We were so sad to say goodbye to Dev Villa; such a lovely place and the owner, his wife and helpers were all so kind and welcoming! Both mornings we shared the dining room with two Indian couples who waved like mad at us when we all said goodbye. We could quite happily have spent a further day in Udaipur but Sukhvinder explained it was a good idea we were leaving as a fleet of 200 Mercedes was arriving for the wedding of an Indian multi millionaire’s son – bit miffed no invite so we left!
The drive to Jodhpur was a long one but so interesting that I didn’t even slightly nod off for the whole 6 hours. The landscape changed dramatically. We drove over a fantastic mountain pass and weaved down steadily – quite scary! Monkeys all along the side of the road which pleased Hannah and Sukhvinder laughed when I told him to not even think about stopping and put his foot down !! He finds my reaction to monkeys funny.
We were stopped again at various checkpoints along the way by soldiers and rifles checking cars of illegal bribes for the villagers who, quite honestly, seem oblivious to the whole thing. Apparently all canvassing and advertising has to stop 24 hours prior to the Election Day – gosh wouldn’t that be nice in UK?
We stopped at the Ranakpur Jain Temple which was built in the 15th century and most impressive. There were quite a few priests who, for a small fee (!), offered to include us in their prayers. For another small fee (!), we were offered a bindi which I declined due to my disaster with the previous one. Rather frustrating to have constant people asking for selfies and photos within the temple and we got rather fed up as just wanted to take in the peace and architecture. It was a very hot day and can’t believe next week I will be putting the Christmas tree up in U.K.
After about 4 hours in the car Sukhvinder suggested we stop for a break. My goodness – like something out of a wild western film! Attached is a photo of the inside. There were about 7 men serving no one! – I don’t think anyone had stopped there for about a century!! Sukhvinder ordered something to eat so Hannah and I went and sat in the “garden” to give him some privacy. Our tea and coffee arrived – Hannah “accidentally” spilt hers after discovering two hairs floating on the top and I think my masala tea had been brewed in the previous century. The owner came out and produced a certificate in English to say that on the 28th February this year he had been voted as a world record breaking magician! He showed us a few tricks of making coins disappear and changing a piece of a paper into a rupee. A really lovely elderly gentleman whose smile was huge when we clapped and shouted “bravo”! We could have stayed all afternoon with him. Just surreal …….
Finally arrived in Jodhpur and discovered again that another wedding invite didn’t reach us in time. An Indian actress and an American actor (don’t know either) got married in Jodhpur yesterday and great excitement was here.
Our hotel is 127 years and we have been made most welcome. Dinner was served (think we are the only guests) on the rooftop which was lovely and soft music and candles – £7.30 for the two of us.
An early start in the morning for a day of sight seeing before heading to Jaisalmer. We are both exhausted and Hannah so tired that she has just mistaken her make up wipes for the Andrex bottom wipes.
Today’s worry? Hannah’s complexion in the morning.
Love and tiredness
I woke even earlier this morning and sat on the balcony listening to the early morning chanting and soft music – I shall miss this when I go home. I shan’t, however, miss the preceding dog fights and angry chorus as they chase each other – my beautiful Archibald could teach these dogs a few manners.
Hannah is feeling so much better (I worried I may have overdosed her but I really wanted to explore; she is so full of meds she is rattling).
Udaipur has won my heart; is it just so beautiful, peaceful and serene. It is known as the “city of lakes” and is set around a series of artificial lakes. Sukhvinder tells us that Udaipur means “rising city” (this wonderful man could tell us anything and I would believe him!). The backdrop of the Aravalli hills is a wonderful sight and, again not the first time during this adventure, I was almost moved to tears! You can just lose yourself in the pure vastness. Hannah says my favourite saying is “I feel as though I am on a film set” but I truly do.
