Friday, 20 March 2015

Holi, Holi, Holi.

6 a.m. It is pitch dark as we leave Royal Heritage Havelli. They have packed us a picnic breakfast which may come in handy as a 7 hour train journey looms. We drive through half deserted streets only just coming alive. It is a shock to be up at this hour, the earliest yet of the entire trip. The station is a baptism of fire . People who have slept there all night are strewn everywhere. We sidestep piles of excrement and, at this point, question the wisdom of what we have let ourselves in for. The signage is terrible. At first we think our train to Udaipur is one where people are piling into a carriage meant for half as many. We are told go to an incorrect platform which is over the bridge and then have to go back. Beginning to panic then that we might miss the train when we should have had plenty of time. Eventually we make it. Our train has air con of a kind but it is delapidated.

A tedious journey. We daren't eat or drink anything as there is no way we are using the toilet so distract ourselves by watching downloads. Me - Jewel In The Crown which is set in a similar region to where we're going. Sadly, the train windows are so dirty, we have to peer to see out. Felt like nipping outside with my Marigolds and a cloth at a station stop, but resisted.

Eventually, we are transported into another universe. In the station forecourt there are dozens of taxis and auto rickshaws waiting for fares. Our beautifully be-turbanned and uniformed driver is holding our names up - stands out like a sore thumb . We are whisked to a jetty in a BMW, our luggage taken on and then take the hotel boat across the lake. It is bizarrely more like a European picture postcard lake, with the addition of several Indian palaces , some actually on the lake. 

We dock at the Oberoi and our welcome involves flower petals and a blessing. We are given the full 5*  arrival treatment - it feels like the perfect antidote to the train.

Because our stay coincides with Holi, we just have a few hours before we have to go to the ( Holika eve of Holi ) celebration at the Royal Palace. It is like a scene from a film with a lots of pomp and ceremony surrounding the arrival of the marahana of Udaipur then the lighting of the bonfire - we have brilliant seats. It is a pretty impressive event, we weren't going to stay for the food, but it looks so appetising we do.

On the way back to the hotel, the taxi driver has to navigate streets closed off everywhere for Holika bonfires. We see one at almost every street corner. There is an amazing buzz about  
the build up to Holi. Next morning the hotel lays on a tame, but fun version of Holi in the grounds with lots of coloured dyes and water being thrown. 

The staff are amazing, the hotel is like heaven on earth, we can barely  tear ourselves away and mainly lie about in the sun but we do accept an afternoon tea on the hotel boat, set with crisp white table cloth, flowers, gluten free canapes. We feel like royalty.

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