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Published: November 1st 2015
After visiting Delhi and Agra, Bundi was a refreshing break away from the chaos, the annoying touts, rickshaw drivers and the mass levels of tourism. Instead we would describe Bundi as a smallish town (for India that is) with a lot of charm and a warm friendliness about it but still retaining that vibrant alive feel that we love about India.
Arriving here after our overnight train we immediately liked the feel of this place. This may have been in part due to the early quieter morning feel as there was hardly anything on the streets. Apart from the odd swerve around the roaming cow, pig, goat or dog we actually relaxed into our rickshaw ride knowing that nothing was in danger of being ran over by our driver.
Taking advantage of the atmospheric streets we decided to take it easy and so spent the first day exploring the town. We walked the main small streets that got busier by the minute with the many hole in the wall stalls setting up early and getting ready for business. The chai store, the medical shop, shoe repair stores and some stores where white blankets were laid out and
people would later come by and relax.
In what seemed like no time these streets were full of life and the quieter feel we had experienced earlier was a faint distant memory. It was a usual bustling Indian street. We commented that we doubted that we could ever get used to the chaos of these roads. Somehow they work but can be very disorientating.
For us however the real charm of Bundi lay in the small alleys stemming off from the main streets. Exploring these alleys was an enjoyable past-time and gave us a small glimpse into local life here. Following the way the lanes sloped, turned or forked into further lanes we got ourselves lost in the atmospheric alleys. Taking a right here or a left there, we just followed our own path. Sometimes we had to walk back on ourselves as we ended up outside someone’s house at a dead end. On one occasion when we did this we found a little boy outside his house having a poo into the flowing open sewers. Nice. Remind us never to step or fall in one of these.
We loved the quaintness of it
all with barely any street traffic apart from the occasional motorbike. We walked down these lanes with no other person in sight apart from say a woman adorned with the most beautiful sari walking towards us smiling at us. We passed groups of men always saying hello asking for our 'good names' and where we were from. No scammers here. Everyone here seemed so friendly even asking us to take their picture. For us this felt very strange, we usually use the zoom on our camera to allow us to discretely capture local life. If they asked we uncomfortably took their picture as they looked at us blankly. I say 'blankly' because strangely when many people asked us to do this they did not smile for the picture. (see pictures of Chris with local men in Chai store). Although some did smile, many however looked at the camera straight faced. Especially adults and children. The young men however would pose as if they were in a photography shoot. This was all very funny to see.
As we continued to walk we commented to each other that we loved the colours here, the pastel blue and pink colours of
the houses, the rustic brown wooden doors. We also loved people watching here. Watching the way women would look out of their upstairs windows or young children would stare out of their doorways too shy to say hello but with huge smiles beaming as we passed by.
As time progressed we braved the chaos again and walked to the markets. People selling fruits, vegetables, flowers and the obligatory chai stalls. We stopped by some of the flower stalls whereby flowers are mainly bought for temple offerings and smelt the jasmine scented flowers. P was even given a flower bracelet as a gift.
Right in the middle of this market were 3 water wells. Two of these were identical on either sides of the roads in the form of two square large holes with white washed walls and staircases zig zagging their way down each wall. It impressed us that such effort was taken in creating these important wells. Now however they were abandoned and in a sad state of disrepair and so we didn't stay long. However it was nice to view them and imagine life here in their glory days. Whilst we were there we
spotted two different species of monkey (macaque and another we don't know the name of) sneakily creep behind fruit carts to steal some juicy apples before being scared away by the owner.
It’s funny how clever these monkeys were. They clearly knew we were tourists. They quickly ran off when they saw that the owner or a local had caught them in the act. When we looked over to the monkey, they growled aggressively at us bearing their teeth in a threatening manner. We did not see them do that to a local once.
We stopped by the third water well at the end of the market Raniji-ki boari which was much grander with more intricate designs and columns leading down to the well. Again this area was very dirty plus we gained 3 mosquito bites from our short time there (god help us) so we didn't stick around.
We walked further around the busier streets with an atmosphere that reminded us of the alleys in Agra. Quieter in some areas but still motorcycles weaning their way between people. The funny part of it all was the random cows that lay or stood right
in the middle of it all. The streets here were full of animals: pigs running across the street chasing each other while dogs appeared to be the only sensible ones cautiously sticking to the sides of these streets. Looking up you would either see a monkey running across the housing or working out how it could steal something OR wait for it...
Goats walking on the roofs or high walls. Ha. That took us by surprise.
All the while men women and children worked their way up and down these same streets.
