28 Oct

Udaipur’s claim to fame is shaken, not stirred – James’s wriggling with Octopussy was filmed in the city during the early 80’s, and a few proud shopkeepers still display yellowed Roger Moore snaps. And of course, each budget guesthouse and cheap restaurant feels an obligation to screen the movie night after night. Great until you’ve seen it. Then not so great. Still, these guys don’t have it quite as bad as the waiters in Phenom Penh who had to endure Killing Fields docos every evening.

Anyway, after yet another an unsatisfactory search of “let’s-spoil-ourselves” mid-range hotels, we checked into a completely empty guesthouse at 200 rupees. Which brings me to a Note to Travellers: If your boyfriend is constantly embarrassing you by testing out tiny beds with his pack still on, then refusing calf length mattresses and bed feet of any kind, ask for a triple… After sprawling briefly across the 3 single beds we pushed together to create a very luxurious sleeping arrangement, we retired to the rooftop to sprawl on a daybed instead. View from roof is above. It was tough.

We made our obligatory tour of the palace museum, which was quite beautiful, well restored, and full of photo opps of stained glass windows, and mosaics of the most incredible detail. A very special experience fell in our laps during a visit to one of the hotels which now takes up a section of the palace. After a bottle of extremely overpriced but very delicious Aussie Sav Blanc by the pool of Shiv Niwas, a man in his late 50s/ early 60s, dressed in the full regalia of most of the hotel staff, invited us to view the interior of the bar. Inside was a space just as the Maharaja enjoyed it, complete with photos of his family, souvenirs and keepsakes, and some priceless chandeliers, venetian mirrors, more detailed, OTT glass mosaic work, including some kangaroos, and a stunning private viewing area for the Maharani or other female members of the palace – all completely deserted. Our tour guide had been working in the hotel since he was a young man, and gleefully escorted us through the opulent chamber as if it were his own – and in a sense he did own the history of the place… Unfortunately he was working long hours at the hotel while Roger Moore was in town, so although he served drinks to James Bond, he didn’t get a photo. Not much of a loss, if you ask me.


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