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Palaces, temples and thali - another trip to India !

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Nov 6th, 2018, 10:37 AM
  #21
 
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lol, sartoric - an indian Fawlty towers! I hope the service improves.

as for the resolution of the cliff hanger I was expecting something much worse - I'm so relieved I was wrong.

Glad the sleep patterns are resolving too.

Looking forward to a lot more.
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Nov 6th, 2018, 10:59 AM
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Really enjoying the travel experiences in India. Sad to note some parts of Delhi were still not clean, although Prime Minister Modi has been promoting Clean India. Sad to hear that pollution is also bad. Wish the folks would make India a healthier place for all.

I am thrilled to follow your trail in India as I am also planning another trip as soon as I can.
My biggest problem is obtaining a visa for India. The online forms are horrible.

Progol--you seem to be working on an e-visa. That is something new. Do share your experience and some tips for me. I am just really frustrated and trying to find some visa agent to help me. But have not found someone reliable. So, maybe your experience will assist me and I can travel to India and enjoy some new sights and delicious food too.

Well, it is Diwali time, so waiting to hear about the festivities.
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Nov 6th, 2018, 04:37 PM
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Our thali.


Our palace.
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Nov 7th, 2018, 12:10 AM
  #24
 
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Anything on schedule in India would surprise me. The charm is the 'method and order' in the chaos & anarchy thats India. Hiccups expected on a regular basis.A country where nobody is in a hurry.Turning up on time raises eye-brows.
Satoric, you have experienced all of this, still taking it in your stride.Admirable.Way to go gal !!
Nice pics. The palace looks lovely.
The vegetarian Shekhawati thali is a lot more elaborate.Running through one would need a great appetite.Your thali seems sumptuous.
Guess it was Monica's roof-top restaurant.A cold Kingfisher beer....great place to watch the night sky lit up today.
Happy Diwali Sartoric & all you lovely fodorites !!
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Nov 7th, 2018, 12:36 AM
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Delhi is in a geographically complex location.The city which was once heaven in the past is now 'living' hell. The Himalayas to the north-east ushers in cold winds which fog up the capital.This fog turns to smog with the crop burning in Haryana and Punjab, The dusty dry wind of deserts of Rajasthan,blowing fine dust. The heavy industries in Noida add the necessary pollutants.The diesel vehicles contribute significantly too,along with the 25 million people who call it home.This toxic cocktail hangs in the air, especially in the winter.A gas chamber of sorts.
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Nov 7th, 2018, 02:48 AM
  #26
 
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That thali looks good! And your "palace" is beautiful!
sartoric, just a few more thoughts... I would never, ever try to do same day flights (unless it's on the same ticket) before an international flight, especially in India! Please fly into Delhi the day or night before! Just saying....

<<Progol--you seem to be working on an e-visa. That is something new. Do share your experience and some tips for me. I am just really frustrated and trying to find some visa agent to help me. But have not found someone reliable. So, maybe your experience will assist me and I can travel to India and enjoy some new sights and delicious food too.>>

ileen, there are a few online unofficial guides which might help, but it's more tedious than difficult. Perhaps start another thread and over the weekend, when I have time, I'll see if I can find the few online resources I used for guidance.
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Nov 7th, 2018, 04:24 PM
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Ha ha inquest, Delhi as a gas chamber is an apt description. The eyebrows are working overtime here, I’m perpetually punctual.

Progol, I would generally agree about same day flights (especially in India), still might risk it, never claimed on travel insurance before !

ileen, what Progol said is right, they’re more tedious than difficult. They still want to know what you had for breakfast, and ensure you have no connection (however tenuous) to Pakistan. At least the form is more stable than previously.

Today reinforced why I love India.

The hotel recommended a guide, and we easily agreed to pay the price - 500 rupees, or about $10. We set off at 10.00 for a two hour tour with Krishna. He was informative, engaging and an all round nice guy, 23 years old with a strong social justice bent. The havelis we saw were awesome. The artwork, the architecture, the evocative images of times past... he made it very real. I know a lot more about Shekhawati merchants and Hindu gods now. We ended up at his sisters shop... yes, I know, but there was absolutely no pressure to buy anything (we didn’t), enjoyed the chai, and now have an invite to their house for tomorrow’s Diwali celebration.

