India, a Rajasthan Adventure

Nick and ChristineHi, we are Nick and Christine Snowdon, two ex Travel Professionals, ex Travel Educationalists, and now Travel Bloggers. We enjoy searching out both new and traditional destinations on which to spend our retirement fund. Over the last 10 years we have travelled to over 50 destinations on 4 Continents and are loving it.

Where to Next?

We’d never been to India before and so we thought now seemed as good a time as any to make our first foray into the Indian sub-continent, with a visit taking in Delhi, Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur we called it our…

Rajasthan Adventure

Mountains of Afghanistan.

The mountains of Afghanistan.

With a late scheduled departure, it gave us plenty of time to get to Heathrow to catch our eight and a half hour Air India flight to Delhi.

Our plan was to take a connecting flight from Delhi and start our adventure in Jaipur, en route we were fortunate to get a fabulous view of the mountains of Afghanistan.

We had been told that India was a very special place and to be prepared for some cultural, gastronomic and visual contrasts and delights. Well that turned out to be an understatement.

What a wonderful country it is, and with so many new and exciting experiences to be exposed to, we couldn’t wait to get started.

First Stop, Jaipur

Who needs a theme park ride when you can take a tuk-tuk from the street outside the hotel to the Pink City. Lane discipline, what’s that?

Once we escaped from the tuk-tuk the next adventure was crossing the main road. Almost impossible when you have a constant stream of cars, buses, motorbikes tuk-tuks, cows (yes, cows and camels) and a horse and cart.

Things to do in Jaipur: Visit the Pink City.

Once you had passed through the gates of the Pink City and run the gauntlet of the numerous shops selling everything you could imagine you reach the tranquility of the City Palace with its complex of pavilions and palaces.

We took the audio guide and it was well worth it. The Palace is, as you would imagine from its name is, predominantly pink, and very attractive. It houses a good collection of artistic and historical exhibits to give you an introduction to Rajasthan.

Things to do in Jaipur: Go and marvel at the Jantar Mantar Observatory.

Well we weren’t expecting this! A short walk from the Pink City leads you to the Jantar Mantar Observatory, a World Heritage Site built by built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II and completed in 1734, which contains 20 gigantic instruments, made from marble and stone, which are used to make accurate measurements about the sun, moon and stars. It includes the world’s largest stone sundial to measure local time.

Once again it is worth hiring the audio tour, as without it you would struggle to make sense of the huge structures.

Things to do in Jaipur: Attack the Forts

Amber Fort

If there is one thing that Jaipur is not short of it is Forts and Palaces. We spent a day exploring the area around three forts and a palace, visiting two of them. We found the best way of doing this was to hire a car with a driver, which was convenient and not too expensive.

Amber Fort Complex, Jaipur

Amber Fort Complex, Jaipur

The Amber Fort Complex is set, impressively, on the edge of a hillside, with commanding views of the surrounding countryside. There are two ways to get to the fort from the road. Walk, or take an elephant ride. We chose the latter as it was novel, and the gentle pace of ascent gave you time to look at your surroundings. For those of you who worry about the welfare of the elephants, rest assured that precautions are in place to stop them being exploited. They are limited in the number of ascents they make per day and are retired at a sensible age.

Once we had reached Amber Fort the views were impressive taking in Temples, the Jaigarh Fort up the hill, defensive walls and the town of Amer.

Amber Fort itself is a mix of solid defensive walls and much more delicate palace like architecture. Once again, take the audio tour, it’s worth it.

Jal Mahal Palace

On your return to Jaipur it is worth stopping off at one of the roadside parking places to enjoy views of the Jal Mahal Palace in the middle of Man Sagar Lake. It was busy when we were there, so we enjoyed a session of Palace and People watching before returning to Jaipur.

Jal Mahal Palace

Jal Mahal Palace

Albert Hall

Albert Hall Museum

Albert Hall Museum

On returning to Jaipur we left our driver and walked to Albert Hall Museum on the outskirts of the Pink City. The Albert Hall’s foundation stone was laid down in 1876 by Prince of Wales, Albert Edward.

The building itself was very grand but we were a little surprised to have to do a bit of fancy footwork to avoid the rats that had made their homes in the roots of the trees in the surrounding Gardens.

