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Journalist: OceanTragic
Status: Public
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Start Date: Oct 4th, 2009
Last Update: Apr 27th, 2010
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Description: An extension to my Big Cats & Holy Ghats Blog from my travel journal notes

11th April 2009: Last Day In Udaipur
Date Posted: Oct 25th, 2009 at 19:39 - Comments (0)
I wake with a strange feeling in my tummy: not because I'm ill but because I'm nervous about how tonight's trian journey will go. So far on this trip all of the travel has been arranged and carried out by Namaste India Tours. Now it's done to Indian Railways for 500 out of 600 of the next miles.

Last night we moved room as I could get our other room for four nights, just three. The other room was Rs2450+Rs650 for extra beds and had a nice(ish) view. Last night's room was a standard room with no view and was much cheaper at Rs1450 but I had to pay for 2 extra beds, so in the end it was only Rs350 cheaper. Still it was a nice big room with a dividing door between us and the kids

Breakfast is yet again eaten in the bay windows of the hotel, overlooking the shrinking lake whilst eating pancakes. What a great combination.

Jane and I have decided we don't care much for chai so being opt for more of what we're used to, or in other words "black tea with milk please". It raises an interesting point for me as I'm a believer in trying the local food, but on this trip I've been there, done that, and look what's happened to me. I feel I may start being a little more cautious.

After breakfast we packed up our stuff, checked out and moved it to the hotel's luggage room. When checking out I saw the couple who'd had our first room also checking out, so they only spent one night there, forcing us to get relegated.

Blog updating was required again and was done in the bookshop right next door to the hotel. The guy there is friendly, the computer's a clean of viruses, but I feel like he's looking over my shoulder which makes me feel I have to come clean about the utilities I'm just about to download, to resize images etc. He's okay with it, so I carry on. There's photos of an overflowing lake Pichola which were taken only a couple of years back and seem in stark contrast to our view at breakfast this morning.

I decide that I'll book the Ginger Hotel in Delhi for 8 days time and curse myself as the family rooms are all gone. Instead I go for two twin rooms at Rs1100 each, so Rs4400 for two nights for two rooms, not bad.

11:30am calls and I think of MC Hammer as I state "it's henna time". A short walk to the Biotique shop on the way to the City Palace - which is next on the list - and the girls get both arms done for Rs400 all in. Not a bad price considering it takes about an hour to do. It was worth the money just so I could practice throwing the focus on the photos I took.

Walking through Udaipur is easy, apart from the hills; we like this town. We look for a restaurant but couldn't find one and decide to eat inside the City Palace complex..."there's bound to be a restaurant there, isn't there?". Before getting the entrance tickets we decide to take a guide, for Rs200, who seems quite knowledgeable. We say about lunch and he advises us to eat before we go in saying that the restaurant is expensive, but we say no, it'll be okay, and he say he'll meet us there in 30 minutes. Now, I really should listen to people a bit more: the restaurant is part of the Shiv Niwas hotel and for us it is expensive. Consequently the four of us share a pizza and some fries and drink only water. I laugh with our guide who says "I did tell you" with a smile.

Udaipur's City Palace is the second largest in India, with Mysore's being the largest. I loved Mysore Palace and wonder whether this one will be much like it. We don't get far before the girls spot the horses and we're stuck there for the next ten minutes. Overall I think that the palace isn't a patch on Mysore's or Jaipur's but after reviewing the photos I decide that it's between the two of them.

Walking back to the hotel we're enticed into Lord's Tailors, near Lal Ghat and the Mewar Haveli, all just a stone's throw away from the Jagat Niwas. We've got plenty of time so we go in. Jane decides to buy a skirt which they make on the spot but when tries it on it doesn't fit, due to a short zip. Minutes later the tailor has replaced the zip with a longer one, the skirt fits and pay up the Rs900 we've agreed. It seems very dear but honestly the skirt is gorgeous and something you could image being in the window of Monsoon with a £100 price tag on it. I buy a simple cotton shirt so that I can at least say I've bought something on this trip.

Dinner is taken early on the upstairs terrace restaurant of the Jagat where I take a hundred photos of the Lake Palace as the sunset, just to get that perfect picture.

At 9pm, we leave for Udaipur Railway Station, anxiety levels are rising.

