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dgunbug Oct 16th, 2011 11:28 AM

June & Mike's 24 Day Adventure in India
 
While this report was actually started just prior to leaving for India, under the heading "Off to India", I did not tag it as a trip report. Additionally, the original report skipped around a bit, so, in an effort to make this report more readable, I will begin again...at the beginning. I am grateful for those who contributed past trip reports and to those who answered my many questions. Your help was most appreciated and instrumental in making our trip run very smoothly. With a bit of planning, India is actually an easy country to travel through and can easily be done independently.

We had 27 days to travel and would spend 24 of those days on land in India actually touring. We decided to save Delhi for the end of the trip for two reasons; we had heard that Delhi was highly polluted and were concerned about my husband's asthma, and we thought it reasonable to just stay at the airport as our flight to Udiapur left at 5:40 AM.
We knew that traveling in September would be hot and were concerned that it was the tail end of monsoon season. Unfortunately, this was the only time that we were able to travel, so we decided to deal with the circumstances. The weather proved to be exceptionally hot, but we never saw a drop of rain.

The following was our itinerary:

Sept 14 – Lv Fort Lauderdale 2:05 p.m.
Sept 15 (thursday) —arrive Delhi 10:35 p.m – night in airport hotel
16- (friday) fly to Udiapur 5:40 AM (Air India) from terminal 3 – Day/night udiapur
17 –(saturday) Udiapur – day/night in udiapur – Jagat Nivas – PICK UP FROM HOTEL AT AIRPORT
18 – (sunday) Udiapur – day/night in udiapur
CASTLE & KINGS – 7:30 am PICKUP – 1 day drive to Jodhpur
19 -(monday) – Early departure from Udiapur - drive to Jodhpur –night in Jodphur
(Stop along the way at Kumbalgarh Fort & Ranakpur) – Vivanta by Taj – Hari Mahal
20 – (tuesday) Jodhpur – day/night in Jodhpur
21 (wednesday) Jodhpur – day/night in jodhpur
22 – (thursday) to Jaisalmer – Train departs 6:10 AM – Arrives 11:45 (5:35 hrs) – 1st class A/C Gateway Hotel Rawalkot (Confirm #54197018) - Taj
23 – (friday) Jaisalmer – day/night in Jaisalmer
24 – (saturday) Jaisalmer – day/night in Jaisalmer
25– (sunday) Jaisalmer to Jaipur – (sleeper lv 16:20 – arr 4:50)
26 – (monday) Jaipur (arrive 4:50) - Country Inn & Suites
27 – (tuesday) Jaipur
CASTLE & KINGS - PICK UP AT JAIPUR TILL FLIGHT TO VARANASI
28 – (wednesday) 6:45 AM departure from Jaipur by car to Agra – [235 km] – tour Shand Baoli in the village of Abhaneri to see the step well, Galta Kund (monkey temple) & Fatehpur Sikri along way. evening sunset from across river–Taj Gateway Hotel
29 (thursday) Agra - Taj at sunrise – Red Fort, CAR To Gwalior –
30 – (friday) Gwalior overnight - Usha Kiran Palace Gwalior (Taj)
1- ( Saturday) to Orchha (stopping at Datia and Sonagiri on way) – overnight
Bundelkhand Riverside Hotel
2- (Sunday) Orchha – overnight
3 – Monday) – To Khajuraho – Chandela Hotel (Taj)
4 – (Tuesday) Khajuraho – fly out 13:25 - Arrives 14:15 to Varanasi –
Rasmi Guest House - pick up at airport included
5 - (Weds) – Varanasi
6 – (Thurs)– Varanasi
7– (Fri) Varanasi - Fly 11:50 AM – to Delhi– Kingfisher Wood Castle Hotel
8 – (Sat) Delhi
9 – (Sunday) Delhi – tour until 8-9 p.m. – go to airport
10 – (Monday) - Lv Delhi 12:50 a.m. – arrive FL 5:00 p.m.

