Published: January 13th 2011January 13th 2011
Black Faced Monkey
These monkeys are very laid back.
After two weeks on tour with a fun group of folks, we bid farewell and set out on our own. Based on advice from our tour leader, we selected four locations in the state of Rajasthan to visit.
Ranthambhore National Park
Our first stop was Ranthambhore National Park which is renowned for its tigers. We took three safaris trying to find tigers but never saw any. We did see lots of other animals.
We also spent an afternoon exploring the old Ranthambhore Fort. We hired a guide and driver to take us there in his jeep. The Fort is on the top of a hill. It uses the cliffs as natural fort walls and is huge, over 100 acres. There are several palace ruins and many temples both active and in ruins. They had reservoirs that filled during the monsoon and provided water during the dry season and there were hundreds of black faced monkeys that were unafraid of people and lots of fun to watch.
For the next stage of our journey we hired a car and driver. It is not possible for foreigners to drive in India and from what we have seen
It really is this color.
we would not drive here even if it was legal. The rules of the road are so different it would be both stressful and dangerous. So hiring a car and driver is as common as renting a car in the US. We had one that drove us about 300 miles over two days and it cost $140. The driver was a 21-year old man named Sam and the car was made by Tata, an Indian manufacturer.
As we set out, I went to put my seatbelt on and Sam told me I could not because it was illegal to wear a seatbelt in the city. Stunned, I waited until we left the city then put the seatbelt on.
Sam is married and has a 2 ½ year old son. He offered that he is 21 years old and his father is a guard for the railway which, he says, is a good job. He pulled a coin from his wallet and asked me if I knew how much it was worth. It was a 100 lira coin from Italy dated 1982. I had to tell him it was pretty much worthless. It took several tries at the conversation
Home to 100 monkeys and 1000 bats.
but when I finally got the point across he was so disheartened that he made to throw the coin out the window.
After four hours we arrived in Bundi. It’s a nice sized town and is on the tourist route due to its well-preserved palace with intact murals and huge fort. First we saw the palace and had a great guide named Billoo. He added a lot to our visit of the palace, explaining what all the rooms were for and pointing out some of the nicest murals. The murals were very fine and the colors were still vibrant after 400 years.
After finishing the tour of the palace, we left Billoo and climbed up to the fort. It is massive and parts of it are 700 years old. It has been partially restored and we were free to wander wherever we liked. It was like being allowed to wander Mesa Verde unescorted. My mind filled with scenes of life in the castle at the top of the hill. It had three step wells as well as many other buildings for soldiers, kings and harems. In addition, the views of the city were spectacular. We wandered for over
Beth and Friends
These young ladies were very bold and asked us to take their picture so they could see it on our camera.
two hours then made our way back to town.
It was very cold the next morning and felt even colder to me because there is no heating so the inside is the same temperature as the outside. In this case it was about 50 degrees. Over breakfast, our hostess said the weather was colder than normal and had been for three days.
Before climbing in the car we set off on a walk around Bundi. The streets were typically crowded and narrow. We just talked and walked and said Namaste (Hindi for Hello) to anybody who looked at us.
The next stage of our journey should have taken 2 – 2.5 hours but took 3, primarily because Sam left Bundi going east instead of south. We ended up on the correct highway but the detour added about 30 kilometers to the journey. Like many other Asians we have met, Sam does not think in terms of a map. His method of navigating is to ask people on the roadside. When he knows where to go, we move at a good speed but when he is uncertain or lost he stops to ask for directions every
Tower of Victory, Chittorgarh
John thought it resembled a huge game of Jenga when he walked around the base of the 600 year old monolith. He also climbed to the top.
few minutes. It usually works.
