A Travellerspoint blog

Pushkar

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This was suggested as a stop by the agency and felt the most touristy of the places we had seen so far. Manjeet suggested a camel ride and we signed up for 3-hours to head into the desert and watch the sunset. Turns out I was riding a thoroughbred and 2-times champion of the annual camel races, 'Jimmy', and James had the slightly confused 'Krishna'! Apparently saving himself for next November's racing we slowly paced into the desert, although took this as an opportunity to learn some Hindi phrases that have been well practiced since (thanks to a very patient Suri)!

On a learning curve I also seemed like a willing student to a local toothless elder armed with a Rawanthatha, a 10-stringed instrument, a cross between a violin and a sitar - he played us the traditional folk music of Rajasthan while the sun set behind the sand dunes and then I managed to scare off the rest of the locals with my attempt!

The following day we wandered around the markets and street stalls, and down and round the lake where we had been warned to avoid the flower sellers apparently conning tourists out of hundreds of rupees.

Always looking for a good view, the top of the mountain we had ridden around on the camels was 3000 steps away. Manjeet drove us to the base and climbed half way with us, leaving us to make slow progress up the remaining 1500 steps to the temple at the top. There were spectacular panoramic views over the desert and town and the strong breeze revived us for the journey back down, this time accompanied by a little black dog who warded off the monkeys for us.

We had signed up for a cooking class with Shivani that evening and she invited our hungry selves into her home. While giving us some insight into Indian culture she demonstrated how to make Masala Tea (Chai), Malai Kofta (potato dumplings in curry sauce), Pakoras (with vegetables and pomegranate seeds - amazing!), Chana Masala, Naan, Paratha and Chapatis (which James did an impressive job of preparing), and Dal and absolutely stuffed by the end of a fun evening we were glad our hotel was just down the road!

Jane

Posted by gonetravelling 07:38 Archived in India Tagged pushkar Comments (0)

Jaipur

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As we approached Jaipur on the 4-hour drive from Ranthambore a few more mountains started to penetrate the dead flat landscape we had seen so far. Manjeet, our driver asked if we wanted to see a monkey temple and having had a few run-ins with monkeys in the past, I have to admit my heart sank! The Vipassana temple grounds are impressive despite being old and crumbling, housing a few random cows and elderly women praying. We walked through the open courtyard and shimmied past the first scattering of monkeys. A group of locals pointed us up the cobbled hill, and seeing my worried expression assured us the monkeys will not bite! Thankfully they were absolutely right, the monkeys quite happy lounging in the sun, eyed us as we walked past but otherwise content to preen and argue amongst themselves. The top of the cobbled path opened out to the Sun Temple and panoramic views of the city and life in miniature below us.

We should probably mention at this point that we have been tucking into some pretty amazing curries! As good as the Red Rose might be back at home, they are no comparison! We've been getting a bit more adventurous picking out the local restaurants with the wobbly plastic chairs rather than the obvious tourist spots although as amazing as the curry was in the restaurant Manjeet suggested, I did suffer afterwards! Delhi belly, travellers trots, Gandhi's revenge... Whatever you want to call it somehow James managed to get away with it!

We decided to stay an extra day for some recovery time and once better headed out to The City Palace, then walked up the street to the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) that had five stories of small winding stone stairways with airy views through intricate latticework over the busy street below. We wandered around the angled structures of the Janta Manta, an observatory constructed in the 18th century incredible for both its architectural elegance and the accuracy of the astronomical instruments. For me the Amber Palace was the most memorable of the palaces and forts we have seen so far for its warm glowing stone in the evening sun, and elegant grandeur - large open courtyards and pillared rooms with intricately painted walls and ceilings.

Having missed the opportunity to see the Chand Bori step well, we were told there was a smaller step well near the back of the Amber Palace, and Manjeet after a number of wrong turns and wrong directions from good intentioned locals finally stumbled on the Panna Meena Ka Kund. Tucked in a quiet corner of the city overlooked by Hindi temples in the same warm amber stone, the little-known step well could have been inspiration for one of Escher's drawings, and we happily lingered here for a while tracing the maze of steps up and down before jumping back in the car to head to Bikaner.