As I reported initially in "Off to India", we had a few snags with the airline seating. Air France and Delta reassigned our window and isle seats to two middle seats, only one day prior to the trip. We were seated in separate rows, no where near one another. After a great deal of arguing with the airlines, our seats were reassigned so that we were together again. The flights were uneventful, with one exception - Sometime during the night, I dropped my eye glasses and stepped on them. Thankfully the glasses were only bent and I was able to get them repaired once we arrived in Udaipur.

dgunbug Oct 16th, 2011 11:42 AM

We arrived and cleared customs easily around 11 pm. We intended to sleep in the Delhi airport hotel but discovered that it had not yet opened. An alternative was to rent a sleeping pod, but we discovered that they were all pre-booked. There is what looked like a quiet lounge area just outside the sleeping pod rooms and one can pay approximately $20 for 2 hours of rest which included a small snack and wi-fi service. The wi-fi service did not work and the lounge was less than quiet. If you want a massage, you can get one there. We headed up stairs and found the seating to be more comfortable. The Delhi airport was quite nice with gift shops and a nice food court. It was very clean with modern toilets. We understand it is a big improvement over the old airport.

dgunbug Oct 16th, 2011 11:47 AM

We flew Air India flight to Udaipur, departing at 5:40 am and arriving timely at 7:30. We had pre-arranged for a hotel pickup and were pleased to see a driver from the Jagat Niwas hotel waiting as we exited the terminal. We knew what to expect on the roads, but it gave us a certain thrill to actually pass by an elephant, several camel driven carts, goats, dogs, pigs, sheep, and numerous cows, in only the first few moments as we made our way into Udiapur. The level of poverty, the dilapidated housing and road conditions were all stunning. We were thrilled to have finally arrived and anxious to begin our adventure.

Craig Oct 16th, 2011 12:29 PM

Okay, now let's get down to the new part of your report. You know we are all chomping at the bit. And the rhkkmk's are leaving shortly and need to have as much info as they can for their one month (2nd) tour of India.

Kathie Oct 16th, 2011 12:46 PM

Oh, good! I've been looking forward to your report.

thursdaysd Oct 16th, 2011 12:54 PM

Bookmarking

dogster Oct 16th, 2011 01:22 PM

Slowly, slowly catchee monkey... don't let anyone, even the esteemed Craig, rush you.

dgunbug Oct 16th, 2011 03:56 PM

Oh esteemed one, more is on the way. Patience please...I've just gotten over Delhi Belly.

So...upon our arrival at the Jagat Nivas Hotel we were given juice, which we hesitated to take as we feared that water was added, but we were reassured that all was well and the juice was from a can. We were quickly checked in and went up to the rooftop for a quick breakfast of a massala omelet, juice, toast and massala tea. The view from the rooftop is spectacular and the setting so serene. The service was very good and the room, while basic was comfortable and had a nice sitting alcove. We did not pay extra for the room with a view, but truthfully, we rarely spent time in the room and it was not something that we missed as we enjoyed the view from the rooftop. We picked this hotel/haveli after many recommendations on Fodors and on Trip advisor and we were quite pleased with the location and hotel. It is situated right on the bank of Lake Pichola and provides an excellent view of all the Palaces of Udaipur i.e. City Palace, Lake Palace, Monsoon Palace. There is no wi-fi in the hotel, but right next door is a Travel Agency/Internet center. We did use the services of the travel agency and were quite pleased with them. More on that later.

We were off and running as soon as we finished breakfast and freshened up (all of about 5 minutes) - we were too anxious to linger in the room to rest. We like to begin our journey by simply wandering the streets and as it was still early, we strolled through the town, into the market area heading toward the bell tower.

India (as far as what we saw) is not a beautiful country but can be described more as chaotic. The streets of Udaipur, as well as other cities we visited are filled with people, cows, carts drawn by mule, horse, camel, or manpower. Woman and men commonly pass by with heavy loads upon their heads. Fruits, vegetables, and grains are layed out upon the streets for sale. Vendors cook and sell their food on carts or stalls set out on the street. Most are deep fried and seemed to be buzzing with flies. Many men wear colorful turbans and the woman are adorned in beautiful saris. India is a photographer's dream. The streets are dusty and filthy and littered with cow dung, necessitating great care in ones footing. The store fronts and houses are in poor condition and often look half built, if that. Unsightly electrical wires are everywhere. It is not uncommon to see men urinating out in the open whenever they have the urge. I often wondered what the woman do.

The people were as interested in us as we were in them. Many of the children wanted their photos taken, but it was disheartening when we realized that often their request for a photo was followed by a request for rupees. It was saddest to see young woman with their babies begging for money and food. I tried to hand out bananas at times, but it is impossible to feed and give to all the beggars and of course it only encourages more begging.

After wandering the streets for a while, we headed toward the City Palace, stopping along the way at the Jagdish Temple. This Hindu Temple is well worth a visit. There is no fee and the carvings are quite intricate.

