Christmas Eve, Udaipur, post 2 of 2, the dinner


When we checked into the hotel they told us we had to pay for Christmas Eve dinner even if we did not plan on attending. So of course we decided we might as well attend it since we had already paid for it. After watching the hotel staff spend 2 days setting up we probably would have wanted to attend anyway.

If I could even get close to correctly putting the saree on, I planned on wearing it.

I did it all by myself! Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the dear ladies of Delhi who taught me how to do this. It isn’t perfect but it was close enough for me to wear. I am planning on wearing it on New Year’s Eve as well.

Isn’t that a great gingerbread house. It smelled delicious. The evening was magical. The decorations and food were superb.

They launched 2 ice statues into the pool. This pool is where James Bond seduces a woman in a scene from Octopussy.

We started talking to this couple, Jill and Richard, from Australia. They are traveling the world for 2 years living out of a backpack. They are blogging about it, if you want to check their story out their blog address is, I haven’t checked it out yet, but I plan to when I get the time. It has been a busy couple of days.

I won’t bore you with many more photos of this because on 12/28 I have access to all the photos taken this night. The ones taken by the professional photographer. The Shiv Niwas also gave us a bottle of wine, Christmas cakes, and a memory book as Christmas presents.

On the way out the door they were making beetle leaf beetle juice rolls, stuffed with candied colored pumpkin. It tasted strange but not terrible.

Here are all the digestives to try. I tried all of them, of course. I should have taken notes, but… I didn’t. I was too busy talking to people who thought it was amusing that I would try at least 1 of everything. They run the gamut for salty to sweet to bitter. There is yummy and not at all yummy! Salted ginger for example is less good than a ginger lover like me would guess. My favorite was the tamarind.

The attention to detail everywhere you looked, tasted, or drank was really impressive. Which is what happens when the maharajah, the king, is at the party. I didn’t realize it until he left with his family. I will share a better photo on the 28th.

I did recognize Santa though.

We were the last to leave of course.

Check out part of of this post here and check out yesterdays post here.

Christmas Eve, Udaipur, posts 1 of 2


As Christmas drew near it became more and more strange to be away. I have always loved the holidays starting with Halloween and ending with New Year’s Day. It is my favorite time of year. It was certainly a different holiday season this year. The negative is, I really miss my friends and family. The positive is, I will never look at the crass commercialization that Christmas has become in the United States the same again. I have been finding it increasingly depressing the way in which my culture seems to worship things over relationships and events over warm gatherings. Anyway, so here we are in India away from the commercialization of Christmas, yes, but also away from all the warm gatherings with our friends and family.

Christmas Eve started with an announcement from Sean that he was running out of socks and underwear. It is one of the things you have to deal with when you are away for 4 weeks. Sometimes you send the wash out, and other times you do it yourself.

As we were leaving for the day, one of the people who worked at the hotel asked if we wanted to see the Honeymoon Suite, which was the room next to ours.

This is the residence of the Maharajah, the present king of Udaipur, who is king in name only. There are no longer any rights of rule that come with the title.

This is a Hindu Temple just outside the City Palace Complex. It is a very old Hindu Temple. The person whose back you can see is ringing a bell. It was loud inside the temple. Twice a day it rings a call to worship.

This is looking down the steps of the temple into the town of Udaipur. When you walk out the back side of the City Palace Complex, you walk into a district full of small shops selling touristy items. The prices here are better than those in Jaipur.

We are eating at a special Christmas Eve Dinner. Here they are setting up for it.

 We decided to spend the morning touring the City Palace, which is at one end of the City Palace Complex. They started building the Palace in 1559. The rulers were from the Sun Dynasty of India, and they worshipped the sun. Do you see the sun on the wall at about 1:00? That sun could be worshipped to when the sun wasn’t shining.During the monsoon season, when the sun does not shine the court including the ruling family would worship this sun. There is also a sun on the inside of the Palace for the ruling family to worship. You will see it toward the end.

This is a glass mosaic. We saw one at the Amber Palace, but then I didn’t know the name.

This Hindu Temple is dedicated to the priest who chose this site as the best site to build the Palace.

