India Part 3 – Rajasthan

She Says: John and I had not planned to do Rajasthan at all.  It wasn’t until our hotel in Delhi had us meet with Tinku, their travel agent, that we even considered going.  It wasn’t because we didn’t want to, it was more because we didn’t even know about it… To our credit India is a big country and deciding where to visit was a bit overwhelming.  It took Tinku about 2 days to convince us to do this 12 day Rajasthan trip.  We talked him down quite a bit before accepting.  (Good Tourists)  haha.  Anyways, it was the best decision we made. Rajasthan was excellent!  It was full of colors, forts, palaces, elephants, camels, ghats, food, people and was exactly the India you imagine when you think of visiting.

We had a personal driver for the entire trip, Rajiv.  He was a good guy who spoke pretty good English.  It was nice to travel this way because we didn’t have to run around figuring out where the bus stations were and we didn’t have to worry about missing a site we didn’t know about, and most of all, we didn’t have to worry about getting scammed by shady taxi drivers. Rajiv stayed in the same hotel with us as well so after breakfast each morning we would meet him in the lobby and be on our way!

Our first stop in Rajasthan was Jaipur, Rajasthan’s biggest city.  We stayed just outside the city right next to the Amber Fort.  The Amber Fort was probably my favorite part of the Rajasthan trip.  Once you see the pictures you will understand why.  It was amazing!  We actually had a nice little view of it from our hotel room.  Each night we would go to the rooftop of the hotel, order some Indian chai and watch the sunset over the fort.  Such the romantic couple aren’t we?? 😉 From Jaipur we headed to Bikaner for a short stay by another fort. It was no Amber Fort, but beautiful nonetheless.

Walking around the lake in Jaipur.

Inside the Amber Fort.

It took us 3 hours to see only half of it.

Everyone can enjoy the view!

Our romantic perch where we watched the sunset with chai. 🙂

Every evening around 5 or 6, just before the sunset, all the kids come out on their roofs to fly kites...most of them end up in trees. 🙂

Sunset, ancient fort, mountains, kids flying kites, and chai. Doesn't get much better.

Having fun at the fort in Bikaner.

Spotted in Bikaner.

After Bikaner it was off to Jaisalmer to do our camel safari.  You have no idea how excited I was about this!!  Ever since I saw a picture of someone riding camel on the beach on a bus in Germany, I have wanted to ride one.  The fact that it was going to be in an Indian desert was icing on the cake.

We arrived to our first hotel in Jaisalmer.  It wasn’t really a hotel at all.  It was a hut.  It was very basic but it added to the experience of it all.  After dropping off our bags we loaded up on the camels and went on our way.  It was only John and I with our two camel chaffeurs 😉 The ride was a little bumpy so it wasn’t long before my butt started getting sore.  I know with all the padding you would think I would be alright..haha.  Once we had the camels galloping it was actually a much smoother ride.  We rode for a couple hours until we reached the sand dunes.  We rode up the dunes right in time to watch the sunset.  It was spectacular.  It was one of those moments where you have to sit there and pinch yourself to make sure it’s really happening.  It was absolutely stunning to sit there in the warm sand next to our camels who were of course resting, and watch the sunset behind the dunes.  John bought a beer off of a local kid which completed the package.  After the sunset we got back on our camels and headed off to have dinner.

Before dinner we were taken to an Indian culture show of music and dance.  I was brought to the middle where some young Indian girls swirled me around so much I could barley stand when they were finished.  We were getting hungry so we decided to leave early and head back to our hut.  The owner had made a fire for us to sit by.  He served us some chai while we waited on dinner.  Rajiv was already there hanging out.  The three of us sat around the fire and chatted until the food came.  It was delicious of course!  After the fire went out we headed to bed awaiting our next adventure.

Yep, elephants strolling down the road.

At the rat temple on our way to Jaisalmer. One word - disgusting.

Home sweet home in Jaisalmer.

Chalo!

The camel loves the camera. 🙂

Waiting for the sunset...

...with a beer.

Excellent. 🙂

He Says: There’s really too much to write about. I think we could have written a separate post for each of the places we stopped in Rajasthan. Too much to write, too many pictures, not enough space. We were there for only nine days, but we did and saw so much. I’ll go ahead and say there’s no way to do it. But I guess that goes for India in general. We only had enough time to do the northwest corner of the country. It’s like going to the U.S. and seeing only Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Still so much to see and do there. For another trip.