The City Palace Complex is the largest Palace complex in Rajastan and we were anxious to tour it. DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE WE MADE: Despite having read how good the audio guides are, we were convinced by a guide to use his services. It turned out that we had difficulty understanding him at times. I did use the audio guide for part of the complex and was extremely pleased with the quality and information. We found this to be true throughout India - the audio guides were terrific.

We were told that the Museum is the jewel in the crown of the Udaipur City Palace Complex. It is here that you can immerse yourself in the history of the Maharanas of Mewar, and really get a feel for their culture and how royalty lived. The Museum comprises both the Mardana Mahal (King's Palace) and Zenana Mahal (Queen's Palace), which make up the City Palace. Constructed over four and a half centuries, starting in 1559, the Museum is the oldest and largest part of the City Palace Complex. The architecture is the main highlight and it was a bit disappointing that the furnishings no longer exist.

Sitting opposite the Museum, and requiring a separate ticket, is the Fateh Prakash Palace hotel with the Durbar Hall, once used for royal audiences. It now serves as a venue for banquets and special functions. Overlooking the Durbar Hall is the Crystal Gallery which should not be missed. It is purportedly the largest private collection of crystal in the world. Amongst them is a crystal footrest, and the only crystal bed in the world. It is truly amazing.

After touring the Palace complex, we decided to take the boat tour on Lake Pichola, which included a stop at The Jag Mandir Palace which is adorned on the outside with elephant carvings. The boat ride was pleasant and gave us an opportunity to look back upon the City Palace Complex and to appreciate its grandeur. It was a great way to cool off after a long and tiring day.

By this time we had had it and we returned to our hotel to relax and freshen up before dinner time, which we had decided to do at our hotel.

We made our way up to the rooftop to enjoy the end of the day and to have our first wonderful Indian meal. The butter chicken was delicious as was the Paneer dish and cheese and garlic naan that we shared. As the sun set our wait staff pointed out the monkeys scampering on our hotel's roof. This was a great way to end a perfect first day. We were exhausted, but ready to get up early to set out on new adventures the next morning with a guide we had lined up through the hotel.

rhkkmk Oct 16th, 2011 08:54 PM

fantastic.... glad to read this portion because other than info from craig i have not read any first hand info on udaipur.. we will be there in a few weeks for 3 days..

before i retire tonight to my crystal bed (the only other one in the world), i wanted to say that i look forward to your other installments, espcially the one on varanasi.. thanks

gmoz Oct 17th, 2011 12:28 AM

This is probably a dumb qjestion but where do you get the audio guides? Are the guides on the internet or provided at each site (possibly like the ones we had on a tour of Alcatraz)
Thanks for any info.

dgunbug Oct 17th, 2011 04:23 AM

Audio guides are available at most major sites in India and can be rented when you purchase your entry ticket.

gmoz Oct 17th, 2011 04:33 AM

Thank you. Looking forward to the rest of your report.

kmkrnn Oct 17th, 2011 05:54 AM

More please! I had to go unpack my cheat sheet of notes , and added to it from your report, esp the audio guide.

dgunbug Oct 17th, 2011 06:23 AM

Glad to hear you are finding this helpful...it gives me more of an incentive to complete the report. Will post more later today.

sf7307 Oct 17th, 2011 11:04 AM

dgunbug, another great start - I'm just going to follow you around the world!

crosscheck Oct 17th, 2011 05:31 PM

Hi dgunbug, How was the weather in Udaipur? We're thinking of going next year at the same time, but the guidebooks all say it is not the ideal time because of monsoons, heat, humidity, mosquitoes, etc.

dgunbug Oct 17th, 2011 06:36 PM

sf7307 - thanks for the encouragement. Where should we go next?

Day 2 - Udiapur: Just outside the entrance to the Jagat Nivas is a travel agency/internet center. I thought I saved the name of the driver/guide we used, but can't find his card. I believe the young man is a partner in this company and his English and personality were excellent. He can arrange to take you around by car or by tuk tuk, depending upon how far you will be going and on how you prefer to travel. We used his services for two days. On the first, his Uncle, a very pleasant gentlemen, took us out on a tuk tuk
as we indicated that it was our preferred means of transportation.

We first stopped at the Cenotaphs located just outside the city. These are burial memorials for the royal families and they were quite impressive. We thoroughly enjoyed wandering through the area and it was a great photo opportunity. I highly recommend this stop.

