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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.

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.


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:

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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