We were dropped off at the side of Lake Pichola and caught a very pretty boat which was adorned with flowers. A gentle ride around the outskirts of the lake passing the Jag Mandir Palace also before disembarking onto the grounds of the Lake Palace which is now a hotel. A wedding had taken place and there were lots of staff taking down all the decorations – bags and bags of stunning roses were just being thrown away – I wanted to grab the bags and take them back to the main land and give them to the poor children running around with no shoes, filthy and begging for food at the side of the lake; it really hits me. We walked around the grounds and sat and took in the view before heading back.
We then walked up the steep hill (wish I had brought my Fitbit) to the City Palace. The palace was built over 400 years ago and there are several palaces within with various gateways. Lots of walking, lots of steps and the most fabulous views over the lake. We walked down to the local bazaar where I got carried away and came away with 15 ceramic doorknobs (I can hear John’s deep sigh wondering what on earth I am going to do with 15 door knobs!! Wait and see my creation darling !!).
A lovely lunch in the grounds of the palace and we then went and found Sukhvinder who drove us around the lake further. It was impossible to walk around the lake as there were so many children running after us begging for food and money; one girl literally pinched me! Unfortunately I had left the Haribo in the hotel and, as she had pinched me, she certainly wasn’t going to be given one of the sacred M&S mints!!
As if we hadn’t walked enough, Sukhvinder drove us to the Sahelion Ki Park which was very pretty and colourful for a walk. Constant pestering for selfies and to have our photos taken but we found a bench behind a tree and managed a few minutes of peace. The oleander and bougainvillea were in bloom and so colourful.
After freshening up at our hotel we ventured out again in a tuk tuk (my heart sits in my mouth each time I step into one – I close my eyes, cling to Hannah and say a little prayer?). We had met a super girl from New Zealand in the queue at the Taj who recommended a rooftop restaurant called Rainbow and we found it – arrived just before sunset and the view on the lake was wonderful (picture attached). We had mentioned it to a lovely English couple we met during a roadside stop and they were there also. A lovely meal with a couple of G&Ts and all in all a perfect day. I still struggle with the hot food and every night I return to the hotel in search of the fire extinguishers.
A long drive tomorrow to Jodhpur and I am hoping for a longer sleep. Hannah amazingly well and I am very impressed how she handled the Delhi belly. She finds it extremely funny to suggest I may catch it whilst staying in the desert – horrible child.
A super, wonderful day.
Today’s worry; did I really buy enough doorknobs or should I go back for more?!
Love and pure bloody happiness
After a wonderful breakfast on the balcony overlooking Jaipur (photo attached and please remember this is 3 star!!), Sukhvinder collected us at 9 am for the 6 (!!) hour journey to Udaipur.
What promised to be an educational and picturesque journey on which was the main road to Mumbai (Sukhvinder tells us it is a 24 hour drive from Jaipur to Mumbai), the dreaded Delhi belly decided to hit Hannah with a vengeance. She was able to sleep for the first part of the journey and we past through villages such as Kishangarh which is famous for its marble mining. We past miles and miles of gleaming white marble and then granite and stone. Was quite tempted to stop off and pick up a few slabs for my long anticipated pergola but thought John might already have sourced all this? The mountains were spectacular and so much quieter than the noisiness of Jaipur.
We had to screech to a stop for Hannah to be sick and the poor girl just ran towards the hills. We had stopped next to a rickety hut with cows and wild dogs and an elderly gentleman. I ran after Hannah, dodging the various wildlife, and stood aimlessly! I then realised we needed the hand sanitiser and wet wipes so had to run back down the hill towards Sukhvinder who was standing like our our personal bodyguard by the car all smart with his bright turban so vivid in the heat. Back up the hill with the hand sanitiser and Hannah begging me not to fuss! Awful thoughts running through my mind; where was the nearest hospital and where for goodness sake were the toilets? The elderly gentleman then came up the hillside with Sukhvinder offering a cup of water – “it is not for drinking but for Hannah to wash her hands” explained Sukhvinder. I could have hugged the man he was so kind and he just kept smiling. We all walked back down the hill and got Hannah into the car.
