Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Clean and Green — and they missed it!

Our driver, who picked us up at our hotel in Udaipur on New Year’s Day, asked us if had noticed anything about Udaipur that we thought was different than everywhere else we had been in India. It was an easy question.

The air and the ground are clean (OK — we are in India, not immaculate but everything is relative!), and there are green spaces. Yes parks, fountains and even scenic lakes. It is considered one of India’s most romantic cities. You can visit marble Palaces, take a boat ride, walk around a smooth as glass lake and even stay at the very exclusive Lake Palace Hotel (If you have $1000. + in your hotel budget a night). There is an old city and a new city each having their own shopping opportunities. But for at least half of our group, the Udaipur experience will be remembered as the day they slept off their New Year’s Eve hangovers!

We arrived in Udaipur at 5:15 New Year’s eve. Everyone was hyped for the best party of the trip. We were situated on the edge of one of the city’s lakes in a really nice (remember, everything is relative) hotel. We were to meet at the rooftop restaurant at 7:00 pm to begin our New Year’s Eve festivities. Just enough time for that compulsory hot shower, before dressing in our best finery for the occasion. None of us were sure what the party plans were, but Al was on it. No worries guys, Cheers!

At around 7:00 (our group is not known for punctuality), Al, just back from checking out the evening’s options, began his long explanation about all the reasons why the initial plan for the party to be on the roof at our hotel, had fallen through, including the city noise bylaw requiring that all music shut down at 10:30. Luckily though, the owner of the hotel just happened to have a brother with a hotel just outside of town (where the bylaw didn’t apply), with a fab New Year’s party, with a live band, all you can eat buffet and all the beer, rum and vodka you can drink. Cars would pick us up at 8:30, drive us there and pick us up at 1:00am to deliver us back. And all this for 1500 ($30) rupees each.

Of course all of the big drinkers in the group (and we have several) were in seventh heaven doing the quick calculation of all you can drink booze until 1:00 am. It didn’t take much convincing. We were all in!

Really comfy white cars appeared at 8:30 and we all piled in, dressed for the occasion. Some of us were in Indian dress up clothes and others in western little black dresses with all the bling we could find in our travel bags. Even the makeup bags came out! Selje and Nicholai, also staying in Udaipur in the hotel next to ours, joined us as well. The hotel hosting the party was in fact quite a ways out of town and it took us about half an hour of windy roads (and crazy drivers) to arrive. But the minute we stepped out of the car, we knew we were going to have the night of our lives.

The band was already playing Bollywood style music; thirty decorated tables were full of Indian tourists. Our tables were near the stage and there were (as advertised) full bottles of vodka, rum, sodas and beer in the centre of the tables. Young male waiters were circulating with trays of appetizers (Chicken tikka, paneer, fish pieces), and others were distributing lassi drinks. The dance floor was already full of people and disco lighting was flashing on the dance floor as well as on the mountains behind the hotel. The mood was already electric and it was just 9:00!

Within half an hour (and a couple of drinks each), all of us were on the dance floor, with all of the Indians having a blast. Within an hour (and a few more drinks), the two groups (us and them) had blended as one and we were all friends for life. Many of the Indian young women had come to sit at our table and were having a great time with our young group members. A dancing competition was in the works on the stage and our Magdalena, it looked like was going to take the first prize for best dancer. Silje, of course was the star of the party (as always) and was even asked for her autograph on more than one occasion. She was dressed in her beautiful Sari and looked like a movie star. When it came time for the best-dressed partygoer, you guessed it, Silje got the prize!

The free booze clause was being taken advantage of thoroughly and aside from Marc and I and I think Bob (our fellow Canadian and most senior group member), who stopped at drink number two, everyone else was swimming in spirits. When the clock struck 1:00 am and our white carriages arrived to return us to our hotel before they turned back into pumpkins, Al and Anja had to carry Richard back to the car, and many others barely managed to get there on their own. And then there was the windy road back to the hotel …

Somehow, we all made it back and after an attempt to continue the party on our floor was quashed by the other hotel guests and the hotel staff, all of the over the top drunk people were safely put to bed, and the rest of us were able to reflect on the wonderful night we had all had at the hotel on the hill with all of our new friends.

What a way to usher in 2012!

Since we had been so sensible, our prearranged meeting at 9:00 am with our driver and car for a day of sightseeing was — as Al would say — No Worries! We spent the day enjoying all that Udaipur had to offer — with a clear head!

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