Udaipur - Pachyderms and Poppadoms

Trip Start Feb 23, 2009
Trip End Mar 18, 2009

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Where I stayed
Hibiscus Guest House

Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    The night was very quiet in Udaipur, although if you listened very closely you could hear the sound of bugs sucking the blood out of me. Since it was hot and stuffy, we had left our windows open along with running the fans, and so the the mosquitos got to enjoy some of that same great dinner from the night before. And we encountered one additional irritation. Hibiscus is located very near a mosque, so we were awakened at 6am by the Muslim call to prayer, broadcast thru loudspeakers.

    After Carol made breakfast in the back garden ($7 total for the 3 of us), our adventure for that day was horseback riding outside the city. Two drivers picked us up at the hotel (an auto-rickshaw for Jae and myself, and a motorcycle for Miles), and drove us about half an hour to Krishna Ranch. (I can't quite remember, but I think the cost for the day was about $60/person.)

    As we were saddling up, Miles started to feel ill, and when he threw up we sent him back to the hotel. So just Jae and I took a lovely 2.5 hour ride at a very leisurely pace. The hills near where we started used to have forest and lions and tigers (which we had seen in hunting paintings) but now they were picked bare, and few big cats are in the area. Some of the land we rode thru were very dry with cactus, and looked like we could be outside Tucson, Arizona. Other parts were more tropical, with coconut trees, mango trees, banana trees. Our leader pointed out that most of the area had been growing sugar cane a decade ago, but all the farmers had changed to other crops (like onions, wheat, rice, eggplant, and broccoli) because they could no longer get enough water. Was it global warming? He smiled and said many people want to blame global warming, but he thinks the water supply is just more taxed now, with families using much more water now that they don't have to haul it half a kilometer from a well.

    We clip-clopped right thru some little villages, which was charming. Most people were very friendly, the school kids were very smartly dressed for school, and all the young people seemed to have really healthy teeth. For some of the little kids in the fields with their parents, the four horses walking by was a major event of the day. We stopped and had a brief tour of the Animal Aid clinic, a non-profit animal rescue hospital. Claire, an American who had come to India to join her parents in the venture, told us that although killing beef is technically illegal in India, even in the case of illness, India is the world's largest exporter of leather. There's a huge black market of animals shipped to places where nobody asks questions.

    When we returned to town, Miles was feeling better, so we went to lunch at Jagat Niwas, the one we thought we were eating at the day before. Although not a rooftop, it had a great view of the lake, and it had large openings in the walls instead of windows. It was so windy that we had to watch that things didn't blow away. Downstairs, Miles noticed a motorcycle with

    We were next to the huge City Palace, so made that our next expedition. I was carrying a heavy backpack, but Miles carried it for me as we toured the palace. The palace was somewhat overwhelming, and I think all three of us got tired of moving thru it without knowing how many more rooms we might have to go thru. It was also quite hot that afternoon, and there weren't many places to rest. However, we did like watching the monkeys who were jumping around on the outside walls. We also had a surprise encounter with an elephant, whose owner wanted to give us rides in the middle of a busy intersection. It didn't seem like a particularly safe idea, so we passed.

    Carol at the Hibiscus had told us how to get to the most intense outdoor markets, so we packed into an auto-rickshaw (NOT designed for 3 adults) and headed there. We ended up in an environment that was much more foreign than I expected. The markets were packed with people and co-mingling traffic, and there were no English signs and less English spoken. There were wagons of fruit and spices, but mostly it was large volumes of trinkets and household items we didn't need, so we didn't stay long.

    We couldn't do better for dinner than a return visit to Ambrai, and I was happy that the same Indian musicians were playing. Jae can't eat wheat (or any food that has a "wh" in it), but she LOVES poppadoms, which are a toasted or fried lentil cracker. Ambrai made a very good one. Then I left Jae and Miles and went to the tiny, stuffy internet booth nearby. I was still trying to solve internet-based problems with our Cambodian visas. While I checked my mail, the clerk and his friend were watching a bootleg DVD of "Slumdog Millionaire", which hadn't been officially released on DVD anywhere in the world yet. "Do you want me to make you a copy?" asked the clerk. "No thanks, I already have one," I said, which was true, but I didn't bother to explain that my copy was legitimate.
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