A few photos of Udaipur
Tonight's Hotel: is a train
10th April 2009: Feeling Well In Udaipur
Date Posted: Oct 18th, 2009 at 01:19 - Comments (0)
Today, I'm feeling better. Or am I? In 1989, Jane was almost admitted to Udaipur hospital but managed to escape with buying the drugs required to treat her and getting her friend to inject her, shortly before having to inject herself. Luckily said friend was studying bio-chemistry so had had a little practice. There's no doubting that this scenario had been praying on my mind and at points yesterday I had decided that I too would be paying a visit to a hospital in Udaipur if I wasn't better today. So is it my own threat that has made me feel better today? Only time will tell.

Off to breakfast, I'm pleased at being outside again and I'm enjoying lounging around in the jharokhas, drinking tea and having pancakes. The view of the ever decreasing lake, which is shrinking by one foot each day we're told, is fantastic and must be so much better when the lake is full of water.

From the jharokha we look straight across at the Amet Haveli, a place that we almost stayed at, and we decide that we'd like to see it close up for the next time we visit Udaipur. Yes, even though I've only seen a very small part of this place I know I want to return.

The walk across the dried lake bed is interesting although we're never really sure what we might be just about to step in. The Jagat Niwas commands a very good location and looks impressive as we look up. Cows drink from puddles of water that haven't yet dried up; dhobiwallahs venture further into the lake to find water; various large birds soar overhead.

Eventually arriving at the Amet Haveli it's clear Jane needs a rest: it's quite hot already and it seems that she kept herself going when I couldn't over the last few days. Having researched the Amet I know that next door is the much revered Ambrai restaurant which is partially shaded by a tree. It's not quite time for lunch but it's certainly time for a drink or two. Being on holiday, you'd think that alcoholic drinks would be a good idea but in this heat I rarely think like that, preferring instead my current Indian favourite, Lime Soda. There's no point in asking Amy what she wants..."Mirinda, Mirinda, Mirinda".

If only the Amet Haveli had mentioned that they had just built a small pool then I would have definately booked a room there instead of the Jagat Niwas. I'm suprised to see it as nowhere has it been mentioned, no reviews, no literature, nothing.

After a drink or two we return to the Jagat via a complete rip-off TukTuk ride. I shouldn't complain, I just wanted to get Jane back to the hotel for a rest, I would have paid loads more than I did. The TukTuk breaks down trying to go up the hill and we have to get out. I hand him a Rs50 note which turns out to be ripped, I had no idea, and he chases into the Biotique shop near the Mewar Haveli demanding a different note. It was the only small note I had and I'm forced to go and buy something from the bakery nearby just to get change, but they haven't got any either so send a boy to get change from elsewhere. It all takes more time than if we'd walked from the Amet but at least Jane is sitting down in the air conditioned Biotique shop.

We'd gone to the Biotique shop to get some henna painting for the girls but this shop doesn't do it, instead we need to go to another Biotique outlet which is only a couple of hundred yards away. The madness of market saturation applies often in India, but by the same company, that's crazy.

Roles reserved, it's me taking the girls for lunch while Jane sleeps. Afterwards we visit henna painting shop and Amy gets one leg done before a booked appointment turns up. Why didn't the woman say, we could have come back. We go to pay for the one leg and the price has changed from the original quote, at which point I cancel the appointment I've made for tomorrow, then the price drops back to what it should, at which point I re-instate the appointment, 11:30 tomorrow morning, two girls, four arms.

Generally I don't think India is a crazy/illogical as people say, but today, it is.

Evening dinner is yet again in Jagat's lower restaurant as we just can't get enough of this view.

A few photos of Udaipur
Tonight's Hotel: Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel
Related Blog Article: Henna Tattoo by Amy
Related Blog Article: Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel - Lovely
9th April 2009: Horse Riding In Udaipur
Date Posted: Oct 17th, 2009 at 20:27 - Comments (3)
Yet again, there's no notes for today, so it's all from memory.

The girls are up early and excited about their horse riding trip today. At home Emilia's done about six-months horse riding lessons on Saturday mornings but they never get out of the stable yards. Last year in France they both got to do a pony trek, a short trip around some woods.

After breakfast of pancakes in the Jagat Niwas's restaurant, overlooking Lake Pichola, they left the hotel for the short walk to the travel agents. Getting in a tuk-tuk they headed out of town for about thirty minutes to the stables.