We wandered the market admiring displays set up for Diwali sweets, the myriad fruit and vegetables, the shiny pots and pans, and oh my, the soft camel leather shoes. I’m trying to become a minimalist...one more pair of shoes wouldn’t hurt right ? A late lunch of thali at Mandawa Haveli restaurant was so delicious, spicy eggplant, tomato paneer, the local tiny green beans, creamy potatoes, spinach paneer, chapatis, pappads, and salad veggies....a perfect visual and taste sensation. The garden setting was pleasant, leafy and quiet until five Royal Enfield motorbikes roared up the pathway and parked a meter away. This was a tour group called Indian Rides, four kiwi guys and their guide. If you’re into motorcycles this would be a great way to see India.

A young man who works at the hotel is Rajah, M had seen him earlier today with a dog on a lead, so I had to ask about the dog. Did we want to go to his house to meet the dog ? You bet, so off we went, met Lucy the dog, several aunties and grandma, had yet another cup of tea and admired the spacious home. How to tell him that it’s not good to keep Lucy chained ? Haven’t figured that out yet.

We’d seen a sign for Gwala rooftop restaurant, read reviews and decided to try it for dinner. Google maps indicated it was only 50 meters away, but we just couldn’t find it. So, we asked at reception, lol, it was on our roof !

Snacks, beer, bed.
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Nov 7th, 2018, 05:16 PM
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A sensation is a good way to describe your lunch. Sounds like you've found your groove and are diving into the authentic people experiences.
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Nov 8th, 2018, 03:05 AM
  #29
 
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sartoric, your experience with your guide sounds terrific! And how lovely that you have an invite for Diwali! I'm sure that will be special. Photos are definitely expected! I love how you keep meeting people and getting invites to their house!

Funny story about the Google maps and your rooftop restaurant! LOL, walk all around and it turns out to be right where you started!
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Nov 8th, 2018, 09:09 AM
  #30
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Thanks for your comments TP and progol, the two things I love most about India are the food and the people, not necessarily in that order.

Day trip to Nawalgarh.

It’s about an hours drive to the town of Nawalgarh through dry, dusty and mostly cleared brown land. Kika trees dot the landscape, spiky thorny things that are grown for camel food. Apparently their lips can suck the leaves off without touching the spikes. Newly sown wheat was popping up bright green shoots, adding a bit of contrast to the ever brown. The usual tractors, crazy buses, camel carts, donkey carts and every other mode of transport all share this poorly maintained bumpy road.

Driver R lined up a guide to spend about two hours with us for 400 INR.

Restoration work by a team of 25 men is ongoing at the Morarka Haveli museum, although because today is Diwali and a public holiday, no one is working. We had this beautiful, mostly restored haveli to ourselves. All rooms were accessible and we finished just as other visitors arrived. A less complete restoration was evident at Bhansidar Baghat haveli, again no other tourists, and it was interesting to see the contrast. Many rooms here were completely unrestored. It’s a shame so many have been allowed to fall into such disrepair. Both these haveli were built in the late 19th century. A third haveli we saw is now a luxury hotel, the Grand Haveli & Resort. Havelied out, we wander the market, absolutely heaving with people making last minute Diwali purchases. Lonely Planet describes it as a “largely pedestrianised market”, be aware, there’s still a trillion motorbikes driven by crazy young men. The people were very friendly and happy to pose for photos.

Tour over, we had lunch at Bungli, a reportedly popular restaurant, but not so much today with only two other guests. We ordered far too much food, and it was so good we ate the lot...eggplant bhaji, aloo jeera, okra, spinach paneer, two breads and rice. Plus beer, cold Kingfisher, perfect.

Dundlod is a small town we stopped at on the way back to Mandawa. It has a 17th century fort which we wandered around, several more haveli museums which we didn’t visit and a small but lively market.

We needed to buy sweets for Diwali gifts, so off to the Mandawa market we went. Purchases made we had a rooftop beer at Mandawa Haveli and watched the sky soften into sunset colours, lovely.

