Friday, 15 August 2014

Adieu to Rajasthan

DAY 9 – UDAIPUR  & BACK HOME

Today is the last day of our trip and as such we had nothing planned for the day. We had an early evening flight from #Udaipur which meant that we still had half a day to enjoy the Venice of the East.

After our breakfast and checking out of the hotel we again went on a stroll on the bylanes of Udaipur. My friend, Pramod was hell bent on buying a sack of camel leather but he couldn’t find anything in his budget. Finally he found a place and the bag which he wanted. He realized that today is the last day and he has to buy a bag. Knowing me well he asked me to negotiate. And after negotiating for more than half an hour we could finally get his bag for half the price. The glitter in his eyes and the smile on his face was priceless.

After his victory, we proceeded to #Fateh Sagar Lake. It is an artificial lake and the water is calm and the surroundings peaceful. If you like water sports then there is a facility to rent speed boat and water scooter.

After enjoying the serene and picturesque lake we headed to #Sajjangarh Fort which is also known as the #Monsoon Palace. Sajjangarh Fort is a little drive away from the city and is on top of a small hill. The Fort gives a wonderful paranomic view of Udaipur City.


Sajjangarh Fort
Palace Front

There is an entry ticket and extra charge for the vehicle. The climb to the palace is steep and full of turns. The palace is not well maintained and there is hardly anything to see other than the spectacular view from the palace. From the front of the palace you can see the whole Udaipur including the lakes. The back of the palace gives you a beautiful sunset view.


Sajjangarh Fort
Balconies

Sajjangarh Fort
Inside Sajjangarh Palace
We headed to the airport after enjoying the bird’s eye view of Udaipur. We bid good bye to our 9 day trip partner, Radhey Krishna. We still had lot of time for our flight and all of us were silently lost in their own thoughts. Some of us might be thinking of tomorrow – office, local train, traffic… but I was thinking about few days that I had spent in Rajasthan.


Driver in Rajasthan
Mr. Radhey Krishna, (with his proud moustache) who has taken us around Rajasthan

Rajasthan is one state which has brought India on the tourist world map. And rightly so.  It is a gamut of Royal Palaces, History, Forts, Sand dunes, Temples, Colours, Landscapes, Culture, Market, Cuisine and much more….  

Rajasthan is a photographer’s delight, with its arid landscape scattered with people wearing vibrant coloured clothes. The place completely rocks for anyone with a camera - professionals, amateurs, wanna be photographers as well as non-photographers. It is tough to go wrong with the pictures, even if that is the intent! Click people, forts, camels, lakes, temples, shops, monkeys, crows, sadhus and so on...and trust me, everything will come out beautifully :)

With this our incredible trip to The Land of Rajas comes to an end…

I will be back with more trips and more experiences.

Till then, Ram Ram Sa ..

Btw this is us...


Group Picture
Me, Nikhil, Pramod, Tarushi & Preeti 







Thursday, 14 August 2014

Udaipur - The Lake City

DAY 8 – UDAIPUR

We woke up late next day and then went for breakfast in our hotel. After a nice breakfast enjoying the view of #Lake Pichola we headed to #Jagdish Temple which was walking distance from our Hotel.

Jagdish Temple is devoted to Lord Vishnu. It is a temple as beautifully carved as the ones seen in South India. The carvings on the stone are really impressive and you will find yourself staring at them for a while.

After the temple visit we headed for a guided tour of the #City Palace which is located on the bank of Lake Pichola. Many parts of the palace have magnificent work with glass and many rooms also have mesmerizing paintings made directly on the wall. Any visitor to the palace museum should not miss out the peacock courtyard, which is the most beautiful courtyard of the palace. 


City Palace
Cannons at the entrance of City Palace
City Palace Peacock Courtyard
Peacock Courtyard

City Palace Sheesh Mahal
Sheesh Mahal

City Palace
Coloured Glass Work
When we visited the City Palace it was extremely crowded and at times it was suffocating because of the narrow pathways that the Palace has.