Back in England you can hardly do anything without a health and safety risk assessment and wearing full body armour and Jane wondered what sort of safety equipment they'd get for the trip, if anything. She was offered a proper riding hat but they didn't have small enough ones for the girls who ended up having to wear builders hat, Emilia in blue, Amy in Bob-The-Builder-yellow.

Emilia wrote a nice blog entry about the horse riding in Udaipur which I'll not repeat, so have a look at the article if you're interested.

At 1pm, when they'd returned, I thought I was feeling a little better and decided to venture out of the lovely room I'd occupied for the last forty hours, since arriving. I'm so glad I'm in a room with a view. We head off the restaurant and I manage to consume a few forkfulls of boiled rice, my first "meal" since 8pm on the 6th April, 65 hours before. On plus side I guess that I've lost over two stone (about 13Kg), which I know won't stay off but it makes me pleased anyway.

Later that evening we go back to the Bagore-ki-Haveli where they do a cultural evening of dancing, which lasts about 45 minutes. It's an interesting show and we particularly like the dances with the chimes and the puppeteer too.

Tonight's Hotel: Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel
Related Blog Article: Horse Riding In Udaipur by Emilia
Related Blog Article: That's The Last Time I Joke About Dysentery
8th April 2009: A Lovely Hotel Room
Date Posted: Oct 17th, 2009 at 19:37 - Comments (1)
No notes in my journal again for today as I didn't leave the hotel due to illness, but boy was I glad that we had a nice room in the Jagat Niwas and one with a TV too. I've only watched a little bit of TV in India so far and mainly just for the fun of seeing the differences but today I will mainly be watching films.
I wish I'd asked Jane at the time to fill in my journal but alas I didn't so here's what can still be remembered.

More than being worried about myself I was worried about Jane and the kids not being able to go anywhere or do anything today. At the same time I was worried that if they did go somewhere without me they wouldn't be safe and perhaps they should stay here. Catch 22.

Whilst they all went for breakfast I read my Rough Guide and came up with a shortlist of things for them to do that were nearby.

A trip to Bagore-ki-Haveli won the decision as the draw of seeing the world's largest turban was just too exciting...okay, maybe not. Off they trotted on the short walk, past the various little shops and tailors, past the Mewar Haveli that we almost stayed at and over the hill and down the hill to the Bagore-ki-Haveli. Not too far.

Emilia and Amy adored the lovely sarees and seemed, for some reason, impressed by the world's largest turban. A slow meander through the artist's gallery beforethe happened across the courtyard, where the do the evening cultural dancing show. They ran around playing hide and seek in the courtyard for sometime before deciding that it must be time for lunch.

Jane had decided that although the food at the Jagat is good she'd give somewhere else a go, so they stopped at a restaurant whose name they've long forgotten. A small pizza-and-chips combination for the three of them and the usual set of drinks - Lime Soda for Jane; Marinda for Amy; Water for Emilia - meant they were ready for a little more walking around.

One key thing I wanted to do with the girls in Udaipur was to go horse riding. Well actually I would have been happy to walk, as long as they got to ride. So this the afternoon task for Jane; find out about horse riding treks and get one booked.

There's plenty of places offering tourist tours and travel in Udaipur but which one to chose. Jane decided that a combination of price and friendliness would decide the winner and set off visiting a couple of the places nearby.

She got a few prices and came back to the room to see her English Patient who was currently in the middle of a non-descript very forgettable film. Instead of popcorn there were scatterings of mineral water bottles and diarlyte sachets strewn everywhere.

Afterwards she took the kids for another walk back to the winning travel agent to book up the horse riding for 9am the next day. Memories are fading but we think that it was about Rs300 rupees per person, plus a boy/runner for each of the girls at Rs100 each and a tuk-tuk of Rs100. That would make Rs1200 which seems about the price we remember.

Back in the hotel we all do a bit of reading before Jane takes the girls for dinner on the rooftop terrace, where they have, of all things (!), Fish and Chips.

Tonight's Hotel: Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel
7th April 2009: The Best Journey, The Worst Journey
Date Posted: Oct 15th, 2009 at 23:49 - Comments (1)
I've got no notes for this day - you'll understand why later - so this is all from my memory. Let's see how it goes...