Our next stop was to Sahelion-Ki-Bari, the Garden of the Maidens. This garden, with extensive lawns and shady walks is situated on the banks of the Fateh Sagar Lake and was constructed in 18th century by Maharana Sangram Singh for forty-eight young ladies-in-waiting sent to the royal house, as part of the dowry as a cool summer retreat for them. It is purported to be one of the finest examples of Hindu landscape gardening and is a favorite picnic spot of the city, however, we were unimpressed and could easily have given this stop a pass. Perhaps during another time of year this garden is more impressive.

One word of advise: The toilets there are communal squat toilets. I will admit that I locked the door when presented with three squat toilets and no privacy barriers between them. I quickly took care of my business and sheepishly exited the premises as an Indian woman was banging on the door, bewildered why I would have locked it. This was one of the rare instances where I did not find a Western style toilet.

Our next stop was to an art exhibit of miniature paintings, for which Udaipur is famous. They were truly beautiful, but my husband is not one for shopping and we stayed only briefly while the artist showed us the art of making such paintings.

We drove past Fateh Sager Lake, one of Udaipur's man made lakes, where we could have taken a boat ride, but we passed on the opportunity. Note that in the center of the lake is the Naroot Park with an Observatory. As we intended to see the Jantar Mantar Observatory in Jaipur, we saw no need to visit this one.

We continued on through the lush and pleasant countryside to the very pretty Tiger Lake which has a boardwalk to stroll upon. The walkway is lined with gazebo like structures. What was most interesting was that we were accompanied by cows also strolling the boardwalk. It was also interesting to note how high the water level was, as evidenced by one of the gazebos fully underwater. This was obviously a good monsoon rain season as we also discovered later in Varanasi where a large portion of the ghats were also underwater.

Upon our return to town, our driver dropped us off at the vegetable market where we decided to wander. En route to the hotel, we encountered tribal dancers celebrating on the streets. It was not clear to us what they were celebrating but this group of people were colorfully adorned with painted faces and bright tribal clothing. It was all entertaining for us and for the local folks who were gathered around to watch them.

We made our way back to the hotel for a shower and nap prior to dinner. Shortly before sunset, we were picked up by car (by the same agency) and taken to the Monsoon Palace. One drives through a game reserve to get to this palace which was used in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy as the residence of Kamal Khan, an exiled Afghan prince. It offers a panoramic view of the Udiapur's lakes, palaces and surrounding countryside. Unfortunately, the skies were cloudy so a nice sunset was not in our cards. We proceeded back to town where we were dropped off at Ambrais, a restaurant that had been recommended by several people. This restaurant is on the opposite bank of the river from our hotel and the main town. It has a beautiful view of the City Palace and of the Lake Palace Hotel. We enjoyed our dinner and the ambiance, although we thought that the meal at the Jagat Nivas was better.

Day 3 - Udiapur: At 10 AM we were picked up by our driver (the young man) to take us to the magnificant Jain Temple "Shri Eklingji Prabhu Temple" in Egleton. It's located around 20 kilometers from Udaipur so we took an auto this time. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple complex is made completely out of marble. It also contains large colorfully painted statues of Lord Shiva’s Nandi Bull. The original shrine was built by Bapa Rawal, the founder of the Mewar Dynasty.

Nearby, and also worth seeing, are the ancient 10th century Sas Bahu temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temples are covered in intricate sculptures and were in the process of being spruced up (some scaffolding) when we were there.

We returned several hours later to the hotel to relax before going out again to tour the Bagore Ki Haveli and then to watch the recommended folk dance performance which is held there nightly - Rajasthan dancers, puppet shows and music. Our notes indicated that the Haveli was open between 10-7 pm, after which there was the evening performance. We arrived at 6 pm expecting to tour the Haveli prior to the show, but discovered that the Haveli closes for tours at 5 pm. We were somewhat disappointed as we had saved this for our last evening. This Haveli is only a short walk from our hotel and is supposed to be well worth visiting. The show was entertaining, but similar to other puppetry and dance performances that we were to see later in the trip.

Afterward, we returned to the room to retire for the evening as we were being picked up at 7:30 am by Castle & King for our drive to Jodphur.

dgunbug Oct 17th, 2011 06:39 PM

Crosscheck - the weather in India is definitely hot this time of year, however, we did not have one day of rain and hardly saw a mosquito the entire time. I would presume that November through February would be a better time to travel, however, sometimes you just have to take what you can get. This was the only time we could travel this year.

greycat92 Oct 18th, 2011 04:21 AM

I just returned from a similar trip to India (Mubai-Aurangabad-Udaipur-Jodhpur-Jaisalmer-Agra-Varanasi-Dharamsala-Delhi). We also stayed for two nights in Udaipur and dined at Jagat Niwas about a week after you. I must agree that it is the best restaurant around and has an amazing view! However, I must beg to differ regarding the mosquitoes - perhaps you are not as tasty as I, but I had serious problems with mosquitoes while traveling through Rajasthan and wore DEET all the time. But then again I am always the one who attracts them at home too.

