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Palaces, temples and thali - another trip to India !

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Nov 10th, 2018, 05:37 AM
  #41
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My sister for a night.
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Nov 10th, 2018, 02:39 PM
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Great story in words and photos. Soooo glad your Diwali was every thing you hoped it would be, Sartoric!!!! I recall the initial Fodors post when considering the itinerary for this, your third trip to "Incredible India" and you planned partially with India's Diwali date in mind (after some let-down with the Sri Lankan version).

I'm not surprised you're enjoying your driver! Why? Because he is from Himachal Pradesh! In case he hasn't told you, I will: drivers from that state are considered top notch because it is said, if you can maneuver in the mountain roads there, you can can manage any where in India! (Our fav driver ever in India--on another Indian Panorama assisted trip including Dharamsala/McLo and Shimla--was from HP as well.)

Will write more in a bit to answer question about New Delhi small guest house/B and B convenient for airport. (I have a wrist fracture, on the "writing" side hand/forearm, so even a few sentences take way more time and energy than usual. Bummer.) It's one recommended by both Inquest and me, on that same initial planning thread. Chhoti Haveli. I think you'd love it; a perfect place to relax for an afternoon/evening before next day 's flight and long travel day--which is what I did.
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Nov 11th, 2018, 03:28 AM
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Oh, sartoric, what an amazing experience you had for Diwali! Loving this! You really have a wonderful way of connecting with people in your trips. What a special experience this was!
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Nov 11th, 2018, 07:17 AM
  #44
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My hotel booking strategy for this trip was to choose a mid range heritage property and book the best room in the house, it didn’t work in Bikaner.

Jaswant Bhawan is a heritage haveli with great reviews. Their king superior rooms however, are in a brand new wing. We went from the visual treat of Radhika Haveli to four blank white walls. Oh well, at least the rain shower in the bathroom would be good for a hair wash. Wrong. Someone blew a fuse and there would be no running hot water. A bucket was the best they could do.

The drive to get here was about four hours, and we arrived in Bikaner expecting to visit Junagarh fort...but, it was closed for the day after Diwali. Go figure !Instead we had a decent lunch at Gallops restaurant, paneer tikka, veg seekh kebab, veg stuffed kulcha and cold beer.

Karni Mata (aka the rat temple) was really something else. I’d ummed and ahhed about visiting this temple. Not particularly fond of rats, not terrified either, with the fort closed, I thought, well, we’re here, why not ? It was dirty, smelly, filled with thousands of rats, many of them dead or dying....just icky, that’s why not. Driver R came in with us so he could pray and show us around. He obtained some foot coverings for us to wear, which were envied by many other western tourists. People we met later said they’d binned their socks, and I can understand why, walking around in ratshit is not cool. We’ve done it, once is enough.

The Jain temple Bhandasar is far more pleasant, lovely carvings, many of them painted, and a genial priest to explain things. There’s a great view of the city from the platform outside where we were chatting with another Australian couple when a large firecracker exploded on the ground two meters below. M has ear problems at the best of times, now he has a constant ringing.

Bikaner wasn’t anywhere near as successful as Mandawa, the saving grace perhaps was meeting a group of eight on tour from the UK. I love the English sense of humour and we laughed over a few beers and a decent thali for dinner.

Tomorrow we see the Junagarh fort before heading to our desert camel camp for a night with no electricity or running water !
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Nov 11th, 2018, 07:24 AM
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On the way to Bikaner


View from Jain temple


Ratties


More ratties


Detail from Jain temple
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Nov 11th, 2018, 08:13 AM
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Hmm... I’ll pass on the Rat temple! Not my favorite creature.

