Tuesday 9 October 2007
The day started in Kolhpapur and ended in Udaipur.
The morning began with a generous breakfast, followed by a touching checkout from the Hotel Pearl, whose friendly and helpful hosts were insutrumental in ensuring we got to see what we came for and genuinely made us feel welcomed and at home.
During the checkout formalities, we had a chance to discuss Kolhapur changes over the years and got further insight into this thriwing city, the local industries and its inhabitants.
We were delighted to see that even when going to the airport, rickshaw drivers quoted the right fares rather than trying to rip tourists off. We once more got an abundant sniff of methane gas when our driver stopped at the usual filling station, and a revolting sniff of a dead animal in an advanced state of decomposition when we vroomed past a dead cow(or buffalo, could not tell) by the side of the road.
We got to the airport just as it was coming to life. We were told to sit down and wait for a few minutes while the security folks were reading the screening machines for the day. After very through personal and bag searches, we boarded the plane (whose seats are ridiculousy close to one another) and landed in the stunningly luxurious terminal 1B in Mumbai (to the point that many people were stopping to take pictures of the marble covered halls with their mobiles and cameras).
As we were walking from one terminal to the other to catch our Indian Airlines flight to Udaipur, we were sided by a rickshaw and an airport wallah telling us that we could not take the trolley to the other terminal and offering a ride for the modic price of 150 rupies. I found myself shouting "What?!" and laughing at the guy, replying to him 20 rupies was all he would get. He tried to say 100 rupies first and 30 rupies next, but I would not pay anything more than 20, so he conceded and told us to hurry in on tthe rickshaw before the police could complain (we were in fact standing in the middle of a busy road).
Our flight was delayed, likely due to a few passengers reporting late to the gate. One of them sat next to me, and started to make conversation. I dont't know if it was because he arrived late and caused the delayed departure or if it was his poor English, but I didn't really enjoy chatting to him. I carried on the conversation as far as to know where he lived and what he did (he was a scholar, teacher, in Jaipur) and then I dozed off, lulled by the soothing sound of jet engines, only to be woken up when a tasty vegetarian meal was served by a nice sari-wrapped flight attendant.
Once at the airport, Wala strategically went to the pre-paid taxi booth to get a ticket to our hotel, while I wrestled the other passengers for a spot next to conveyor belt to retrieve our bags. Our teamplay was very effective, and we got on our taxi before anybody else.
The drive to Udaipur from the airport reminded me of the south of Italy. Oddly enough, the road was in perfect condition, and for the first time in India we hit the mindblowing speed of 80km/h. 45 minutes and a cow filled mini traffic jam later, we pulled into our hotel, Amet Haveli, a splendid period residence once belonged to a Maharaja and were shown to our room.
The room was sumptous and stylish, with marble floors, windows seats opening on the lake Pichola, a splendid view of the lake, and all expected extras such as airconditioning, hot water, toilet paper, etc.
Whistling teal, Jungli Maas, Kingfisher Beer, Alo Ka Havi dessert, delicious food, divine dessert, peaceful atomsphere, phylosophical old man (travelling, caste system, religion, happiness, differences between people annd cultures, jobs and marriage)