I wake up today and declare myself fit and well. I no longer feel like man-flu is killing me and I decide that medication is no longer required. Hoorah, it's day 11 and I feel well.
We're off to Udaipur today, taking in the much travelled route via Ranakpur. I'm sad to leave Jodhpur which I've very much enjoyed, especially Mehrangarh, but I'm so looking forward to visiting Ranakpur. We'd thought about including Khumbalgarh too on this next drive but decided it would be a bridge too far on an already exhausting journey.
As we're not allowed to visit Ranakpur until after midday we don't leave until 8am, after a simple breakfast of fresh fruit and water.
Every day Kamal is opening up a little more and I'm starting to wish that we'd have him for the whole trip. Although it's his job I do feel sorry for Kamal as today he'll drive about 7.5 hours to Udaipur and then he wants to drive back towards Jaipur, before continuing on the next day back to Delhi. After this he's on a bus back up to see his family near Dharamsala, who he hasn't seen for a while.
Whilst he's shy and we've had a few language/translation problems it has been very easy travelling with Kamal. His driving is superb and he's very calm in the face of some of the challenges he's had (hijras, cows, lorries, narrow streets).
Today we strike up a conversation that turns into a pub-style conversation about everything in the world, but especially CCTV, taxes and licences. He's suprised at the extensive use of CCTV in England as at first he struggled to understand what I was talking about: not because he couldn't understand me, but because he'd never seen a CCTV camera on the roads.
A couple of hours into the journey we stop for petrol and I look around for a toilet but there isn't one. Thirty minutes later and I'm taking back this mornings thoughts about being fit and well.
Nearing Ranakpur the countryside changes and the Aravalli Hills surround us. We're too early for Ranakpur so we stop at a Dhurry maker just to pass the time. It's interesting to see how they make the dhurries but they just don't look very Indian to me, in fact, they appear Mexican. Worse still, there's no loo.
The countryside round here is beautiful and I wish we'd sheduled an overnight stop to be able to appreciate it.
Drawing closer to Ranakpur and both Jane and I are excited: she's excited to see the template; I'm excited to find the loo.
I'm wearing three-quarter length trousers today especially for Ranakpur but the ticket office tell me they're not long enough and he lends me a pair of light blue baggy trousers which are truly awful. I feel that I look like MC Hammer on a bad day.
The Holy Priest guy welcomes us with an orange tikka/bindi mark and then expects a donation which we don't mind giving as the entry prices were very reasonable, compared with our places we've visited.
This is a wonderful place and we spend an hour meandering through the maze of pillars, constantly lost and not know which way is which. It's the first monument where westerners have outweighed Indians which is somewhat suprising to me.
An hour or so later and we're on the road again, driving through the hills before we stop for dinner, not that I'll be eating anything. At the restaurant we're told about the Rs250 buffet which is a tad pricey but there's not any other options. Later on we find that they have a menu and I kick myself for not asking for it, as we normally only have a light snack at lunchtimes, preferring to eat a meal in the evenings. I stick to two bottles of Limca and a litre of water.
Within five minutes I'm almost in tears as Kamal, with a beaming smile, announces as free service he'd like to take us to Khumbalgarh next. The thought of not getting to Udaipur as soon as possible darkens my already sorrowful state but I try to stay upbeat in front of Kamal as he's excited.
It seems like hours before we get to Khumbalgarh and hate myself for not reacting when Kamal pulls up at the viewpoint and asks "photo Sir?". We drive to the entrance and I try to walk up to the fort but I could only make it part way, the others continue but turn back quite soon afterwards.
Back in the car I'm relived to know that we're on the way to Udaipur but the road passes so slowly, it feels like it will never end. I hang my head out of the window waiting for the inevitable.
Udaipur's boundaries appear and finally we arrive during a blazing sunset at the Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel, that I'd booked over the Internet. They're very professional there and I'm relieved my reservation is good.
I couldn't sum up any strength to wish Kamal a safe journey but I manage to give him a decent tip and take an appalling photo of him and the girls.
Finally, we're in Udaipur, in a lovely partial-lake-facing room at the Jagat Niwas. I've been waiting for this moment for many months, but more importantly many hours and miles.