City Palace View
City View from the Palace

Lake Pichola from City Palace
Lake view from the Palace
After the City Palace we made our way to the city’s another landmark #Sahelion Ki Bari. The garden is beautiful but not extraordinary. It is a garden with beautiful fountains. It is said that the garden was built for the queen of Udaipur.


Sahelion Ki Bari
Sahelion ki Bari
After a nice sumptuous meal, the men of the team went to the hotel to take a nap and the ladies strolled the market near the hotel for shopping. Visit to a place is not complete without bringing back a couple of memorabilia. We bought few more jutis and beautiful neck pieces.  

In the evening we headed to Lake Pichola for a boat ride. The boat ride gave us the opportunity to see the #Lake Palace and #Jagmandir from a distance. The Lake Palace is a luxurious hotel today in the middle of the lake. It appears as if the palace is floating in the blue water of Lake Pichola.


Sunset from Lake Pichola
Beautiful Sunset
Palace and lake both take on a spectacular glow with the illuminations at twilight, leaving us entranced with their almost ethereal beauty.
Lake Palace
The Lake Palace

City Palace from Lake Pichola
The City Palace from the Lake
After the beautiful boat ride we went to 3Bagore ki Haveli which is located at Lake Pichola for a folk cultural show (a must watch, evening show from 7 pm to 8 pm). The cultural show 3Darohar (meaning Heritage) showcases the various folk dances of Rajasthan like kalbelia and teratal manjira dance among others.


Darohar
Darohar - The cultural program
It’s a small informal gathering in the courtyard of the haveli. The host introduces us to the history and origin of various Rajasthani dance and other folk arts before the artists perform them. The show ends with the performance of a dancer dancing on the glass pieces while balancing 13 pots on her head. The performances were mesmerizing and the atmosphere was electrifying.


Rajasthani Dance
Folk Dance
Since its one of the favourites especially among the foreigners the whole courtyard gets filled quickly going early and securing a seat would not be a bad idea; else you might have to stand at the back. The road to haveli is congested and parking is a huge problem so keep this in mind if you plan to reach there in a self driven vehicle.


Rajasthani Folk Dance
Rajasthani Group Dance

Rajasthani Dance
The Balancing Act
After the mesmerizing Rajasthani folk dance we headed to our hotel where we enjoyed our dinner at the terrace taking in the view of the lake and keeping myself warm in November cold night of Udaipur. A mild breeze blowing on a full moon starry night with a nice view of the lake was the perfect setting for spending a few hours.

Jaisalmer to Udaipur

DAY 7 – JAISALMER TO UDAIPUR

It was my anniversary today. And what a day it was, the only day in our trip when we were not seeing any city. We were on the road the entire time. Today was the day when we had to cover  500 kms approx from #Jaisalmer to #Udaipur.

There is not much that we did today. On our road trip from Jaisalmer to Udaipur we crossed a place (I can’t remember the name) which is famous for its marbles. There were lines of shops displaying marbles adjacent to the road.

During this long drive, we realized that Rajasthan roads are good. They are not express highways having four lanes or six lanes but simple well maintained two way roads.

We also stopped over and bought custard apple from the local ladies selling the fruit on the highway. The orchards are located in this area and therefore the fruits were available for peanuts.

Just 55 kms before Udaipur, we decided to offer prayer to one of the most popular temple of Shri Krishna, #Shreenathji at #Nathdwara.

Our driver briefed us about the history of Nathdwara. The idol of Shree Krishna was being bought from Mathura to safeguard it from the Mugal Emperor who was adamant to destroy all the Hindu Temples. The wheel of the chariot in which the idol was kept got stuck at this place. The people saw it as assign that the Lord wants to be settled here and thus the temple was made here.

The temple has specific timings when it opens for darshan. Every time it opens there is a mad rush to get inside. There is utter chaos inside and the crowd is like a directionless mob. After the jostling, you hardly get few seconds for darshan. No photography is allowed in Nathdwara.

After the energy draining darshan we all needed a cup to tea for rejuvenate. After a cup of tea, we headed to our last destination of our trip – Udaipur.

