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More Forts, Palaces, and Temples - Udaipur and Johdpur

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Udaipur - 03/07/10 to 03/11/10

On our way to Udaipur we traveled by train again. We were able to make a pit stop in Chittor to break up the journey and spend the afternoon exploring the Chittorgarh. This was an interesting and large fort with many temples and palaces occupying a 28 square km plato that is 180 meters above the surrounding plains and completely encircled by a high fort wall. One item of interest here was the Tower of Victory. Dating back to 1468 this tower rises 37 meters high and has nine stories. Each level is carved in the same fashion as all the fine temples and on the inside an stairwell allows you to climb to the 8th floor, looking out over the entire fort. After visiting the fort we got back to the station just as the train was pulling in and rode to Udaipur with two other travelers we had met on the morning train and toured the fort with.

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Temple Art
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Victory Tower
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Meghan Makes her way up the tight stairwell
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Udaipur is a beautiful oasis in the middle of Rajasthan. Its centerpiece is a shimmering lake with two Island palaces set below surrounding mountains. Udaipur is home to a few different world class hotels including the Shiv Niwas Palace Hotel and the Lake Palace Hotel. Both these hotels as well as the city of Udaipur was the set for the James Bond movie Octopussy. There was an interesting mix of tourist as the super rich were ushered into their $2000 a night suites that shared a similar view with the $6 a night room Meghan and I shared! Thrown in the mix was the obligatory City Palace, temples, and a compact old town of narrow lanes that surrounded the lake. We decided a few days off the sightseeing tour were necessary and stuck to the shaded rooftop and wonderful view out over the lake to the City Palace. Doing so we met an nice couple who were filming an amateur documentary about travel and we gave them an interview on our trip to date. On the third day in Udaipur we made it out to explore the City Palace and Museums. This was well persevered and much more lavishly appointed than the decaying forts of Bundi that we loved so much. It is the largest Palace in Rajasthan and is a mix of different buildings that slowly were added on over the years by different Maharajas. There were murals entirely made of glass mosaic and technicolor rooms with walls and ceilings of all glass and mirrors. We spent our 4th and final night on our rooftop watching Octopussy and glancing over our shoulder to look at the palace every time it came across the TV screen!

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City Palace, Udaipur
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Trim and proper. I got a hair cut and a straight razor shave at a small barbershop
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Brad and Lucy who interviewed us for their travel documentary
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City Palace
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Lake Palace and surrounding countryside
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Manak (Ruby) Mahal, City Palace
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Mosaic Peacocok in the Mor Chowk, City Palace
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More Glass Mosaics
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An incredible dining room in the City Palace being prepped for an upcoming wedding
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Lake Palace by night
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City Palace standing above the old Havelies’s of Udaipur

Heading out we decided to schedule a stop during our days travel as we did on the way in. This time it was by bus and the stop was at a temple and not a fort. We were dropped off at a Jain Temple on the route from Udaipur to Jodhpur. We were both a little templed out after all that we had visited so far in Rajasthan and were wondering if we should just skip it but we pressed on. Upon arrival we put down a 25 rupee or 50 cent lunch that was all you can eat dal (lentils) , Rajasthan curry, and puri’s (fried dough rounds) and made our way into the temple on a full stomach. Once again we were totally blown away. We were at Ranakpur, a marble Jain temple built in 1444 that consisted of 29 halls held up by 1444 carved pillars. The place was incredible and unique. Jainism is described a an extreme form of Buddhism.

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Not a centimeter of marble left un-carved, The impossibly intricate domed ceilings of Ranakpur
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Awestruck
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Ranakpur from the hillside.

We enjoyed our quick stop before heading back out to the street to wait for the bus. When the bus arrived I climbed up on top and lock our bags to the roof. When I got into the bus, or rather when I pushed my way onto the steps of bus I found it to be just as crowded as one might expect after taking several buses in India! That is that people were jammed everywhere and I was barely inside the bus! It was 4 hours to Johdpur and I started mentally preparing for the journey. After about a half hour Meghan squeezed herself into a seat as the previous occupant stood up. You need to position yourself exactly right to get into the seats or else the space will evaporate. It is almost like trying to swap a book in an already full bookshelf. If you are not inserting a new book into the space the old book is coming out of you are never going to get it in. A little while later I was able to do the same and we were on our way in high spirits to Jodhpur.

Jodhpur 03/11/10 to 03/13/10

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After staying in a cheapo rooms in the land of over the top luxury accommodation that was Udaipur we decided to up the anti a little bit and got a fabulous room for the 2 nights we were in Jodhpur. A big bay window that you could sit in offered views of the fort, we had a mini fridge, and a tub! Did I mention the fantastic rooftop restaurant with great fort views? WAHOO! Living it up! It was tough spending almost $20 a night when we knew their were rooms out there for $2 but we had been working hard and deserved it.

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Jodhpur Fort

Another Beautiful fort. India and Rajasthan has really turned into a temple, palace, and fort tour but we are enjoying it. The Fort at Johdpur had an great museum and some interesting history as well. It was a steep climb up out of town to the first of seven gates that let up more steep walkways around sharp turns to the final gate. This fort was never taken during wartime and there are welts from cannonballs in the sturdy stone walls near the first gate evidencing that the impressive fortifications where tried. Inside the museum had great displays offering a look into the lavish lifestyle of the Maharaja and a great weapons display as well.

