Trip Report - Rajasthan - Dec 2015

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#1 Jan 31st, 2016, 16:45
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Dear Friends,

First of all, our sincere thanks go to all IM'ers (including but not limited to Aurjoma for the exhaustive trip report) who have contributed to the Rajasthan forum, without whose help we could simply not have braved venturing on a trip like this. Eight of us (My parents, parents-in-law, wife, daughter, and brother-in-law) went on our first trip to Rajasthan during the 2015 new year holidays. This travelogue, unlike previous ones, may not add to the wealth of information already available on IM and is merely an exercise by me to test the waters and see if I can write one myself . Any comments and suggestions for improvement will be appreciated.

The itinerary looked like this:

Dec 24: Departure from Bangarpet (100 km from Bengaluru).
Dec 26, 27: MOUNT ABU.
Dec 28, 29, 30: JAISALMER.
Dec 31-Jan 1, 2: UDAIPUR.
Jan 4: Arrival in Bangarpet.
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#2 Jan 31st, 2016, 16:49
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All were in time for the 21:50 Mysore-Ajmer express , all except my brother-in-law, who didn't give Bengaluru traffic the "respect" it has earned over the last decade, started at least an hour later than he ideally should have on Christmas eve, and ended up almost missing the trip. With 30 mins to departure and no respite from the jams, he decided to innovate; he simple ran as fast as he could between signals, with his heavy duffle bag tucked under his arm , and jumped onto the fastest moving two wheeler, meeting the carrier's perplexed looks with "sorry" and "thank you." He did this at least 4-5 times before reaching the train just after the first whistle....... while we were relieved beyond words, he could neither feel his legs (for hours) nor believe his luck (for days) .
#3 Jan 31st, 2016, 16:56
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After such an explosive start, the next day-and-a-half passed relatively uneventfully. We picked up Mishra's Dharwad Peda (a delicious milk peda) from Hubli and Kunda (a tastier milk sweet resembling khova) from Belgaum, passed some lovely bridges over lovelier rivers before reaching Abu Road Station at 12 pm.
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#4 Jan 31st, 2016, 16:59
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Just before we alighted, a family which was also going to Mt. Abu scared us with "why did you come at this time of the year? Don't you know Abu is a hill station?," "Nakki lake is frozen," "you will need sweaters and mufflers from the time you start the ascent," and so on. Ten minutes later we were on a 7-seater on our way to Mount Abu (charges 600 including onward drop to Delwada temples after we checked in an freshened up).
#5 Jan 31st, 2016, 17:03
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It took about 45 mins to get to Abu and the views on both sides throughout the journey are very enjoyable. Not a ride you want to sleep on. A twisting-turning-speeding vehicle meant photography was out of the question, but the eyes savoured what the lens missed. An hour later, we were on our way to the world famous Delwada Jain temples, a 5 min ride from Nakki lake. Entry to Delwada is free and it takes over an hour to simply "glance" at the main temple. The complex (a small one) opens 12 pm to 5 pm for visitors; no photography allowed, no bags allowed. Despite having read some unbelievably rich reviews of the temple (and finally even thinking "C'mon, how good can a temple afterall be?"), we were simply left awestruck the moment we entered. The carvings on the floor, walls, and especially the ceilings (in the flanks/corridors and the central dome) certainly don't look like work of human hands! We have visited Belur, Halebidu, and Hampi (all world heritage sites renowned for their intricate carvings in a variety of stones) in Karnataka and while Delwada is perhaps on a smaller scale size-wise, the intricacy and beauty are second to none. When we were coming out, we understood what Aurjoma and others meant by "simple outside, complex inside" and "how can something be so beautiful?" All school students must at some point get an opportunity to see such marvellous monuments. A funny incident took place while we were trying to decipher a particular piece of roof carving in the left flank. A young boy (presumably Jain) came by with his parents and asked them "who is this?" He and we waited for an answer, but when none came, one of us said "that looks like Krishna with his gopika-strees." And it looked exactly like that. Only when the boy angrily said "Krishna hamara bhagwan nahin hai (Krishna is not one of our gods)!" and walked away did we feel our collective feet in our mouths. This incident made two things clear - one, how ignorant we usually are, and two, how we have poisoned our children's minds with 'our god'-'their god' doctrines. We managed to laugh it off but the flushed cheeks couldn't hide the embarrassment.
#6 Jan 31st, 2016, 17:08
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Just before the ascent to Abu.
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#7 Jan 31st, 2016, 17:15
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Once out of "Wonderland" and in the real world, we got our first taste of methi and jeera khakras/theplas and mentally saluted as well as cursed the Gujaratis for introducing the world to such an unstoppably delicious snack. We were instantly reminded of the "no one can eat just one" tagline. After rajasthani thalis, we headed back towards Nakki. Boating for our entire group would cost in 4 digits (150 per head), so decided against it. And by the way, Nakki wasn't frozen solid, night temperatures would later not drop to minus 2 degrees as "promised" by our well-wishers on the train, and in fact Jaisalmer or Udaipur (later) were almost as cold between 7 pm and 7 am. The wether was actually very pleasant, if not a bit hot. We headed straight to Sunset Point by shared jeep (Rs. 10 to and 20 fro, cashing in on tourists' helplessness). The sunset was good but there were too many people. We were advised to go to Ganesh Point/Honeymoon Point instead but could not find a vehicle to go there. On return, we tasted a local speciality, "malai kesar doodh" boiling in massive open kadhais. It was very delicious, but at a price - Rs. 40 for a small kulhad (an earthen cup made popular by Lalu during his Railways reign).