Tonight's Hotel: Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel
6th April 2009: A Free Day; Nothing Planned!
Date Posted: Oct 11th, 2009 at 21:22 - Comments (1)
Again I wake at 5am but I decide that I need a lie in and manage to get another three hours. It shouldn't be a suprise that sightseeing and travelling like we are doing is wearing me out and this is on top of what man-flu and the Hotel Saket have thrown at me.
We'd originally thought about doing a visit to Osian today but we didn't really arrange it with Namaste and Kamal didn't seem to keen, giving the amount of driving he'll be doing over the next two days. It would have been easy to put my foot down and demand a trip there but I think to be honest I want a day off, especially as tomorrow is going to be a long day.
It's good to plan your trip to make sure you actually do see the things you want to but there's nothing like waking up and thinking "what shall I do today?".
After a lazy breakfast Kamal meets us at 10am and a quick decision is required: "Mandore Gardens please Kamal", "yes Sir". Now I never believe I'm more important than anyone else in this world but I've got to admit that I like being called Sir.
Mandor Gardens is lovely in April but I guess it's even better after the monsoon rains have filled the empty pools.
Music is being played nearby and we venture over to see people dancing to celebrate the first haircut of a child in the family. Monkeys were swinging in the trees, running on the roofs of the buildings; children played music on makeshift instruments; cows wandered aimlessly. We had a lovely time.
Undecided where to go next I picked a lake north west of Jodhpur and directed Kamal via a map I'd picked up, as he'd never been there before. Unlike the Lonely Planet this map was accurate and the journey it took us through the sandstone quarries which were a hive of activity. I love seeing things like this: the behind the scenes things normally kept away from tourists.
There's boating to be had at Kayalana Lake - which I guess is an old quarry - and Jane and the girls decide to give it a try. For health reasons I decide that being stuck in the middle of a lake isn't a good idea for me at the moment and I skip the opportunity. Meanwhile though I have a nice chat with an Army guy from up north who's stationed here in Jodhpur.
Back to the hotel for another late lunch, an hour or so updating the blog, coffee and tea on the veranda (how English of me) of the Ratan Vilas and then we're off again.
As a photographer I very much want to get a killer shot of Mehrangarh at sunset but as we get nearby a huge sandstorm blows in and we realise it's just not going to happen.
Instead we head off down the hill and drive to the Sundar Market near the Clock Tower, via a maze of alleyways that aren't really big enough for the Sumo. Kamal receives quite a few stares of people who are not happy that he's trying to go down their narrow street but unlike Varanasi in 1996 there's no animosity aimed at us, just curious stares.
At the market a guy moves his Hero Honda to allow Kamal to park, obviously because we wants us to visit his spice shop afterwards. Kamal warns us to be careful in the market. What a place to be in you want to buy bangles; the girls are in Heaven and spend quite a few hundred rupees on numerous bangles for their friends. The spice shop turns out to be a real find and the prices are very reasonable and we buy a few spice mixes (garam masala, garlic masala, lemon rice) that are a bit different to what we'd find locally at home. The smell in the shop is addictive and we don't want to leave.
The evening meal is in the courtyard of Ratan Vilas again and for the first time I have one of the meals that is meant to be a speciality of Rajasthan, Lal Maas, which turns out to be lovely.

