So this was the final leg of our incredible India experience, and what a way to end it! Rajasthan is one of, if not the most famous state in the whole of India. Each city feels completely different. We happened to be travelling during the worst and best possible time. The worst because the temperature averages between 40-45degs in most of the cities, the best cause there are hardly any tourists around which means everything is cheaper, there were no queues and fewer accidental photobombs. We decided to do a custom car tour across the state with the company Rajasthan Tours By Car and were fortunate enough to have an excellent driver by the name of Vijandra who would often stop by at random places to show us ‘off the beaten track’ things that most other tourists wouldn’t normally get to see. So here’s what we did.
Stepping into Jodhpur felt like stepping into a city in the Middle East, The majority of the houses were square/rectangular with a very desert feel to it. It was beautiful. Part of the city is known as the ‘Blue City’, well you can probably guess why, most of the houses are painted blue. We stayed in quite a central location which was fantastic as we could explore the city quite easily. The locals are friendly and the kids very cheeky often asking to be photographed and then expecting a tip afterwards.
We spent our time visiting Meherangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada (memorial for the past kings) and Umaid Bahawan Palace (current residence of the King). It was quite a surprise to find out that most cities in Rajasthan still have a Royal Family, although technically the monarchy was abolished when India sought independence from the British, the Royal Families still do much for the community despite having no political power, so are still well respected.
Standing atop our guesthouse rooftop, we had an incredible view of the blue city, We were left speechless standing there. What made the moment more incredible was the sound of the Muslim prayers echoing through the city in the late afternoon. We found out later from the owner of guesthouse that the topic of the Muslim prayers was quite a touchy one. He, being a Hindu, felt that it wasn’t fair that the Muslim community (which comprises less that 20% of the the population) were allowed to announce their prayers so loudly 5 times a day, whilst the Hindus did no such thing. He predicted that the newly elected prime minister Modi would do something about this which is expected to cause a lot of civil unrest.
The night before we left I did some research about places for us to visit at the next city, so I read up on the famous Rat Temple where visitors must walk barefoot. That night whilst sleeping, I woke up screaming at the top of my lungs imagining that there was a giant rat on our bed. Jason certainly got a fright thinking that there was a man in the room. I’m pretty sure I woke up everyone in the guesthouse.
Now this city reminded us a lot of Porto in Portugal. The main attraction here is the beautiful Lake Picholo which is in pristine condition thanks to the absence of fishing and water sports. The streets are covered with beautiful artwork so much so that I felt that I had to photograph every single wall I walked past! Having the lake there meant that the weather was a lot cooler than the other cities. We visited the Jain Temple, Kumbhalgarh Fort and City Palace (you’ll start to notice the trend of Forts and Palaces in Rajasthan).
The first night we watched the evening traditional dance show at Bagore Ki Haveli. We really weren’t expecting much but ended up having a great time. The music was rhythmical, the dancers were mesmerising, and the 60 year old woman balancing 7 pots on her head whilst dancing was truly mind-blowing.
We absolutely loved Udaipur and could have spent a few more days here exploring, I’ve got to say our highlight was walking into an artist’s shop called K.K Art School. The artist, Rakesh was super friendly and did not push us to buy anything at all. He told us that he used to be a chemical engineer for BHP but decided that working in such an industry for a long period of time would be a detriment to his health, so decided to pursue his passion for painting. Using a fine tip brush, he spent 15 minutes painting a tiny elephant on my thumbnail without even expecting a tip. Of course we did end up buying a miniature painting for 1300RS (AUD$26) which I though was pretty good given that it took him 5 days to complete.
Bundi is a really tiny place, our driver told us the city has approximately a 1km radius. Its main attraction is the Lake, but unfortunately due to the lack of rain, most of the lake was dried up. It was blistering hot by the time we arrived, probably peaking just over 45degs, so most of the stores were closed. We certainly got a lot of stares here:
1) We were probably the only foreign tourists in the entire town
2) We look Asian – I’m pretty sure we repeated the following conversation with strangers about 100 times….
Local: “Where you from?”
Local: “Really? But your face look Chinese”
We didn’t get offended by it, we just found it funny how surprised EVERYONE was that we are Australian.
That night we had dinner at a local restaurant. There we were joined by an Indian family who had come from out of town. They’d come here specifically to get treatment at the Ayurvedic Hospital for the wife who had been diagnosed with Chronic Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. She’s somewhere in her mid thirties and came with her husband and two young daughters. Finding out that we were physiotherapists, of course they were keen to get our opinion, but having seen this terrible condition in one of my past patients, I didn’t have the heart to tell her my real opinion. They were very optimistic about the Ayurvedic treatment which she had to do for 11 days straight. Its pretty much a combination of massage and herbal medications. Funnily enough the waitress at the restaurant (Anita) also happened to be the head nurse at the hospital. They invited us to come watch the treatment the next morning which we gladly accepted.
Arriving at the hospital, only I was allowed to watch the treatment. As I walked behind the curtain I saw a naked woman (different to the one I’d met the previous night) lying on her stomach on a stainless steel plinth. Surrounding her were 4 women massaging the woman with white cloths filled with milk and rice. After doing this on both sides of her body, they then proceeded to rub the rice itself all over her body. It was really interesting to see, we just hope that the treatment works for her. In India Ayurvedic Hospitals are actually government funded and often people prefer to attend these hospitals rather than mainstream ‘Western Medicine’ hospitals.
The capital of Rajasthan and also the hometown of our driver Vijandra. There were a lot more tourists here, a lot more cars, a lot more everything! The old part of the city is known as the ‘Pink City’, however most of the buildings are actually more of a terracotta colour. Back in the day, the King ordered everyone in this particular part of the town to paint their houses and business pink (the colour of hospitality) to welcome members of the British Royal Family who were visiting.
Unfortunately we didn’t have much time here, so didn’t get to explore as much as we liked. We did get to visit the City Palace and Amber Fort Palace As it was our last stop, we were well over the Palaces and the brutal heat really meant that we rushed through Amber Fort. Next time we come, we will certainly plan to have a few more days in Jaipur.
So India, it’s a wrap. Its been a mesmerising, addictive, wonderful cultural experience. We have learnt so much not only about the country, but also about ourselves. Being here has put a lot of things in perspective and has really made us re-evaluate our lives. Do yourselves a favour and visit this country, but make sure you go in with an open mind. Its not a perfect country, but if you are open to getting to know the local people, you will certainly not be disappointed.
Next stop Hanoi, Vietnam!
Till next time
Ann & Jason xo