India, so far, has been a series of complete contrasts from the grandeur of the Architecture, the landscape and the colourful clothing of the people to the rubbish abandoned in large amounts on the street. From the hustle and bustle of the streets in the town to the tranquility of the interiors of the palaces and forts.

Time to move on. We flew to Udaipur via Delhi, so let’s see what Udaipur has to offer.

Next Stop: Udaipur.

Udaipur was much more relaxed than Jaipur, and more attractive with its lakeside setting. However, it was full of new experiences to enjoy.

Udaipur

Udaipur

Things to do In Udaipur: Visit the City Palace

What an impressive structure this was. Set on top of a hill overlooking the town, it gave us a feeling of what it must have been in the times of the Maharajas and Maharanis of Rajasthan.

Udaipur City Palace

Udaipur City Palace

Udaipur

Udaipur

Inside the Palace we took the helpful and detailed 31 stop Audio Tour.

Now that may sound a bit onerous, but we were pleasantly surprised and en-grossed by the content. A lot of “Museums” can be a bit dry and repetitive but with a mixture of the impressive setting on the hill, detailed historical exhibits and paintings, it kept us engrossed whilst we enjoyed the leisurely stroll around the Palace and the grounds.

Things to do In Udaipur: Go Shopping

Once you left the Palace Gate you were exposed to an eclectic mixture of shops and restaurants, and with this being our first visit to India, this engrossed us for some while.

We found Sadhna a woman’s cooperative selling clothes made locally. This enterprising group of ladies had grown their business and were even selling online if you fancied taking a look . From a leather goods shop, via pots and pans to an optician/dentist with a fine window display! Include the usual mix of people and animals and this was an experience not to be missed.

Things to do In Udaipur: Take a boat ride on Lake Pichola

A relaxing and interesting way to see another side of Udaipur is to take a boat trip on Lake Pichola.

You can sit back and soak in the views before being dropped off at the hotel in the middle of the lake, guarded by its stone elephants, where refreshments were available. This hotel had a magical setting, and you can even get married there if the fancy takes you.

Around the edge of the lake, life goes on. The washing needs to be done and people were going about their daily working lives.

Things to do In Udaipur: Take a tuk-tuk ride and see the classic cars.

One afternoon we decided to take a tuk-tuk ride around Udaipur. We had a cheerful and knowledgeable tuk-tuk driver/guide and one of the places he took us to see was a Vintage and Classic car collection twenty-two of the Maharaja of Udaipur’s personal cars. Now this may not be to everyone’s taste, but as is was part of an afternoon trundle it fitted in quite well.

Things to do In Udaipur: Explore

Udaipur, like so many of the places we visited in India, had surprises around every corner.

We saw a man taking his Camel for a walk to work, a lady doing the washing by the river. Wherever you turn there are advertising hoardings offering all manner of purchasing opportunities. We both gave the Yoga classes a miss.

Wherever you travel it is worth getting out and about and exploring on foot. You get a real feel for a place and find things you maybe wouldn’t if you took an organised tour.

We loved Udaipur. Its vibrancy, it’s friendly people, it was laid back and busy in equal measures. Still you’ve got to keep moving and so on to Jodhpur.

Next Stop Jodhpur: Fort Chanwa Luni

To avoid having to fly back to Delhi to get a flight to Jodhpur we opted to take a private hire car, which was competitively priced. The Driver, Prakash, was a proud owner of his car and didn’t rush the 250km drive. He stopped regularly to show us points of interest from the local farmers at work to a magnificent Jain Temple at Ranakpur. The Temple is acclaimed worldwide for its intricate stone-work and it is one of the five main Jain pilgrimage sites. It certainly was impressive.

Part of the reason for taking a private hire car was that our destination was not Jodhpur itself, but a hotel called Fort Chanwa Luni, some 40 km south of Jodh-pur. We had included a few nights stay here as our chill out time. The accommodation was quite amazing, a local 100 year old sandstone built fort which was now used as a heritage hotel. It was well presented and although the town of Luni wasn’t large it was a great place to relax.

There was wildlife to spot and on one occasion a huge group of children trooped through the town. Apparently, it was a practice for the Republic Day procession.
We made the 40km trip from Fort Chanwa Luni by Taxi and arrived fresh in Jodhpur, The Blue City.

The Blue City

The Blue City

Things to do in Jodhpur: Take a trip to Mahrangarth Fort and Jaswant Thada.