This is the Coronation Courtyard. In 1947 all the kings of India lost their power when India became a democracy. The photo is of the throne the king would sit on. Then he would fill a pool up with silver pieces and hand them out to the citizens.

The English brought angels to India. Indian faiths do not have angels in any of them.

This is a shot of the Lake Palace Hotel from our hotel room. This hotel used to be the King’s Summer Palace. The Palace we are touring is the Winter Palace. Tomorrow we will go up to the Monsoon Palace. The Monsoon Palace is high up on a very tall hill. The monsoon season goes from the end of June to the middle of October. They are very important here in the city of lakes, because that is where all the water for the lakes comes from. In 2007, 1995, and 1972 there was no rain, no monsoons, and the lakes dried up. When this happens everyone becomes very worried about the drought.

In 2007 when the lakes dried up the last 2 wild crocodiles are captured and put into the local zoo. This painting is from a time before that obviously. I don’t have a good photo of the Monsoon Palace from here because it has been hazy for most of our stay everywhere we have gone in India. This is common in this part of India in the winter. The weather has been great though.

The hoops in the wall and floor are to secure bamboo poles to so work can be done and also to hang curtains for ladies to stay behind. The ladies could not hang out with the men. They observed the goings on behind curtained enclosures.

Here was a favorite hang out spot for the king, his friends, and his family.

I thought these were to let breezes in. They are privacy screens for ladies to use so they will not be seen.


He probably stayed home and hung out here. Here is the chair though.

This was the King’s favorite bedroom. Called the kinky bedroom because of all the mirrors.

There has been lots of deforestation around the lakes to build new hotels. Now there are regulations protecting the existing forests.

There are 16 secret entryways and passageways. This is one of them.

These are the ladies’ quarters.

This is a kerosene fan in the ladies’ quarters.

The King would sit and watch the ladies play games. Two favorite games were Chosar, a game like chess, and Chopad, a game like Parcheesi.

The game Chopad is 5,500 years old. It was written about in the famous epic, Mahabharata. When meeting or gathering, everyone would sit together on the floor.

At 17, the last true king got TB in his spine; he became paralyzed and couldn’t have any children, so he adopted his cousin’s brother’s son. Now there is no official king. The descendants are just a very wealthy Indian family.

Isn’t it beautiful workmanship? 

Here is the indoor sun that the royal family worshiped to.

There are more than 80,000 glass pieces making up the peacock.

The royal family could also sit in the dining room and worship the sun across the courtyard if they were at the palace when a monsoon struck.

60% of households in India still use this traditional style kitchen. Check out the churning stick to use with string to make lassi.

This was the bedroom of the last king’s third wife. Her name was Gulabkunwarji.

This is the cradle where she worshiped Krishna. She would put a statue of Krishna in the cradle every day

This vat was filled with ghee, butter, and oil and carried by elephants to feed the poor.

This is a fancy pigeon feeder.

These spikes were used to protect the gate from elephants ridden by members of invading armies. Now they are just pigeon perches.

This is where people would mount elephants.

This is a view down to where elephants would trunk wrestle each other. There would be an elephant on either side of this wall. The first elephants to pull the other elephants into the wall wins.

This painting shows it well.

Next I had a pedicure and foot massage. The woman who gave me the pedicure is 22. Her name is Arti. Her parents will chose a spouse for her next year. She will keep working or not depending on what her husband’s family wants her to do.

As I was lying there getting a foot massage I thought of my grandmother, Mommom. I come from a line of women who love to have their feet massaged. It is interesting how some people cannot stand to have their feet touched and for others people it is the best spot of all to have massaged. I spent a very pleasant hour thinking about my grandmother.

They had a very limited selection of nail polish colors, and the pedicure was done lying down. It was a good one though.

Next I went back to the room and hung out with Sean and Jim for a while. I can’t wait for tonight. They have been decorating for it since we got here. This is how they get snow on theirs trees in Udaipur.

Check out yesterdays post here and part two of this post here.