As always, I had booked our stay at #Mewar Haveli located near the Lake. When we reached our hotel I was in for two surprises. First, our driver, Radhey Krishna presented us with a picture of ‘Radhey Krishna’ as wedding anniversary gift. I have no clue from where he bought it, I am assuming he picked it up from Nathdwara. The gift totally represents him and is now beautifully adorned in my room.

The second surprise came from my parents in law. They had somehow arranged to send a bunch of roses, a cake and loads of wishes on our special day to our hotel. I had a beautiful wedding anniversary dinner on the roof top of the hotel, cutting the cake, smiling at the flowers, enjoying the lake and the palaces glittering in the night with my husband and my best friend.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Golden Jaisalmer


DAY 5 & 6 – JAISALMER

Our next stop was #Jaisalmer, which was a five hour drive from #Jodhpur. On our way, we crossed #Pokaran. Yes, the same place where nuclear tests were done.

I was very excited about the 'Desert City' having heard so much about the ‘living’ fort, its havelis and off course about the sand dunes. 

On our way to Jaisalmer from Jodhpur we saw a caravan of around 200 camels. It was a sight to watch. we were able to take few pictures of the same after tipping the camel owner generously.

I noticed that as we reach a new city, a new colour awaits us. We started with pink proceeded to blue in Jodhpur and now we reach the golden colour in Jaisalmer.

While planning the trip and researching on internet, I came to know that there are two deserts – #Sam and #Khuri. Sam is more popular and thus more crowded and touristy. So I opted for Khuri. Khuri is a village 40 kms from Jaisalmer.

As we were late and the sun was setting at a fast pace, we directly went to see the sand dunes at Khuri. On our drive to Khuri we could see so many windmills – Huge and gigantic.


Windmills near Jaisalmer
Windmills
The car cannot go till the sand dunes. You have to take a ride either on a camel or take a camel cart to reach the dunes. As we had a one and a half year old kid with us, we decided to take a camel cart which can accommodate all of us. Charged we headed towards Khuri sand dunes which were 3 kms away. There were already a couple of tourists waiting for the sunset. We bypassed all of them and reached the far end of the desert where there was no other soul.

I got the actual being in the ’desert’ feeling when I was standing in the dunes. It was the golden sand which left no footprints and beautiful ripples on the dunes that must be making even God proud of its creation.


Sand dunes near Jaisalmer
Sand dunes

Then came the best part – the sunset. I have seen sunset from the beach, from tall buildings, from hill top and now it was time to see a sunset from the desert. 


Sunset at Sand Dunes
Sunset
After the sunset we proceeded back to the camp from where we have rented the camel cart. 

We entered Jaisalmer at night and it was a sight to watch the gigantic fort all lit up with lights. It looked like a crown made of gold studded with diamonds.


Jaisalmer Entrance
At the entrance of Jaisalmer
We had already booked our stay at #Star Haveli a small charming hotel at the base of the fort with wonderful view of the fort from the room and the terrace.


Jaisalmer View
View from our Hotel's terrace
The view from the terrace was remarkable. We could see the fort from the fort and it was majestic. Jaisalmer is rightly called the #Golden City.

During our stay in Jaisalmer, we got a chance to witness a part of a Rajasthani Wedding. A Rajasthani wedding takes the experience to a whole new level.

A Rajasthani groom was getting his bride to his house (which was near our hotel) after the wedding ceremony been completed at the bride's place.

The groom's female family members were eagerly waiting for the newly married couple.

The rich vibrant colour of their ethnic lehengas, the beautifully crafted jewellery and accessories. their customs left us spell bound.

One strange custom that we noticed in Jaisalmer was the details of the wedding in the family is painted on the main entrance of their house.

We could see many houses freshly painted with the names of the couple and the date of the wedding.


Hanuman wall painting
My friend's daughter Tarushi :)
We started our day 6 with the pride of the city – #Jaisalmer Fort. It is also known as the ‘Sonar Kella’ taken from Satyajit Ray’s movie with the same name. Just like Jaipur and Jodhpur, the Jaisalmer Fort is also perched on top of a hill.


