On our first full day in Jaipur most of the morning after breakfast was taken up with the process of booking train tickets at the railway station. We had left the bookings a bit late for popular routes but managed to get 3 tickets booked albeit not 1st class and 1 ticket is 1st and 2nd on the waiting list. Then after a brief tea break back on the hotel rooftop where we managed to book a hotel at Mt Abu and bus up there from Udaipur before returning to Udaipur for a few days as well as a Jaipur tour for tomorrow.
After the mornings efforts to organize onward journeys we headed by Tuk Tuk to the New Gate of the Pink City were it was our intention to follow a route from a “Lonely Planet” travel book around the outside of the city though the bazaars, it was nice just strolling though and looking at what they were selling. Wanda bought a couple of things to take back as presents and we bought a pomegranate and managed to find somewhere out of the way to sit and eat that, then after exploring some more of the Pink City we came across a popular hotel bakery selling snacks and desserts and had to try some of them, just as we had finished an Indian gentleman came up to us and said there was a particular Indian sweet we should try and bought us one each and wouldn’t let us pay for it.( Another example of Indian friendliness and hospitality ).
After that we found our way to isarlat minaret which was built to commemorate one of Maharaja Iswaris victorys and is 42 metres high, we made our way up the ramps to the top and met another British couple at the top who were travelling around India, we had fantastic views over the Pink city from there, After that we were pretty much done with our walk and got a Tuk Tuk back to the hotel and headed for another cold drink on the rooftop.
We had an evening meal at the hotel on the rooftop, and although it can be a bit chilly in the evening they provide blankets to put over you and there were a fair few people there tonight, the food is strictly vegetarian here and your not even supposed to bring non vegetarian food into the hotel, the food and service was very good here and staff throughout the hotel have been very helpful.
We had booked a jeep tour for the next day to take us round some of the sights of Jaipur such as the Amer fort, we weren’t really too sure what would turn up but were ready and waiting outside the hotel fending off a few Tuk Tuk drivers when a vintage US army jeep came round the corner to pick us up, the guides name was Surenda Sharma, he spoke excellent English and was very knowledgeable about Jaipur and its sites, I would recommend looking him up if you’re in Jaipur.
We made our way though the morning traffic and the Pink City towards Amber Fort first with Surenda giving us a brief history of Jaipur as we went, We stopped just across the lake across from the Fort to take some photos before continuing on to Amer Fort.The fort was strategically placed on top of a mountain so that it could be easily defended , it was built in 967 AD and was home to the Rajput Maharajas and their families until 1971 but is now a government owned tourist attraction and the current Maharaja lives in the palace in Jaipur.It’s a very impressive construction surrounded by a 22 kilometre wall with four main sections to the palace with the mirrored palace being the most impressive for me with the ceiling and walls covered in tiny convex mirrors.
After the Amer Fort we changed the usual tour schedule to visit a nearby elephant park were we were given a talk on the elephants in the area, what they were used for and how they were looked after.
We then had the chance to go for an elephant ride and feed an elephant by the name of Gori, it wasn’t as easy as I thought to get on to the top of an elephant which was done in this case by putting your foot in her trunk and then she lifted me up over her head and onto her back which was a strange sensation and I was a little concerned for Gori but she didn’t seem to mind, there is also the option of sitting in an elephant chair on their back which might of been simpler, when Wanda, the driver and myself were ready we had about 20 minutes or so walking around their habitat and then back to feed Gori what was basically a tray full of bread which we were assured they liked and she seemed to enjoy it and finished the lot. It was a great experience to be up so close to an elephant and something that I definitely wanted to do whilst here in India and got some great pictures to remember the day.
After the elephant park we headed back to Jaipur stopping along the way to view the Water Palace which is situated in the middle of a lake and at this time of year attracts migratory birds from countries such as China. It was then onto Jaipur and the Pink Palace and museum containing a history of the Maharajas then a walk over to a wonderful observatory called the Jantar Mantar built in 1728 containing two large sun dial structures accurate to within 20 secs and 2 secs respectively as well as structure’s for locating the North star and instruments that predict sunrise and sunset each day, altogether there are 19 structures on the site and it really is amazing to see the information that can be obtained from them.
We then walked over to the Hawa Mahal which which was summer city palace for the Maharaja’s and their families designed to draw in the breeze on hot summer days and enable them to sit behind lattice shutters and watch the goings on in Jaipur city unseen. It was then back to the the hotel after what felt like a great day learning about some of the history of Jaipur.
The next day we had quite a long day of travelling to Udaipur by train then a bus up to Mt Abu. I didn’t feel particularly well during the night ( the first time since I arrived in India 4 months ago ) and was dreading the day of travelling but it turned out to be ok and we made it to Mt Abu.
The day started with an early morning Uber to the railway station to catch the 6.15 to Udaipur which was already at the station as it started from Jaipur, After a little bit of confusion over which carriage was B1 and which was BE1 we were able to stretch out and go back to sleep for awhile as it was a sleeper train, the trip was fairly comfortable and pulled into Udaipur station ahead of schedule, we then got a Tuk Tuk to Taki stand which was our bus departure point and had around 1 1\2 to wait before departure, we knew we were in the right vicinity but not absolutely sure where the bus would stop and kept an eye out for it arriving, as I stood up 10 mins before it was due it turned out the driver had been sitting on the bench beside us on the next bench and even knew our seat numbers, the ride up to Mt Abu from Udaipur takes around 4 hours and once out of Udaipur is quite scenic especially once you start to climb into the mountains of Rajasthan, during the trip up I had a confusing phone call to say our bus that we’d booked back to Udaipur the next day had been cancelled and the only other bus was 08.30 back to Udaipur leaving us no real option but to extend another night in Mt Abu. We arrived at the Lake Palace hotel around 19.30 quite tired but managed some dinner and went to bed.
