UDAIPUR- 25th October 2011
Today has been the first day without my driver and it seems so ridiculous that although I've been on holiday I have been waiting for today when I am once again free to travel with total flexibility rather than adhere to the meeting times and the rigidity that having a personal driver entails. As mentioned before though, I do feel its been a good introduction to India but now it is time to face the new challenge of self transportation, getting to grips with the somewhat confusing Train system and booking buses etc. Just prior to leaving Jodhpur I entered into a minor disagreement with Babu as I thought it would be nice if L+J (Lilly/Julien) could join me on the final leg of the tour. The cheek of asking for another 4000 rupees pissed me off and after a fair bit of raised voices and arm waving (which drew a bit of a crowd) Babu finally yielded and agreed to give them a lift at no extra charge to Udaipur after making a brief stop to see the temple in Ranakpur.
We found a decent little guest house to stay in for Rs200 a night here in Udapiur and as its Diwali tomorrow the plan is to stay here until the 28th, as getting transport over the festive period can apparently be tough. After which I will be heading with Lilly and Julien to Bundi, a quiet walled town which should provide a good setting for some serious relaxing.
After looking in the rough guide for a decent place to have breakfast I came across the Queen Cafe this morning (I promise I won't tell you what I had..). Got chatting to these two Israeli's and shortly afterwards we were joined by the owner of the cafe whose name was Meenu. The place was teeming with mosquitoes and she handed me an electric tennis racket with which to zap the little bastards. I mentioned that I had read about her place in my rough guide which led to her telling us enthusiastically about her introduction into the Lonely Planet. She gave us a very interesting insight into how guides like LP can transform a business over night into the next essential stop on a backpackers itinerary. She had been completely unaware that one of their writers had even visited her cafe and only found out months later of her inclusion. The reason for the guides covert tactics is that if the place were to know a writer were visiting they may put on a fake façade for that one day after which would slide back into mediocrity. This tactic ensures that only genuinely decent places are included in the book. The one problem I can see with this system is that although very good for business, small quaint places can be ruined by the onslaught of wide eyes tourists which enter their doorways. Another inevitable problem is that after increasing its volume of customers, the shop owners increase their menu prices and the place starts to turn into one of the hundreds of other over priced tourists spots. Still, she was a lovely woman so I wish her the best of luck.
As I finished my breakfast she also told us that she does her own cookery classes and that for a couple of hundred rupees she could teach us a few of her dishes. So around about 3pm I went back to learn how to cook banana curry and stuff paratha. She taught the classes in her upstairs kitchen so we (the Israeli girl also popped back) spent the next hour or so sat on her kitchen floor, hunched down on our legs whilst she explained to us the importance of knowing your spices and the quantities to add to each dish. Initially sceptical of putting banana in a curry, I found that after we had fried the banana and added it to a mixture of spices (cumin, mustard, coriander, red chilli, tumeric and garam masala) the result was an extremely tasty dish. Wrote the recipe down so might try and recreate it when I got back home! To accompany the curry she was also showed us how to make stuff paratha bread. Made the dough which we then filled with diced boiled potato, cheese, cabbage. garlic, spinach, chopped peanuts and green chilli peppers. Folded the dough over and used a rolling pin to flatten out, then lightly coated with oil and put on a flat pan over the small hob to cook
When I returned to the guest house got chatting to a couple of German lads from Bamburg called Tici and Sylvester (Stallone he joked...)They're from Bamburg which they tell me is linked in a cultural exchange with Bristol which is a bit random.Went for a walk around Udaipur with them and got to see all the decorations which have been put up for Diwali. All the bright vivid displays which had been attached to lamp posts and hung over the streets made the place seem even more vibrant than an Indian street usually is. Once back at the guest house walked into a bit of a rooftop party as the owner had invited a bunch of travelling musicians from his home village up north to come and play in Udaipur for a few days to celebrate the festive period. Needless to say me and the Germans entered into an unavoidable whisky downing session with the owner and his important friend (Brahmin caste for those in the know) and the rest of the night slid away into obscurity.