The "baba gadi," the one-of-its-kind transporter to various points in Abu
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#8 Jan 31st, 2016, 17:22
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Sunset @ Sunset Point, as seen by at least a thousand others, with a jet passing right through the sun!
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#9 Jan 31st, 2016, 17:30
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"baithe baithe .... leke prabhu ka naam"
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#10 Jan 31st, 2016, 17:44
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We played antakshari and had dinner by bonfire with a family from Pune on the hotel terrace and retired for the night. Next morning, we enjoyed more doodh and chai and poha and bread bajji before heading to Honest Restaurant for a "proper" breakfast (honestly, we found the latter fade in comparison to the street food as far as taste went, slow in service , and outright dishonest where price was concerned ). We had decided beforehand to give Gurushikhar, Adhaar Devi, Brahma Kumari, etc. a miss. We shopped for some ghagra-cholis, rajasthani traditional bandhni chudidar pieces and children's dresses, kota sarees, etc., before heading for Abu Road Railway station for our 3:30 pm train to Jodhpur. The rabdis we packed for evening snack from the railway station stall left a lasting taste. On reaching Jodhpur at 7:30, we headed straight to Janta Sweet Home (just outside the station, and Jodhpur is one of the cleanest stations I have seen - you could almost see your reflection on the platform). We gorged on mirchi wada (very spicy but awesome) and kesar kulfi (perfect extinguisher!) sitting in the first-floor restaurant, and packed an assortment of snacks, mixtures and sweets (rabdi laddoo and mawa ghewar were excellent). After dinner at the Railway Refreshment Room on PF1 (very delicious yet inexpensive food), we took the overnight train to Jaisalmer.

"Toad Rock" at the top in the background
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#11 Jan 31st, 2016, 17:50
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#11
Outside Jodhpur railway station
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#12 Jan 31st, 2016, 17:58
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Jaisalmer and The Desert

We were already enjoying the trip, but Jaisalmer welcomed us like no other place had before. Its sights and sounds will be etched in our memory for our lifetimes. At 6 am we reached the station, rested in the waiting room till 7 am (and it wasn't sunrise yet!) and I alone went out to "book" a vehicle for the trips we had planned for the next 3 days (based on previous IndiaMikers' trip reports). We had heard a lot about Jaisalmeri hospitality and warmth, but were totally unprepared for what followed. We often consider ourselves educated, double-graduate, civilized, urban, and polished in every sense of the words, but the Jaisalmeri auto-wallahs conducted a free 10-minute workshop for me in good manners, gentle behavior, good listening (before speaking) skills, and waiting one's turn. When I started to enquired one of the them, about 10 others moved slowly and unthreateningly towards me. What caught my attention was none of them spoke until spoken to, none of them tried to bait me for business even after hearing we were a group of 8 and in town for 3 days, and none of them walked away disrespectfully on realizing that they were not getting any "business" from me. They even woke up a friend of their who owned a Scorpio and had him rush to to the station, yet showed no disapppointment or anger when I was unable to book him for the 3 days (because he apparently did the Khuri circuit and not Sam); in fact, they even suggested places and vehicle options that would be most comfortable for us. Only in retrospect could I fully appreciate their impeccable manners and tourist-friendliness . Jaisalmeri warmth had lit up an otherwise sun-less, frigid morning.
#13 Jan 31st, 2016, 18:12
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I finally ended up striking a deal with "Lala" (which was not one of those auto-wallahs, by the way, but equally pleasant) for Rs. 6000 which included hotel drop and pickup from-and-to railway station, morning-till-night sightseeing in Jaisalmer with waiting, sightseeing on the outskirts (en route Sam sand dunes), camel safari, jeep safari on dunes, night cultural program in the desert with snacks and dinner, all in an Innova. After checking in and breakfast, we visited Patwon-ki-haveli, Fort, Desert Culture Museum, and Gadisar Lake. Other havelis were on the schedule but we gave them a miss.

Patwon-ki-haveli complex has 5 buildings, the main one converted to a museum after being purchased by Indira Gandhi. The entry fees seemed a bit high but the the guided tour was both entertaining and enlightening. Next came the fort tour. English-speaking guides charge upwards of Rs. 250. The tour takes over an hour and ends with the cannon mounted on one side of the fort. At no point was it boring. The view from the highest point in the fort is superb. Equally fascinating are the hordes of "kabutars" taking off from the fort walls and as if choreographed by none less than Saroj Khan, taking a round and coming back to sit at the same place, together.

Patwon-ki-Haveli Photos:
1. Children's recreation room
2. Dining area, with plates capable of changing color if poisoned food served
3. Massive "hooji"
4. Tashreef rakhiye!
5. The white box is not a safe/almirah, but a fridge!
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#14 Jan 31st, 2016, 18:24
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6. We take a break
7. Ornamental nutcrackers! We can't afford nuts to begin with
8. On sale
9. One of the havelis
10. Say cheese......
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#15 Jan 31st, 2016, 18:57
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Jaisalmer Fort Photos:
1. As seen from one of the openings in the fort. The cylindrical and spherical stones are not architectural designs ... they were supposed to be used for dropping on unsuspecting trespassers and enemies during wartime.
2. The founder. Maharawal, Maharana, Maharaja, Maharao, etc., were titles given to kings in different regions in Rajasthan, as Mir and Badshah were in Delhi.
3. This bed belongs to a king who was apparently over 7 feet tall, but the cot is only 5 feet long. The reason is, a king's cot should only be as long as to accommodate his thighs and up to the knee, so that even if he was tied to the cot by enemies seeking ransom in return, he could have his legs free and run "with the cot." Only a guide can tell you this kind of trivia!
4. Lord Rama during "vanvaas," per the guide. Notice the beard!
5. Wooden horse used for training young princes up to the age of 12, by which time they are ready for the real one.
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