I felt much better the next day so was pleased with that, I had planned to visit Mt Abu during my travels in India but hadn’t realized it was so close to Udaipur so it made sense to do it now. One main reason I had wanted to come to Mt Abu was that it is the home to the Brahma Kumaris which both Wanda and myself had some experience of through work in the prison service and had visited their centre at Nuneham Courtney in Oxfordshire.
Their headquarter was actually only about a 1\2 mile from our hotel so after breakfast over looking lake Nakki we walked up the hill to the centre and were fortunate enough to get a French Brahma Kumari by the name of Jann to show us around, he was our guide for at least 3 hours and explained their beliefs and purpose some of which we already knew.
Jann showed us around both sites and allowed us to take in the peaceful atmosphere and brief meditations with other Brahma Kumaris, during a cup of Indian tea on the rooftop of the dining hall overlooking the mountains Wanda asked Jann how long he’d been at the Mt Abu centre and how he got involved with the Brahma Kumaris, he told us 20 years ago he was a musician in Nice France and an Artist friend of his started doing Raj mediation run by the BKs and got into it that way, his friend ended up taking the Buddist path of mediation but Mann stayed with the BKs and had been here for 2 years and hoped to stay at Mt Abu.
We then got a taxi to the other side of Mount Abu to visit the Delwara temples. These were built in 1031 and 1230 and are noted for their intricate beautiful carvings.
During the afternoon we went for a walk around Lake Nakki which is sacred to the Hindu and Jain religions and climbed part way up a hill for the views and watched some BKs dancing and filming on an adjacent hill before a walk into the town then back to the hotel.
In the evening we went over to the other side of town to the Hillock hotel and Wanda treated me to a nice meal there which was excellent and made a nice change as I’ve been avoiding the better hotels while travelling on my own but this is more of a brief holiday for Wanda.
The next day we checked out of the hotel and after a couple of attempts at booking an Uber which failed as there were no cars available we decided to book a taxi rather than take the state bus which would of meant most of the day travelling back to Udaipur, the taxi did it in 3 hours and dropped us right near the hotel on Lake pichola from which we had a good view across the lake, once we settled in a bit we got a drink and a snack across the road at the Rainbow cafe which seems very popular with tourists, then we explored the local area a little bit by walking though the old part of Udaipur.
In the evening we went just across from our hotel to the Rainbow cafe which was pretty busy and had a meal which was very good then had a walk though part of the old town getting lured into the large Jagdish temple along the way and into someone’s art shop which had a door connected into the temple itself but managed escape without having to buy stuff we didn’t really need, We then walked on to find the entrance to the City Palace which we plan to see tomorrow.
In the morning we went for breakfast nearby then walked up to the City Palace which is the largest Palace in Rajasthan and on the shores of Lake Pichola, the Palace is a very popular tourist attraction and although we were there fairly early it quickly started to get busy, there was a good history of how the Maharajas added to the Palace over the centuries, it takes a few hours to make your way through the various buildings and courtyards but you get a feel of the lavish lifestyle they lived in within the Palace as well as trying to look after and provide for the people of Udaipur.
When we had finished our tour of the Palace we got a cold drink in the courtyard before a boat trip around Lake Pichola, stopping at Jagmandir island which is towards the middle of the lake and contains a hotel, restaurant,spas, and gardens which are nice to walk around.
After a meal we walked into Udaipur to a hotel that has a classic car collection that once belonged to the Maharajas including a Rolls Royce that was used in the James Bond film Octapussy, it was interesting to see the various cars that they had collected which were mostly Rolls Royces and Mercedes with a few Amercan cars like Cadillacs and Buicks thrown in. We were guided round by an Indian gentleman who had the hicups all the way around but knew the history of all the cars.
Today is potentially a travel to Agra day but as of this morning we are still on the waiting list for the overnight sleeper from Udaipur to Agra which I had to get a Tuk Tuk to the train station to find out about, Unfortunately it was Wanda’s turn to feel unwell during the night but the Haveli had another room that we could check into today so we were pleased about that, at least we could rest there during the day and have the room tonight if we can’t get on the train to Agra.
We spent the day waiting to see if we were going to move from the train waiting list to a guaranteed berth but to no avail and around 7 in the evening got a message to say our tickets were still unconfirmed so we made alternative plans and decided to stay here tonight as Wanda still didn’t feel quite right and booked a flight from Udaipur to Delhi tomorrow afternoon along with a hotel for 1 night near the airport with the hope of sorting out a trip to Agra when we get to Delhi if all goes well.
So it’s early here on Saturday but I’m awake so want to try and finish this and post it before making our way to Delhi later this morning.Wanda seems to be feeling better today, so hoping that will continue and today’s trip goes ok so she can enjoy the rest of her time here in India.
We’ve done a lot this week and Jaipur, Mt Abu and Udaipur have all been amazing places and all very different from each other, the last few days in Udaipur has felt quite relaxing and unlike the normal hustle and bustle of Indian cities but a I think that’s because were tucked away near the lake and the traffic is limited by the narrow roads.
I had some good news via email recently that my PCT permit has been approved for 18th of June to start from Tuolumne meadows, so I know what I’ll be doing for 3 months in the summer of all goes to plan.
On a personal note I believe I’ve said before how proud I am of my kids and I don’t like to embarrass them but my daughter has just finished her dissertation for her masters after a lot of hard work and submitted it, so I thought I’d mention it, Well done Becca Congratulations x.
So before we get ready to move on here today I will finish up there for now and wish everyone a good week ahead.
Until next time
Take care Chris