I wanted to offer the man some money for his kindness; I thought a bag of Haribo a little insulting, but Sukhvinder told me not to offer money as this man was a barber and, therefore, not a poor man. I wanted to cry – he was living at the side of the road with cattle all around him with an old wooden chair and broken mirror and yet he wasn’t a poor man – I just wanted to hug him but, again, thought rather inappropriate. I felt very humbled.
It was that time of day again for our rationed M&S mints but Hannah declined and just lay on the back seat and slept whilst Sukhvinder and I sat in silence with our mints. I am beginning to think Sukhvinder will decline any future jobs driving English women.
We arrived at our super hotel and definitely the best one so far. We were greeted with garlands of marigolds but Hannah just had to rush to the room. She was so so poorly and I was extremely worried; I have never seen anything like it – so brutal. After what seemed like ages she feel into sleep again and my wonderful friend, Susanne, was at the end of WhatsApp (hallelujah for wifi!!) and talked me through what was needed.
Whilst Hannah slept I went up to the rooftop of the hotel and sat quietly listening to the chanting of the evening prayer, watching the sunset and munching on a packet of Haribo (needs must, my friend, needs must ).
The big news for today is WE HAVE HOT WATER – never whooped so much stepping under the heat of the water – we smell devine!!
Worrying and upsetting news from home ended a rather miserable day and I hope with all my might Hannah is better tomorrow.
Today’s worry – Hannah has survived Delhi belly but is it heading my way? Time to refill the hand sanitiser and reload the first aid kit ……….
Udaipur is beautiful and I long to explore.
Love and good health
Something good is coming out of not being able to sleep. I am now getting used to, and looking forward to, waking early (it is currently 5 am) and sitting at the window with a cup of Tetley (this seems to be an upper class 3 star hotel!) watching the sunrise and early morning activity in the streets below – very mystical and peaceful.
After a lovely breakfast on the rooftop we were collected by our faithful Sukhvinder and our guide for the day, Krishna. We drove through the city, stopping at the Hawa Mahal on the edge of the city. Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan and its current King is currently studying at Oxford Uni. Note to self; trip to Oxford on return to introduce myself as potential mother in law?
We stopped off to look at the Jal Mahal which is a palace in the Man Sagar lake and just beautiful. It was fascinating to watch the water buffalo swimming past. The Indian government and a business are trying to get permission to turn the palace into a hotel. A good location for a wedding methinks; will mention this when I meet the King in Oxford.
The drive to Amer Fort was spectacular and the city wall, which encircles the whole of the Jaipur old city, was impressive and astounding. The colour of the bougainvillea bushes was beautiful. We jumped out of the car at the entrance to Amer Fort and were literally jumped upon by the hoards of hawkers who are a force to be reckoned with! We were introduced to a”Sonia” who was the 27 year old elephant who would take us up the steep climb to the fort. There are 127 elephants and all female (!!) and each elephant is only permitted to carry out 5 climbs a day and end at 11.30 am. We clambered on and I quietly congratulated myself for wearing trousers and making such an elegant climb into the seat. A very British older couple were on the elephant in front and the man yelled out asking where we were from! When we told him he looked so happy as though we were neighbours and explained they were from Guildford and had just completed the South Downs Way – now there is something rather surreal sitting on an elephant in Rajasthan in the heat of the morning discussing a National Park in the U.K. His wife was trying to get his attention but the man wasn’t having any of it. Our elephant man explained that Sonia had a particular “party trick” that when you said “Sonia – up” she would lift her trunk up (rather sad really) . Well the man in front found this amusing and proceeded to call out “Sonia – up” the whole way up the hillside. One of those moments when I was secretly wishing Sonia had a trunk full of water and would just douse him in water! We disembarked (again rather gracefully I thought!) and entered the fort.
Krishna was a superb guide but was slightly difficult to understand. It is about 26 degrees during the daytime and after almost 4 hours of cultural overload we were exhausted. Krishna was a very pleasant and charming man and told us so many facts and would get very excited when we commented how impressed we were. We entered a stunning small prayer room made entirely of marble and Krishna encouraged Hannah and I to have a bindi which we eagerly had (and no tip required!).
