A Travellerspoint blog

July 2013

Udiapur

Udiapur

Our first morning in Udiapur we went to tour the City Palace.
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The Palace is half open to the public as a museum and half private for the king of Udiapur now. There is also a private hotel as part of this structure as well.
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The palace was built and added onto by different maharajas throughout the years. You can really get the sense of how the kings and queens lived.
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Many off the steps were uneven and that was done on purpose to make it harder for enemies to run up and down. The doors are also very small not because people were short but because again in enemies ever got into the palace they would bend forward to duck through the door and guards could easily chop their heads!

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After city palace we went to use an ATM and our cards weren't working so that put a little stress on us both. We went to have some coffee and cake at a restaurant with the rest of our group though to figure things out. Eventually Thom's card worked so we are ok. I am still trying to figure things out with my bank at the moment. Ahhh the troubles of traveling abroad...lol

Anyway, Next Monty had set up an Indian cooking class for us which was fantastic!

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We actually all helped to cook everything and then the best part we got to eat all of it too!
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We started with masala chai, made a few vegetarian dishes and even rolled and cooked our own chapati which is like Nan bread or a tortilla.
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We also got all the recipes so we'll need to cook and share when we get back.The chef teaching us was hilarious.

We walked around a bit and stopped in another one of a Monty's friends shop who was an artist. He was trained to paint miniature paintings. Very small detailed paintings using a brush that thins out to one hair. He painted an elephant with both of our names on it on my nail to demonstrate.
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We wanted to support this artist and so be bought one of his elephant paintings that took him 20 days to complete. They framed and wrapped it for us as we'll so we could ship it.
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Later that evening we met up again to go to the cultural center in town where we got to see many traditional dances performed with live music.
Women danced with fire pots on their head
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Finger cymbal dance
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Puppets
And more...
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That night we had dinner on a different rooftop owned by one of Monty's friends. It was kind of modern with a flat screen TV on one wall and a pool table set up near another. Unfortunately people from our group were beginning to get sick. So our group was getting smaller and people went to bed right after dinner. My stomach wasn't bad but it wasn't feel too great either so I also took some medicine and went back to the hotel. Thom and Peter a great guy from the UK stayed to have a few drinks and talk with Monty and some of his friends from the area. They had a good night.
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The next morning we went to this nice place to have a good breakfast and then walked around to do some shopping.
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We got some spices, tea and tins. Thom got two shirts tailored and made and I got two dresses although one is still a little too big. Nothing is a fixed price and you have to haggle for everything. I find it extremely stressful and don't enjoy it at all. It is also hard to just look because people are always shouting at you to look at their shop and even if you just want to look they take EVERYTHING out to show you. Even when you agree to actually buy something they keep asking you if you want more things. It is super stressful to me personally. I just always feel either bad or guilty or like a sucker. Maybe I'll get better with this in more time.

After we went to ship a box with most of our goods including the duvet cover we got in Jaisalmer back home we met up with the group again for a boat ride on the lake.
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Jag Mandir is a palace built on an island in the Lake Pichola. It is also called the "Lake Garden Palace". The Lake Palace is now one of the most expensive hotels in the area.
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We toured around the lake checking out more views of the City Palace we toured the day before
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Then we had a fancy dinner on top of rooftop hotel across the water with the group.
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Thom and I splurged on a bottle of wine as it is not common to find and there is only one that Monty recommends as good. It was Sucra Red a cab/Shiraz blend and it was yummy!
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We had a nice evening watching the sun set and the palace light up.
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Then back to the hotel to pack and early to bed as we need to be ready in the lobby at 5:00a.m. to catch a 5 hour train to Pushkar. Monty said this might be a good spot to purchase some instruments!

Posted by Kelly Rose 20:01 Archived in India Comments (5)

Travel Day

The next day was originally planned to be mostly a travel day on a bus. Instead Monty arranged two cars to drive us so that we could enjoy the country side and make a few stops.