Tonight's Hotel: Ratan Vilas, Jodhpur
5th April 2009: Wonderful, Wonderful Mehrangarh
Date Posted: Oct 11th, 2009 at 00:34 - Comments (0)
I keep waking up at 5am but today I'm not bothered as I'm excited to see possibly the best fort in Rajasthan, Jodhpur's Mehrangarh.
At 6:30am I decide to update the blog much to the surprise of the hotel porters. I do like the Internet setup here, you just fill in the start/stop time and room/name details and even pay someone there and then, or it just gets added to your account. Having said that its the most expensive yet at Rs1/minute, about three times the price of anywhere else, but that means I can do an hour for £1, in the comfort of my own hotel. After installing Microsoft's Image Resizer (should I really do this sort of thing on their PC?) I upload 35 photos to my gallery and create some articles. That should keep the UK contingent happy for a while.
During a lazy breakfast we chat with an American family who are here with kids of a similar age to ours. The competitive Dad tells us how they're travelling by car and they didn't let their kids bring their Nintendo DS's with them. We did, I say nothing. We have a nice chat as their going to Udaipur next, a day before we do it. A single guy, whose nationality I can't quite work out, is flying to Udaipur today, grinning that it will only take a fraction of the driving time. I mention Ranakpur and it feels like I've mentioned Agincourt to a Francophile. Oops, he's obviously not happy about missing it.
At 10am Kamal is ready and waiting for us, as arranged, and we head off to Mehrangarh. Jane's been here once before but was ill and doesn't remember to much about it.
The sheer size of the fort is impressive from afar but, just like the Taj Mahal, its beauty can only be seen close up. Every sandstone wall seems to have been intricately carved and the room interiors are just lovely too.It's a terrific place and we spend 3.5 hours there without even noticing that yet again it's 2pm and we've not eaten. I've only just realised that we've not been hassled by anyone, bar a couple of photos.
Given the choice I would return here before the Taj Mahal or any of the other places I've seen so far.
After buying a couple of things in the shop we have a look at the stole/dupatta seller with his beautiful dyed merchandise. They're expensive at Rs600 (fixed price) and Jane walks on. I convince Jane that she's unlikely to find anything like it elsewhere, they're beautiful, she should buy one. Each of the girls get one too and I could have saved myself £30 if I'd kept my mouth shut.
In the evening Kamal drops us at Bollygood, which we'd searched for and found earlier. It's nothing like I expected; it's very plain; it's got plastic seats and no A/C; it's empty. The menu looks okay and although I'm still not feeling great, Jane neither, I order a Dupiaza whilst the others all order more western style meals. Yet again my meal arrives first and for once i'm hungry so it doesn't stay in the bowl long. Amy's Spagheti Bolognese turns up and she moans about it being hot at which point we suggest she just gets on with it and stops moaning. Ten minutes later and she's still struggling, I take a mouthful and almost spit it out: it's hotter than a Madras curry back home, probably a Vindaloo heat; it's meant to be Spag Bol for Christ's sake.
We're happy to leave Bollygood (sorry Dhans) but find there's no tuk-tuks to be had. Finally one arrives but he can't understand what I'm saying, but I think I know where it is so we get in and direct him to our hotel, eventually. When we get there he says he knows the hotel. I pay him far too much as I'm happy to be 'home'.

Tonight's Hotel: Ratan Vilas, Jodhpur
Related Blog Article: Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur by Emilia
Related Blog Article: Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur by Kev
Related Blog Article: Jodhpur's Bolly(NOT)good Restaurant
#9
4th April 2009: The "Shortcut" To Jodhpur
Date Posted: Oct 10th, 2009 at 16:15 - Comments (0)
Awake at 5am, it's not my choice, let's blame Jaipur's Hotel Saket, I venture out of the room onto the open ended corridors of Green Park Resort. The sun started rising from somewhere behind the hills and I watch 5 peafowl on the top of a nearby building walking around silhouetted against the brightening sky. On the other side of the hotel people are working in the fields tending an array of crops, possibly of dubious type.
The hotel's internet connection seems to be free and with no-one around I boot up the computer and log on. It's time for blogging to be done but first there's the matter of downloading a free virus checker onto the PC and eradicating the viruses/trojans gained in Bharatpur. Once this is done I can clean up the camera's flash card and finally upload some photos for the folks back home.
No breakfast for Jane this morning, let's blame Saket again, but the kids are hungry - they're always hungry it seems - and we amble up to the only-one-can-eat-at-a-time restaurant. The kids think all their Christmases have come at once when they spot Nutella & Banana Pancakes on the menu.
Happily leaving Pushkar behind we start the journey to Jodhpur, which I've mapped out already and am pleased we'll be travelling on some pretty good roads. Kamal's got other ideas though and soon the roads start crumbling away, then get better, then crumble away again. I start to convince myself that we're lost but at the same time I have faith in Kamal.
Finding a pack of Extra Strong Mints in my camera bag I offer one to Kamal, after asking if he likes mint. He's suprised by the feeling, "they're hot Sir", "would you like another one", "yes please Sir".
The train track crossing near Pipar Road station (I think) has its barriers down and we get out of the car to have a look at the train approaching. My chat with the locals about where we've been and where we're going is so relaxed, friendly and easy. Emilia "spoke" to some children her age and from the look of amazement in their eyes I guess they don't see many western girls Emilia's age. The speaking of course was limited to "hello" and "namaste" but no-one seemed to mind. I ask if I can take a photo, which I do before showing them the image afterwards; they seem pleased. Walking over to the tracks we watch the train pulling out of the station nearby and I take quite a few photos, realising that worrying about frames-per-second when purchasing a new camera is sometimes worth it. This experience has been one of my favourite so far, so simple but so lovely, I'll remember it for a very long time...especially as it turns out I've taken one of my favourite photos of the trip here (see Pushkar to Jodhpur blog article).
Five very hot travellers arrive at the Ratan Vilas in Jodhpur, 240kms in 4.5 hours, it's time for lunch as its already 2:15pm.
I've done a little research on Namaste's Jodhpur hotels and I'm very pleased we're at the Ratan Vilas. With its courtyards, gardens, veranda and also the nice furniture in the rooms, it's may kind of hotel. Our room is huge, possibly the biggest yet, antique furniture, comfy beds and a dividing screen between us and the kids
We just about catch the 3pm deadline for lunch which was served 'silver service' style. (Okay, it wasn't really silver service but it was the closest we'd got so far).
After a sleep, a read and a shower we go for a walk around the 'block' which proves eventful in that my guide book's map doesn't really resemble the road layout. We're on the hunt for the Bollygood restaurant as recommended by IndiaMiker Dhans in one of his many splendid journals that has made the planning of our trip so much easier.
We never find Bollygood but we have a slow walk around the area and seem to have become a focal point of interest for the locals. I'm sure they're staring at the Adonis that is me ( ) but Jane says it's probably the kids they're looking at ( ).
We get a little lost, in fact a lot lost but my macho-never-ask-for-directions once again works, thank God. Popping into the Reliance supermarket near the hotel provides another focal point for the locals, suprised perhaps that we're doing our shopping there. Provisions (read chocolate and crisps) purchased but they've got no water so we head to one of those little roadside stores that seem to be abundant in Rajasthan.
Tonight we ate in the outside courtyard at the hotel and although I didn't feel like eating the little food I did eat was very good. The waiters are very friendly and service is impeccable. My mixed tandoori platter was served with a sublime mint sauce. The best thing is the ambience though; eating outside by candlelight is a favourite pastime of mine.
Internet setup here is very good so a bit of blogging is called for and I catch up with all the nice comments from friends.

