India Day 8-11: Udaipur, the Lake City

Leaving the sacred town of Pushkar, we clambered onto a train which looked like something from the 1960s – open doors, shuttered windows and uncomfortable benches. It was riotous, with people jumping onto the train as it was moving, people selling Domino’s pizza and strange keyrings with zips on. One man sat next to us produced two giant suitcases and two huge backpacks out of nowhere when he had to get off the train. It wasn’t too uncomfortable though, thanks to the tonnes of fans attached to the ceiling. Five hours later, we arrived in Udaipur, the Lake City.

Udaipur train
I have never seen so many fans in one place before

After a short nap (which was rudely interrupted by a strange phone call on our hotel phone which said, “MASSAGE?!”) we wandered into the city centre for an introduction to the beautiful city which would accommodate us for the weekend.

Known as “The Venice of the East”, it was built by King Udai – hence the city being named after him, similarly to Jaipur – when a handmaid came to him in a vision and said if he built a city in that location it will never be invaded. And to date it never has been, even by the British.

We have cooler, less sunny weather than we’ve experienced on the trip so far, at about 25 degrees rather than the ridiculously humid 35 degrees, which has been welcome. On Friday evening we went on an evening boat trip around the interconnected lakes to take in the views of what is apparently India’s “most romantic city” and the site of many destination weddings. It is truly beautiful, so I can understand why.

Udaipur Lake
Udaipur is known as “The Venice of the East”

Saturday started with a cooking class a local family’s house over lunchtime, which was really fun. We learned how to make masala chai tea, bhatoora (a type of fried bread), pakoora (a type of fried chickpea and onion batter – can you see a theme here?), a rice dish, spiced potatoes and a vegetable dish with a strange pepper-type thing called okra* which tasted pretty good.

Udaipur cooking
I am an Indian chef in the making

The best part was that we got to eat it all afterwards, and we also sat with the family and looked through a wedding album with them in the afternoon. It was really interesting to learn more about Indian weddings and also generally hear about how people live their lives. Apparently no one really has an oven in India!

Udaipur feast
The feast we made. It was delicious

It was raining quite heavily in the afternoon so spent some time relaxing in a coffee shop with more chai tea and cake.

Sunday saw us head out for breakfast and then over to the city palace. I was expecting it to be similar to the city palace we saw in Jaipur but it was quite different – much more vast, more rustic but tonnes more mirrors everywhere. King Udai must have been very vain…

Udaipur City Palace
Views from the city palace in Udaipur

For our final meal in Udaipur, we went for a traditional meal called Thalid – where you get a platter separated into lots of sections and receive a little bit of a selection of different curries. It’s a great way to try things and it was delicious, but I wasn’t keen on the strange savoury cake, called Khaman, which we had for a starter.

Thalid curry
Our traditional Thalid meal

Tomorrow we have a long day of travelling to get to Ahmedabad, home of Ghandi – then an overnight train to Mumbai (formerly Bombay). See you on the other side!

* This is apparently also known as ladies’ fingers. I don’t really want to think about eating ladies’ fingers.

Published by Sian Elvin

Journalist and editor from the UK.

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