Today it is up early to tour the City Palace. Still home to the Maharajah of Udaipur, this is actually a series of interconnected palaces massed into an impressive whole. Multiple courtyards and gardens open to grand views of Lake Pichola and beyond. Floating in the center is the Lake Palace Hotel, a Taj Resort, and featured exotic location in the James Bond flick. It is beautiful, but a little dated now that the Oberoi has arrived. The rest of the town and surrounds was also utilized in the movie providing the perfect 007 visual experience.
The town is lush and tropical, a distinct departure from the previous weeks travels. A wide variety of palms and a profusion of flowers grace the streets; even the beggars seem more laid back and relaxed.
Shopping is again on the agenda with a whole series of fantastic little shops. Another great facet of shopping in India is the government sponsored Artisan and Craftworkers cooperatives. Usually little cottage mom and pop stops, these places focus on promoting continued historically accurate local handicrafts. What the artisans produce differs according to where you travel in India. We witnessed everything from jewelry and furniture design in Mumbai, mosaic work in Agra, rug making and textile printing in Jaipur, to painting in Udaipur. They function by funding apprenticeships but also serve as living, working museums displaying often mind boggling precision. Educationally phenomenal, they allow one to witness the work behind the art, and after meeting and speaking with the artists, one can then purchase works with the profits supporting this valuable resource.
Having added quite magnificently to our growing stash of goods, we stopped at the City Palace’s outdoor café for a late lunch. The plaza was bustling with activity. A large pile of wood arranged like a funeral pyre for an aged Viking king loomed in the center of the square surrounded by thousands, no tens of thousands of flowers, in a multitude of ever widening circles. Hundreds of attendants where scurrying about in a mad cleaning frenzy. Innocently inquiring as to what all the commotion was about, the waiter appeared dumbfounded by our ignorance. “The festival”, he stated, “The Festival of Holi”. There is was again. That word. Tonight was the night of the full moon. The Maharajah of Udaipur was having his annual party to celebrate the arrival of spring. Did we want tickets? Do dromedaries have one hump? – Of course we want tickets. For a price you can do almost anything in this country. And so it was. Tonight we are the guests of the Maharajah of Udaipur, tonight we experience the Festival of Holi
at 12:13 PM