Tonight's Hotel: Ratan Vilas, Jodhpur
Related Blog Entry: Pushkar to Jodhpur
Related Blog Entry: Our Best Hotel Yet
#8
3rd April 2009: Off To Pushkar
Date Posted: Oct 8th, 2009 at 03:33 - Comments (0)
It seems the hotel food may not be as good as it could be. Jane and I are feeling very bad but we return to the restaurant for breakfast as the girls are hungry. Neither of us are looking forward to the car journey today.

Pushkar was added to the itinerary for only one reason: to split up the Jaipur to Jodhpur journey. Yet I was looking forward to seeing the lake and the many temples that surround it.

The Green Park Resort hotel in Pushkar has got a lovely pool and the kids are in it within a few minutes of arriving. It's time for lunch though so we head up to the restaurant, for some vegetarian cooking, as there's no meat in Pushkar. The food arrives one dish at a time but it's fresh and tastes good. Not that Jane or I are up for eating much of it. Shame.

Later in the afternoon we head to the lake, buying some nice cushion covers on the way to Jaipur Ghat. At the ghat we're immediately accosted by Brahmin priests - authentic or not I'm unsure - who want to fleece me for an offering I'm not interested in. It takes them a while to get the picture at which point they curse me and tell me no-one in the market will sell me anything if I'm not wearing one of their red string bracelets. I laugh this off as I show him the cushion covers we'd just bought.

The lake itself is like a construction site with hardly any water in it and multiple diggers ready to move earth around; it's hardly pleasing to the eye. Back in the market area it seems like every cafe has a stoned hippy in it. It's a busy road and we nearly got run over by multiple vehicles of various sizes and speeds.

Pushkar is not my kind of place and I'm suprised that I thought it would be. After all I didn't like Varanasi too much in 1996. There's obviously something about hugely religious towns that I don't like; probably the amount of people on a mission doesn't help; probably it because it's not my religion, if in fact I have one.

On the way back to the hotel, I'm accosted by a shoe seller near the Gurdwara. "Excuse me sir, I was just saying to my son that I saw you go past earlier and you haven't yet returned". At this point I'm thinking, "oh here we go again". It turned out that his 10 year old granddaughter had just arrived from Udaipur and he'd love for her to meet the girls. Within minutes of his phone call to her she was running down the street, but when she arrived she was so out of breath that she couldn't talk. It stayed that way for 10 minutes until we left. But what a lovely moment it was.

