We arrived in Udaipur early in the morning following our overnight bus. A quick tuk tuk ride took us to our hostel which id heard such rave reviews about. They got us settled in a room straight away and we were all able to have a much needed nap. The overnight buses are great but it can be a struggle to actually get any sleep on them!
After a quick nap I was a bit more alive went exploring around the hostel and Udaipur. Udaipur is called the city of lakes, and for good reason. There are 3 huge lakes in the city, the main one containing a magnificent palace. This palace and Udaipur itself featured heavily in the James bond film Octopussy. A fact the city was keen to cash in on with every other place promising an evening showing of the film.
The effect of a city surrounded by lakes is stunning.
The rooftop views, something our hostel offered, overlooking the beautiful lake and mountainous backdrop.
After relaxing on the roof and enjoying a game of cards against humanity we found a nearby hotel offering a rooftop swimming pool and selling cocktails and beer. The USP was that it took cards! With my ever dwindling supply of cash this was much needed.
Swimming and sipping cocktails around a pool while looking out over a magnificent view took over the rest of the day and I spent my evening watching Octopussy and cringing at the films cheesiness and outright racism. Its not aged very well. At one point Roger Moore’s Bond hands his Indian friend a stack of rupees and announcing to him “That will keep you in curry for a while” It also amused me that a scene begins with bond landing in the river next to the Taj Mahal and getting into a tuk tuk only for the next scene to begin with him exiting the Tuk Tuk in Udaipur. Having spent over a month doing that journey myself I did smile at the improbability of it. A 650km Tuk Tuk ride!
I awoke the next morning keen to explore the city and Tom and I went for a walk, no destination in mind just a wander. We found ourselves walking towards the mountain which has the Monsoon Palace topping it. A tuk tuk ride took us the remaining 1km to the bottom of the mountain where we paid our entrance fee. We didn’t realise this fee didn’t include a taxi to the top so in our best money saving way we decided against the taxi and set out on our own two feet. Something everyone passing us on bikes and in cars seem to find incredulous. One pair of people even stopping to get a picture with the stupid white guys walking rather than paying the £1 for a lift.
2 hours later, tired and with no water we reached the summit and the monsoon palace. To say the palace was a but rubbish is an understatement. It was a run down old building that hadn’t really had any restoration or maintenance but the views from the top made the walk worth it.
Needless to say walking down took a lot less time and effort.
That evening I went to see a traditional puppet show. The puppets used were string marionettes and were fantastic. It was so clever to see how well the puppeteer made them move. The show was quite funny and was interspersed with some traditional dance, including a 68 year old lady dancing with pots being ever increasingly placed on her head. Very impressive.
With new year looming ever closer and the promise of a 5 star hotel with my lovely family I started my planning for my trip down south. I was keen to get to Goa but begrudged the idea of flying there so I booked 3 overnight coaches in 5 days to get there. Stopping for a night in Mumbai and the detouring to Aurangabad to see the UNESCO listed Ajanta and Ellora caves.
The first stop was Mumbai. This was going to be used as a stop gap between buses with a night to recover. I wasn’t overly keen on exploring Mumbai as I hadn’t heard amazing things about the place. The first over night bus was a bit crazy, with fast speeds and a bumpy road not making for the best nights sleep!
The bus not stopping to let Tom, Tom and I off didn’t help my first impressions!
We got to our hotel in the morning and were told to come back later to check in so we decided to head down to the beach for a bit of sun, sea and sand. We didn’t count on the poo.
A taxi down to the golden beach started very promisingly. A lovely golden sandy beach loomed in front of us. We were presented with the option of going right or left down the beach, we chose right. Bad choice. Turns out the beautiful sea view and soft sand was the perfect place for Indians from the neighbouring squat to come and defecate. The first thing we noticed was the smell, then some poo on the beach. We were debating if it was from an open sewer and had been washed up by the tide. That was until we passed several Indian men, shorts by the ankles, staring out to see squatting on the sand. Not pleasant. Had we turned right there were deck chairs and sun loungers. Lesson learnt, always turn right. Tom did enjoy the cultural toilets though when he found himself caught short before we had left the beach.