In Udaipur, we made the mistake of staying at a cheaper haveli nearby called Mewar Haveli. I wish we had stayed at Jagat Niwas. The rooms there were amazing! Instead we had a much smaller room, minor bloodstains on the sheets (but no apparent bugs), and a tiny bathroom with the shower in the middle.

Also, we did in fact have a very good experience with the guide that we hired outside the City Palace - we were hesitant but he turned out to be excellent. I agree that it is a crapshoot, though, and the audio guides we tried at other places were all good enough that I don't think you ever NEED to hire a guide anywhere.

One additional note - for those who are planning a trip to Udaipur, we can recommend Cafe Namaste for breakfast. The power goes out in the city for a while every morning but you can get a wonderfully strong coffee and pastry at Cafe Namaste around 9 or 10 am. We enjoyed a fresh cinnamon bun and muffin there that were a welcome respite from the usual toast and eggs at all our hotels.

dgunbug Oct 18th, 2011 05:22 AM

After a great deal of debate, we hired Castle and King to provide transportation between Udaipur and Jodphur and then later between Jaipur and Khajuharo. Arvind, the company owner is a real gentlemen, his drivers were all extremely competent and we felt safe with them at all times. We were shocked that Castle & King did not require a deposit up front and we agreed to meet with Arvind at the end of our trip when we returned to Delhi in order to pay him. Upon meeting Arvind at our hotel, he advised us that he had a driver available and offered us his services complimentary for our first day in Delhi. When my husband met with the unfortunate incident of being pick-pocketed at the Lotus Temple, Arvind emailed us and kindly offered us assistance and even money if such was needed.

We had arranged for an early pickup at 7:30 from the hotel in Udaipur and the driver met us timely. We were a bit disappointed that his English was not better, but he was able to understand us and was helpful at all times. This driver was only used for the day and had been arranged last moment.

After being picked up, we made our way a few hours North to
Kumbhalgarh Fort. This fort was very impressive, having the second longest wall in the world, the first being in China. It is so wide in places that eight horses can stand abreast on it. We had read that the wall encompassed 360 temples and many palaces and gardens. It was built in the 15th century and is up 1100m high so the views of the area are amazing. The climb up to the top was worth it and not too difficult. The day was very cloudy and at times obscured our view, however, it also added to the magical atmosphere of the place. We visited the temples first and were impressed with their intricate carvings.

There is a light show at night at the Fort and several people suggested staying overnight here before going to Udaipur, but we were anxious to get to Ranakpur and proceed. We were glad with our decision.

The Jain Temple at Ranakpur is a couple of hours further. The temple is still used and Non Jains can only come after 12 noon. The temple was constructed in 1439 and made of milk white marble that is almost iridescent. The carvings are amazing and so intricate. The incredible C15th Jain temple at Janakpur is one of India's most significant religious buildings. Built of beautifully carved marble over 1,400 pillars (the precise number is claimed to be uncountable) support the building. We wished we had longer to linger as the marble changed color, depending on the angle of the sun. It was difficult to capture the beauty of this Temple by camera.

At the recommendation of another Fodorite, we stopped for lunch at Hotel Maharani Bagh not far from Ranakpur. The grounds were beautiful and we were taken to an outdoor dining area. We had expected a buffet lunch, but lunch was only off a menu. Lunch was fair and evidently safe to eat as we suffered no ill effects.

We continued several hours further arriving in Jodphur at approximately 5 pm. While we enjoyed passing through the small villages on the way, the road conditions were terrible and the drive seemed endless. We arrived at our hotel at approximately 5 pm and were very pleased that we would be staying at the beautiful Vivanta by Taj - Hari Mahal for the next two nights. This was to be one of the nicest Taj hotels that we stayed at. We were exhausted and decided to rest and do dinner at the hotel. The dinner was buffet style and probably the best we had during our journey, however, there was not any one item that stood out as being particularly wonderful. Nevertheless we were happy to dine here and enjoyed the Indian live music played as we ate.

dgunbug Oct 18th, 2011 05:32 AM

Greycat92 - how funny about those mosquitoes! Did you get to tour the Bagore Ki Haveli? If so, how was it?

