Udaipur was just another lovely town that nobody had heard of.
But then in 1983 Octopussy was filmed here, and a fictional character, in the unlikely but elegant form of James Bond changed all that.
Thirty one years later a tourist in the unlikely but elegant form of moi arrives here to add to the town’s glory.
And glorious it is. From the moment we pass through our hotel’s entrance we are entranced
but the rooftop view is what really rocks the fabulosity meter
From our room we can see the famed Taj Lake Palace Hotel.
It may look stunning but the locals refer to it as The Prison, because once on it is hard to get off, especially if the boatman is in a bad mood. Plus the hotel’s boat drops you some distance from the old town
The old town is a distinct step up from the other towns and cities we have visited, mainly because it is clean. Well, “clean” may be an exaggeration, but compared to the other towns we have been to, it positively sparkles.
The first thing I notice is that there are few cows in the street, and very few of their calling cards. Udaipur was smart enough to realise that wandering cows were a big problem and so they regularly clear the streets of them. The cows are taken out into the country and put in a holding pen waiting for their owner to claim them. The cows are not fed or looked after and often get sick if left there for a few days. But when the owner comes to claim his cow he has to pay a hefty fine. The amount of the fine increases every hour the cow is there and can prove to be very expensive. The Indians learned their lessons quickly. First and foremost, keep your cow on your property. Secondly, just in case you have to decide which cow is yours in a field of cows, give it a distinguishing mark:
The narrow streets of the old town are a shoppers paradise, crammed with stores, some tiny and some huge, but all of them selling higher quality merchandise than we have seen elsewhere. Some stores are full of antiques, others fabrics, clothing and jewelry. And then there are the stores that sell slightly used items that might come in handy
But life is still hard here. Around the corner they are repaving the road
They do have a cement mixer, but the cement is carried from the mixer to where it is needed on the heads of workers. As is usual in India, many of the workers are women
Delivery trucks are too large to get through these narrow streets and everything, including building supplies, is delivered by conveys of very small donkeys
The local knife sharpener goes from door to door on his bicycle and gets his work done by pedal power
But Udaipur is wealthier than most towns, as it does not rely on the tourists. It has a thriving marble industry and as we enter the town the roads are lined with huge yards selling marble. They export all over the world. For a short while they mainly exported to China . The Chinese came over and bought huge quantities of marble and persuaded the suppliers to give them credit. You can guess the rest of the story…..
The Chinese flew home to China, accepted delivery of the marble, and then never paid. And being Chinese they had one more trick up their sleeve. They resold the merchandise at a huge profit by adding a simple label to it that said “Italian marble”
The India suppliers grew angry and desperate for their money, so they flew to China. Sadly they were dealing with the Chinese Mafia and so they were never heard of again. Even sadder was the fact that this happened numerous times before the Indians learned their lesson. Rarely sell to the Chinese and never extend credit.
Apparently they do neither nowadays.