White City, Weddings, and James Bond
Trip Start Apr 23, 2011
21Trip End May 14, 2011
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On the way there, we encountered several trees full of fruit bats. We stopped the van to take a few pics and the bats became quite agitated. With wingspans around 12-15", they were quite impressive to watch, if not a bit terrifying
Once we arrived in Udaipur, I took a boat tour across Lake Pichola. Once a small lake, Maharajah Udai Singh II flooded the small village of Pichola to expand the lake's borders to it's current size in the 1500s. More recently, the city was used at various times in the James Bond film "Octopussy." The first stop on the boat ride was the beautiful Lake Palace Hotel. Formerly belonging to the Royal family, the converted palace is now a 5-star hotel that appears to be floating in the middle of the lake (actually, it sits atop an island) and is perhaps the most easily recognizable and memorable building of the Roger Moore movie. We also went near the Island Palace and the City Palace (more on that tomorrow) as we returned to dock.
Later, I hiked up a trail to the top of a hillside where a spectacular panoramic view of Udaipur awaited me. After a few pics, Girish and I took the gondola ride down in a quick five minutes.
Another day, another wedding procession! This time I was able to catch it on a short video (see in the pics). It gives a good sense of what we have been seeing in the streets, but the parties go on for days at the homes and hotels, including fireworks and banquets. And whether it's a "simple" village wedding or one in the big city, marriages in India can easily run in the tens of thousands of dollars. While dowries are officially banned, they continue to this day, and tremendous pressure is still put on the bride and her family, often driving the bride's family into financial bankruptcy or worse. While there, we read several newspaper stories of brides committing suicide over dowry disputes. One groom, even after an entire week of elaborate wedding celebrations, demanded more of the bride's family. He wanted a new BMW. The bride's family balked and refused, so he rejected her as his bride and the wedding was canceled on the spot. Most marriages are still arranged between families, but the divorce rate is a staggeringly low 3%.
For dinner, we went to the hotel where the swimming pool was used in "Octopussy". Again, it was a former palace turned hotel and this was a living museum. Precious stones inlaid in marble everywhere, stunning paintings and portraits of the Udaipur Maharajahs dating back 500 years, and furniture fit for royalty in each of the rooms. We felt quite out of place in our zip-off hiking pants, Under Armor t-shirts, and backpacks. Thankfully, they still served us with the same incredible service we have received across all of India. Now off to find Kamal Khan!