Monday, November 26, 2007


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Next stop was Jodhpur, home of the funny shaped trousers (yes the waiters in the restaurants were wearing them. I liked Jodhpur. We had a nice hotel (an old fashioned one in a haveli) with a very nice rooftop restaurant. The fort was also the best we went to, with a great location and interesting tour. To the left is Sarah and the view from out hotel-top restaurant to the fort, in other directions you could see the old square and clocktower and a big pond with some fountains. As you can see the fort looks pretty impressive. We arrived here in the evening and the next day we went to the fort. One thing I found about old fashioned hotels was a propensity to have a very low doorway to the bathroom. I think I may have lost a few papers that way.

We walked the 15 minutes or so to the fort in the sun as our driver said the road up was closed. As we approached the fort there were monkeys, the first time I'd seen them here I think. They were big vicious looking ones that I'd keep well away from. There was an audio guide which was very good (c.f. later one in Jaipur!). It started in a fairly gruesome way: cannonballs marks from sieges, handprints from "sati" (ritual suicide of wives on there husbands funeral pyre) and some guy who volunteered to be interred in the walls to lift a curse. The fort had a very strong and impressive position as was very ornate inside too. The third photo shows the somewhat blue town below.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Camel Safari

After Jaisalmer we went on Camel Safari! We headed of into the Thar desert near the border with Pakistan, in the late afternoon so that the temperature was almost bearable. We were to stay the night in a little hut thing in the desert village. We mounted our camels, whose necks came with a covering of flies. Each was led by a camel boy, who would later jump on the back of the camel behind us. We were also each joined by an auxiliary camel boy who carried a bag of crisps and juice to sell to us once we got into the desert.

Well, as some of you may know, the camel is not a comfortable beast, and a ride on one is not smooth. When we broke into a run it was pure murder on my bum/legs! We set off into the desert near the village, were deposited on some dunes where we could frolic and watch the sunset, where Sarah kindly bought the boys all a drink, then we got back on the camels and headed back. The camel boys were cute, especially Sarah's one who seemed a few camels short of a caravan. His life's ambition was to be a camel man, "he likes his camel too much" said one of the other kids. The juice selling boys were of a higher caste and better schooled, with greater ambitions than camel husbandry. Sarah's camels name was bubalu, mine was more unpronounceable.

After we returned to the camp to be entertained by our driver. By this time we were finding him tiresome and untrustworthy (especially Sarah). He was very friendly in a desperate for a tip and someone to drink with kind of way, but his protestations of undying friendship seemed weird considering he never asked anything about us. Sarah on the other hand had extracted lots of information about him, his wife and his girlfriend. At the start of the trip Sarah had thought of booking more trips with him in the future, but that goodwill was lost. His bizarre sexist punchlineless anti-muslim jokes didn't help him much. (Having seen cartoons in the Indian newspapers, I don't think the standard of Indian jokes is up to much. Maybe I'll ask someone here at the institute for some.)


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The evening after seeing Bikaner fort we arrived in Jaisalmer. This is the golden one (with Johdpur being blue, and Jaipur pink). We arrived in the evening in time to drive out to see the town at sunset from a viewpoint (see photo). Our hotel was very fancy on the outskirts of town, but had just been built and there seemed no other guests. I went for a swim in the pool, and when Sarah went for one later on I accompanied her to keep watch. This meant the six or so young waiters who were standing doing nothing in the restaurant stood looking the other way while stealing the occasional furtive glance across. The next day we had a local guide who showed us the old town: many people still live inside the fort among the narrow streets. He was very informative and we learned how to tell married from unmarried, Hindu from Muslim, and various castes apart by their dress. One of the highlights is the Jain temples in the old fort (see photo).

The old town itself is very dirty with open sewers and wild cows and dogs wandering everywhere: I found the smell overwhelming at points. There were also more havelis, in a less painted, more carved style, some close encounters with bats... and the obligatory uncomfortable trip to the carpet shop of the guide/drivers childhood friend/relative.


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First thing we did from Bikaner was go to the Karne Mata rat temple. As may or may not be immediately obvious, this temple was full of rats, holy rats, worshipped by the locals. Apparently there also dwells there a white rat, a sighting of which will bring you amazing good fortune. Unfortunately, it didn't show it's face, but given the amount of rat poo everywhere (you had to take your shoes off to go in!)
it might have been hard to tell it from the others. It's lucky if the rats run over your feet, and apparently it's also lucky to take some of the food that has been offered and now has rat salica on it. We did not partake. Anyway, here are some photos of rats in the temple. The rat temple was also the first time we experienced indians asking to take our photo. They came up and asked if they could take one and whipped out their camera phone. Not what we expected, but this was off the main Rahastahn tourist route. This was a taster of what we would experience later, especially Sarah!