Are you staying at Gemar Singh’s desert camp? We did a 2-hour camel walk through the desert with him and thought it would be interesting to stay there overnight. Theoretically, of course!
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Nov 11th, 2018, 05:16 PM
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Yes it was progol. What a nice guy, wish we had planned two nights there !
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Nov 11th, 2018, 11:04 PM
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Hello @Sartric, I am Mary From India and I m glad that you enjoying your trip to India
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Nov 13th, 2018, 05:18 AM
  #49
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Junagarh fort in Bikaner was never conquered, a rare thing. Built in the 16th century, it displays all the wealth and grand architectural features of the time. After the surprise closure yesterday (we weren’t the only ones), today saw a massive scrum of people jostling for tickets at the 10 am opening time. A kind American man we had previously met was ahead in the queue and bought us tickets...but no audio guide. Wandering, we saw many beautiful rooms filled with coloured glass work, intricate painted details, handsome carving, and had no idea about their relevance. It didn’t matter, the fort was impressive, and relatively easy to navigate. There were also many rooms showcasing the various instruments of death used in medieval warfare, a three meter gun used to kill tigers, a complete Dehavilland airplane and displays of period furniture.

Not sad about leaving Bikaner, we set off for our desert camp near Osiyan, about a four hour drive. R has been great about finding lunch spots and today was no different. It was called Red Rock resort, had delicious food, cold beer and several Indian families also breaking their journey. We had veg fried rice, dal mahkani and paneer stuffed paratha, plus cold beer. Several selfies (theirs, not ours) with Indian tourists later, it was time to hit the road.

Hacra desert experience is the home of Gemar Singh, his wife and two boys.

We met Gemar on the main road (how did they do this before mobile phones) and transferred our luggage to his Jeep for a 20 minutes drive through sandy tracks to his home. Here are four round huts, each built with brick walls, a conical thatched roof and rammed earth floor. There is a western style shared bathroom, but no running water. You fill the cistern from a bucket to flush the loo. I think they will have water connected one day, all the fittings are in place, like taps and a hand basin, it just hasn’t happened yet.

Our camels (and turbanned cameleers) arrived about 4pm to take us for a sunset ride. M is the master of exaggeration and has told Gemar I’m an excellent horse person (intermediate at best), so I lead our expedition, and am given free reins. We have ridden camels twice before in nanny state Australia where they’re all roped together and lead by an experienced rider. Oh my, if this camel decides to do a runner for freedom, I’m going too.

We watched a surreal sunset from the top of a dune while the camels waited patiently a few hundred meters below, gee that climb up was tough. Worth it though. Back at camp we shared a simple but delicious meal of vegetable fry, dal, rice and millet flatbread with a couple of other guests.

The stars in the night sky were spectacular, no light pollution out here. It was quiet too, no train (or other vehicle) horns, and no call to prayer at 5.00 am.

Slept well. Tomorrow we head for Ajmer, close to, but not quite Pushkar.
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Nov 13th, 2018, 05:24 AM
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Nov 13th, 2018, 05:36 AM
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Lovely! And you look like quite the horsewoman...I mean, camel woman!

When we visited 6 years ago, there was a son who was about 12, and very sweet but shy. And I remember the bucket flush! We were there for lunch and a ride, but didn't get to see that surreal sunset.
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Nov 13th, 2018, 05:47 AM
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Thanks for confirming my belief that I don't want to go to Bikaner!

Have done the bucket flush and shower, with the hot water bucket delivered in the morning. Works OK, but not, of course, something I would want on a regular basis.
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Nov 13th, 2018, 06:35 AM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
Thanks for confirming my belief that I don't want to go to Bikaner!