We decided to head to one of Mumbai’s many malls to experience a bit of western India. The shopping centre was a carbon copy of a Westfield’s shopping centre and featured familiar brands styles and shops. The mall also boasted its own Escape Room. Something I really enjoy doing. So of course it had to be done.
The room was a prison theme, we had to prove who the murderer was to escape the room. It wasn’t the best room I’ve done but It was great fun none the less. We had a nervous finish with 1 minute on the clock, the final code carried a 5 min penalty if it was entered incorrectly so we had one shot, fortunately we got it spot on and were out and free.
I said goodbye to one Tom with the promise to meet up and again in Goa and the other Tom and I were off to Aurangabad. Aurangabad is off the tourist trail so we had a hotel booked for the night, something I was quite excited for, the chance to sleep in a room by myself!
We got a driver for the two days and headed off on the 100km drive over to the Ajanta caves. These are natural caves that we enhanced by Buddhist worshipers into temples depicting the various stages of the Buddha. They are placed in a horseshoe shape within a natural gorge and we spectacular. Its not a surprise they were heritage listed. What’s even more impressive is that they had been lost and rediscovered. I would love to have been the chap wandering around and stumbling on these spectacular caves with their statues and wall/roof art.
The next day we headed to the Ellora caves, much closer to Aurangabad. They are a similar concept to the Ajanta caves however there are, Hindu and Jain temples with the Buddhist ones. I admit I was a bit cultured out by this point and there are only so many caves temples you can see before they all seem to merge into one. Ellora caves however offer one final wow factor, The Kailasa temple. This temple was carved out of a single rock and was just huge. Very impressive.
Our final overnight coach took us into Goa. I must admit I hadn’t slept much on these coaches, that combined with the tooth infection id picked up made for quite a grumpy Dan. Id got some antibiotics to combat this but I was unsure if I should drink on them. Drinking it seems is the main thing to do in Goa, well drinking, weed and acid on the beach. Now I’m not overly keen on Acid on the beach so I gave that a miss, I wasn’t sure if I should drink so I took it quite easy on that and I can take or leave weed, so it didn’t make for the best time. I also wasn’t overly impressed with our hotel with the mattresses about 2cm thick.
I was pleased to still be with Tom who had been great company over the past few weeks, I also met up with Nick who I had befriended in Delhi. Nick is a great bloke, the best was to describe him would be eccentric. He sounds like David Mitchell, looks like Timothy Spalls love child and says exactly what he is thinking. Very very funny, especially when he decides to spend an evening pretending to be a Dutch man, complete with Austin Powers stereotypical Dutch accent. He had me in stitches for the evening and I was shocked by the amount of people who fell for it hook line and sinker.
Nick also was able to highlight to me the corruption in goa, on evening out on his scooter he was pilled over by the police. They claimed his number plate was the wrong colour, demanding a R7000 fine. When nick refused to pay he was placed in cuffs. When he explained that if they were arresting him they must contact the British embassy and inform the high commissioner of the arrest of a British subject (a total bluff) the police became less sure on what they were doing. Nick finally said to them, I’ve got R100 in my pocket, take that and go away. Which they promptly did.
We spent a morning in a café next watching the police on the road, they would pull over ever white person on a scooter they saw and demand money for some made up infringement. It really angered me that such shameless corruption and extortion was going on in plane sight.
Nick sorted me out with a place at the Yoga retreat he was working on, id get to sleep in the porch of the tent and get free meals in exchange for a few ours work each day. Easy peasy. We were left to our own devises a lot so didn’t really get a huge amount of work done, but we had a lot of fun. Sand fights in the sea, random conversations that skirted the boundary of appropriateness.
I wasn’t overly keen on Goa and I think my experience there mixed with my tiredness started to out me in a negative frame of mind about India in general. I was getting fed up with the money situation, the rubbish and corruption that was rife in goa and the general cultural differences that I would perceive as rude such as spitting staring and pushing in. I decided to leave the yoga retreat after a week and get away from Goa in the hope that the negativity would fade.