Funny incident back at our beautiful Radhika Haveli. It is very much on the tourist trail with many large groups visiting to admire the artwork. One such group was milling in the central courtyard when we returned. M was ahead of me and had unlocked the padlock to our room while I dawdled. A woman followed me closely, almost into the room. “Have a look” I said, and she did, crossing the threshold. The other 20 or so French tourists gathered at the doorway, stepped inside, took their photos (complete with messy bed and our stuff everywhere), nodded thanks and left. M and I laughed for a good half hour.

Up next, Diwali celebrations.
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Nov 8th, 2018, 10:32 AM
  #31
 
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I'm loving your report! The food descriptions and photos are making me hungry!
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Nov 8th, 2018, 11:50 AM
  #32
 
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Waiting for more. Thanks!
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Nov 8th, 2018, 01:30 PM
  #33
 
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oh what great experiences. I am so looking forward to reading about your Dawali celebrations.
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Nov 8th, 2018, 04:39 PM
  #34
 
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Following, and having a wonderful vicariously enjoyable time doing so as your love for India was rekindled and reinforced. Thank you!
So glad you've had great guides after the first day 's fiasco. Loved how you said "he made it real" Exactly--a great guide makes it come alive!
\Can hardly wait t for the next segment...
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Nov 8th, 2018, 05:46 PM
  #35
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Nawalgarh market


Photo bombed


Morarka Haveli


The roofs of Nawalgarh
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Nov 8th, 2018, 05:57 PM
  #36
 
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Loving this report! Wonderful photos! I love the shot of the rooftops and of course, the colors of the marketplace. I see you’re contributing your own bright colors, too! That is you, isn’t it, wearing the lovely blue outfit?
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Nov 8th, 2018, 08:51 PM
  #37
 
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Such a lovely report, great photos. I am so jealous that you are having so much fun at Diwali in India.
The sweets are so very, very sugary and many of them are so delicious. My mouth is watering.
So keep enjoying. So try some sweets like a "laddoo," "Jalebi" (my favorite when freshly prepared in the morning and served Hot), "Rasmalai" and very popular during cooler months "Gajar Halwa."
Waiting for some Diwali photographs.
Have a safe trip and enjoy the moments.
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Nov 9th, 2018, 04:56 PM
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The architecture is very interesting. I would love to visit for this reason alone.
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Nov 9th, 2018, 08:50 PM
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Following every word of it and loving it immensely!
Keep them coming sartoric.
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Nov 10th, 2018, 05:32 AM
  #40
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Thanks to all for your encouragement. Yes, progol, that was me in the market. CaliNurse can I have the details of your guesthouse in Delhi, decided not to risk same day flights. Ileen, we will be looking out for those sweets !

My strategy for Diwali was to spend the three nights leading up to the finale in one small place and ingratiate ourselves to become “family” for a short time. It worked well.

We donned our finest Indian clothes and headed up to the rooftop with the other guests of Radhika Haveli. Here we lit hundreds of small candles to stand in the wall cutouts, it looked beautiful with fireworks exploding into the night sky. We shared sweets and stories with the other travellers, then Rajah procured a bottle of Indian rum and it was drinks all round.

Our guides brother in law came to lead us to their family home, a warren of alleyways, narrow stairs and sharp corners. Waiting for us was a simple but delicious thali which we ate with delight, then it was time for the puja. The family shrine was in a small separate room, I followed instructions, and was blessed along with sister and grandma while wearing a red bejewelled shawl. We both received a red forehead dot for good luck. Sister decorated my right hand and arm up to the elbow with henna in an elaborate swirling pattern. Then it was fireworks time ! The family have two small boys who were the chief lighters of rockets. There were giant sparklers to hold, all very dangerous to my mind, coming from a country that banned fireworks so many years ago. To add another element of risk, we were standing on a narrow balcony, many floors up with a balustrade about 15 cm high. We survived.

After thanks all round, on our return to Radhika, Rajah was waiting for us with special rockets to light. Oh my ! These were huge colourful Catherine wheels that lit up the sky in every shade. Rajah and I retired to sit in the small alcove outside our room for deep and meaningful conversations about life, love and the universe. He’s a smart young man who will go far. A huge night.

On departure the next morning we took photos together, and were gifted two Rajasthani puppets as a reminder of our stay. An unforgettable experience.

Tomorrow, into the Thar desert and Bikaner.
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