So we left Jaisalmer with sore butts and drove southeast to the Blue City, Jodhpur. It’s known as India’s Blue City because many of the buildings are painted a light shade of blue to help keep them cool when the sun is blazing. Most of these houses surround the Mehrangarh Fort which sits atop a huge hill in the middle of the city. The fort wasn’t nearly as amazing as the Amber Fort in Jaipur, but it was still beautiful and massive.

Grabbing lunch in Jaisalmer.

It's blue!

The huge fort in Jodhpur.

View from the top.

From there we made our way south to Ranakpur. Our original itinerary in Rajasthan didn’t have us stopping here, but we asked Rajiv to skip another city earlier in the trip. This gave us an extra day before heading to Udaipur so we asked him to recommend a good city to check out. He told us Ranakpur was one of his favorite places in Rajasthan, lots of beautiful scenery, lots of green, and the Jain temples. How could we not stop in his favorite place? Much more rural than anywhere else we stayed, Ranakpur was even quieter than Rishikesh and Shimla. We stayed at a small hotel set in between a few hills and across from even more hills and a lake. All along the one road into town were women with bundles of wood on their heads they would use for fires. No electricity out here. After we got settled we walked to the lake  across from the hotel where we met a few more women picking up wood. They didn’t speak English so not much conversation, just smiles. We sat on a rock overlooking the lake and enjoyed the scenery for a while. After soaking up the surroundings, Rajiv took us to the Jain temples. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect here. We figured they’d be just a few more temples among the many we’ve seen, but the largest of them was extraordinary. Built of nothing but marble, the domes, turrets, cupolas, and columns of the temple are carved with hundreds intricate and detailed artwork. It was astonishing to walk through it knowing it was created nearly 600 years ago.

Taking some time to appreciate the scenery.

Electricity?

Heading into the Jain temple in Ranakpur.

Column after column after column...

Every single column looked liked these. Crazy.

The next day we headed to Udaipur, our last stop in Rajasthan. Rajiv had told us earlier in the trip that his sister was getting married the day after our tour ended. He actually drove us to his family’s house to meet his sister when we first started traveling through Rajasthan. The women and children were the only ones home and they were all a little shy, but they were certainly a beautiful family. With the wedding in mind we told Rajiv he could take off early to get back to his family. Plus everything we wanted to see in Udaipur was within walking distance. A big smile stretched on his face from ear to ear. It felt good to make him happy…although it could have been the nice tip we left him. 🙂 Either way it was cool.

All the women. 🙂

Udaipur’s claims to fame are its palaces set along and on the water. Also know as the Lake City or the Venice of the East, Udaipur has water running through it and around it. The City Palace is Udaipur’s largest palace sitting high up and overlooking the lake. From the top you can see the Lake Palace built on an island accessible only by ferry. The ferry and restaurant at the Lake Palace were a little too expensive for us so we enjoyed the view from the lakeside. Because our flight out of India wasn’t for a few days we had some time to kill. Most of it was spent watching the sunset, watching locals clean their clothes in the lake, and eating delicious food. It was a great way to spend our last few days.

Every hotel had a rooftop restaurant with a view. Shweet!

The City Palace - we sneaked into its hotel portion to see its pool. 🙂

Too expensive for us.

🙂

Beautiful views of the lake at night.

Given how hectic and dirty almost all of India was, it’s hard to believe how much we actually enjoyed it. I guess you could say a lot of it was an acquired taste. When you look beyond the hard outer surface it becomes a vibrant, colorful, and majestic country.  The food was absolutely amazing – I don’t think we’ve been to another country where we’ve consistently had delicious food at EVERY meal. Plus, almost every building has a rooftop restaurant with a magnificent view. Most of our nights in India ended with a few cups of masala chai while watching the sunset. My favorite sunsets had to be in Jaipur with the sun dropping behind and silhouetting the Amber Fort and the mountains while dozens of children flew their kites from rooftops. Absolutely amazing. Despite the chaos in the streets, it made you feel peaceful and quiet. The people in India were wonderful – most of them wanted to talk just because they were curious about our lives, or they wanted pictures with us, which got a little annoying, but was funny nonetheless. It was amazing how interesting people found us because we’re blond and from the States. 🙂 I guess we found them just as interesting to so it worked out well.

We’re looking forward to going back one day and seeing the rest of the country. Next stop Turkey!

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