After that we went to Bikaner fort. This was essentially to see the inside on a guided tour. The guide did his best to flatter/impress/pick-on me as he for some reason thought I was a good bet for a tip. Here's a photo of one of the lavish rooms we got to see, along with various deadly weapons and an old fashioned bi-plane indoors.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Havelis of Fatehpur

Next day set off early for a long days driving with a stop in the Shekhawati area to see the Havelis in Fatehpur. The Havelis are richly decorated homes belonging to rich merchants based around two internal courtyards, one public one private. They seem mostly in disrepair now, with theowners living in the big cities and leaving local families living in them as guardians.

The first photo here is Sarah in front of some paintings of elephants inside one of the Havelis. The second photo which is on the right is of a rather skelly looking goddess. Walking through an small Indian town like this you are surrounded by stray dogs, meandering cows (which are of course holy to Hindus and are better looked after) and the odd pig rolling in the rubbish. When you're in a city the difference there are no pigs.

In the third photo you can see the British in the carriage enjoying a tipple. The fourth photo bellow is me infront of a haveli which a has iron railings with an image of Victoria.

After our trip through Fatehpur, where we visited 3 or 4 havelis, including going up to the roof. To got back in the bar to go to Bikaner. We arrived in the evening to our rather posh hotel full of germans where I had a swim in the pool. We went out to dinner that evening with our driver, who we were on friendlier terms at this time than we would end up! I was enjoying all the curry, but Sarah was a bit restricted by her bland tastes!


So what happened in Delhi? Well we decided to sign up for a tour of Rajistan with a driver, this would allow us to see much more, get acclimatised and have a bit more of a holiday to start off with. It would also allow us to spend much more money! As part of the deal, which we made with Rahim , who was attached to the hostel "Ringo" we got our driver, Raj, to drive us around Delhi for a couple of days.

The first image here is the India gate which we saw on the first day. Not much to say about that other than it's a big gate with the names of war dead on it. Here we had one of our first experiences of hassle when some teachers gave us little paper flag and then demanded money for there school in return. Unfortunately you have to learn to ignore/refuse everyone who approaches you.

Later that day we went to the Gandhi museum in a house where he used to live, in fact the house where he was assassinated. These footprints are meant to trace out his last walk.

Also that day we went to Hanyuman's tomb. The first photo here is from one of the lesser tombs outside the main tomb of the man himself. Then there is Sarah outside the main tomb, which is made of white marble and red sandstone. On this day we also visited a big Hindu temple, which I found quite a lively place compared to most religious buildings still in use. It was also just after a bit of a downpour so it was fun to walk on the wet stone. It was built in very tasteful red and yellow stone with some carved animals. No photos allowed though!

On out second day in Delhi we first headed North to the old town. Here was the central mosque. We had to take a cycle rickshaw and then walk due to the narrow streets. The area we walked through pretty unpleasant really, but we found our way in and climbed the minaret tower for great views over a foggy and chaotic Delhi (see the photo which was taken towards the Red Fort). Women were not allowed up the tower on there own, so I gallantly accompanied Sarah up. Then we would have gone to the fort itself, but apparently it was closed for miliary reasons. We approached the front to take a photo or two, and it didn't really look as impressive as the forts we saw later in Rajistan. We were the taken by our driver for an obligatory trip to the government tourist shop. Some nice craftwork, but not particularly cheap and not what we're here to see! Next up was another Gandhi museum, again in a building where he'd lived. We then went to the lotus temple, built by the Bahai faith, a fairly wishy-washy religion which seeks to unify all religions and invites anyone to worship there. I found it a bit dull and uninspiring inside, but Sarah liked it!

Finally that afternoon we were dropped at the National Museum. Which had a lot of good stuff, and pretty informative audiotour. Some of the early harappan statues were the best bit for me. In the evening we went for a wander into the centre of Connaught place. This is a Raj era area in which we were staying, with seven streets radiating out from a central plaza with various rings along the way. This is a pretty posh prt of town, with expensive sports shops in the centre where the customers must have their bags searched by security on the way in or out so they don't steal the latest Nikes. Then back to Ringo prepare for heading off to Rajistan early the next day.