A Travellerspoint blog

Interesting but hard to get to...

Our driver picked us up at 9am sharp and we headed to Bundi by way of Chittagargh. The road is very rough so the travel is very slow going. Now that we have been to Bundi, not sure we would recommend doing this. It is interesting but not so different from other places to spend the time and money to get here.

The fort (gargh) at Chittor is considered the greatest in Rajasthan and while we like Menagargh better (Jodhpur), it is well worth a visit if you are in this part of India. The fort is an odd mixture of walls and watch or battle towers and peaceful temples along with the Tower of Victory which has 147 steps to the top. The fort dates back to the 8th century and in 1303 it was besieged by the Pathan King of Delhi who captured the beautiful Padmini – wife of the Rani king. When defeat was inevitable, the men rode out to die in battle and the Rajput women including Padmini committed jauhaur – ritual suicide. In 1535 it was the sultan of Gajarat who besieged the fort and history repeated itself. Reported, 13,000 Rajput women and 32,000 Rajput warriors died following the declaration of jauhaur. This happened a 3rd time in 1568 – bad karma in this place for sure!!

We then headed on to Bundi and are staying at the Dev Niwas. This is a newly renovated heritage hotel and is quite lovely. The rooms are large and roomy. Ours had a sitting area with a desk and the bathroom is also quite large. The owner is the cousin of the owners of Jagat Niwas so we were initially a bit wary of staying here but it has turned out to be great. It is well located, the roof top restaurant has a fabulous view of the palace and the food is quite good.

Dec 26

We first took a tour of the palace which was built over a period of years starting in the 15th century and was lived in by the ruling maharani family until 1967. It is odd to think of these families living in these ancient palaces which must not have had much in the way of modern comforts because it doesn't appear to be modern electricity or facilities etc. Makes you wonder why they stayed when they had money at the time and could likely have lived in some luxury elsewhere. I am guessing it was pride of their position etc. There are some very good paintings still in fairly good condition and one room is kept locked and only opened for viewing under careful watch because the paintings are in very bad shape and UNESCO has asked that no photos be allowed – flash or no flash. Our guide was very informative and we heard lots of stories about the Hindu gods. There is one high level of the palace with a lovely garden and views of the city and the fort above.

It is very hard to get to the fort – scrambling up a very steep hill through scrub overgrowth and apparently challenged by the macaques. We decided not to do this. We saw some of the macaques (monkeys) earlier in the day and they are quite large and did not look friendly.

We had lunch at Hadee Rani Guest House. We just wandered in and the people were very pleasant and welcoming. After we had sat down, the owner turned out to be a man we met last night at our hotel. He is somehow related – we knew he also owned a guest house but didn’t know this was his. He was very welcoming and the food was terrific.

We wandered around Bundi – the bangle market, vegetable market and everything else market. Always interesting for us.

Later in the afternoon, Annan, our driver took us out to Jait Sagar, a lovely lake with a small palace, Suhk Mahal where Rudyard Kipling spent a few days and wrote part of Kim. We then went over to a tent resort on the other side of the lake which is also a bird sanctuary and we sat in a tree house, had a beer and watched the birds settle in for the evening. We saw parrots, kingfishers, egrets and a couple other species we couldn’t identify. It was lovely.

Back in town we checked out a couple options for dinner – Tome & Jerry’s because the sign said 'best food in Bundi’ according to Trip Advisor – the menu was uninspiring and the place was poorly lit. We also looked at the rooftop restaurant at Taragahr Fort Inn – also uninspiring and actually looked quite dirty. So, we went back to our hotel. The roof top restaurant had a fabulous view of the palace which is lit up beautifully at night and the food is quite good.

Inside the palace courtyard

Inside the palace courtyard


Fancy horses

Fancy horses


Inside the Victory Tower

Inside the Victory Tower


Jain temple

Jain temple


Water reservoir inside Chittigargh fort

Water reservoir inside Chittigargh fort


Busy Sunday

Busy Sunday


In the gardens of Padmini's palace

In the gardens of Padmini's palace


Traditional skirts for sale

Traditional skirts for sale


Jain temple entry way

Jain temple entry way


Bundi palace

Bundi palace


Lots of monkeys

Lots of monkeys


Inside Bundi City Palace

Inside Bundi City Palace


Roof top garden

Roof top garden


View ofthe old fort from rooftop garden

View ofthe old fort from rooftop garden


Interesting painting

Interesting painting


Kite making

Kite making

Posted by CWalts 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Udaipur is a delight!