Local artists at Jaisalmer fort
Artists playing instruments at the entrance of the Fort
When we entered the fort, it was buzzing with activity. It is a living fort – it has temples, shops, internet cafĂ©, hotels, restaurants, houses inside. It is a fort where 5000 people approx still live, people still go everyday to the temple.


Jaisalmer Fort
Entrance of Jaisalmer Fort
We took a guide with us and he explained us the facts and history of the fort. One very important aspect of the fort that he explained is that the entire fort is made by special interlocking stones and no adhesive has been used to keep the structure together.


Jaisalmer Fort Museum
Museum inside the Fort
There are seven #Jain temples inside the fort. The Jain temples are made of golden sandstone has complex carvings and is stunning. The temple is opened till 1:00 pm and is therefore recommended to be seen first.


Jain Temple inside Jaisalmer Fort
Entrance of Jain Temple




Jain Temple carvings
Intricate carvings at Jain Temple

Jain Temple inside Jaisalmer Fort
Jain Temple inside the Fort

Jain Temple Jaisalmer
Roof of the Jain Temple
 After the Jain Temple, the guide took us to a point in the fort which houses a cannon. The point is at a height and gives a bird eye view of Jaisalmer City.


Jaisalmer City
Panoramic view of Jaisalmer City 
The fort is full of narrow lanes with shops selling varied items. One specialty being the volcano stone which the shopkeeper claimed to turn milk into delicious curd. 

The fort is a crazy fun place to explore and sightsee – almost every single pillar, wall, stairs, windows were lovingly sculptured.


Jaisalmer Fort - Houses
House inside the Fort
After the fort, we headed to the havelis which are walking distance from the fort.
Havelis in Jaisalmer
One of the Havelis
Jaisalmer is full of havelis and mansions but there are three havelis which are very famous – #Patwa ki Haveli, #Salim Singh ki Haveli and #Nathmal ji ki Haveli. These havelis are extravagant and lavish. They give you a glimpse of the royal era.


Patwa ki Haveli
Patwa Ki Haveli
Patwa ki Haveli is a cluster of five havelis. Adorned with beautiful glass work these havelis portray the luxurious lifestyle of the merchants who ones lived there. There is a turban gallery displaying different kind of turbans worn by different section of society.


Carvings at windows
Intricate Carving at Windows
After the lunch, we were casually strolling in the markets of Jaisalmer. The market is lively and colourful. One can shop for bandini dupatta, patchwork quilts, block print bed sheets, camel leather accessories…. the list is endless.


Jaisalmer Fort Shops
Shops inside the Fort
We shopped for wrap around skirts and kurtas having rajasthani prints.

As evening was setting in we headed to #Gadisagar Lake which is a man-made lake.  


Gadisagar Lake
Gadisagar Lake
We did not go for a boat ride which was available there. Instead we sat beside the lake on the ghats to relax and admired the structure made in the center of the lake. 


Gadisagar Lake
Gadisagar Lake
We then headed to #‘Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan’ which is a great place to pick up Khadi fabric. We ended up buying few more kurtas. While heading towards our hotel we came across #‘Rajasthali’, a handicraft emporium run by Rajasthan Government. We picked few leheriya sarees. One unique item bought from here was vintage bangles made from camel bones.

Post lot of shopping and sightseeing we headed to our hotel for dinner.

Of all the places I visited in Rajasthan, Jaisalmer is my favourite. Keeping myself warm in the shawl on the roof top restaurant of #Shahi Palace. On a cold evening, I looked at the fort with a smile. The fort is spectacular in every sense. The beauty of Jaisalmer cannot be put into words. It is an experience that has to be felt and cherished. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Jodhpur – More than Jodhpuri Pants

DAY 4 – JODHPUR

We started early from #Pushkar after a heavy breakfast towards #Jodhpur. My spirits were high as I have heard a lot about the Mehrangarh Fort.

Jodhpur is a four hour drive from Pushkar.  

