Archive | August 2013

Shop Till You Drop

Have I mentioned too often how brutally hot it was? I was there in June, and every day it was so blistering that it was an effort to go anywhere or do anything. Regardless, I was now within a few days of having to go home to the States again, so it was time to grit my teeth, get out there and see some things in old Udaipur, no matter how uncomfortable it was.

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Men are hunters, women are gatherers. So it has been from the time of cavemen, and so it remains. Women are gatherers, ergo, we love shopping. Udaipur has several sparkling new shopping malls which are convenient and good for shopping for certain things, but for photo ops and aimless strolling, I love local markets where the shops are tiny and streets are narrow. These markets are outside of the usual tourist zone, another reason they are dear to my heart.

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The dudes obliged and took me to the market area. There are many markets in the center of town: Bapu Bazaar, the spice market and the vegetable market are only a few of them. There are no tourist treasures for sale here, but I wasn’t souvenir shopping. I was in the market for gathering images.

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The clock tower is the beacon that beckons you to the old market area. It had been neglected for many years, but this year they are sprucing it up. If you Google “Udaipur clock tower images,” this is the one you’ll see.

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There’s a second clock tower within walking distance of the first one that I wasn’t aware of until Rafiq pointed it out to me. This one reminds me of a dovecote. If it hadn’t been so wretchedly hot, I would have asked if we could have gone up in it.

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Idly I wondered if it was because of the heat that the streets weren’t choked with shoppers. Still, no matter how much room you thought you might have at any given moment, you always had to pay attention that a motorscooter or a tuk tuk wasn’t about to mow you down.

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This was the same day and the same area in which I found black soap, much to my delight. There were no fabrics or electronics, mainly housewares, grain and spices. At the center was the vegetable market, where we headed next.

Third Time’s a Charm

Last November I bemoaned the fact that I had been to Udaipur twice and still had not visited the famous Jagdish Temple. I’ve now rectified  that.

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The mobility impaired will be grateful to know that there’s a rear entrance of only ten steps, much easier to contemplate than the front staircase. That’s where Rafiq took me. He’s always looking out for my best interests!

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The temple interior was much smaller than I’d imagined. Rafiq took me inside. It’s a busy place of worship, and it was crammed full of people. We were there just in time for some very intense and loud singing, chanting and ringing of bells. Rafiq said many visitors find it overwhelming and need to leave, but I sucked it up and stayed.

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Nirmal doesn’t go to temple, and Pushker had been busy when Rafiq and I left to go there. During the chanting, someone touched my arm. It was Pushker! He had finished his morning obligations and had come to pray, practically at the same moment we arrived.

There’s no photography allowed inside the temple, but it’s rather plain. The exterior, however, is beautifully embellished and worth spending a lot of time examining.

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The architects and artists who created this
were masters of organization and detail.

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At this spot, if you make a wish and touch your head to the temple,
it’s supposed to come true.

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Ladies, how many guys do you know who’ll carry your handbag?
I didn’t even ask him to! What a sweetheart!!

The Trident Nevermore

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The Trident Hotel bar.

My first visit with Nirmal and Pushker two years ago to the Trident, a luxury Udaipur hotel, was a fond memory. No, we did not get a room. We had piña coladas and a lot of laughs in the bar. Udaipur, like most Indian cities, doesn’t have a bar/nightclub culture. If you want alcohol, you go to a hotel bar because stand alone bars don’t exist. Liquor licenses are exhorbitant, all the more reason why only hotels have them. At any rate, the drinks were good, even if the service was a little slow. And you can’t find piña coladas just anywhere in Udaipur. In fact, a decent cocktail isn’t easy to find at all. So we decided we should go there again just for cocktails. It’s too expensive for dinner.

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The evening didn’t start out well. The Trident is on a gated property, and we were at first refused admittance by the guards. We were told the hotel and restaurant were full because of a wedding, which made no sense because we said we were there for drinks only. Nirmal called in a favor from a friend, and we were finally let in. Nirmal peeked into the restaurant, and it was nearly empty.

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Service was intolerably and ridiculously snail-like. What they served up as a piña colada was tasty but didn’t look or taste anything like the previous time, when they were so good. All the cocktails seemed really wimpy and watered down. Appetizers were good, but the drinks and appetizers cost more than the entire meal had at Raj Bagh. All considered, with the bullshit refusal of entry, lousy service and ridiculously high cost, we decided never to return.

Naga Nagri

Naga is the Sanskrit word for snake. In Buddhist and Hindu mythology, a naga is a semidivine being, either a serpent or half snake/half human, which can assume either form. They are associated with bodies of water and live in underground kingdoms. I’ve found some sources that say nagri means city.

Map Naga Nagri

Naga Nagri (NAH-gah nah-GREE) is a neighborhood in Udaipur on a squarish peninsula across Lake Pichola from the City Palace. If my research is accurate, then City of Magical Water Serpents is very apropos.

Naga Nagri, as seen from the Mewar Haveli Hotel restaurant.

It’s a five-minute, 50-rupee ride away from the heart of Udaipur, where the main tourist attractions such as City Palace and Jagdish Temple are, and is considered part of the historic old city. The Island Tower Hotel is located there.

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Because Nirmal managed the Island Tower when I visited in June 2013, we all hung out there a lot. It was a comfortable place to lounge in the heat of the day, and the rooftop gave us great sunset views and a cool place to spend the evenings.

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Chandpol (the structure with the crenellated arch) and the bridge
to Naga Nagri (taken from the Naga Nagri side).

Every afternoon Pushker would accompany me there in an auto rickshaw from Nirmal’s shop or my hotel. After crossing the bridge from the City Palace side at Chandpol, we would be on Brahmpol Road, the main road that cuts across the north side of the peninsula and connects Naga Nagri to neighborhoods in the western part of Udaipur. Along that main road are shops selling kitchen wares, shoes, fabric, pretty much anything. There are tailors and repairmen of all kinds.

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Turning left, we’d head south on the eastern side of Naga Nagri where there were a lot of hotels, both backpacker and more expensive, along with craft and curio shops, massage salons, ayurvedic centers and hole-in-the-wall shops selling snacks and cold drinks. Restaurants are usually on the hotel rooftops. A good chunk of the southern tip of Naga Nagri is taken up by Leela Palace, a very expensive hotel.

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The Island Tower Hotel is the white
building with the blue arches.

At the second street, we’d turn right, and we’d be at the Island Tower on a much quieter street.

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A residential street in Naga Nagri.

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The heart of Naga Nagri is largely residential. It thus has a quieter, more peaceful feel to it than the more lively city center across the lake to the east. I didn’t think much of it at first, but because of all the time I spent there, it grew on me.

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Directly across from the Island Tower was a little shop where we could get snacks and cold drinks, except for beer. Real food for lunch and dinner preparation and liquor had to be bought elsewhere.

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The potato man would pass through the streets of Naga Nagri each day, chanting “potatoes, garlic, onions” like a mantra. At first, I didn’t recognize any of the words he said. Nirmal told me he was speaking Mewari — not Hindi — when I asked him what the man was saying. His distinctive voice echoed up to the Island Tower rooftop where I could hear him clearly. The day I snapped this picture was the only time I ever saw him.

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A common sight on the streets of Naga Nagri: both the cow
and the scooter carrying more than two people.

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Pushker taking a stroll with me in Naga Nagri.

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A charming family Pushker and I met while walking the neighborhood.

By the time I left Udaipur, I was very fond of Naga Nagri.