I’m not sure what I was expecting, despite having wanted to visit this area for many years, but I can say that I was wowed by what I found. The landscapes are wide and dusty, the towns and cities are colourful, the architecture amazing and the people are curious, so in no particular order here is what stands out for me.
The Forts and Palaces – from the majestic Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur to Jaisalmer Fort (a living city in itself) - each of them is so very different. To anyone who’s visited this region it will come as no surprise that the exquisite City Palace of Udaipur was my standout! Home to descendants of the original Maharanas, City Palace is made up of 11 wonderful palaces, which although built by different rulers still resemble each other. My favourite room is the crystal room where the floor, ceiling, roof and furniture are all made of crystal!
Compare that to the crumbling Taragarh Fort and Palace in Bundi (whose ownership is in legal dispute) but which houses many beautiful miniature paintings and turquoise-and-gold murals.
In each you’ll find something different such as the Sati Widows’ handprints at the gate to the Mehrangarh Fort. Sati is the traditional Hindu practice of a widow burning herself on her husband's funeral pyre. Thankfully the widows were administered opium prior! This practice, banned in Goa by the Portuguese in 1515 and the British in 1829 is said to be still practised in some areas.
The food – no surprise to anyone who knows me! While meat (goat and chicken) is available, the predominant cuisine is vegetarian. Having done my homework I wasn’t disappointed with the many different flavours and dishes available. I tried just about everything including the Aloo curry which caused my eyelids to sweat and had me racing to the shower to cool down! But never fear, there’s lots of levels of spice catering for all palates.
Missi Roti made from chickpea flour became a firm favourite as did the chickpea salad (with its many variations using cashews, mung beans and peanuts). Having never seen or tasted fresh chickpeas I was surprised to see them for sale in the local markets - they come in a pod and taste a little like fresh peas. They’re mostly dried for future use in just about everything like these wonderful deep fried chickpea snacks – so tasty!
And who could forget the Jelebi’s – or round, round stops as they fondly became known. These little sweets of deep fried chickpea batter, soaked in a wonderful orange and rosewater syrup, eaten warm, are simply delicious! Or the spice man of Jodhpur who was impressed at my ability to correctly identify Mace from the tiny piece he handed me!
And of course there is the traffic! The first thing to hit me when we arrived in Delhi was the sound of car horns, the second was the ability of the locals to take a three lane road and make it into 7, 8 and 9 lanes! On roads everywhere you’ll find every form of transport – Tuk Tuks, Hay Wagons, Motorbikes, Cars, Camels and Trucks all packed to the rafters. Despite seeing everyone create their own road rules, we saw very few accidents.
The people were incredibly friendly inviting us to their celebrations (if we followed their hay wagon to the blue yonder) and asking to have their photos taken with us (although some would say it was to have us ward off the evil eyes!). There was never a question of feeling unsafe.
Cows – they’re everywhere and wander around heedless to everyone and everything that’s going on about them. Our driver told us that if there is a choice between hitting a person and hitting a cow, the cow wins. Luckily we didn’t have to test this and didn’t see any accidents.
And of course my travel companions. What a great group of people to travel with. This is what small group travel is all about with its companionship, fun and shared experiences – thank you all and hopefully we’ll find ourselves off to somewhere together in the not too distant future.
India is undoubtedly a land of contrasts and complexity and Rajasthan – land of the Maharajahs – proves this over and over again. Yes there is poverty and there are sights and practices I would rather not have seen but travelling is about experiencing the world with all it’s differences. So different from anywhere else I have visited, I’ve been bitten by the India bug and will undoubtedly be back.
Travel Architects offer our own small group tours and wellness retreats - led by Cathy or Chris. We also have access to some really interesting small group tours to incredible, unique and sometimes remote destinations such as Antarctica, the Arctic, Africa and South and Central America. So if you’ve got a trip in mind, please call or email, and we’ll see what we can organise. If you prefer to travel on your own or with your family, we can also put together a personalised Itinerary to your dream destination.
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