Dec 22 – Jodhpur to Udaipur

Today we spent a leisurely day at the Devi Bhawan catching up on email and the blog. We leave for Udaipur by bus at 2pm. We are waiting for the electricity to come back on so I can get back online to add more to the blog.

Left Jodhpur on a tourist bus – not very 'touristy', but what can you expect for $4.00 for 2 people. The ride was about 7 hours. We got to our hotel Jagat Niwas Palace about 9:30p. I had booked a deluxe room with a view because we are here for my birthday and I wanted something a bit more special. While we did have a view, the room was not deluxe by our definition – it was very small, barely enough room to walk around the bed and it was on a sub-lower level with low ceilings. Felt a bit like we had been sent to the dungeon. We asked if we could change and they were fully booked so we decided we would try to find something else in the morning. We had a light dinner and hit the sack.

December 23 - Udaipur Got up and headed out to see if we could find other accommodations. We found a lovely, huge room right around the corner. It has a large bed, a very nice sitting area, a big bathroom and we have our own private balcony with a 'big' view of the lake and lake palaces. THIS is deluxe. Oh, it is also spotless. The cleanliness of the interiors of hotels, shops, restaurants is in sharp contrast to the complete lack of cleanliness on the streets. It is an odd disparity. The streets of Udaipur are the cleanest so far. It is obvious that the city is making an effort to tidy up – streets are swept and there is much less litter and cow dung.

We wandered around today exploring. Found the spice market which is my favorite place to explore. Out time here is relaxed because we have a full extra day so it is nice to be able to amble about with no particular agenda. We did visit the City Palace, which is the second largest palace in all of India. The largest is somewhere in the south. We had a very well versed young guide.Construction of this palace was started by Maharana Udai Singh II, the cities founder and was started in around `1600. It has been added on to by various Maharajas' over the centuries but they have managed to maintain a uniformity of style and design so it doesn’t look like a bunch of different residences attached to each other. The main entrance way is freshly repainted to its early glory because the current Maharana’s daughter was married in the palace this past March. Throughout the palace there are intricate paintings and incredibly detailed mosaics with thousands of pieces of hand cut glass. The rooms on view are stunning in their colors and use of glass and gems (although these are replaced with glass now).

Color is incredibly important in Rajasthani life and often the use of color tells a lot about the person wearing it. From Lonely Planet Guide: Often color is tied up with the strictures of society. Turban color may signify caste, religion and occasion. Rajputs traditionally wear saffron, signifying chivalry. Brahmins, the highest caste, wear pink, Dalits brown and nomads black. Jubilantly multicolored turbans are for festivals, white, grey black or blue turbans are worn by Hindus to signify sadness, but these colors are also worn by Muslims. The way a turban is tied also indicated the wearer’s social class and origins.

As Hindus believe some shades of blue, green and white to be mournful colors, they tend to be worn by widows, while wives and single women wear more cherry pinks, reds and yellows. They embody more signs: one red and yellow combination may be worn by women who’ve borne a son. Hindu married women are carefully marked 'off limits’ by chudas (arm bangles), bichyas (toe rings) and a dash of vermillion in the part of their hair.

Comment from Carole: I am ever watchful and concerned about the way women are held in societies around the world. It is interesting in India to see that, while women, do have ‘their place’, they are treated kindly and lovingly by everyone. Very different from Ethiopia where women are less valuable than donkeys and treated much more poorly. Also, with the fast paced modernization of India and the higher education levels for girls, there is much more evidence of more independence and control over their own decisions about their lives. There is still a lot of tradition here that holds for both males and females but it is linked to a sense of family bonding that is not entirely bad.

Ok, enough of that. We went out for dinner to one of the many roof top restaurants and then wandered around a bit more. We went into an art shop and there were Anthony and Caroline (met on camel safari in Jaisalmer)! They had just arrived in Udaipur a few hours earlier. We chatted for a bit and then they went on their way. We bought a small painting of Ganesh to place by our front door and the shop owner gave me a small painting as a gift for my birthday. These paintings are very intricate and done on silk – lovely. They use brushes made of squirrel tail hair, in some cases, just or 2 hairs. This is the same style of art that we saw in Jodhpur and throughout the palace today.