So of course just as we were about to leave it started raining. Now Monsoon doesn't mean rain all day everyday in India. It is different depending on where you are as well. But for us unfortunately it rained on and off all day. We were probably following the clouds.
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First stop
The Ranakpur temple is one of the most famous Jain temple and dedicated to the first Jain Tirthankar of our time cycle, Adinath (aka Lord Rishabha).

When we arrived we sat in what looked like a cafeteria.
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Plates and bowls were already out and you sit and turn them over and men came around to feed you. Jains follow a strict form of vegetarianism, known as Jain vegetarianism, which in addition to being completely vegetarian, also excludes potatoes and other root vegetables because when the root is pulled up, organisms that live around the root also die.

Afterwards we went to the temple which was one of my favorite places so far.
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It is a very big temple, made up of white marble, offers sculptures of same quality but different type than Dilwara, but is beautiful from the outside, too. It has more than a thousand columns none of which are alike.
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The detail is fascinating!
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I loved walking around barefoot and the smell of inscence.
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The drive onward was very interesting. We would be fine for miles and then have cows or goats in the way.

Sections of the road were also flooded but we drove through them ok. The scenery got really lush and green despite the rain.
You also got great views of the mountains but it was hard to take pictures because of the rain.

The next stop was another Fort that I will have to have Thom tell you more about. It also has the second Greatest Wall ever built I think.
It was raining kind of hard when we first got there and the wind had also picked up. I opted to sit and have chai at the snack area with most of our group since I had forgotten my rain pancho but Thom went and got some great photos.
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Another 3 hours in the car and we finally made it to Udiapur which is known as the City of Lakes. They also filmed the James Bond movie Octapussy here as well...

Posted by Kelly Rose 10:11 Archived in India Comments (0)

Jodhpur the Blue City

Jodhpur
The bus ride there was surprisingly better in some ways then I expected. When I heard "local" bus my mind immediately thought ok, Thom, me and three other locals will probably be sharing a seat built for two with no air-conditioner and a chicken or goat blocking the aisle. So when we go to the bus stop and a modern bus just like we have in the states pulled up I was pretty pleased. The only difference was that it sat two on one side of the bus and single seats opposite. It also had sleeper seats with curtains above our regular chair seats, kinda cool.

The bus made random stops and many people got on and off and up and down. There was no air conditioning but the open windows helped. The bus has this crazy, extremely loud horn that plays differ melodies that are used to scare goats and cows out of the road. We drove through what reminded me of the many farm country sides in the states except their cows are not the same.

Finally we reached Johpur and geez! It was crazy and busy like Delhi. The air was really heavy with diesel too.

A little info on Johpur (and yes it is where riding pants came from and got their name):
Jodhpur is the second largest city in the state of Rajasthan, India and the origin dates to the year 1459 AD. Jodhpur is also known as the Blue City, an apt name as most houses in the old city are shades of blue. This is particularly noticeable on the north side of the town, known as Brahmpuri for the many Brahmins that live there.

We were not in the "Blue" area when we arrived and I wasn't too sure what our stay was going to be like when we first arrived. We finally reached our guest house and it was really nice.

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Set up like a small courtyard in the center with rooms around the outside, this place was run and owned by friends of Monty's who are actually descendants of the Singh family, rulers of Jodhpur.
Best part...there was air conditioning!!!!!

The family actually cooks all the meals for the guests and we had a great dinner. Ironically it started to thunderstorm right at the end of dinner and we lost power. So much for the air, but luckily it turned back on an hour or so later just as we went to bed.

The morning we took rickshaws to the Mehrangarh Fort which is one of the largest forts in India.
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The fort is situated 400 feet (122 m) above the city and is enclosed by imposing thick walls. Inside its boundaries there are several palaces known for their intricate carvings and expansive courtyards.