Jane

Posted by gonetravelling 04:01 Archived in India Tagged jaipur Comments (1)

Ranthambhore


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Antiscipation filled the air as we arrived in Ranthambhore national park... Bring on the tigers. We rose early at 6 eagerly awaiting our pick up at 7 for our 3 hour safari. Eagerness turned to mild frustration when our cantor (big truck) turned up 1 hour late! Finally reaching the park entrance at 8:30 we were primed with camera and binoculars. An early sighting of some red deer got our excitment levels up. These rapidly dropped again when we stopped for a loo break. Everyone was back in the truck within 5 minutes except our guide and driver who spent the next 15-20mins chatting and staring into a well. So in conclusion; our 3 hour safari consisted of a 1 hour delay, 40 minutes geting to the park and back, 20 minutes of hanging around by a toilet, a maximum of 1 hour actually driving around in the park looking for tigers, seeing only 3 different types of animal (red deer, a lone impala, and a very well camoflaged owl).If you want to see tigers, or any other wild animal, i suggest you go to Longleat... Ranthambhore was pants!

James

Posted by gonetravelling 23:21 Archived in India Comments (0)

Agra


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Our next stop was to be Agra and saw an additional mode of transport - the famous indian railway! Like the roads in Delhi, to say the train station was chaotic would be an understetment. We eventually found our train and carriage to find our seats already taken. After a little chat all was good and we set of on a 14 hour ride to Agra. 2 hours in a lovely man who has the loudest snore in the world (even my dad would be impressed) fell asleep in the bed next to us. I can only assume he managed to stuff 2 loud speakers up his nostrils whilst we weren't looking!

Torrential rain greeted us in Agra which put a slight dampner to our plans. After a good nights sleep in a proper bed we set off for one of the 7 wonders of the world. Even in the pouring rain the Taj Mahal takes your breath away, pictures do not do it justice. We also visited the enchanting Fatehpur Sikri. This red sandstone city was built by the Mugal emperor Akbar in 1564AD. Our guide had a fantastic sence of humour and we were shown a secret underground passage that went all the way back to Agra. We also met the best hustler yet. He was about 4 years old, greeted us at the entrance and accompanied us the whole time we where there, trying very politely to sell us postcards, and ensuring Jane didn't trip over the many steps we encountered. It took me an age to convince her that we could not take him home in our rucksacks.

James

Posted by gonetravelling 23:11 Archived in India Comments (1)

Varanasi

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The Air India flight from Delhi was quick and painless and meant that we arrived in Varanasi feeling like we wanted to explore! The hotel was located beside Assi Ghat one of the most recently built. We had 45 minutes before our first boat ride and decided to take a gentle stroll along the ghats, we picked our way past the herds of water buffalo and through the bustle of the town to the start of the ghats, a series of steps leading to the River Ganges and instanty liked the feel of the place. We were picked up by the boat and rowed to the main cremation ghat, where there were crowds of men surrounding the many bodies being burnt there 24/7, our guide explained to us that often between 100-300 people a day are cremated and the family must pay for the 360kg of wood needed, he detailed the ritual and that finally the ashes are placed in the Ganges.

We spent 3-days exploring the twisty streets behind the ghats and became regular visitors to the Dosa Cafe where we sampled Dosa's (60rps), Idli's, Bonda's and James' favourie the masala Vada's drinking endless cups of masala tea watching the world and his cow walking by!

Despite the pouring rain on several of the days we were in Varanasi we still found it to be a peaceful and powerful place, lots of long walks along the ghats, watching the kites in the sky, the endless cricket games, stepping around freshly washed laundry and fresly laid cow dung, politely declining the many boat rides we were offered.

Jane

Posted by gonetravelling 06:15 Archived in India Tagged varanasi ghats cremation Comments (0)

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