Marija Oct 18th, 2011 05:35 AM

I'm enjoying reading about your trip. Did the Vivanta (previously just the Taj Hari-Mahal) still feature outdoor entertainment before dinner? We saw a very elaborate free program of dances, songs and a puppet show. The exclusively Indian audience (except for the two us) even joined the dancers. Do tell us more about the pick-pocketing episode. Looks like India is catching up.

dgunbug Oct 18th, 2011 05:40 AM

My husband informed me that the Kumbhalgarh Fort is now ranked 3rd longest, followed by the Gorgan Great Wall in northern Iran's Golestan Province.

kmkrnn Oct 18th, 2011 06:07 AM

Still reading...will have to catch the rest from the road. We are off on our journey.

rhkkmk Oct 18th, 2011 06:11 AM

off to bkk, will pick up the tale from there...

dgunbug Oct 18th, 2011 06:13 AM

Enjoy your journey.

shelleyk Oct 18th, 2011 06:47 AM

I'm enjoying reading your TR and am looking forward to more.
Although we were in northern India for 15 days several years ago, we did not go any farther west than Jaipur, so I am particularly interested in the cities you visited at the beginning of your trip. When we return to India, it will be to do the southern route, possibly with some stops up north on the way home, depending on time. As you know, travel in India can be very intense, and I am not sure if DH could enjoy/tolerate it for more than 3 weeks per trip.

dgunbug Oct 18th, 2011 10:20 AM

Marija - the Vivanta still has its entertainment outside and also a barbeque, however, it was way too hot for us and we decided to stay indoors. More on the pickpocketing later. Now you'll have to stay tuned!

Shelleyk - it's always encouraging to hear that someone is enjoying the trip report.

Bob & Karen - I'm trying to get this done before you get to India.

Just reviewed my pictures of the Kumbhalgarh Fort. I should add that the palace itself (up on top of the fort) is not all that impressive, but you've got to go to the top for the view anyway. There were a few elephant murals, but not a lot more up there. What was interesting was the fact that there exists a small village within the fort grounds and we wandered through it on our way from the temples.

Jodphur:
Once a major trade center of the 16th century A.D. it is now the second largest city of Rajasthan. While the graceful palaces, forts and temples strewn throughout the city bring alive the historic grandeur, exquisite handicrafts, folk dances music and the brightly attired people lend a romantic aura to the city. The jumble of wide winding streets are flanked with pavement stalls. It is also referred as the Blue City due to the indigo tinge of the whitewashed houses around the Mehrangarh Fort. We began our day by heading to the Fort via Tuk Tuk.

The Mehrangarh Fort is one of the largest forts in India and it looms on the top of a rocky hill, rising 125 meters above the plains. This was our favorite forts in Rajastan and the audio guide was well worth the money. We probably spent 4-5 hours at this fort/palace complex. DO NOT pay to take the elevator up to the top unless you are physically unable to walk. If you do so, you will miss many of the stops on the audio guide. We paid for the elevator but decided against taking it and were glad that we did.

Today, managed as a museum by the royal trust that maintains it, only some of the more spectacular palaces of Meharangarh are open to the visitors. We found this complex to be one of the best maintained on our trip. The palaces consist of Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace) with its pierced screen windows overlooking the Sringar Chowki, the coronation seat where the Rathore ruler have been ritually anointed to rule; Jhanki Mahal, the apartment from where the zenana women would watch ceremonial events; Chandan Mahal, where affairs of state were discussed; the royal Darbar Takhat or throne room with its octagnal throne; and the Rang Mahal where the maharaja would play Holi with his Zenana. Also noteworthy are Sheesh Mahal, Phool Mahal, Umaid Vilas and Maan Vilas, while a large tent seized from the mughals in battle is spread for viewing in what has come to be referred to as the Tent Room. The Umaid Vilas displays the Rajput miniature paintings and the Ajit Villas exhibits musical instruments and the royal costumes. Both these villas are joined by a beautiful mirror room.

Just a short tuk tuk drive from the fort and well worth a short stop, is Jaswant Thada. It is the traditional cremation ground of the rulers of Jodhpur. Taking pride of place amongst the ornamental gardens and chattris is the fabulous white marble memorial to Jaswant Singh II, built in 1899. This is also a good spot to look back upon the Fort and to take pictures.

