Ladies and gentlemen, coming to you from a night bus to Hampi, it’s the latest installement of our adventures in India. We begin with an apology to our loyal fans (looking at you mum and Stefan). Since leaving Jodhpur we have been all over the place and haven’t really written about any of it. So here is a short catchup of everything we’ve missed out, before we put up today’s post.
The Golden City of Rajasthan is probably the highlight of our trip so far. This is largely thanks to the services of the wonderful Hotel Pol Haveli. Much of our time was spent lounging on the rooftop and eating the delicious food of Khan the cook or chatting with the manager Surya, who was able to help us with all our requests as well as being very entertaininng company. In fact all the staff were pretty wonderful – a favourite evening was spent watching England narrowly loose the second T20 with the staff in one of the hotel rooms which was being repaired. We also encountered the organiser of the “Rickshaw Run” – an event which sees teams drive all the way from Kochi to Jaisalmer in India’s famous auto-rickshaws. Something we would love to do in the future!
We did also manage to see some of the town! Quieter and friendlier than Jaipur or Jodhpur there is a fascinating centre to Jaisalmer in the form of a living fort. Within the ancient walls, people still live, run shops and host guests. So much so that there is a major concern over the damage all the water may be doing to the foundations. Inside the fort is a palace museum not too disimilar to the one in Jodhpur, detailing the history of the ruling Maharawals and offering spectacular viuews across the town from the roof. The fort also houses the most intriguing collection of Jain temples – 7 in all, with more intricately carved stonework than you would imagine could fit in a small corner of a fort.
On one day we also explored outside the fort, taking in some of the ornate old havelis (basically decorated stone houses built by the wealthy of Jaisalmer). For 100 rupees we were able to take a pedalo out on to Gadi Sagar lake to watch the sunset before heading across the road to enjoy a traditional puppet show. We were sad indeed to leave Jaisalmer where we could easily have lingered for days, but were given one final recommendation by the hotel staff, to visit Udaipur, where we next took a bus to.
We only had one day in Udaipur, having initally not planned to go there, but been persuaded it’s worth a visit. It was a relaxed day. We started off by going on a boat trip on the lake. The boat set off from the palace, did a loop out towards the city and then went to a small island iin the middle of the lake. We were allowed to wander for a bit around the island. There wasn’t much there besides a hotel with a bar and restaurant. The staff seem to be preparing for a wedding, decorating the venue with flowers and lights. Once back at the palace we had a quick look around the palace grounds and then went for a walk around Udaipur. For lunch we headed to one of the places recommened by Loney Planet – it was ok, but not as nice as most other food we’ve been having in India. We knew this before, but this meal reaffirmed that it’s best to just follow the crowds of locals for best food, or failing that TripAvisor recommendations are often on target too. The owner of the place where we ate took us to her sweets shop after we had our lunch. She was very keen to sell all types of goodies and so although we went in hoping to just get some chai, we also ended up getting some home made choco balls, sugared ginger, masala chai spice mix, curry spice mix and colourful bangles. We then continued with our walk until we arrived at Bagore-ki-Haveli, which has a little wharf infront of it. We watched the sunset from there and then headed inside for an absolutely amazing dance show. The most impresive in my opinion was the lady dancer who danced while balancing about 10 stacked pots on her head. She also walked though a stack of shards of glass, while still balancing the pots on her head. She was closely followed by two dancers who swirled around while balancing jugs full of flames on their heads. The dance show was followed by a shorter puppet performaqnce, similar to that which we saw in Jaisalmer, but executed in a more interesting manner. This time we could see the puppeteer as well as the puppet. Also deserving a mention was our entertaining host for the evening, who looked and sounded very much like Sunni from The Best Marigold Hotel. After the performance we had a really nice dinner at a restaurant overlooking the river.
The next day we had a very early morning and headed from Udaipur to Ahmedabad.
Ahmedabad really only featured on our itinerary as a transit point, however it turned out to be a very useful one. While in India I was lucky enough to be invited to apply for a working holiday visa for Canada which has presented a few challenges (thanks mum and dad for running around findingmy documents back home). One of those is a mandatory medical exam should I wish to work in any school. Rather than plead with Canadian Immigration to be given time to have this done at great expense in London I decided to try the private Apollo Hospital in Ahmedabad. This turned out to be an interesting experience in itself: being shuttled from room to room by an overly helpful porter for the different tests before being asked to come back in the afternoon for the eye test gave everything a very Indian flavour.The hospital food is also rather different – the biryani and the “executive lunch” were actually very tasty.
We did still manage to see Ahmedabads best attraction in the late afternoon: the Ashram which Mahatma Gandhi founded and lived in for 15 years of his life. Now a reconstruction with a museum explaining the history it’s a great place off the main tourist track to while away a couple of hours and learn about history’s most famous Indian.