Dec 24 – 60 Years old!!!!

We spent a leisurely day wandering around Udaipur. We walked across one of the foot bridges to the ‘other side’ of the lake. We looked at Ambrai for a possible dinner locale for my birthday dinner. They wanted 250 Rs per person cover charge because it was Christmas Eve. It’s not about the money – it’s the principal of it – this is an unnecessary charge. Especially given the fact that there are many fewer tourists because of the European economy. Anyway, we looked at a couple other places and decided instead to have drinks on the rooftop of Jagat Niwas, which is lovely and then we ate dinner at the same roof top restaurant we ate at last night. The food is very good and it is lovely up there.

Evening from our balcony

Evening from our balcony


The Lake Palace

The Lake Palace


Raj Niwas

Raj Niwas


City Palace entry gate

City Palace entry gate


Elephant tie-up

Elephant tie-up


Main entry gate to the palace complete with spikes

Main entry gate to the palace complete with spikes


The main gate - freshly refurbished

The main gate - freshly refurbished


Carrier pigeon cages

Carrier pigeon cages


Elephant tug of war competition

Elephant tug of war competition


Inner garden courtyard

Inner garden courtyard


The mirror room

The mirror room


Ceiling of room of mirrors

Ceiling of room of mirrors


Mosaics are everywhere throughout the palace

Mosaics are everywhere throughout the palace


Peek a boo

Peek a boo


An old ivory carved door

An old ivory carved door


The relaxing room of the Maharani and his wife

The relaxing room of the Maharani and his wife


The queen's quarters

The queen's quarters


Beautiful

Beautiful


A peacock mosaic

A peacock mosaic


Detail of the peacock mosaics

Detail of the peacock mosaics


The Kings bedroom

The Kings bedroom


Sugar

Sugar


Mounds of spices

Mounds of spices


Traffic jam

Traffic jam

Posted by CWalts 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

The Blue City

Took the 5:15pm train to Jodhpur on Jan 20. It was a 5 hour trip arriving in Jodhpur at 10:40pm. Travel was on time and we met a young couple from Britain – Matt and Clare – who have been traveling for over a year – South America, Africa, India and then on to China and Japan. They got us very interested in going to Uganda and Rwanda – maybe next trip.

We are staying at the Devi Bhawan which is outside the old city. It is a lovely respite from the noise and smog of Jodhpur. The rooms are huge and very clean. Hot water and power are a bit iffy but I will say they aim to please. We had limited hot water last night and they immediately replaced the heater unit. Lots of hot water this morning.

We spent the day (Jan 21) in the old city. Once again, a maze of streets and alleys filled with shops for everything imaginable. Here there is lots of textile work and art on silk and camel bone. The people/touts are much more aggressive here and don't seem to hear the word 'no’. Several times we had to stop and explain nicely that we did not want to be ‘escorted’ anywhere that we just wanted to wander and look on our own. We did finally give in to one young man who kept showing up. We agreed to go into his ‘brother’s’ textile store for one minute if he would agree to leave us alone. It worked! It also turned out that this textile store supplies Nieman Marcus with fabrics and tapestries for their interior design studio. We also heard a lot about Richard Gere and Bill Murray had shopped there. We heard this at a lot of places.

We took a tuk-tuk up to the Mehrangarh fort which stands high above the city and can be seen from almost anywhere you stand. It is described as a very ‘masculine’ fort in the Lonely Planet guide and they aren’t kidding. It is huge and was built to withstand any kind of aggression and, in fact, it has over the centuries protected the royal family who still reside in Jodhpur today.

This fort is worth coming to Jodhpur if for no other reason. They have done a fabulous job of keeping the experience genuine and the audio tour, which is included in the admission price, is well worth it. Besides explaining everything along the way, there is added commentary on several topics which add a lot of color to the overall experience. You hear the current maharajah talk about his coronation at age 4 and you hear the current queen talking about what it was like to arrive at the fort as a 16 year old bride.

Jodhpur is called the ‘blue city’. So named because many of the buildings are painted indigo. This is the color of the highest caste in India – the Brahmin. It is also quite practical, in that, it provides a cooling effect in the summer heat.