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Cannonballs
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Yes, We took the audio tour
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Hand prints representing the widows of the Maharaja who, rather than continuing on as a widow, ended their lives by throwing themselves on the dead kings funeral pyre in 1843.
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Turbans and facial hair, favorites amongst Rajasthani men
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Tiger Howdah - Seat for carrying people on an elephants’ back
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Golden hand drawn palanquin for the king
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Sword Collection
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After the fort and palace we explored the city that was a mess of lanes in horrible condition due to an over run and often overflowing sewer system. All of the cities we have visited in India have an open sewer system in the old cities. This is for your cleaning and cooking water and the dirty water runs in open gutters that line all the streets and alleyways. In Johdpur they were increasing the capacity of the actual sewer with a larger diameter pipe and not doing the cleanest job of it all. For lunch, we sought out a Lonely Planet made legend of Johdipur. The Egg Man whips up a tasty omelet out of a small cart and serves it up between bread sandwich style . He offers a few dirty plastic stools to sit on and claims to cook up over a thousand eggs a day to fulfill the demand of his deserved reputation. The little suckers were tasty! We shared our sandwiches with passing camels, cows, pigs, eager rickshaw drivers, beggars, over friendly children, and the usual circus that is any spot in the old cities of Rajasthan!

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Egg Man
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Camel Cart Drive Through?

I could not stop singing the beastie boys “Egg Man” in my head while we ate and thought of ourselves in a flock of the “Lonely Planet” crowd while singing “suckers they come a dime a dozen, when I say dozen you know what I am talking about boyyyy!” It is funny how the guide books that we all rely on so much bring all the tourists together at spots so obscure as a roadside shack selling omelets for 50 cents. Every time you get into the tourist beat around the attractions and the popular stops, business owners advertise what guidebooks recommend them. While we are glad to have the Lonely Planet for recommendations on were to go and what to see, when we actually arrive somewhere the difference between guide book recommended hotels and restaurants is alarming. Places in the guidebooks thrive while there competition across the street struggles to get buy, often with superior quality and cheaper prices.
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Women huddled in the Shade, mid-day, Johdpur
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Street side pottery
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Step well outside our hotel window
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Clock tower with Fort in the background

The next morning it was off again to Jaisalmer, further west and on the fringes of the Thar desert. We thought we would give a private bus a go after only riding the local government busses and reserved two seats on what we thought was a direct bus. The bus itself was certainly of superior quality. It was a sleeper bus with chairs on the bottom and sleeping bunks at the top. We assumed that being a private bus the reserved seats and sleeping bunks would be occupied and they would not sell standing room tickets as they do on the public busses, in this we were wrong. With the compartments above and the chairs below and the Indian technique of packing them in tight, asking everyone to take a deep breath, and then adding a few more for good measure, the bus was packed. It is like going one notch to far on your belt, the one you know is going to hurt later. Meghan and I had unknowingly reserved two seats on the last bunk of the bus, you know the ones that have a perfectly vertical backrest and enjoy the full effect of all the bumps and bends of the road. Not on one side either, smack dab in the middle.

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Packed into the back of the bus… What was standing room only at first opened up with enough room for people to sit on the floor in the isle.

I called on my reserve patience that I have been building up to an impressive level since being in India and managed not to freak out even though I thought we would be more comfortable on the miserable government buses. Here comes the negativity again so let me cool it down with the rewards of these busses and the reason we keep inflicting the torture I have repeatedly described on ourselves. The busses give you a view into rural India that you do not see in the cities with the attractions. The people you see coming and going, sometimes so close that you carry their sweat with you to the next destination still live in the traditions of their ancestors. Sometimes seeing a woman covered head to toe in jewelry and dress that matches the displays you have seen in the museum cram into you on a bus is more memorable than the landmark temple that you read about back home. Or feeling the acceptance of unselfish people as they make themselves less comfortable to help out a stranger on a bus. It is hard to explain but after all the frustrations and discomforts in settling into a long bus ride we usually exit with some new experience or insight to the places we are passing through. So six hours later we arrived in Jaisalmer and fought our way our of a circling pack of vicious rickshaw drivers and hotel touts desperate for commissions. I am not sure if it was because we were coming of the more expensive bus or if it was just Jaisalmer but these guys were unrelenting. It was so bad that a police officer had to come to our aid just to make room for us to walk away. One guy took it to far and I had to let him know we were serious with a firm hand on the ribcage that put him on his heals as I yelled “Back Off” None of this was more dangerous than a nuisance for all you worriers out there, Robin, but non the less I had to speak up.

Posted by pmunson 00:04 Archived in India

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Comments

That last chapter was one amazing read..it took my breath away to match the pictures with the words. i always loved to travel and take in the locals more then just whats in the travel books..your blowing me away.....the desert people were beautiful. u and meg exploring the forts had me right behind you going up the stairs. crowded buses and long distances should be rewarded by a nice bed and hot bath. You both look great onthe camels. Never thought so much sand could make such a wonderful bed and breakfast. Take care. Love and Peace Robin..

by robin chandler

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