Back at the hotel its time for a visit to the restaurant and the new pastime of watch one person eat at a time. The girls tuck into their food and ours too, which we're not feeling like eating.

Tonight's Hotel: Green Park Resort, Pushkar
Related Blog Entry: Heading To Pushkar - by Emilia
Related Blog Entry: I'll Push This Car Out Of Pushkar If I Have To
#7
2nd April 2009: Amber and Elephants
Date Posted: Oct 8th, 2009 at 02:57 - Comments (0)
It's the price you pay when you switch hotels, the portion sizes increase, the price drops: you order too much. I'm really going to have to learn not to eat so much. Man-flu is taking a grip and over-eating is not helping me.

Today's highlight is a return to Amber Fort, my favourite fort from my last trip. I can't wait to see the girls' reaction to the ride on the Elephant.

Kamal parks the Sumo near the Elephant boarding area and whisks us straight on to an Elephant. Before boarding I try to offer the money to the Mahout but he refushes and tells me it's too early to pay. Emilia and I sit on the Elephant's left hand side, Jane and Amy on the right. Immediately the Mahout turns and demands payment which by now is tucked away and not easy to get to. Within 30 seconds a "too early" payment is now way overdue. Crazy.

The ride up to the Fort as as spectacular as before but I'm disappointed there's no water in the lake below as I'd hoped to find them bathing the Elephants as we did in 1996. Emilia and I aren't good with heights and being on the left, overhanging the wall and the seemingly steep drop, turns both our stomachs.

A photography takes lots of photos and reminds us to meet him at the bottom once we've toured the fort.

Up in the fort we pay but refuse a guide. It's only Rs200 but last time here we felt rushed and we're not having that this time. It's as lovely as I remember, but it's hot, very hot, so we spend as much time in the shade as possible. Renovation works are continuing and we spend some time watching a guy repair some of the mirrors. One thing I really wanted to see again is the "night sky" room where the Maharajah "entertained" his wives, but it's closed off.

It's getting too hot for me and my man-flu so I sit down for an hour whilst the others explore all the tunnels, doorways, arches and stairs. The girls are in love with the fort. Mission accomplished.

During the slow walk down we visited an emporium selling bed covers which were generally lovely. The prices seem quite good but they didn't have what we wanted: a replacement for an Elephant designed picnic blanket that we bought in Goa but got stolen on the Isle of Wight. Following us down with a throw in his hand the shopkeeper's price dropped to Rs1000 before he stopped walking, which I sense is the right time to buy. It was a good price but I didn't really want it so I left feeling sorry for him. Kamal said that Rs1000 was a very good price for the thing I described.

We drove and the Nikon wielding Ali Baba (as he called himself) ran after the Sumo. We'd forgotten about him. He'd taken and printed 19 photos and whilst they were quite good I only wanted one. The "very reasonable" price was Rs100 each, so Rs1900 (£27) for the lot, "no thanks". Without me saying anything the price dropped and dropped at the same rate as Ali Baba's enthusiasm. At Rs800 I told him Rs200 and upon refusal pushed them out of the window. He tried a few more offers before eventually agreeing to sell them all to us for Rs200. We drove off, with Kamal laughing at the hard bargaining I'd done.

Food and drinks was required so Kamal dropped us at the Royal Treat restaurant which we saw. Sitting down at the white tablecloth covered table (the first so far) I took a menu. Pakoras were Rs160 which is 4 or 5 times the price of our hotel. We got up, left and ended up back at McDonalds which was handy as we needed to pick up the clothes in an hour.

The sari shop was busy and I noticed an Indian family who obviously lived in England. They were from Nottingham and were mainly in Jaipur to buy sarees, salwars and material as it effectively reduced the cost of their trip from the savings made. The girls tried on their Salwar Kameez's and looked gorgeous before we returned to the hotel.

The hotel's internet connection was down so Amy and I searched the local area to no avail. By the time we returned the PCs were back up and running! A bit of blogging later and it's time for dinner.

Ending the day with another good meal for four about £10 all in, it was time to update our diaries and retire for the night.

Tonight's Hotel: Hotel Saket, Jaipur
Related Blog Entry: Amy's Last 48 Hours: Jaipur
Related Blog Entry: The Downfall Of Ali Baba
Related Blog Entry: Jaipur: La Ville En Rose
Related Blog Entry: Buying Handicrafts
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