One of the main things I find slightly irritating here is the tipping. You only have to talk to someone and they expect a tip. There were some smart, handsome and impressive guards at the entrances to some of the buildings and they asked if you would like to have a photo taken – to then be asked for a tip! The rather British side of me came out -!can you imagine the guards at Buckingham Palace doing that?! I accept it is a different country but I find it quite distasteful.
We walked down the hillside to be followed the entire way by one of the numerous “photographers” who produced an album of about 10 photos he had taken of Hannah and I on the elephant. He wanted 25000 rupees! Well, he just would not leave us alone whilst we waited for Sukhvinder and I was even running around cars trying to escape. We got into the car and he was running down the hill banging aggressively on the window! Krishna told me to give him 300 rupees; the man gave us the photos we didn’t want and ran off.
We said our goodbyes to Krishna (giving him an enormous tip) and Sukhvinder dropped Hannah and I off at a local bazaar for a couple of hours. After a dodgy start, I have nailed the haggling and am now quite good at it! Hannah is not good and offers to pay the first price but we have a little tactic now and are doing quite well! I couldn’t understand why some of the children were pointing and laughing at me until Hannah told me to get my little mirror out and I discovered my bindi had begun to run in the heat and I was resembling Jack Sparrow out of Pirates of the Caribbean with red dye running down my face and around my eye! We decided to call it a day!
My feet were aching (I am desperate for a pedicure in return) and we found the car and returned to the hotel for another cold shower.
Hannah came up trumps again by finding a fantastic place to eat on Trip Advisor, Peacocks – just fab, fab, fab and only a short walk from our hotel. The walk did involve negotiating to cross a busy road which we did by clinging on to each other, closing our eyes and just running. (Eeek I am forgetting my Dad will be reading this blog – love you Dad – don’t be angry!). We enjoyed the best meal so far and were treated by a three piece band who were fantastic. Great end to yet another great day!
Except ……………….. box number one of the Imodium opened and I hope all is well for our trip to Udaipur in the morning?!?!
Love and bottoms
After another sleepless night (just cannot understand why I can’t sleep despite flourishing the room with lavender pillow spray!) and a small breakfast, Sukhvinder was waiting to take us to Jaipur. I regard him like my much loved Uncle Ralph coming to collect my sister and I from boarding school to take us away for the weekend!
The drive from Ranthambore to Jaipur was a much welcomed one and we drove through some interesting villages and countryside. The local elections are about to take place and we drove through quite a few checkpoints with soldiers with guns. Sukhvinder explained that cars laden with whisky and other alcohol were trying to be detected and diverted as the political parties will try and bribe the local villagers for their votes.
The countryside was so lush and this is because more technology is being fed through to India and the irrigation and watering systems are much improved. The sight of the vast acres of mustard fields and the smell of the very sweet quava trees was very welcome!
We past the now common sight of camels pulling carts, cows and goats and dodging the dogs. Heart wrenching to see the amount of children walking so close to the narrow roads with no shoes. Sukhvinder explained that the government provides schooling in the villages so children have the opportunity of an education but I wasn’t convinced this was available to all!
What a cultural difference arriving in Jaipur. Much more westernised and the immediate contrast was amazing. Huge billboards advertising a “women-only” university and a lot of focus on the opportunity to women. Stark contrast indeed to a few kilometres away seeing women with faces completely covered, working in the fields, carrying huge dishes of soil on their heads as they tended the fields.
One of Hannah’s tick list items for the trip was to visit the Monkey Temple (also known as Galtaji). We were left at the entrance and made our way in accompanied by a very enthusiastic guide who lives within the temple. After buying the obligatory bag of nuts I could smell the monkeys before we saw them – the stench !!! The architecture is extremely impressive and is surrounded by a natural spring in which the people come to bathe in to wash their sins away and to obtain good energy. We were encouraged to wash our hands in the pool and told “clean hands; good energy”. Never mind the energy – I was regretting leaving the hand sanitiser in the car! Hannah loved the monkeys jumping on her shoulder and there was one which cuddled into her and wouldn’t get down. I declined the offer but one rather cheeky, if not arrogant!, monkey arrived uninvited on the top of my head! I screamed and squirmed and shouted for the blasted thing to get down but it was rather determined to stay put! As if my hair wasn’t a disaster enough with no hair dryer, I now had a smelly monkey pulling at my hair and making itself at home!! Hannah was nearly wetting herself with laughter and even the guide was amused.