I sat in the front seat for the drive to Chittorgarh and it was exhausting. Sam likes to engage in conversation and is an interesting person but between the cultural differences and the accent, talking with him was a lot of work. First came the questions that, in our culture, are rude. For instance, Sam asked me my monthly salary. At first I hedged and said we were not working but that did not satisfy so I made up a suitable number. He then showed me his ATM card (actually pulled it from his wallet) and told me how much money was in his account. Then he had me look in his wallet to see how much cash he had (20,000Rs). This was all very uncomfortable for me.
Then we talked about his family. He has a father and two younger brothers. The number two son is at college and the number three son is still in high school. He mentioned his mother is my age but otherwise never talked about her. I suspect she is deceased but did not ask. He asked how long we had been married so I asked if
he was married. He was and it was an arranged marriage when he was 16 and his wife was 15.
He also asked for my email address and asked if I would sponsor his entry to the US. I tried to explain gently that he did not have any skills that we needed in the US and he said he just wanted to drive a taxi. I then explained that most adults in the US can drive and he seemed very surprised that I could drive a car.
It was 1pm by the time we made it to our next stop, a town named Chittor and its accompanying fort. Chittorgarh (Chittor Fort) is a large hill surrounded at the top with a city wall. It is now a mesa but we suspect it did not start that way but was quarried to build all of the buildings and the fortress wall so ended up flat. Sam had never been to Chittor so he navigated his standard way (by asking people on the street) to the fort entrance. We spent the afternoon wandering the ruins of many palaces, visiting old temples and monuments and peering into step wells. The
Sunset in Udaipur
Taken from our balcony
fort is a rectangle approximately 7km x 3km. It is famous for three occasions where the inhabitants faced certain defeat so the men rode out to battle and the women and children committed suicide by immolation. I shudder every time I think about it; death by fire has to be one of the most painful ways to die and to voluntarily throw oneself in a fire defies my comprehension.
During the last stage of our journey I had John sit in the front and let him work for the conversation. From the guidebook I had selected a hotel in Udaipur. It was during our efforts to find the hotel that I found Sam’s navigational method so irritating. John was following our course on the map and knew exactly where to go but Sam could not fathom using a map so continued to ask for directions. Finally we followed a tuk-tuk to the hotel.
Our room had a great view, lots of privacy, a nice bathroom and costs only 650Rs ($14) per night. The only challenge is it is up four flights of narrow, steep stairs. Our host offered to have someone carry our bags up the
four flights of steps and I readily agreed. But when I saw a skinny 13 year old boy grab both our bags I immediately felt guilty. So we gave him a big tip.
We spent five days in Udaipur and it was really nice to have the time to explore a city before having to leave. And Udaipur is a nice city. It sits around two manmade lakes and has several spectacular places including two palaces that had leading roles in the 1982 James Bond movie “Octopussy.”
The first place we visited was the City Palace just a few blocks from our hotel. The palace is several hundred years old. It is actually many palaces and the maharana still lives with his family in part of it. The family has been ruling here for 76 generations. Only they don’t view it as ruling rather as being the custodian of the inheritance. My memories of the palace are good views of the lakes, lots of the renowned miniature paintings, one over-the-top decorated king’s bedroom, and a lot of features to keep women in purdah
The second morning we walked across the lake on the nearby
We aren't sure what they were cooking but it looked like dal (lentils). They said they started at 6am.
pedestrian bridge to a restaurant for breakfast. The restaurant was right in front of a ghat (steps into the water) so all during the meal we were treated to scenes of men washing their clothes and their bodies. Just as we arrived, two teens walked up with their bags of laundry. One opened a bar of soap and casually tossed the wrapper into the lake where it floated away. After opening the soap he dunked a shirt in the lake then laid it flat in front of him and scrubbed it with soap and a scrub brush. He then rinsed it in the lake, wrung it out, hung it on the railing to dry and started on the next shirt. It looked like he had about five shirts and two pants to wash.
