I swear we got up earlier and earlier every day! 4.30 this time for another early morning train from Udaipur to Ajmer Junction and yet again it was freezing but more crowded this time and felt like we were truly travelling with the Indians. I had a little girl who sat next to me the whole way who kept tapping my head and leaning on me. It was cute for the first hour, little tiring for the next 4! Haha
When we arrived, we all tumbled into 4x4s to head to Pushkar. A cute little town with a lot of hippies, tourists and a pilgrimage site for Hindu’s and Sikh’s. Pushkar has one of the only Brahma temples in India which is why it attracts the pilgrims – there are only 5 in total and this one is the largest. Pushkar is considered a sacred city and therefore meat, eggs and alcohol are not allowed within the city.
After finding our hotel, freshening up and attempting to get hot water we went to explore the town. Pushkar is famous for its many temples and it’s ghats by the lake side. A few of us were lucky enough to have a blessing by a local holy man or Brahmin on the ghats of the lake. It was a fascinating place Pushkar and if I ever come back here again I’d like to stay for longer, explore more of the temples and also stay for the infamous Camel fair. Alas, we only had an afternoon and evening there before moving on.
Our next destination was Tordi Sagar, a village a couple of hours out of Jaipur. We journeyed there in 4x4s through the desert and arrived to this incredible heritage hotel. Our room had stain glass windows and you could tell it had once been very grand. I loved the journey there and watching everyone in the little villages go about their day whilst we weaved in and out of the traffic.
One of my favourite parts of my trip was our visit to a local village down the road from Tordi Sagar. Meeting the locals, goats included, and learning about village life in India was fascinating and we were welcomed with some bemusement but mostly smiles. I took some beautiful photos of the women but they are all on my camera so they’ll have to come later. The Rajasthani women are incredible at balancing water on their heads and there was a young boy trying to carry water on his head too but he was failing as he was to busy watching us! I think the fascination went both ways.
After visiting the village we sat with Masala chai (if you go to Northern India you’ll have sooo much and its way better than southern masala chai!!) and watched the sun set over acres and acres of flat farm land; not a beeping horn or car in sight!
That afternoon our guide found out that his wife had given birth to a beautiful healthy baby boy and he was naturally ecstatic. To celebrate he bought us all a bottle of rum (he doesn’t even drink!) to wet the babies head. It was a lovely fun evening, full of laughter, sat drinking outside on the terrace in the beautiful heritage hotel.
Next morning we took a quick wander around the local village before heading off to Jaipur. We came across a Potter who showed us how to make the pots that the village women carry the water in. It looks so easy but it’s so skilled and tricky. A couple of us had a go at it and you then realise how effortless he made it look.
The journey by 4×4 to Jaipur took about 3 hours, mostly though desert with not a lot to see for miles. It was so odd being back in a big city after being in the sticks for a while. I didn’t like it very much to start with as I’d enjoyed the villages so much but Jaipur definitely grew on me.
That afternoon after freshening up we took an orientation walk around enthralling, historical Jaipur. The old city is known as the pink city but if you look closely it’s actually a shade of terracotta really, rather than pink. We walked into the old city via the New Gate. It’s easy to navigate really as it’s in a big rectangle. We tried spices, saw flower markets, ate what I think is aniseed of some kind and marvelled at the many different ways you can sell sugar! I believe Jaipur is probably a shoppers paradise but we only had the one full day to explore so it was going to be the key monuments for us. Although not before a fantastic evening out at the Raj Mandir cinema – the place to go for Hindi film apparently. Unlike cinema in the U.K. where if somebody makes a noise, everyone turns around to give a disapproving look, in India it’s encouraged to join in. The audience had been quiet at the beginning and I wondered what all the fuss was about and then the heartthrob came onto the big screen and there was screaming, whistling, cooing and serious cheering for the star attraction. This continued throughout the film at pivotal moments and was so infectious. So much so that at one point I whooped when the entire audience was silent. I jumped the gun and got some funny looks, mostly from our group!!! The cinema must have been pretty iconic in its day and obviously attracted Indian tourists as well as us foreigners – I believe we westerners were the star attraction in the foyer. We even FaceTimed home to some guys mother! You’d think he’d just met the cast of the film haha.
At the end of the movie, when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the huge muscly body building lead man started rapping and then immediately burst into Bollywood dancing which was just brilliant. Such a fab way to end the movie as we all left humming the song. I love experiences like that when travelling when you get to truly experience what it’s like to be a local, they are definitely the times you remember.
Whilst we were at the movies our guide managed to go see his brand new baby at a nearby hospital. So lucky he decided to come into this world when he did, he must have known those were the only two days his dad was nearby 😊.
On our ‘tourist’ day in Jaipur I received a message from reception to visit our guide in his room. When I went to see him, millions of things going through my mind as to why he needed to see me, he was really unwell bless him. I think we’d all given him some horrid foreign lurgy which had made him feel rough for a while. He said he wouldn’t be able to come out with us today, gave me the days itinerary, instructions on where to be when and info about local guides and helping to organise people into tuk tuks, depending on who wanted to see what.
So I tried to take in as much as possible and headed downstairs to tell everyone the news. It felt odd addressing everyone but I was very flattered that he trusted me to keep people alive in Jaipur 😂😂😂
I now have a new found respect for tour guides, I didn’t even really do anything that day at all and it was like herding cats!
Our first brief stop, mostly for photos, was Hawa Mahal or the wind palace as it’s sometimes known. The guides books say that it’s little more than a facade and that’s pretty accurate. It’s on a bustling main road which I wasn’t expecting and as we just stopped to take a photo I don’t really feel like I captured what it was about other than it was for ladies of the royal household to see the world go by. Having said all that, it is a delicately designed building and pretty impressive from the outside.
If you ever go to Jaipur, go to Jantar Mantar. I think it’s probably something people miss out but I found it fascinating. It’s an observatory built in 1728 to ‘measure the heavens’. We had a guide to show us around and I still didn’t understand much of it, other than the sun dials that were accurate to 22 seconds. I’d definitely hire a guide to show you around.
A way out of town is the remarkable Amber fort and what Jaipur is most famous for and for good reason. It is huge and incredibly impressive. The part that is open to the public is big enough let a lone the private army sector and the walls that surround the area for miles. It’s like a mini Great Wall of China. You could spend hours wandering through the gardens, courtyards, viewing the lakes and taking in the impressive mirrored walls, and perfectly designed archways. I have hundreds of photos of archways now from all the different forts and palaces we’d visited. Each slightly different but equally as beautiful and impressive.
Later that day we split into groups, some people went to the Monkey temple, others to the markets to shop and I went to the City Palace, a complex of courtyards, buildings and gardens in Jaipur’s old city. Both Rajasthani and Mughal architecture are present from different eras, mostly dating back to early 20th century. We mainly went to the city palace for the infamous Peacock doorways. Intricately designed and beautifully painted they are definitely worth visiting. We decided to do as the Indians do so it was photo shoot time! Haha
Next stop Agra and Varanasi ❤️❤️ and the end of my Northern adventure.