Our tuk tuk continued on into the market area of town, dropping us off at the bell tower where we spent several hours taking in the colors and sights. Many people say there is not much in Jodphur, but I thoroughly enjoyed our time at the fort and in the town. The market reminded me of a large flea market - but one with cows, horses, camels, textiles (shawls), cooked foods, produce, etc. We wandered until thoroughly exhausted from the heat before retiring to our hotel.

By the way...any cravings you may have to eat beef will instantly disappear when you see the trash that the holy cows eat off the street. It is truly disgusting.

Unfortunately, this was the one city where my husband's asthma began to flare up. We found Jodphur to be extremely smokey and a bit dirty. We would have enjoyed spending time out by the very pretty hotel pool, but did not as the smoke was overwhelming and there was no shaded areas to sit in after getting out of the pool. We showered and napped for several hours and decided to be lazy, having dinner at the hotel.

hawaiiantraveler Oct 18th, 2011 10:32 AM

Great report! Bookmarking for information.

Aloha!

julies Oct 18th, 2011 01:04 PM

Do all of you who've been to India agree with what ShelleyK has to say about 3 weeks max being about all that people can bear of being in India in one trip? I'm into trip dreaming and planning for India. Even though normally we are ready to go home after trips of about 2 1/2 weeks, the more I read about India with al of the things to do, the more I am inclined to think we should try for 4 to 6 weeks if possible because I suspect we might never have a chance to return. But, we wouldn't spend all of our time on the main tourist path sightseeing either. We'd balance that out with some different things to do.

thursdaysd Oct 18th, 2011 01:24 PM

The first time I was there for ten weeks. The second time I cut it to six. I'm thinking four next time...

Craig Oct 18th, 2011 02:25 PM

Seems that fort in Jodhpur was really worth a visit...

julies - I think India is to be savored in small doses - for us 2 weeks + travel time has worked well. Although not being retired and being from the USA, we could never do a longer trip anyway. Another (retired) poster on this forum and his spouse, rhkkmk and Karen are going for 4 weeks (their 2nd trip to India) - you should follow their report to see how they make out.

dgunbug Oct 18th, 2011 02:26 PM

I don't think you need to limit your time to 3 weeks although I would probably suggest trying to mix up the areas that you go to. We got a bit forted and temples out and they started to blend together somewhat.

If we'd have had more time we would have loved to spend some tome in the south and also in amistrar and that region.

julies Oct 18th, 2011 02:51 PM

Normally the max we have for a trip is 2 to 2 1/2 weeks, but there are some exceptional circumstances this time around which might allow us the flexibility to have more time. I'm also looking at some wildly different things to do and see like a journey into some of the tribal areas of the north east or a cycling trip in Kerala or some trekking in some of the hill stations or maybe a trip to a national park to see the wildlife. I know exactly what dgunbug means about being forted and templed out. We've experienced church overload in Europe many times and have come to realize that what most remains in our memories are different types of experiences on vacations rather than running around to see all of the most-hyped sights.

I have one more question that I don't know if anyone will be able to answer. Our travel style in recent years has been much more of the slow travel mode, and we make it a point to rent an apartment or house for any stay of 3 or more nights because we just like the room to relax and spread out. We are moderate range travelers who don't need any of the amenities that hotels have to offer and much prefer the independence and space an apartment offers. In addition to Europe and the US, we've done this in other developing countries. But, it just doesn't seem this is at all the travel style in India. Correct?

dgunbug Oct 18th, 2011 05:01 PM

Day 2 Jodphur: After reading Bostongirl's account of her visit to the Bishnoi Village, a day trip out of Jodphur, we thought we would do the same and so we made arrangements through our hotel to visit the area with the hotel's driver. Our understanding was that the Bishnoi people are a 450 year old tribe of environmentalists who live in harmony with nature with no electricity or refrigeration other than ancient clay coolers.

One traveler had said that this was “one of the best experiences of our trip. We had arranged for a daytrip to the Bishnoi area independently. We started out at 6 am. Went with Gemar Bhati. He is an independent guide, who believes strongly in sustainable tourism and comes from the area himself, but lives in Jodhpur. He speaks excellent English and has a tourism degree. He managed to take us to visit two families in a very nice way, which didn't make us feel like we were intruding, as their lives were not made into a zoo or worse. They were the kind of visits where the children are interested in you for a few minutes, and then go back to playing, and are not paraded for photos. I found his way very respectful. His contact details are as follows:”
Gemar Singh, Hacra India - E-mail: [email protected]; Tel. (91) 02922 27 23 13
Mobile- (91) 09460 58 51 54; (91) 09829 61 45 43; Website: www.hacra.org

Well...we seemed to miss the boat as we did not make our arrangements through Mr.Signh. I cannot personally say how the day with Mr. Signh would have been, but I can say that ours was totally worthless.

