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March 8, 2008 - Udaipur, India

Written by GingerBlossom Published in

Last night's hotel accommodations were an experience. I stayed in an old haveli which more or less had never been fully remodeled. It was at the north end of the lake, next to the last washing ghat. My room hung out over the lake, with a lakeview sleeping alcove, miniscule private balcony, tall ceilings, and lots of room.

The room had natural air conditioning, as the breeze came through huge windows on two sides, at four stories up. It is also situated between a Hindu temple and a mosque. Some kind of warbler lived in the trees outside my windows, and I had bird serenade until dusk. Sometime in the pre-dawn hours I heard the wailing of a Sadhu from the temple. Early morning brought the Call to Prayer sung from the mosque. Dawn was the rythmic spap slap slap of the dhobi wallahs (clothes washers) pounding the clothes clean on the stone steps of the ghat.

Following that were 2 girls singing while they performed their morning abolutions in the lake. And I have since changed hotels. I loved the sounds and atmosphere of the old haveli, but to gloss over details, it had serious hygiene issues. I've stayed in worse, indeed, if that's all that's available you just turn a blind eye to unsavory aspects, walk on tip toe, light incense, and put Singh's Oil on to ward off creepy crawlies. At $30 a night, however, one shouldn't have to take such measures, so I've moved south to the Mewar Haveli, with air con, TV, spotlessly clean everything, and half the character. It does have a great lakeview, though.

I love Udaipur. It's a microcosm of Rajastan - bustling markets, big and little palaces, gardens, forts, desert, lakes, cows, camels, monkeys, elephants, hills, shops, tuk tuks, turbans, it's all here and all within easy walking distance. Ah - this is also where Elizabeth Hurley had her wedding, and it's home of the Udaivillas Hotel, named World's Best Luxury Hotel in 2005. Not that riff raff like me will see the inside of it.

Gandhi ji said that you could tell the culture of a nation by the treatment of it's animals. What a culture in Rajastan, then. Every single horse that I've seen has been in beautiful condition, be it a wedding horse or a lowly cart horse. The horses are very carefully brushed and groomed, sleek and well fed. A cart horse by the hotel was carefully tied to be in the shade, freshly brushed and trimmed, with a full feed bag and a home-stitched feed sack blanket to keep the flies off of him. An old woman was shooing her herd of about 10 donkeys through the street, they were so fat that they looked like shaggy hay bales with legs. It's weird, even the birds don't seem to be afraid of humans.

I used an outdoor toilet today, and when I was washing my hands, I had 2 birds flying around my head. I thought maybe they had a nest nearby, so I moved away to sit and watch them. The male bird thought that his reflexion in the mirror was a rival and his wife kept trying to get him to leave it alone. But they had absolutely no fear of me. Just before I wrote this, a pigeon flew in through the window and was preening himself on the pillows. At yesterday's haveli the warblers were within a foot of me, just non-chalantly doing their thing. It's way cool.

There's a lot of little ground squirrels/chipmonks, they're all over. One was up on the breakfast table, stuffing himself silly from the sugar bowl. With that diet, he'll have a short but sweet life.

I found the patchworks that I was looking for, the quality is there, but not the colors, so I sent several out to be overdyed. I'll see how the samples come out tomorrow afternoon and then decide if I get more dyed or not. Also found jackets, about 35 of them, made of antique tribal textiles. I haven't seen these before. Some are from old Gujarati torans, so they've got baby Ganeshes crawling around on them, in case you need a dose of good luck.