Have done the bucket flush and shower, with the hot water bucket delivered in the morning. Works OK, but not, of course, something I would want on a regular basis.
thursdaysd, I'm not sure if those 2 statements are associated, or separate, but want to make sure that you know that the bucket flush is not in Bikaner, but at Gemar Singh's desert camp.
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Nov 13th, 2018, 06:39 AM
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No, they were separate. New paragraph.....
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Nov 13th, 2018, 08:20 AM
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Due to (ahem) circumstances, I have had one shower since leaving Delhi eight days ago...getting pretty good at the bucket wash though.
Yep, thursdayd, I won’t be returning to Bikaner, nor recommending it to others. We live, we learn.
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Nov 13th, 2018, 10:49 AM
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I'm very much enjoying your report, though there are points at which I say "better her than me." You've gone to some of these places so I don't have to...
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Nov 13th, 2018, 12:00 PM
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Sartoric--Loving reading about your experiences. Showers are still kind of considered a luxury in smaller towns. Large cities, Mumbai, Delhi hotels usually have showers as do many people's homes.

But once you are in quaint little towns, villages etc. a shower in the bathroom will not be seen.
Bucket baths are most common in most of India. In cold weather, it is common to see a hot water bucket brought in by the hotel staff for your bath.

I experienced this long ago while visiting the hill station of Simla, where temperatures were hovering around 50s, thus cold. So, the hot bucket of water was the bath time luxury.

Enjoy your trip. Hope you have been able to find some amazing, little souvenirs to bring back. Rajastan is full of very creative embroidery work.

Take care, be safe.
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Nov 13th, 2018, 12:36 PM
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The bucket shower is similar to a "Navy" shower. Or a water conservation shower, for that matter. Get wet. Soap up. Rinse off. Did that in the RV, when I was associated with one, and we didn't have hook ups.
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Nov 13th, 2018, 06:47 PM
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“Bucket shower” encompasses several definitions.The “bucket showers” I took in tents on safari in Africa were like a standard shower, with a lever to control the flow of water. On request, the large container filled with hot water was hoisted in place with a pulley and delivered to the shower head via a pipe.

https://www.tripsavvy.com/taking-a-b...safari-1454117

The other type “bucket shower” which I think Sartoric and Thursdaysd may refer to is: pour bucket of water over yourself. Lather. Rinse by pouring another bucket of water over yourself!
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Nov 13th, 2018, 07:06 PM
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Love all the newest photos too, esplly of people in camel cart!

Rat temple... ewwww. Shivers! They look small. You could’ve taken the overnight train from
Jaipur to the Punjab and had a similar companion in the sleeping compartment. I did that trip in reverse with “Mickey Mouse” for company. Talk about “authentic”!

I admire your “warts and all” honesty about your experiences, and learn from all of it! Thank you.

A slight diversion for what I hope is useful information:
Wise you plan to arrive in Delhi the day before your flights. As Progol said, why risk it—especially prior to your homeward bound trip? Iirc from your previous India trip, you know what can go wrong with flights, and this time you won’t have tour company advocacy/backup.

Chhoti Haveli https://www.chhotihaveli.com/ a perfect place if you want to gently savor your last night in India. Roomy but cozy. It was a great spot to mentally and emotionally regroup at the end of a trip. Cost is about $60 (USD) which is very reasonable for an excellent b and b in New Delhi. Surinder’s driver will get you to IGIA with time to spare.
Alternatively, you could spend the night at one of the numerous chain hotels (eg lemon tree) right by the airport. The best of them might cost twice as much as Chhoti but you would have the convenience of even closer proximity and possibly a quick shuttle to the airport. Don’t forget to add the hotel tax to the prices you see on booking.com etc. Itis 18-28% additional on hotels but I don’t think on homestays.(?)
As you said, Rome2Rio times are inaccurate, at least on this trip. Better to use google maps’“leave” or “arrive by” option. You’llget a realistic range—which could be something like “4hours to 7 hours” depending! Otherwise, multiply what you see on R2R by 1.5 x.
On your day leaving Jaipur to arrive for domestic flt at Delhi airport... you’ll need to leave at 5am st the latest from
Jaipur. Maybe you’ll arrive in 4 hours foot to door, but maybe not. Even with the modern highway, a few cows out for a morning stroll could cause a traffic jam!

Continued wishes for great adventures on this trip!
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