Tagged: Rajasthan

Jaisalmer, A Golden City in the Thar Desert

Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer

From Jodhpur we went as far West as possible without entering Pakistan to Jaisalmer.  Jaisalmer is known as the Golden City because of the yellow sand of the Thar Desert that surrounds it and the yellow sandstone of all the buildings there. You can stay in Jaisalmer Fort but we stayed outside the city, only a 5 minute drive away.  The fort is an endangered monument and the water that pumps through the city, around the fort, is causing it to self-destruct.  In some small way I thought not staying in the fort was a good idea.

Jaisalmer was founded in the 12th century and served as a stop for trade caravans.  Now tourism is its main source of revenue.  There are plenty of camel and desert treks you can take.  There’s even a festival in January and February.  We opted out of the camel rides and stuck to exploring the city.   More

Jodhpur, the Best

View of Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

View of Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Jodhpur was my favorite city in Rajasthan.  All the elements we had seen thus far, amazing Indo-Islamic architecture, sprawling city, cows and animals everywhere, squalor, simple beauty, were at their best in Jodhpur.  The people were kind, and it seemed less crowded with tourists and cheesy souvenirs.  Jodhpur was a balance of the sleepy Bundi and the buzzing Jaipur.   More

Cruising around Lake Pichola

View of City Palace from Lake Pichola

View from Lake Pichola

After walking through the maze of the City Palace of Udaipur it was an ideal moment to take a boat ride around Lake Pichola.  If you walk out an exit gate from the Palace it is a short walk to the boat launch.  You get an orange life vest and a comfy enough seat.

To be cooled by the breeze as we circulated around the lake was refreshing.  It was lovely to sit in a seat in the shade of the boat and observe another side of Udaipur.  Here and there you could see city residents and tourists walking to the water’s edge to swim, bathe or wash something.  The friendly people would wave at us.  I was really into the trees lining the lake for some reason. More

City Palace of Udaipur

City Palace

City Palace

The City Palace of Udaipur is the largest in Rajasthan.  It is also one of the most well-kept palaces of the region.  I would attribute this to tourism.  There were several beautifully decorated rooms to discover within the labyrinth of the palace.  You get magnificent views of the lake and a trip back in time.

Maharaja Udai Singh II established his city here upon the advice of a holy man who suggested the protection afforded by the forests, lakes and Aravalli Hills would be advantageous for the new capital of Mewar.  Chittor was previously the capital but Akbar destroyed it.  From its beginnings in 1568 until India’s unification in 1947, Udaipur survived many Mughal attacks.  This pride and history that is reflected inside the Palace. More

Udaipur: Jagdish Temple, Babas and stickers

Baba at Jagdish Temple, Udaipur

Baba at Jagdish Temple, Udaipur

The main attractions of Udaipur are the City Palace and Lake Pichola.  Most of the hotels and restaurants of Udaipur have views of both.  We opted not to stay in the famous Lake Palace Hotel but rather across the lake from everything.  In one day we saw the City Palace, took a boat ride and had lunch on Jagmandir Island in Lake Pichola.

The City Palace has several beautifully decorated rooms and paintings, and it was impressive, but one my favorite parts of the day was seeing the Jagdish Temple and buying stickers of Hindu gods and goddesses at a shop across from the temple.   More

Bhimlat Waterfall and the Mahanal Temple near Menal

Mahanal Temple dedicated to Shiva near Menal

Mahanal Temple dedicated to Shiva near Menal

River near Mahanal Temple

River near Mahanal Temple

We left sleepy Bundi and continued our journey to Udaipur.  We stopped to see the  large Bhimlat Waterfall, continued driving to Menal to see the Mahanal Temple and finally to Udaipur.  The temple wasn’t crowded.  There were a few guards around but for the most part it was another quiet, contemplative visit.  Parts of the temple grounds were rubble and it was easy to see how tombarolos could take pieces or sculpture of the temple.