Driving from Jaipur to Udaipur, a Stay in a Palace


We got on the road about 8:30 this morning. Once we were out of the town of Jaipur, we were in a rural farming community. We drove by 5 carts with men standing up driving in them with camels pulling the carts. I didn’t get a good photo, maaf kijeeyay – everyone always smiles big in India when I say that, which basically means excuse me. Actually when I say anything in Hindi people become very excited, except nahee – that is the one word every foreigner learns, so it is not special to Indians.

Every few miles we passed a temple. There are lots of temples to lots of different gods, because there are so many gods, in this diverse polytheistic country. There is a real benefit to a polytheistic society where everyone gets to choose their favorite god, and all can have a different favorite, with some people even having more than one favorite over the course of their life. The benefit is tolerance. India has some of the most faithful people in the most faith-based culture I have ever experienced. Perhaps this strong polytheistic faith that respects differences is the reason for this religiously tolerant culture. I have found it fascinating to observe.

These are just a series of photos I took as we whizzed by. I love the colors. Here there is more pink. In Jaipur the women seemed to favor orange clothes.

Do you see the women at about 9 o’clock? They are farming in sarees. I had a hard time getting a photo of this happening. Several times I saw women out in the fields farming in colorful sarees.

There I am in the mirror and there two women are with their faces covered. I was told this is becoming less common, but traditionally this is something married women do when out in public, especially if their father-in-law is around.

We passed through a few small towns, then it was town after town with humongous chunks of marble. There is a lot of marble with the occasional pieces of granite too. I will not bore you too much. I could have over an hour’s worth of film showing this. There were trucks broken down because of carrying the heavy loads. We were told the factory owners are well-off, but the factory workers are poor.

Soon after arriving and negotiating traffic in Udaipur we drove by a mosque that was just letting out. I am posting this photo because of the woman’s outfit. Her face was not covered. Everywhere we have gone in Udaipur Muslim women were wearing this style outfit. The colors and patterns are different though. Their entire dress down to the ground is the same as the women’s capelet – my made-up name for it.

By the time we booked a place in Udaipur there were only two choices, expensive or so cheap (6$) we weren’t willing to risk it. Jim chose the least expensive of the expensive places. When Jim told me we were staying at the Shiv Niwas Palace, I had no idea it was really going to be a palace!

That Palace up ahead is where we stayed. After driving through a guarded gate, we were out of the melee of the town of Udaipur and into a private area called the City Palace Complex. I really wish I wrote fiction instead of nonfiction, so I could use the details of this place in a novel.

Here is Jim in our private courtyard.

Jim took this shot from the courtyard on our balcony.

The view from our room.

There were flocks of green parrots flying around in Udaipur. Here are two. The rest of the flock flew away when I approached.

This is a view of Udaipur. Udaipur used to be forested. Then it was rapidly deforested. Now there are restrictions to limit the rate of deforestation.

When we booked here, it was mandatory that we also attend the Christmas Eve party. Here is a tree being decorated for the party.

We came out into the courtyard of our hotel and there was a band playing bagpipes. Jim dislikes bagpipes, and I like them. They remind me of growing up on Long Island. There used to be monkey grinders in New York City when I grew up too. I suppose I would no longer like those though because I grew up to be a bleeding heart for animals, and you know, because of the “monkey incident”.

Behind the gate that is the king’s royal residence.

Up some stairs and this is a view from another side into the King’s residence.

Here is a Royal Guard. I like the uniform, don’t you?

Then we went down to walk along Lake Pichola.

Here is a view back toward our hotel and other places. Our suite is at the close end on the corner on the top floor obscured by the tree. Are you getting bored with these photos? Sean, in particular, felt conflicted staying in a place like this after our volunteering work. The poverty we have seen has made us take a hard look at consumerism and what really makes people happy. I told Sean to value happiness and take what the world throws at you. It isn’t always this luxurious. It doesn’t always look like a fairy tale castle.

Merry Christmas! I hope your New Year is a happy one.

Ganesh is the God of Luck. I have been so lucky in my life. No wonder Ganesh is my favorite. I am wishing good luck for all of you and for the people of India. This generous, boisterous, lovely country has made us feel so very welcome.

Jim and I went out to eat and Sean had room service. Here is a painting of the current King.

Musicians at dinner.

Check out yesterdays post here and here.