise his sons for bed by changing the seats into bed format and making up a bed for each of from the two sheets, blanket, pillow case and pillow that are all provided. They are curtained off and we chat quietly a bit more. Then Prem announces he has procured some rum. Rex and Graeme join him at the other end of the carriage. Soon Prem comes back to invite us too but we decline. He does manage to convince Basu to go. We organise our beds, Karen below and me up above. Soon we are lying down relaxing to the motion of the train. After a while it stop at Chitor, then moves on. Soon we are asleep and oblivious to where the train is.