The beauty and energy of Udaipur left me at a loss for words. The morning I arrived, I could feel there was something different about the place. It was very subtle, but clearly a deep and calming energy. It was as if I could feel a culmination of all the life and royalty that had once lived or visited there.
I spent the first two days walking around the old city and exploring the three lakes from various points. All three lakes were far more dry than I expected and I was later told that there had been very little rain in the past five years and that the lakes were getting drier and drier each year.
For the first two days, I roamed for hours on foot, through small, unmarked streets that were not even on the map, passing tiny nooks that looked as if they had been transported directly from Venice itself. Incredible artwork of royal elephants, horses, kings, and princes graced the entrances to each house. The colors were usually faded, but you could always see how vibrant and striking the original paintings were.
Once in awhile, a group of pack mules would trot by, transporting loads of dirt from some other part of the city on their backs. Huge cows, six to seven feet high, would stand in the doorways of houses, sheltering themselves from the heat of the mid-day sun. The further north I go in India, the bigger the cows seem to get!
The hawkers did there thing and I did mine. The rickshaw drivers tried to overcharge and I always talked them down to something more reasonable, sometimes beating "the Indian price". I picked a destination a little bit outside the old city to give myself a feel for more than I could discover by walking. Taking a rickshaw through a city is a great way to get a quick feel for the place.
Once the shop owners recognized that I wasn't going to buy anything, they became genuinely friendly and very interested in me. On several occasions, I stopped and talked to them about where I was from, where I was going, about the weather, and even about American politics. One even invited me into his shop where I had lunch with him and his friends.
I watched the sun set at Sunset Point, with Udaipur Palace in the background. Clouds of huge bats emerged as the sun went down and by dusk, all the loud chirping birds that owned the sky over the lake were replaced by quiet bats, dodging each other and trying to steer themselves in the strong evening wind.
On my last day in Udaipur I met with Zaheer, the founder of Udaipur Times, a blog dedicated to the city of Udaipur. Zaheer found me through Twitter when I mentioned I would be visiting the city.
After having coffee and chatting for a while, Zaheer and his friend Shakti drove me to a place about 15km outside the city called Aapni Dhani, where we had a delicious traditional Rajasthani lunch. The kindness and generosity of my two new friends showed me another part of Udaipur that I would not have otherwise discovered.
Of all the places in India I've visited thus far, Udaipur is the one place I've really felt a connection with (Gokarna and Ujire are close behind). The state of Rajasthan, where Udaipur is situated, has a distinct feel to it -- the desert, royalty, and history seems to seep through every wall, road, and inch of dirt. It feels so much different than the other states I've visted.
As the train left Udaipur on its way to New Delhi, I stared out the window and watched the city slowly disappear into a vast barren landscape, littered with rocky hills and random clay and brick houses. It had only been three short days, but I felt certain a bond with Udaipur and it left me knowing that I would return.