Also washing was a 30-something man but he was washing himself. First he stripped down to just his underwear then he scooped the algae bloom out of the way and dove in. By the look on his face, the water was cold. He then sat on the steps and soaped his entire body including his hair and dove back in to rinse. After rinsing, he dried
Udaipur City Palace
off with a sarong then brushed his teeth using lake water, right where he had rinsed off and where the boys were busily washing clothes. Next he wrapped the sarong around his waist and discreetly took off the wet underwear he had bathed in and put on clean underwear that he just pulled on top of the sarong. Next he pulled off the sarong and finished dressing. All of this in broad view of two restaurants and a pedestrian bridge. This was not uncommon; over two days we saw at least ten men and a couple of women bathing this way.
We spent a sunny Sunday visiting two city parks. The first park was called Nehru Park and is a garden on an island in the middle of one of the manmade lakes. We took a boat across the lake to the island and it provided some nice views of the surrounding hills. The next park was called Moti Magri which was one big tribute to the ruling family of Mewar focusing exclusively on their military exploits. My favorite was the statue to honor the king’s horse that, despite having taken a mortal injury, safely carried the king away
B&J in Bundi Palace
This palace is known for its paintings as seen on the walls around us.
from the battlefield and saved his life.
We spent two afternoons just wandering the streets and markets. We saw seven huge kettles cooking on fires filled with (I think) dal or lentils. If I understood correctly, they had been cooking all day and there was a feast at 7pm. We saw bags of chilies and piles of brightly colored spices. There were shiny copper pots and mounds of dried corn. Lovely ripe papaya was next door to piles of bright red carrots. There were people drinking tea in jewelry shops as they haggled good-naturedly over the price of 22 karat gold jewelry. It was a cornucopia of sights, sounds and smells. And everywhere we went children would wave to us and adults would smile and return our greetings of Namaste.
We watched a performance of Rajasthani dances that was very enjoyable. They had several dances ranging from men performing a dance about gods to women dancing with pots of fire balanced on their heads. The costumes were beautiful and the dancing was exotic.
After five days of exploring Udaipur we are headed for Goa. Goa is the beach resort section of India. We have a week in
a condo courtesy of Beth’s parents so we can take a vacation from our travels. We are really looking forward to being in one place for a week.
In our culture we don’t like to talk about toilets and how one uses them but you know everyone does it. One mildly surprising thing I have encountered on our travels is the many variations in toilets and related issues. The next few paragraphs describe my findings. However, I understand some people may be uncomfortable reading this so feel free to stop reading now.
There are two variations of the toilet itself, two variations of flushing and two variations of cleansing. First up is the actual toilet. There are two types: stool and squat. Stool is what we use in America though in many places in the developing world the seat is missing leaving just the narrow rimmed bowl. A squat toilet has no place to sit but has foot treads where you stand then squat, hence the name. Squat toilets are often porcelain and many easterners consider them more sanitary because there is nothing dirty to sit on. Given the variety of cleanliness standards around the world,
This is a type of antelope. The males are blue like this one while the females are brown.
I prefer the squat to the stool.
Second is flushing. Most toilets use water but there are variations. A regular toilet has a tank like we are used to although to save water many toilets also have a “half flush.” A gravity flow toilet has no tank but rather you pour a bucket of water into the toilet bowl and that pushes the waste into the pipe. The second type is a pit toilet. We are used to these when camping but sometimes they are in the city and you just eliminate into a stream or hole that is then flushed into a stream.
Third is cleansing. Many European cultures including ours use paper but many Asian cultures use water. If you use paper, most Asian toilets are not designed to handle the paper so one should throw it in the waste basket not the toilet. An interesting alternative is water. Many bathrooms have a bucket of water and a scoop. You would then use the water and your left hand to clean up. An interesting variation I encountered in India is having a nozzle built into the back of the toilet seat. One simply turns on the
This is a ruined palace at Ranthambhore Fort. Imagine what it must have looked like when it was active.
nozzle to spray a stream of water and then you use your left hand and the water to clean up.
It can be quite a shock to encounter a variety of toilet different from what we are used to but, in the end, they all serve the same purpose and they all work.
There are more photos below