Our guide offered to take us 2 km up the hill to witness the fabulous hilltop view of Jaipur. I started to walk but I think he viewed me as a somewhat unfit bird who would not make the steep walk. I think it was either this or he wanted to impress Hannah as he said he would take us by motorbike !! Aged 52 and 9 months I have never been on the back of a motorbike! My girls have always been warned against them; John has even been denied the wish to own a motorbike – I loathe them! But hey, here I was agreeing to “jump on the back”. Hannah got on behind the guide and I clung on behind her. Laugh?!? Tears were rolling down our faces and, not for the first time during this trip, I thought I was going to die! Here – on top of the monkey temple in Jaipur, with dishevelled hair and not even wearing matching underwear – the shame!! I managed to get off the bike and the views were actually worth it – stunning. I limped around and tried to pull myself together concerned I had burnt my leg on the exhaust pipe – Note to my pharmacy friends; you didn’t send me prepared for exhaust burns; you are forgiven xx Another trip down the hillside with our guide shouting “are you ok Mam?” – “No” I yelled back “I am too far from home”. I dread to think what the monks thought as an Indian with 2 blond women on the back of a motorbike hurtled down the hillside with the one on the back screaming trying to hold together her dignity and pride. Another day of getting the dress code wrong – dresses and India do not go.
I almost ran towards Sukhvinder shouting to start the engine whilst Hannah reluctantly walked away from a place she had so wanted to come. I quickly shared the hand sanitiser in the car and shared another M&S mint with Sukhvinder who is quite taken with them. I am having to ration them now as we have elephant and camel rides to come – someone save me!!
After a shower and hair wash at the hotel we tried unsuccessfully to walk to a local bazaar. It is impossible to walk in the city alone and we quickly grabbed a tuk tuk and asked to be taken (quickly!) to a restaurant Hannah had found on Trip Advisor. Bar Palldio will remain in my heart during this trip as I enjoyed my first G&T – so deserved and so welcome. The place was stunning and we enjoyed squash and walnut ravioli and pesto fettuccine with tempura veg – delicious! With two glasses of wine and a bottle of water, the bill including tip came to £23!
A death defying evening trip by tuk tuk back to the hotel followed. Upsetting to see small boys aged about 7 in the middle of the traffic with cars, lorries, motorbikes and tuk tuks whizzing by, trying sell footballs. I just couldn’t look. Our tuk tuk driver got lost so at one point he and Hannah jumped out to ask someone directions – AND THEY LEFT ME ALONE IN THE TUK TUK!! With the engine running and slightly rolling backwards on the side of the road with heavy traffic! The driver realised what was happening and ran and pulled it back and put a small rock behind the back wheel. Hannah jumped in and, ashamed to say, I had a small meltdown and we had our first fall out of the trip!
On arrival at the hotel I arranged a full body massage for myself and Hannah (as a way of an apology for my meltdown). An hour of being slapped and pummelled with hot oil was probably what I needed ! I declined the head massage with oil preferring just the normal head massage (to try and retain some normality with my hair)) but don’t know why I bothered. I declined the facial but she proceeded to slap oil all over my face and hair! I think I am providing Hannah with total amusement this trip as she couldn’t stop laughing when I walked out with hair on end like Cruella de Vil and smelling like a pot of cooking oil. I ran up the stairs to our room and jumped into another cold shower (the perils of 3 star). On with my cotton pjs, large sprays of lavender pillow spray and I have enjoyed 6 hours of sleep which is an improvement.
Off for a day sight seeing in Jaipur tomorrow. I can’t wait to see the Pink City. Elephant ride on the agenda and I think I might wear trousers.
Today’s fear? Do they have saddles on elephants ?!
Love and dignity