We booked our stay at #Hotel Haveli, which was located in the heart of Old Jodpur. We had to go into really narrow lanes and to reach our hotel we had to ask for direction numerous times as there was no scope to take a U Turn or to reverse our Innova. The hotel was nice and we could see the gigantic #Mehrangarh Fort from our room windows. The view from the terrace restaurant was splendid. It felt as if Mehrangarh Fort is standing tall to safeguard the city.

Post lunch we started our way to the highlight of Jodhpur… a very beautiful and majestic fort; truly a must-visit on anyone’s list when at Jodhpur - #Mehrangarh Fort. The fort is located on a hilltop and is huge and gigantic. It is a beautiful piece of architecture and has a lot of work of strained glass, mosaic on the floors and lattice. The closer you get to the fort, the more you admire the fort. Three words that aptly describe the fort are – Majestic, Outstanding and Magnificent.


Mehrangarh Fort
 To reach the fort one has to cross the old city of Jodhpur and then climb up the hill. The walk to the fort is fun and gives you ample photography opportunities.






There were musicians playing Rajasthani folk music at the entrance of the main Fort.

Folk musicians enchanting the tourist
The Palace has many important courtyards and areas. The popular ones are Sheesh Mahal - The Hall of Mirrors, Moti Mahal - The Pearl Palace and Phool Mahal - The Palace of Flowers. 


Moti Mahal
There is a separate ladies apartment where the royal ladies used to stay. The windows of these apartments are delicately carved and has intricate lattice work. The architecture and intricacy was beyond words.

Ladies Apartment where the Royal ladies lived in the Fort
The excellent view of the city from the terrace of the fort cannot be missed. From this view one gets the paranomic view of the city and the answer to why Jodhpur is known as the #Blue City. It’s a sight to behold!


Vew from Mehrangarh Fort
Panoramic View of Mehrangarh Fort 
At the end of the fort, there was a musician playing flute.

A musician playing flute
We spend around two hours in the fort and then headed to the impressive #Jaswant Thada which is some distance away from the fort. It is located besides a small lake and is the resting place of #Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. Beautiful lattice (jali) works adorn the cenotaph. It is built in an open area offering amazing view of the city and the Mehrangarh fort.


At the entrance of Jaswant Thada, beside the lake a musician was playing a rajasthani musical instrument. The music, the sight of the lake, the ducks in the lake, Jaswant Thada on one side and the gigantic Mehrangarh Fort on the other made it a perfect sight.

The impressive Jaswant Thada
By the time we finished our tour to Mehrangarh Fort and Jaswant Thada, it was late to go to #Umaid Bhawan Palace. We were disappointed to miss the opportunity to see Umaid Bhawan and decided to halt at Jodhpur on our way from Jaisalmer to Udaipur.


Umaid Bhawan from Jaswant Thada
For the evening we decided to hit the local market of Jodhpur and do some shopping. We went to the sardar market which is one of the most popular markets of Jodhpur. #Sardar Market was an interesting mix of food sellers, leather items, spice merchants, dye and die (bandani & lahariya), jutis, silver accessories and a general chaos.

The clear rule of shopping in Jodhpur is to Bargain, Bargain and Bargain!!! As a rule, start from half the price quoted by the shopkeeper. After some haggling you will surely have a deal with a much lesser rate quoted earlier.

We could get hold of some beautiful jutis for Rs 200 each after bargaining. We also bought some rajasthani bags and jholas as gifts to family.

Jodhpur is famous for Jodhpuri’s skin tight ¾ length trousers but we were not able to see anyone wearing one.

On our walk from the bustling Sardar Market to our hotel we came across the #clock tower.

We asked a couple of people why the houses are painted blue. Strangely everyone had a different answer. Some said that the colour blue is cool and it helps to keep the house cool from the scorching sun. Other said that in olden days priests wanted to differentiate themselves from the lower castes and decided to paint their houses blue where as the lower castes painted their house white. Another reason is that the colour blue keeps the mosquitoes away.


The Blue City
We had our dinner on the roof top of our Hotel. The fort was lit up at night, making it a beautiful dinner and a beautiful night.

This gets us to the end of our trip to Jodhpur. Next destination is #Jaisalmer – The GoldenCity.