Rajastan III – Land of Maharaja’s and Pilgrams

Udaipur, most famous for it’s Lake Palace, was the next stop on our route. It does, of course, also have an impressive fort! Built in 1559, and fort is massive with many overlapping courtyards, terraces, and gardens and set overlooking the lake and the Maharaja’s current residence on the far side.

We spent several hours wandering freely and then did something new for us by having our palms read. We take all such things with a grain of salt but I must say, he was eerily accurate and specific.

I would have really liked to have seen more of the town itself, however my head cold persisted to full affect. Jim did go out that evening with Eunis to an art school where they specialize in the incredibly detailed miniature paintings India is famous for

but it was too short of stop before we headed on to the small pilgrimage town of Pushkar. It was another long travel day in a mostly bleak landscape but what makes India unique is the odd scenes that unexpectedly break up the day. Suddenly, a brilliantly sari’d woman will be seen walking on the horizon, a water bucket on her head, leading a camel. Where did she come from? Where is she going? Such a situation as this is just one of many things that make us love India.

By the time we arrived in Pushkar I was feeling a bit better and we were ready for less planned sightseeing and some more time wandering the back streets and we got what we were looking for. Almost immediately upon arriving at the Pushkar Lake Place we spotted a procession of people passing in front of the hotel. We followed at a discreet distance, not sure where we would end up. It turned out we were following a funeral procession and they were carrying the body towards a funeral pyre. We were entranced by the detail and precision that went into piling the wood in just the right order to make the appropriate pyre. Ready to see more of the town, we wandered back to the lake. Pushar is a famous pilgrimage site, known for it’s sacred lake as well as it’s annual camel fair. We wandered the streets, popped in and out of shops and endured several cow traffic jams.

For dinner we had yet another delightful experience. We had heard about the Sun N Moon cafe, which offered homemade gnocchi and apple pie. Now, we LOVE Indian food but after a couple of weeks of curry filled cuisine the idea of gnocchi had us searching high and low down a dark, dusty street to find the restaurant. It is run by a lovely young couple, he cooks and she is the hostess- waitress

while they expand their tiny restaurant into an small hotel. After exchanging conversation while we inhaled the delicious dinner they served, our hostess suddenly said she had so enjoyed meeting us that she wanted to give me a gift. I was perplexed but thrilled when she took off her charm bracelet to give to me. This was my third gift from someone we’d met during our travels, but I am floored and humbled each and every time that someone who has almost nothing is willing to share something of theirs with me.

Pushkar re-invigorated us and we were ready to move on to the pink city of Jaipur, our final stop in Rajastan state. Jaipur is a fascinating city with a lovely fort on a hill, fantastic artisans specializing in a variety of crafts, and interesting museums. However, in all honestly, two things stand out in our minds when we think of Jaipur. The first, is that our hotel room at Suryaa Villa, not only had actual glass paned windows but also had GASP a space heater!

Scoff if you will, but we had been freezing for 15 days and the idea of a warm shower and a space heater was heaven! Secondly, we got to attend our very first Bollywood movie at an amazing art deco theater.

However, I digress. First off, we headed to the Amber Fort where you get to ride brightly painted elephants up the hill to the fort. As often happens, there has been talk of animal rights activists up in arms regarding the treatment of the elephants but I will say we didn’t see any evidence of mistreatment.

The fort was lovely, although we were a bit “forted” out by this time and it was certainly less impressive than many we’d seen along the route.

We did the normal tourist route, visiting the City Palace, and visiting several artisan stores but the real highlight came that night.

Bollywood is the largest movie industry in the world, and certainly a highlight of our time there. We went to a gorgeous Raj Mandir art deco theater, that you’ll see no photos of because they didn’t allow cameras, but would have fit right in at a city like San Francisco. We saw the movie called Sunday and it must have been one of the most entertaining 3 1/2 hours we’ve ever experienced. Bollywood movies are LONG with an intermission at the half way point. The volume is blaring and each time the bare chested hero was on screen all the women in the audience would screech and each time the heroine appeared all the men would clap and cheer. The screening was in Hindi, however, because the plot is so simple it’s not a problem to follow along and there is a bit of everything; some action, some romance, some intrigue, all interrupted by moments of dance. Absolutely fantastic!

Part 4 of the Rajastan tour leads us towards Agra and the Taj Mahal so stay tuned!

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