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There are seven gates, which include Jayapol (meaning 'victory'), built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over Jaipur and Bikaner armies. Actually there is so much history and stories about what went on in the fort I can not write it all here but it is worth looking up if you're interested.
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The fort is located at the centre of the city spreading atop a high hill.
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Its walls, protect some of the most beautiful and historic palaces in Rajasthan.
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After the fort we walked down the streets into the Blue historic section of the city.
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We then proceeded to the clock tower...

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where there is a very busy local market selling all kinds of goods.

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We stopped for a lassi a yogurt type drink popular in India and some fried street food. This one was yummy with onions and lentils.
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That night we had a great dinner at a place called "On the Rocks" It had a proper bar and some really delicious chicken and vegetarian dishes. We ate outside and then had drinks inside the bar/dance club and there was even some dancing happening that night...he he he!

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The next day Monty gave us an option to travel by two private cars instead of a bus so we could see some off the itinerary places along the way to Udipur and everyone agreed that it would be the thing to do.

Posted by Kelly Rose 11:03 Comments (2)

Laloo, Raj, Rajistan and Michael Jackson

So first some "Let's Get Real" talk on how it's been the last few days in between all the really good stuff.

We woke early hot!!! There are lots of nice open windows and fans in our rooms here at the fort but no air-conditioners. I am ok sweating all day but it is the most difficult when you need to sleep. There are lots of windows with air flowing in and there are two ceiling fans in the room but it's just not enough to prevent you from sweating. The fort seems to retain the heat it collects all day in its walls. I shower/rinse off at least two-three times a day in water that is neither hot nor cold. It's kind of pointless as you just sweat again. Plus you always feel you have a layer of something on you daily from sweat, sand, dirt, sun lotion or bug spray. This is everyone and we try just to make jokes and laugh it off. I like what Megan from Australia keepings saying jokingly "I'm finding myself" For example we kid about how on the second day we realized it was pointless to have brought make up because it just sweats off your face 10 min after you apply it. "Finding myself" Ha! We also drink about 4-5 liters of water a day easily which also explains where all the sweat comes from. Luckily a liter goes for anywhere from 15-30 rupees so that's 25-50 cents a liter. Water is my god here.

On to animals...

So Monty took us to this lake just outside the fort with temples for worshiping.
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The lake is low now as the monsoon is late arriving here. Remember I said that later too...

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We saw the most ugliest catfish hoping in the water as well as rats and and a little snake. Fun right? Thom thought so :-)
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So adding to that list of animals we have seen so far cows, goats, sheep, camels, lizards, pigs, dung beetles a donkey, and some kind of antelope. Oh and today I saw peacocks as well. Monty says we will see elephants too at some point on this trip. All life is important to Hindus.

So after lunch I bought a scarf to use for the camel safari and we packed a day bag for the night.

We drove out to the Thar desert which took about 40 min. The Thar Desert also known as the Great Indian Desert) is a large, arid region in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent and forms a natural boundary running along the border between India and Pakistan. With an area of more than 200000km2, it is the world's 18th largest subtropical desert.

When we got out the Muslim camel drivers were all there waiting for us with all the camels sitting just chewing and relaxing.
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Thom immediately went over and shook hands with the men and checked out some of the camels.
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There were four sitting together, Laloo, Raj, Rajastan and Michael Jackson HA!!!

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I picked Laloo and Thom got Michael Jackson.
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All the camels are male. You can't put a female around them or they will become too aggressive. These camels have only one hump and how you would steer a horse by a bit placed in the mouth, camels have a small bar through their nose. Now you get on the camel when it is sitting but when it gets up it gets up with it's back legs first so you need to lean back because it pushes you forward.

Monty took all our bags and rode on the camel cart. He also took pictures for us and will send them to us so we didn't have to worry about holding our cameras. I'll share those when I can. We rode for about two hours. Some people rode them without guides others were tied together and led by handlers. Finally we got to the dunes and cots were laid out where we would be spending the night. A fire was already started and there were porters making dinner. They brought over water, soda and beer as well as some snacks and we took a few pictures and relaxed.
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As we sat there though we could see clouds starting to form. Monty said we should wait it out because it could just pass and not even hit us. So I relaxed on the cot and started to doze off for a little while Thom drank a beer and chatted with Monty. I awoke not too long after by one of the porters handing me a plate of vegetarian Indian food. It was dark now so we dug out our headlamps. Thom sat next to me and just as we started eating it started raining of course!

