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Published: November 14th 2010
Thursday, 28 October
We leave Jaisalmer this morning and head out through the dusty desert towards Jodhpur a city of approximately 500,000 inhabitants. The desert I see from the road is a lot different to the desert in Morocco; the Indian desert has a lot more scrub than sand.
Our itinerary includes a Jain Temple, but this is fairly average and should be missed. Back in the car, I plug in my Ipod and listen to some Good Ole Rock n' Roll rather than the Bollywood selections that Harri sings along with..
On the outskirts of Jodhpur it's a scheduled stop at gardens that house a funerary temple, lots of monkeys and some pretty garish wall sculptures. Fortunately for us a school group is on its way to have a class photo taken, so we take the opportunity to interact and are handsomely rewarded with smiling faces. I think that this allows us to some great photos, and we repeat the experience later in the week.
The hotel (Heritage Kuchaman), a restored Haveli, is wonderful, everything works, and the owner Abdul Shakoor is friendly and wants to spend time with the three oldies. He has 11 children, 1
son, 10 daughters , 33 grandchildren and cannot read or write. Despite this, he is the owner of this amazing Haveli and a ball bearing business that has contracts with the Indian Airforce.
Our dinner is at the restaurant that is number 1 pick by the Lonely Planet. Indique's location is close to one of the gates leading into the old city of Jodhpur and gives a lovely view of Jodhpur fort. I have the opportunity to talk with a French lady who is in India with her 92 year old mother and some friends. The mother is a very sprightly 92 years old and I must applaud her adventurous spirit. Dinner and service is outstanding and immediately enters our top tier restaurant list. Friday, 29 October
In the morning we walk to the clock tower and the Sardar Market. It's, all about sights, sounds and smells with pushy street vendors trying to get you to look at wall hangings, bed covers, spices and just buy something because you are a rich tourist. Beggers with children hanging off their arms push their hands out towards us. We resist, because if you give to one, you will rue the
Jodhpur Fort is red sandstone and sits on a bluff overlooking the city. It has never been conquered and you can see why, there is a single entrance, with seven gates before you actually reach the inner palace. One of the gates has huge spikes protruding and is set at right angles, so an elephant would be unable to charge The walls are imposing and appear to be at least 30 meters high. The fort gives a view of the blue city, so called, because the houses are painted with indigo for cooling purposes and which also works as an insect repellent. It seems that blue is a significant and lucky color for the Brahmans (highest caste). The audio guide to the Jodhpur fort is informative and definitely worth a listen.
After the fort, it's the Omelette Shop, just inside the gate by the clock tower, for lunch. A 30 rupee lunch, which equates to around US 75c I'd call it more of an omelette burger as its sandwiched between two pieces of toast. and what's more it's good!! This is followed by a a creamy thick lassi at another food store, both are Lonely Planet recommended.
We featured in a later one
The market vendors call us over to look at their wares, however there are no sales today.
Dinner is at another restaurant in the Lonely Planet by beautiful Jodhpur train station.. A bit disappointing and not up to the level of Indique. Saturday, 30 October
Our driver, Harri picks us up at 9.00am and we say goodbye to the Haveli Owner. Today, we're off to Udaipur, city on the lake, but first we take a requisite stop at a tourist shop. I am impressed by some bone carving figures that are painted, but the salesman proceeds to piss me off and I leave without buying. Harri is a little erratic in his driving and rather than gauge distances between vehicles, races up behind lorries, slams on the brakes and then performs maneuvers that should surely get us killed. I later show him my appreciation and give him a blast. He sulks for the remainder of the trip to Udaipur.
Along the way there's a stop at a Jain temple. This one is stunning and large, with exquisite wall carvings. We're all in shorts and have to rent trendy blue trousers to enter the temple.
is an expensive and disappointing meal at one of Harri's tourist restaurants. How can these very basic highway restaurants cost as much as our evening meals? Perhaps the drivers get commission!!
We arrive in Udaipur and check into our hotel. Our plans are to go to the top rated restaurant in Udaipur as mentioned in the Lonely Planet, unfortunately the place is full and we can't get a table. Dinner turns out to be in the “Good Food” restaurant down the street. Fireworks light the sky over the Lake Palace; a warm up for Diwali celebrations.