From the fort you get great views of the blue city, through the smog, and the maharajah’s palace which is partly a high end hotel now but the royal family still lives there. They are still very much a part of life in Jodhpur and head many of the special funds that keep the ancient Rajput history alive. The beauty of this is that the fort is entirely an historical site. The only shop is the museum shop. It makes visiting it feel more like you are walking back in history versus the experience in Jaisalmer.

We had lunch at the Pal Haveli at their rooftop restaurant, Indique. We came across it by accident. It is very colonial – lots of British colonial photos and saddles for bar stools etc. The food was delicious – garlic chicken with naan. And, of course, a Kingfisher beer.

Only saw one person wearing jodhpurs – he was a tour guide and looked very dapper in crisp, white jodhpur style pants; a starched blue and white striped shirt and navy blazer. Impressive moustache!

Speaking of mustaches – they are a very big deal in India and Richard has gotten a lot of comments on his. They don’t see many westerners with any facial hair let alone a really good mustache. In India, a mustache that is curled up is Hindu and one that is curled down is Muslim. Hindi men even curl their beards to turn up – parted in the middle and swept up. Very dashing looking!

The Clock Tower - Old City

The Clock Tower - Old City


The fort from the top of Pal Haveli

The fort from the top of Pal Haveli


The blue of the blue city

The blue of the blue city


Devi Bhawan

Devi Bhawan


Big, clean bathroom

Big, clean bathroom


Lovely gardens

Lovely gardens


Garden statuary

Garden statuary


The market area

The market area


Lots of food for sale

Lots of food for sale


Art on a lentil

Art on a lentil


Art teacher

Art teacher


Brand new sewing machines!

Brand new sewing machines!


Ribbons and fabric

Ribbons and fabric


Textiles

Textiles


Entry to a home

Entry to a home


Garlic Chicken

Garlic Chicken


Lunch at Pal Haveli

Lunch at Pal Haveli


Colors

Colors


The fort

The fort


The blue city from the fort

The blue city from the fort


One of several gateways

One of several gateways


Houdaws - for riding elephants

Houdaws - for riding elephants


Palenquin - for the queen

Palenquin - for the queen


The residence area of the fort

The residence area of the fort


Palenquin - for the king

Palenquin - for the king


The royal palace/hotel

The royal palace/hotel


Through the screen

Through the screen


Kings entertainment room

Kings entertainment room


Balconies for queens and consorts to listen

Balconies for queens and consorts to listen


The blue city

The blue city


The cannons on the ramparts

The cannons on the ramparts

Posted by CWalts 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

'THE' long awaited Camel Safari

As some of you know I have wanted to go on a camel safari for a very long time. It has finally happened and I am happy to say - been there done that!

This morning we headed out on a camel safari. We spent the better part of the day riding camels. Rocket, Richard's camel is a racing camel and I had Raj – she was just a run of the mill camel but we got along well. Overall, it was quite fun but as the hours went on, we were very glad we did not bike yesterday. Our butts were really feeling it! We had a very long, leisurely stop for lunch. We relaxed and the camels wandered. The camel drivers cooked lunch. After eating and waiting for the camels to be rounded up we were off again. We were joined in the afternoon by a young couple from Miami – Anthony and Caroline. It was nice to have the company as the camel drivers were not particularly chatty. We rode for another couple of hours and then stopped for the night at an area with low sand dunes. The Thar desert is not really sandy. It is more of a scrub, dry landscape but there are areas where the winds and slope of the ground do collect enough sand to create dunes. We had our dunes all to ourselves which is a side benefit of going through Shahi Palace for this safari. Other safari’s go to dunes that are more accessible and therefore a lot more people. We lounged around. Watched desert beetles make tracks in the sand had dinner and then bedded down for the night. The sky was intense with stars – the milky was really milky! I had a bad night – really, really bad heart burn. I think it was the spices in the tea. So I sat up most of the night. By early morning things had settled down so I probably got about 2 hours of sleep. Once up and around I felt fine except for very achy legs and very sore butt. Not looking forward to getting back on Raj.

