Arriving in Udaipur was so refreshing after two and a half weeks in Jaipur. The city is cleaner, calmer and more relaxed, with an incredible landscape of desert and lake set between mountains. On our first afternoon, as we were standing on a ghat by the lake we had an interaction that went something like this:
Indian Man: Where are you from?
Joe and Me: (Quietly) Oh no, another scammer, let's get away before he drags us to his shop or tells us a story about his cousin's friend who can't speak English and urgently needs our help...
Joe and Me: (Loudly) United States!
Conversation continues for ten minutes
Indian Man: OK, well it was so nice to meet you! Enjoy your time in Udaipur!
This conversation may not sound shocking, but after two weeks where we didn't meet a single person who wasn't selling something, having a genuine conversation was incredible. We spent the entire afternoon wandering the streets of Udaipur, saying hi to people, talking to shopkeepers without being pressured to buy anything, and exploring local markets that we never felt welcome in in Jaipur.
Within minutes, Udaipur made it to the top of my "Favorite Places in India" list. It's a holiday city built around the lake, so it has good food, beautiful hotels, lots to see and a very laid-back atmosphere. In Jaipur, we had a handful of good meals, but every meal we've eaten in Udaipur has been incredible, from the garlic-fried okra and naan to the chicken burger I had at the museum cafe. We are only in Udaipur for four days, but I wish we could stay longer.
Our goal on our first afternoon of wandering was Natraj Restaurant, where Anthony Bourdain ate when he came to Udaipur. Since Joe is his #1 fan, Natraj was our first stop in the city. It's far off the tourist track, through the local markets about a mile away from the main hotel area. When we got there the unlimited thalis were spicy and delicious, but the best part was wandering through the alleyways trying to find it.
I highly recommend adding Udaipur to your travel list, this has been one of the best stops on our trip so far. And did I mention the food? Yum.