. Sunday, 31 October
Udaipur is Rajasthans most romantic city. It is certainly less dusty than other cities that we have visited and there is not as much rubbish on the streets. Of course, this is all relative. My thoughts are that it is a city used to tourists and we consequently have less hassles with vendors. However, we do get the “where are you from” opening lines to try and entice you into their shops, a polite “no thanks” often works and we are left alone.
Today, we will visit the City Palace and decide to take the audio tour purely
on the merit that the Jodhpur audio tour was so good. My mistake, the audio tour is average and there are only a couple of things that I remember. These are too lengthy to write down (note to self: daughter poisoned because of 2 suitors: Maharaja snubs George V), you will just have to ask me to recount the stories. As with all the palaces we have seen so far, the architecture is amazing, but its location overlooking Lake Pichola ensures that it will stay in my memory.
Dinner is at the Soul Food restaurant, cheap beer and tasty food, although it's a little lacking in meat.
[bMonday, 2 November
Harri arrives at 10.00 am and we immediately tell him that we do not wish to visit any temples today. We have decided to go to a crafts village about 3Km outside of the city. The village is has representations of houses and huts from various parts of India plus a variety of weavers, musicians and dance troupes. Our guide is a teacher and has a degree in Sanskrit, he teaches children in one of the villages in the hills, and moonlights as a tour guide during school
holidays. He is very informative and we hook-up with a group of children that are touring the village. The kids are wonderful and greet us with “hello”, “where you from?” and “how are you?”, their smiling faces and inquisitive natures are a joy to behold. Dancers are setting up and immediately start performing for us, whirling, bending to Rajasthan musicians. We are invited to join and make a very poor addition to the colorful costumes and dancers. But this is a great photo opportunity and mustn't be missed. Overall, this was an amazing experience and the three of us are certainly pleased that we did it.
Harri drives us around the lake and then we make our way into town where we have lunch at the Lotus Cafe. We then walk amongst the myriad of silversmiths and sari shops before heading back to the hotel for a freshen-up.
In the evening we walk to the lakes edge and book a boat tour of Udaipur lake. This is the location for the James Bond movie, Octopussy, which also seems to play every evening in many of the hotels and restaurants. The canopied boat put-puts out onto the lake and
we slowly chug past the Lake Palace Hotel and the man-made island of Jag Mandir. This island is the location of a summer palace, built by a Maharaja from the past, we had been told that there is an incredible restaurant on this island, but unfortunately have been unable to find out how to make a reservation for dinner. Instead we reserve a table for three at the Jagat Niwa Hotel. Dinner is superb, our table overlooks the lake and the lights of The Lake Palace and Jag Mandir. Yes, it's romantic and to be truthful it should be shared with my wife and not two lonely guys..... Tuesday, 2 November
We're on the road again. It's a 6 hour trip to the holy city of Pushkar and we use up the whole six hours. Our car is again on the dusty roads of Rajasthan with hundreds of lorries that have no road etiquette. It's a jungle out there and I am amazed that we don't see accidents on every curve or brow of a hill. As we head through the dusty hills there must be 20km of marble polishers and cutters. Where they are selling this, who knows!!!
Trucks transport large slabs which are not chained down or secured in any way. Its scary!!!!!
We arrive in Pushkar at around 4.00pm and sit on the marble verandah of our hotel writing up blogs and sharing photographs.
Dinner is vegetarian curries and naan; there is no meat, eggs or alcohol allowed in Pushkar. Wednesday, 3 November
On the 14 November there is a Camel fair in Pushkar where supposedly 50,000 camels and cows come to be traded. Malcolm assures me, after talking to a local expert ,that Bikaner camels are fastest, Jaisalmer camels are the most decorated and Gujurat camels are an unknown quantity. Unfortunately, we wont be here, but plan to get Harri to swing by the Fairground to see whether the camels have started to arrive (none at the fairgrounds).