On one occasion whilst we were chatting to a shop owner outside, a cow passed by Chris and head butted him from behind. We guess we were in the way. Luckily for Chris it was a calf and didn't have any horns. A slightly disturbing after thought was imagining what would have happened with a bigger cow with their incredibly sharp horns. I guess India is just one of those places where you have to be alert.
Some children saw us taking some pictures of them from a distance and came running to speak to us. Giggling as they asked
us our names and where we were from and excitedly telling us their ages when we asked. It was endearing how excited they were practising their English talking to us. After a short while we hi-fived them and said goodbye.
Later we spent some time sitting by the lake taking in the palace that appeared to grow right out of the mountain side. Next to amd above the palace, bits of the fort peered out above the overgrown vegetation. During our time relaxing by the lake, a guy came by playing a traditional Indian string instrument which we didn't necessarily want at first but found it added to the the 'India experience' so stayed and enjoyed the sights and the sounds.
For food we had some lovely potato veg samosas that were topped with a sweet like spicy sauce. They went down very well. For dinner, we looked around forever to get away from the tourist restaurants near our haveli/hotel and eventually stumbled on a popular place to eat 10 minutes beyond the market. Here Chris ordered Thali, which was a tasty selection of small pots of curry (lentils, chickpeas etc.) with endless chapati. P ordered
a Chadi Paneer, a lovely curry flavoured dish with bits of paneer/cottage cheese blocks within. Strange concoction but very nice.
That night the rain came down pretty hard. In our beds we were quite happy and content sheltered from the rain. The following day however the streets were a mess. All the sewers were overflown and created a flowing sewer river down the street. We said to ourselves there had got to be a different way to where we were going. Nope. As we were set on doing the fort and the palace we were wearing our trainers. Bad idea. Before we knew it our feet, socks and footwear were drenched in this smelly disgusting sewer water. We both felt sick to the stomach. Motorcyclists would pass by splashing us with... well we'll let you imagine what. This took it too far and was certainly a low point for us both as we silently cursed the open sewer system and lack of hygiene.
Slightly deterred but aware of time we had left in Bundi we made the decision to continue to visit the fort and the palace. Albeit smelly or not. Most things that we had
read warned us about the testosterone fuelled monkeys and advised us to bring a stick. Not wanting a repeat of our Zhangjiajie experience in China we decided to hire a guide.
Our guide was point blank- useless. Hurrying us up from the beginning telling us he was hot and always demanding we speed up. He wasn't giving us any info on the fort's history that we wanted apart from point out things in front of us such as the odd mural or the views. Yes we could see that. The monkeys also proved to be harmless (maybe I wouldn't go that far), they generally left us alone. A guide was therefore not needed.
It is still worth exploring. The water wells at the top of the fort were pretty grand and the views from the top of the city (looking very blue) was spectacular. One interesting thing our useless guide did point our however was the spikes on the wooden gates on the entrance to the fort. The purpose of these spikes was to guard the fort from attacks and in particular from the elephants and horses ordered to barge into them.
Overall although visiting the
fort was interesting, it was quite run down and was not really maintained. Apparently it is still owned by the last king’s family but they are not interested in preserving it like the government owned forts. Seems they are just happy in taking the entrance fee visitors have to pay.
After visiting the fort we made a pit stop at the palace on our way down. The murals on the walls in one section were very impressive. The guard took a liking to us, as did many other people who wanted money and gave us a little tour. Rather than providing much of an explanation he pointed out a few interesting things in the art work we could have missed such as the image of an elephant's and bull's head entwined, the makeup cladded half naked women dancing for the king and eunuchs providing the king with gifts.
Afterwards he took us into locked glass room which he told us was once the Maharaja's bedroom, covered in marble with a lot of glass mirrors. He sniggered as he told us it was so the maharaja could perform many karma sutra poses with his
wife. He clearly wanted one of these rooms for his own use.
As it was India’s Independence Day, we were surprised to find things running as per usual. I am not sure what we were expecting, maybe celebrations?. We did however come across many groups of people singing and dancing, sometimes playing the drums and waving a flag. They generally had one guy at the front adorned with a flower necklace. We found out this was in preparation for some sort of local election in an attempt to seek more support.
On one of the main streets there were two of these groups, one at either end. One of the groups had a guy at the top of a ladder shouting things. The ladder was just held up vertically by a couple of guys. It seemed as though the atmosphere could have turned sour at any minute (I don't think it did) so that was our signal to get out of there.
Transportation; Bundi to Chittaugarh 308 rupees for a sleeper class train. 2.5 hrs.
Accomadation; Raj Mahal. It wasn’t great but there was not really a good selection here.
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