After breakfast we once again waited for camels to be rounded up – it’s amazing how far they wander even though they are hobbled. Saddled up and on our way again. The 1 ½ - 2 hour ride to the jeep couldn’t go fast enough. We are very happy we did this but would suggest anyone who hasn’t been on a horse regularly prior to signing up for this, to take the shorted ½ day/overnight/1/2 day version. It would be a lot easier on the old bod!!

Once back in Jaisalmer we showered and lounged around on the roof top of the Shahi Palace until it was time to go catch our train to Jodhpur.

Our train to Jodhpur left at 5:15pm and arrived in Jodhpur, right on time, at 10:20pm. Our hotel – Devi Bhawan – picked us up.

Rocket and Raj await their riders

Rocket and Raj await their riders


The safari begins

The safari begins


Richard on Rocket

Richard on Rocket


Vulture

Vulture


Raj in foreground, Rocket in background

Raj in foreground, Rocket in background


Nap time after lunch

Nap time after lunch


A driver bringing camels back to lunch spot

A driver bringing camels back to lunch spot


Cooking lunch

Cooking lunch


The dunes

The dunes


More of the dunes

More of the dunes


Rounding up the camels in the morning

Rounding up the camels in the morning

Posted by CWalts 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

A leisurely day touring Jaisalmer

We decided not to rent bikes and instead spend more time in the fort and the old city. We hired a guide at the entrance of the fort – 'Sikh'. He was very good and provided very detailed explanations of the history of the fort; the main palace and the Jain temples that are within the fort. All are quite incredible. The fort was built in 1156 by the Rajput ruler Jaisala. It is called the Golden City because of the color of the sandstone used both in ancient times and today. To the untrained eye, it can be quite difficult to tell what is old and what is new unless it is not inhabited.

The ancient architecture is amazing with intricate carvings in the stone, beautiful balconiers and canopies, all of this golden sandstone. Much of the carving was done by muslim artisans even though Jaisala was Hindu. This is common throughout this part of India – muslim and hindu lived quite well side by side until the early 20th century.

The Jain temples are exquisite. The carvings are incredibly detailed and tell the story of this very private religion. All nine of the Jain gods are carved out of white marble that is polished to a high gloss that almost shimmers. There are seven Jain temples in the old fort but only two are open to the public.

In the old city there are two significant haveli’s that are well worth seeing. Patwa-ki Haveli was built for five sons and each of the five haveli’s are connected so there would be not need to go out into the street to go from one to the other. This would have been especially important for the women who were not allowed outside unescorted or uncovered. Two are now owned by the Indian government and are national monuments. Three are privately owned. All are very nicely maintained.

The Natham-ki Haveli was built in the 19th century by the prime minister of Rajasthan. His ancestors still occupy the building and allow visitors into one area where there are paintings guilded with real gold. The man who showed us around was the great, great, great grandson of the original PM.

We also visited Gadi Sagar – this is a man-made lake that was originally built as the water supply for the city and was a recreation area for the various kings and their families. There are lovely gazebo-like platforms in the lake for lounging – one for the king; one for the princes and one for the women.

It was a good day of sightseeing. We also visited a jewelry store which has fabulous old jewelry which has been bought over the years from traders. Some of the pieces are really unique. Bigt hunks of turquoise, carnelian etc. Really beautiful.

Also visited a store that sells real Kasmiri shawls. Not to be mistaken for pashimini – there is a HUGE difference. The Kashmiri shawls are made from the wool that comes just from the neck area of Kashmiri goats. The look and feel is exquisite – along with the prices – over $300. But, if you want the real thing – this would certainly be worth it.

Jain temple - interior carving

Jain temple - interior carving


The ceiling of the Jain temple

The ceiling of the Jain temple


Ganesh - symbol of peace and love

Ganesh - symbol of peace and love


Keeping the evil eye away

Keeping the evil eye away


Turbins and block type for sale

Turbins and block type for sale


One of the floors of an ancient haveli

One of the floors of an ancient haveli


Candid

Candid


Stuffed animals for sale

Stuffed animals for sale


Gadi Sagar

Gadi Sagar


Gadi Sagar

Gadi Sagar


Time to relax

Time to relax


Kingfisher Beer

Kingfisher Beer


Aloo  Gobi and Kadhai Paneer

Aloo Gobi and Kadhai Paneer

Posted by CWalts 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

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