Rajasthan is well known for its Fortifications and boasts a number of superb hillside Forts. Jodhpur is no exception. You may be thinking that we are developing a Fort fetish on this trip, but each one we have visited has been different, with its own character, and is usually set high above the town offering fantastic views and gives you the opportunity to let yourself drift back in time. This has always been greatly assisted by the Audio tours. I know we keep mentioning them, but we have found, on this trip more than any other, that they help to put things into context. Particularly as our knowledge of Indian history was vague before we departed from the UK.

We again took up the services of a tuk-tuk driver to take us to the fort and Jaswant Thada Cenotaph. This was a cheap but effective way to get around. Unfortunately, it chose this particular time to rain and the water protection on the tuk-tuk left a bit to be desired.

Things to do in Jodhpur: Get out and about in the Markets

Jodhpur was a pleasure to walk around. The senses were being attacked on a regular basis, Aural, Visual and our noses was being constantly barraged by a variety of smells, mostly pleasant.

Whatever you needed or fancied could be found in the Markets of Jodhpur and the people were pleased to talk to you. In fact, one of the things we noticed was that the children and youths, mainly male, frequently asked you to take their picture. It was rather disarming as you couldn’t give them a print – they just wanted to pose.

Oh and Christine couldn’t resist some of the bargains from the market!

After a couple of interesting days in Jodhpur it was time to head back to Delhi for a couple of days before we took our flight home.

Final Stop Delhi

Things to do in Delhi: Visit the Red Fort

Delhi is huge and so, like any city of that size, it is impossible to do anything other than scratch the surface of what is on offer. One of the main attractions is the Red Fort, which I’m afraid, after some of the craggy and imposing fortifications we had seen, was for us a tad disappointing.

The front gate was impressive but leads you to an arcade of tourist shops. Emerging from the arcade the space opens out, but rather than seeing a coherent structure, there was a series of smaller Pavilions which seemed to disappoint after the Entrance Gate.

Don’t get us wrong. It was an impressive site and we wouldn’t have missed it. It’s just not we were expecting.

Things to do in Delhi: Check out the National Gallery of Modern Art

In 1954, in a celebration of India becoming a newly independent nation, the National Gallery of Modern Art was founded.Having visited a number of European Modern Art Galleries we found it refreshing to be presented with work from non-European artists. The exhibits spanned over 150 years of Indian art and was refreshingly different.

A short three-minute walk from the Gallery is the huge India Gate, an impressive War Memorial dedicated to the Indians who died in conflict between 1914 and 1921.

Accommodation and food in Rajasthan

Rather than write about each of the places we stayed at individually, and the food we ate at each, we thought it would be easier to pick some highlights. We were pleasantly surprised by the variety of food on offer and, we must admit, we were surprised just how easy it was for us to get used to eating curry for breakfast.

One tip we would give you (and we are not being offered any incentives to promote this product!) is to take Bimuno Daily. It is a sachet of powder which you put into a morning drink. You start taking it for a while before you depart and then daily whilst away. It appeared to stabilise our stomachs and made travelling a whole lot easier.

The accommodation we used was booked before we departed and was in the mainHaveli’s (large townhouses often built around a courtyard) apart from Delhi where we went for something more modern.

Fort Chanwa Luni’s breakfasts were great and made even better by the waiter bringing a selection of his mother’s daily baked breads in for us to try. The room was well appointed and had a huge bed.

We think it’s only fair, in our blog, to try to give a balanced view of our travels and we were on occasions a little shocked at the surroundings of the hotels. The hotels themselves were great but could do nothing about the view we got from our bedroom windows. However, you soon become accustomed to this being one facet of India that is the norm.

The food we ate was without doubt some of the best we have tasted. There was a huge variety of dishes on offer in each of the places we visited. It was interesting to compare the traditional Indian food which was most commonly found, with the Indian fusion presented to us in Delhi. The Delhi restaurants were very different, with their modern décor and food presentation

The street food in Rajasthan was plentiful and varied but, as with street food around the globe, choose carefully. We had some wonderful snacks from the vendors but were more cautious when looking for the main meal of the day.

Our first foray into India was a magical experience. Exposure to lots of new things to see and do that were so different from home. We think that having been exposed to mainly “western” experiences in our travels that India was very different. It highlighted the cultural differences, but we came away from the experience a richer and more educated couple. Planning is well underway for our next adventure so…

… Where to Next?