It was a hard rain coming in sideways from one direction with lots of wind. Thom and I cuddled close under one umbrella and held the sides down around us so it wouldn't blow inside out. About 20-30 minutes later it stopped. It was kind of fun. Monty informed us that because of mother rain and the chance if it happening again we couldn't stay because of the risk of scorpions and snakes. Ummm no arguments here! But before we loaded back in the jeeps to head back to the hotel Monty and the guys set off some fireworks for us. Now when we were walking around Old Delhi we saw a sign that I have a picture of but it isn't loading at the moment so I'll just try to describe it. It said "The Best" and then in really big type "COCK" and then really small "Fireworks around" and their logo small and off to the side is a rooster...

So of course there were a lot of jokes to be told during this display.

That night after another shower I went up to the rooftop to hang out with Monty and some of the other travelers. Lex a wonderful geography teacher from Manchester UK had been sick in her stomach all day yesterday and today still so she was up there too getting some water. Later Monty was explaining stories about the caste system and arranged marriages and how it is still happening today in India and even in other countries when people leave and move out of India.

That night I tried to sleep in our room but it was too hot again so I drug Thom and our pillows up to the rooftop and we camped out up there along with a few others including Monty. It was so much cooler. I woke early by a local masque calling people to prayer.

So right now I am writing this on my iPad as I sit on a bus for 5 hours to Jodhpur and will probably already be there by the time I post this. There is a rumor that our rooms have air conditioners...

P.S. It's later and they do!!!!!

Posted by Kelly Rose 11:04 Comments (5)

Day two in Jaisalmer

We woke up a little later then I wanted but it was fine since we didn't go to bed until really late. Thom and I had breakfast with Monty and the two girls from Switzerland and we decided to walk the streets in the fort just the two of us for a while. We stopped in one shop and Thom got a light shirt and I got some funky MC Hammer looking pants...ha ha ha,

Then we stopped in a textile shop and had a really nice time looking at all sorts of fabrics. The owner was great. He was really knowledgeable and truthful in explaining the differences between the machine made fabric verses the hand stitched embroidered ones. Many of the handmade ones are made from patches of fabrics from traditional Hindu and Muslim dresses girls wear for special occasions and weddings in local villages. So we sat and he served us chai and took out at least 30-40 different kinds of patterns and colors and we finally decided on a beautiful orange one that they turned into a duvet cover right there on the spot and another for hanging on the wall.

That night Monty was planning a special dinner for us on the roof top of our hotel where we could all rent traditional Indian outfits and he got us a Harmonium Player and singer.
So all the girls met up first at this shop where we met Shina.
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She was such a character and I loved her so much. Such a funny lady. She let us all pick out different colored Saris and then helped dress and wrap them around us. Next we all got beautiful henna drawn on the palms of our hands.
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It was so wonderful to be with a bunch of just girls. For a while I felt like all you really saw were Indian men especially on the train and while now in Jaisalmer we do see more walking about we don't really get much interaction with them so it was really great to get some girl time in. Shina gave us toe rings, bindis and jewelry to wear as well. She was joking about promising some of the girls to marry Indian men too ha ha ha.

Next the boys came to the shop and Shina,s husband dressed them in flowing shirts and pants and then wrapped turbans on their heads and gave them red marks on their foreheads.
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We were quite a group!
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(Side note- the traditional wear was beautiful and awesome to wear but was soooooooo hot! We all had new respect for the women and men who wear these daily)

So afterwards we headed up to the roof top for pictures as the sun was setting and dinner while listening to the harmonium player sing traditional songs from the region. It was a really fun day.
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Posted by Kelly Rose 22:23 Archived in India Comments (6)

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