We were first taken to a local potters home where he demonstrated the art of pottery making on a potters wheel. Of course we were expected to look around and buy something. We were less than pleased. Then we were taken to a second home where carpets were woven...we were given a demonstration for which we tried to be polite and again the sales pitch. We continued down a rather poorly paved road and turned off onto a dirt roadway where we finally arrived at the home of a bishnoi villager. We were introduced to the husband who spoke no English. We sat while he demonstrated the "opium" tea ceremony which was rather suspect, then were invited to wander around to look at this village home. The tour was uninspiring and we left knowing no more about the Bishnoi people than we had known before. On the return trip we were taken to a lake to see local wildlife, but saw far fewer birds than we see at home.

Upon our return to Jodphur we decided to visit the Umaid Mahal Museum. This was also less than inspirational.
The view from the outside is more than adequate unless you are interested in seeing a model of the facility and photos of the men who built it in the 1920's. While the outside architecture (and the hotel side) is impressive, the museum is poorly laid out and contains few artifacts of interest. Most of the palace is closed off to the public for use as a high end hotel. We considered having lunch there in order to see the palace/hotel, however, the cost of entry onto the grounds is 2000 rupee each and we didn't consider it worthwhile. The cost of the entry would have been applied to our meal, but when looking at the menu, we didn't see any reason to pay such steep prices.

While the fort and town are reason enough to spend a day in Jodphur, ultimately, we decided that one day would have been adequate and my husband was especially happy to leave due to his difficulty in breathing.

Our train to Jaisalmer departed the next morning at 6:10 AM and was expected to arrive at 11:45 AM. As we were unfamiliar with the train system in India, we decided it would be prudent to arrive early. Upon checkout, the hotel surprised us and provided complimentary goody bags filled with food and beverages for the journey. We arrived at the train station at 5 AM and expected chaos, but found instead hundreds of bodies sprawled out in front of the station asleep and wrapped up in blankets. We believe these to be homeless people rather than travelers awaiting their train. Scurrying around these sleeping bodies were rats everywhere. I was utterly grossed out and could not get into the train station past these rats quickly enough. I was more than pleased with our decision to skip the famous Rat Temple in Bikaner as I had seen enough rats to last me a lifetime! We now had more than enough time to wait for the train with no where to sit. All I could do was look around to insure that there were no rats scurrying around me. We had reserved First Class AC tickets and found our compartment fairly easily once the train pulled into the station. The train was not cleaned between stops and our compartment had old sheets and pillows. The conductor eventually came by and sorted things out, providing us with clean bedding in the event we wanted to sleep. At the end of the hall was both a western style bathroom and squat toilet. I used the western style facilities which were not at all as bad as I had anticipated. It turned out that we were alone in our compartment and we ended up dozing off most of the way to Jaisalmer. The ride was comfortable and was quite a relief after seeing the facilities at the train station.

Oh...forgot to mention - the Vivanta also surprised us with a birthday cake brought to the room for my husband on the first evening.

dgunbug Oct 18th, 2011 05:10 PM

Julies - From what we saw in our travels, you will not want to rent out an apartment. We did not see any housing that looked even remotely acceptable to stay in. Perhaps in the bigger cities there would be an apartment to rent, but I would be really hesitant. We are very moderate travelers and do not stay in 5 star accommodations, yet we would never consider staying anywhere but a nice hotel in India.

Magster2005 Oct 18th, 2011 05:35 PM

Thanks so much for writing this -- I am enjoying it tremendously! We leave for India tomorrow and reading your trip report is making me more excited than ever. Can't wait to read more.

althom1122 Oct 18th, 2011 06:08 PM

Hi dgunbug. Really enjoying following along with your trip. Sorry we missed Udaipur - maybe next time. Can't wait to hear about Jaisalmer.

shelleyk Oct 18th, 2011 06:45 PM

OMG, your discription of the rats near the train station left me just shaking my head. We took a short train ride during our first trip, but after reading this, I think I'll fly or take a car service for my southern India trip. Looking forward to more.

dgunbug Oct 18th, 2011 07:06 PM

shelleyk - our second train station experience between jaisalmer and Jaipur was much better and we saw no rats. I'm not sure if the rats were in full force in jodphur due to the early hour that we arrived at the station, or if it is like that at all hours of the day. It is definitely an experience we will long remember.


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