It's breakfast at the hotel and then a walk into Pushkar to look at the lake. This is a holy city where pilgrims worship at the temples and bathe in the extremely brown, muddy waters. Typhoid comes to my mind as people submerge themselves in the holy waters. Photographers are frowned upon, so you have to sneak the odd picture and you have
the added insult of taking your shoes off within 40 feet of the lake. This is fine, but the steps are covered in pigeon poo and the occasional large holy cow pat. We are offered flowers, but having read Lonely Planet we know to refuse, as this is a gimmick to get money. Lunch is lite and consists of a Fanta and cinnamon bun. After lunch we wander through the market place, a turbaned man approaches us holding a basket, he pops the top and inside is a cobra. I step backwards and head past him, then it's a quick visit to the Sikh temple and back to the hotel. I have a one hour massage in the afternoon and feel all the better for it while Malcolm and Dick retire to their respective rooms for a snooze.
In the evening we decide to give Indian food a miss; this is the first non-curry meal in 2 weeks. We have Pizza and the restaurant that we choose has illegal supplies of beer that is served in a teapot., at speakeasy prices. I must add, Dick drinks his normal cup of tea. Thursday, 4 November
Harri, our road warrior,
does battle with the trucks that inhabit the roads on our way to Jaipur. We arrive at our hotel and are welcomed by Mr. Williams a sycophant of the first degree, he shows us around the hotel and books us in for the Diwali special on the roof the following evening. The hotel is the best yet and after settling in we take a tuktuk into town. Jaipur city has about 2.5 million inhabitants and it would seem that most of them are in the old town today. After wandering around for a couple of hours it's back to the hotel for a freshen up and then back into town for our evening meal. Again, we pick a restaurant from the Lonely Planet, Handi, and all that I can say is that it's exceptionally poor value for money. In fact, I'm very disappointed as most restaurants that we have eaten at from the Lonely Planet Guide have been superb. Friday, 5 November
It's Diwali!!!! And, we're off to the Amber fort which is around 11 km from Jaipur. It's magnificent, and overlooks the valley. Whats also impressive is the wall that snakes over the hills like a smaller version
of the Great Wall of China. Elephants take tourists up to the fort, but we choose to walk. On our way up, we spy a snake charmer and Malcolm don's the turban and sits down next to the cobra. The charmer puts his hand next to the snake to give Malcolm some confidence, but there is no way our Mallie is going to stroke a cobra. Once in the Amber Fort we are offered views of other forts that look large and imposing in their own right.
We visit a carpet factory after the fort, and lo and behold, myself and Caroline are now the proud owners of a new camel hair carpet!!
After the carpet factory, we again explore old-town on foot amid the Diwali shoppers. It's a zoo and shortly after 4.00pm it's time for a tuktuk ride back to the hotel. Tonight is the sumptuous feast recommended by Mr. Williams. Rajasthan Musicians, Dancing Girls and fireworks are all part of the entertainment. . The food, is OK, but a long way from sumptuous, plus it has been dumbed down for European tastes. The whole neighborhood is letting off fireworks and it sounds more like a
war-zone than a celebration. The fireworks are extremely powerful and we are often showered with debris. It's an experience, but I wonder how many people will be hospitalized because this evening. Saturday, 6 November
Another road day on the way to Rathanbore National Park for a tiger safari.We stay in the Hotel Ankar which is probably the poorest hotel that we have had on the trip. The food has been dumbed down for tourists and is overall pretty bland. Sunday, 7 November
Just call me Bwana, we are up early, 5.30 and have breakfast so we can be ready for our 6.30 safari. Our jeep driver is on his own time-table and arrives around 45 minutes late, We're all somewhat pissed and we show our displeasure at the end by giving only a small tip. The jeep is shared with a Canadian family and the tracks we take are rugged, but there's got to be at least fifty vehicles running around the park chasing tigers. Some hold about 20 people, no wonder the tigers decide to stay in-doors. No tigers, but we see antelopes, deer and a spotted owl.
We spend the rest of the day having
down-time and lying around in our room watching the India- New Zealand Test match. A great recovery by New Zealand I must add....
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