After another 7 hour train from Jaipur, we arrived in Udaipur. Despite arriving nearly an hour early to the train station, they didn’t show our platform until 15 mins before departure. Indian train stations and trains are HUGE (i.e 1 million carriages), so we actually cut it really fine! Note to selves; try and ask for the platform rather than relying on the information boards.
Our hostel (Zostel), is by far the nicest we’ve stayed in yet! They have a beautiful roof terrace restaurant (cheap) that overlooks Lake Pichola. Udaipur is by far the most beautiful, clean and pleasant city we’ve visited so far. Even the tuk-tuk drivers are nicer and give you local prices rather than trying to make you pay 5 times more because you’re a tourist.
We visited the Udaipur City Palace. Though ranked number one on tripadvisor, we weren’t blown away by it. Undeniably it had some beautiful stained glass windows, mirror rooms and some interesting historic paintings, but we both weren’t feeling 100% so maybe that’s why we didn’t enjoy it as much. Having said that, the trip was worth it just for the fact that we discovered that the lake we’re staying next to is actually man-made! (we realise this is probably common knowledge to anyone who has ever googled or knows anything about Udaipur, we just haven’t been researching places before arriving really. In fact, Udaipur is actually also known as the City of Lakes [D’oh!]). Anyway, lake Pichola was made in 1362 and is one of 8 man-made lakes in Udaipur! Mental! We’ve been treating Udaipur as our relax and re-charge place. We’ve basically just been pottering around or sitting by the lake and drinking Masala Chai… no complaints.
After a lot of faff, we managed to book our 12 hour over-night train to Agra. This time we had first class. It is essentially the same as economy, just with 2 storey rather than 3 storey bunks. The crucial difference is the curtains next to your seat/bunk which meant we were actually able to get some sleep. All hunky dory, UNTIL, we missed our train stop. Agra has about 5 stations, there are no intercoms or anything on the trains so you’re just expected to know when to get off…When you pull in to a platform you have to keep an eye out to see a small, near illegible sign. So anyway, we thought that we’d be able to tell it was Agra City (i.e hoping it would be busier/better sign posted). We didn’t see the sign, kept checking our watches to see we were past our expected arrival time (but we just thought the train must be running late). Eventually, we went to ask the train conductor who said, yes, you’ve missed it; next station is Dholpur. So we got off at Dholpur, a place we’d never even heard of, with the smallest train station we’d seen. We gormlessly looked around to see that the next train back to Agra was in 4 hours time. We’d also been told that a taxi would have cost about 2000 rupees (only £18 but still, no). Then these two random guys came up to us and asked if we were lost; we explained we missed Agra city, they then said they would help us. The hardest part of travelling so far is without a doubt, knowing who to trust. We’ve had a mix of people being honest and just genuinely so kind and some with ulterior motives, whether its getting us in to their shops or getting commission from us etc. We were skeptical of these two blokes, but we didn’t really have a choice but to trust them (no wifi, small town, no map etc). They negotiated with a tuk tuk driver to take us to the bus station and they followed behind on their motorbikes (again, we were a little bit dubious). The tuk tuk driver tried to short change us when we arrived but the 2 guys stepped in and demanded he give us back the extra 10 rupees. They then spoke to the bus driver and told us exactly how much to pay (61 rupees) and when to get off. Turns out, they were just two of the nicest people ever and we would have been completely lost without them. Sometimes the kindness of strangers is really inspiring. So we got on this extremely questionable bus for an hour and a half back to Agra. Honestly, the bus looked like it had been pulled from a scrap heap; about 90% of the chair covers were torn/missing, the remnants of a once blue frame were poking out from a thick layer of grime. We were laughing on the bus saying that our photos and videos make it look like our travels so far are only magical. The reality is that some of the places we’ve been in are just too dodgy to get the camera out haha.
The next day, we got up early and met our guide for the Taj Mahal at 6.15am. We wanted to go as soon as it opened at sunrise to beat the tourist rush. The queues are separated by gender and then further by tourist vs Indian. I was very chuffed to be put in to the Indian queue and got through in 5 minutes (unfortunately had already paid for the tourist ticket). I had to wait for a further 20 minutes for Dave to get through. The Taj Mahal is like nothing we’ve ever seen and is genuinely so beautiful. The intricacies and detail of the precious stones in the marble is unreal when you get up close and unsurprising that it took 22 years to build.
We’ve got another day in Agra tomorrow and then another overnight train to Varanassi.
Thanks for reading!
Sophie & Dave