I skip off the train with dramatically reduced load on my back. I am donating clothes gradually, realising that sometimes, less is more. I meet the usual array of tuk tuk drivers and touts. A young guy called Chiky takes me to what I think is the hostel area of Udaipur. He says ‘it’s by the lake shore’. I say ‘yes, the lake, let’s go’. We pull up at the ‘Lakeshore Hotel’, Chiky pulling a fast one like all the tuk tuk drivers do, drives me to his friends hotel instead. Good try. I love India and the way they treat tourists. Hussein, the hostel owner, speaks great English and gives me the standard free cup of chi. The hotel seems quiet but the rooms are expensive. I was adamant I wanted to look around but after relaxing on the terrace over looking Lake Pichola and getting the 500R double room down to 300R, I admit defeat and select to chill out at the Lakeshore Hostel. Chiky got his commissions.
I relax and shower. Sun, lake view, calm, this place is breathtakingly beautiful. Litter and smell doesn’t dominate my view, the beautiful old town and blue sky smile at me. What a glorious end to my journey. I’m exhausted but I want to explore. The adrenalin pumps when you discover a new village, town or city. I walk the winding streets, meeting tourists, lunching on rooftop restaurants and avoiding locals eager to sell me everything I do not want. I meet a couple of 18 year old girls from France and Holland, we have lunch. I then meet three Aussie ladies, we sit in a massage parlour for a sales pitch. This is the deal in India, men massage men and women massage women. Not too sure about that. The lady laughed when I asked for a woman, saying ‘sex is not on the menu’. Nice. I wasn’t asking for that.
I visit the Jagdesh Temple. I wonder. Calm. Relaxed. The sun is tingly my skin. The sun sets as I return to the empty hostel rooftop. Hussein starts to talk about his love for an English girl he had a holiday fling with. He recited the poem she wrote him over 10 years ago. He freaked me out so I made my excuses and left sharpish, tomorrow I’ll go stay at the 150R a night Lal Ghat. I wandered the illuminated streets. The palace glows, towering over the old city and Lake Pichola. I manage to bump into the young girls I met earlier. We dine and drink beer and they force me to drink vodka with them. The night is a blast, we even Skype the girls mum. The young Indian who owns the restaurant joins us. He is a letch. The girls clearly uncomfortable with his advances, but he persists. This is the way of India, the technique of selling textiles to tourists is applied to coaxing western women into bed. It rarely works.
I walk through the deserted streets. Dogs and cows wrestle for a good sleeping post. Their groans and barking echoing across the lake. I pause on the bridge. Slightly tipsy, deeply relaxed. Tonight I’ll sleep well and tomorrow I’ll put my running shoes on. I like this place, I’ll stay here a while.