Since the temple is dedicated to Shiva his bull Nandi is nearby.  There were locals too checking us out, having picnics and enjoying the day like us.   More

Amer Fort (Amber Fort), Jaipur

Driving up to Amer Fort, Jaipur

Driving up to Amer Fort, Jaipur

Well it’s taken me a week and some to get to Amer Fort (also known as Amber Fort) just outside Jaipur.  The present day fort was built in 1592 over the remains of another building by Raja Man Singh I.  Over the years various rulers added to the fort but it retains most of its 16th century parts.

You may ride an elephant through the Sun Gate or Suraj Pol, or drive up the hill to a parking area and walk the rest of the way to another entrance of the fort.  Apparently the elephants make one trip a day so as not to kill them from overuse.  I think there was one bull among all the lady elephants.  It looks interesting the elephant ride, but not one that I want to take.  I’d be happy to see elephants frolicking about in their natural habitats but riding one into a fort doesn’t suit me especially when I can walk faster. More

Monkey Temple (Galwar Bagh) at Galtaji

Soref feeding a monkey at Galtaji

Soref feeding a monkey at Galtaji

Another stop on the way to Jaipur was Galtaji.  Since the 1500s Galtaji has been a Hindu pilgrimage site especially for followers of Vishnu, or Vaishnavites.  There are many temples there and some pools or water tanks where people bathe.  It’s known as the Monkey Temple (Galwar Bagh) because there are rhesus macaques all over the place.  National Geographic created a whole show about the monkeys called “Rebel Monkeys.”  There are  12 episodes available (as of now) for viewing, go here.

I am not a fan of monkeys being so close to me (see photo above for how I feel about monkeys).  If I can see them from a safe distance or on TV, movies, I’m okay.  Perhaps it was the movie “Outbreak” that made me scared of monkeys with contagious, fatal diseases that did it.  I put on a brave face and we went into the temple grounds.  There’s a temple overrun by rats, the Karni Mata Temple.  I have no desire to visit it.  I watched some videos online and that was enough.

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Chand Baori, Abhaneri, India

Chand Baori, Abhaneri, India

Chand Baori, Abhaneri, India

We left Agra and began our trip to Rajasthan.  Our first stop would be Jaipur.  On the way we visited a 9th century step well called Chand Baori in the town of Abhaneri.  It descends 100 feet into the ground.  You can walk down the steps and feel the temperature reduce slightly.  It was a strange feeling but one that I appreciated. More

And now for something different: India!

Flight Map from Newark to New Delhi

Flight Map from Newark to New Delhi

In mid-August 2011 I traveled to India for the first time.  We flew in and out of New Delhi but our destination was Rajasthan.  I like the flight maps feature on airplanes.  You can see how far you have to go and how many more movies you can cram into the flight.

The best movie to get you in the mood for Rajasthan is Jodhaa Akbar.  Hrithik Roshan stars as Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Mohammed Akbar and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Jodhaa, a Rajput princess from Amer.  It’s the classic tale of a marriage made for political alliance where she dislikes him and he is sort of interested in her.  Of course they reveal their true selves and slowly fall in love.  It’s the closest you can get to a illustration of what it was like in 16th century royal India.  It’s one of my favorite movies and luckily the lead actors are easy to look at.

Over Europe and the Middle East

Over Europe and the Middle East

When you hear about Kabul or Karachi you know they’re a point on a map, thousands of miles away, but until you’re close to them physically they become real.  I kept looking out the window to see if I could make out something to reinforce this but the clouds prevented it.  I knew that India would be unlike anywhere or anything I had seen but until we were there nothing could prepare me.  The trip was amazing.  It was hard at times but if you can travel, you should.  If your mind is open, the world is an interesting place.

We arrived in the evening so we checked in to our hotel, ate dinner and went to sleep.  The next day was devoted to seeing Old Delhi.  Old Delhi is exactly how it sounds–the older, historical part of town.  We saw the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid and the Qutub Minar, plus we had a nice rickshaw excursion.  Since I have thousands of pictures we’ll cover the Red Fort and Jama Masjid today with some sights here and there thrown in. More