Udaipur is described as the "Venice of the East" and I think perhaps that this time, Lonely Planet got it right. Flanking both sides of Laike Pichola, the narrow streets rise and fall among clusters of shoips and eateries. Sipping a rose-flavored lassi (yogurt shake) on the top of a haveli five stories up, I can see rooftop cafes from which to choose for my next meal. This arial layer of the city reveals a breezy atmosphere from which to get your bearings. It's easy and yet tres, tres difficile to plan my menu for the four days I'll spend in this town. The food is outrageously good and there are many options. Oui, c'est magnifique! (I've taken to musing in French after spending three days with a french woman in Agra. It's fitting, as Udaipur has a European feel to it.)
I arrived in Udaipur at 6 am and my hotel of choice was filled, so I let my rickshaw driver take me to a recommendation of his across the lake. My instincts were sharp, as this beautiful Lake Shore guest house has an open air cafe with cushy bed-style seating for lounging and contemplating the day's itinerary. My ornately-decorated room has three windows from which I could jump into the lake if the mood struck. $11 a night left plenty of rupees for he endless parade of meals which would follow.
Walking through the Saijhan Niwas gardens, I came upon an elephant who graciously got down on his knees and offered me a ride. Quite the attraction the two of us were! The blonde foreigner in a punjabi suit atop a painted elephant, trapsing around the lake. When we came upon a camel or two, my guide made a great effort to keep the elephant from seeing the camel. He would turn him around or feed him to distraction. The camel's guide also took great care to pass waaay on the other side of the road. ON the third encounter, the elephant got wind of the camel and started to freak out a bit, shaking and squirming. "No problem, madam, no problem!" It was then that I took inventory of the distance between my noggin and the pavement below, and so I decided to dismount and let the animals duke it out (if it came to that) sans moi. A med-evac to god knows where is not really in my budget.
I had the meal of my trip last night at the Whislting Teal on the east bank. A vegetarian Thali - a "thali" consists of a few types of curry, a dal, rice, raita (yogurt to calm the spice), naan bread and a delicious dessert. I love thalis because I don't have to choose between several dishes - I get to try them all! It was absolutely superb, and it was set in beautiful candle-lit gardens. The only thing slightly out of place was the steady stream of Bon Jovi's greatest hits. Not that I minded it one bit. And the staff liked it when I sang along.