Rajasthan, India’s desert state, bordering Pakistan and home to palaces and forts of the grandest scale and a long history of Maughals emperors and their kingdoms. For Ryan and I this was our first leg of independent travel through India and we were excited to experience everything Rajasthan had to offer!
Our journey started in the Rajasthan capital of Jaipur, often referred to as the pink city and infamous for its impressive Amber Fort and the Hawa Mahal (palace of the winds). We spent most of our three days in Jaipur avoiding the midday heat, rushing around to see as much as we could and any spare time we had left was spent strolling the impressive bazaars of the old town. Jaipur could be classified as shoppers heaven and I had a whole lot of fun picking out a few bits and pieces as momentos.
We hired a tuk tuk driver for the day to take us first to see the fort, then the water palace and the monkey temple. He dropped us at the bottom of the fort and we clambered our way to the top amongst the throngs of tourists and the occasional elephant. When we entered the gates we were swamped by tour guides wanting to show us around for a very low cost and the promise of free entry with the tour, I’ll be honest this sounded like a pretty good deal but we were usually pretty happy exploring these sort of places for ourself. So we headed over to buy an entry ticket only to find that the entry for that day was free! Those sneaky tour guides, I bet they got a whole lot of unsuspecting tourists with their con on this day! We’re still not sure why entry was free that day, but we certainly weren’t complaining, but it did mean it was probably a lot busier than usual! From the fort we had a great view of an exciting set of stairs leading to the top of the hill opposite, I can’t resist a set of stairs so despite the heat we made the steep climb to the top for some impressive views of the fort, totally worth it!
Next stop on our tuk tuk tour was the Jal Mahal (the water palace) it was purely a photo stop because actual access to the palace is restricted since they turned it into an super exclusive restaurant! At first glance it appears to be only one story sitting on the water, when in fact it’s actually got a further 4 stories which sit below the surface of the lake!
The final stop on our tuk tuk tour was the monkey temple, we actually didn’t know a whole lot about this one but the promise of lots of monkeys had me interested! The driver pulled up in a random street and pointed to the top of a hill and said it’s that way. So up we went only to find the monkey temple wasn’t at the top of this hill it was down the bottom on the otherside in a pass between two other hills. By this point of the day it was getting very very hot and we weren’t sure if it would be worth making the trek down because that of course would mean we’d have to trek back up. But we’d already come so far so we had to see what was at the bottom. We arrived at the temple and were ambushed by a man insisting we pay a fee for my camera, he seemed a bit suss but there wasn’t much we could do so we paid him and headed in. There were definitely a lot of monkeys! And they were completely wild and actually a little bit scary but the baby ones were adorable. The monkey temple itself is a sacred site were pilgrims come to bathe in its waters. We passed a couple of other travellers on our way out who told us they’d been told by another local that the guy asking for a camera fee was a con man, this was one of only many cases throughout India where we would find ourselves the target of tourist scams luckily the camera fee was only about $1!
Our final activity in Jaipur was spent in the air conditioned luxury of the Rajmandir Cinema, taking in the latest Bollywood movie called Kapoor & Sons, we didn’t understand a word of it but we managed to get the general gist of the story, I really just enjoyed escaping from the heat and the popcorn!
There’s not a lot to do in the town of Ranthambore and most people visit for one reason and one reason only, to see tigers! And tigers are exactly the reason why we were in Ranthambore, the national park located in this township has one of the healthiest populations of Bengal tigers in the world so we had high hopes we’d get to spot one of these beauties. We booked ourselves on 3 safaris to triple our chances of seeing one of these majestic cats and we were glad we did because our first two safaris had us spotting a whole lot of wildlife but no tigers. It was third time lucky for us when we spotted a young female tiger on our final safari. At first we saw her from such a far distance that the only way I m could see her was with the mega zoom on my camera but after a whole lot of waiting around and relocating our jeep a number of times, we eventually got to see her up close when she wandered out of the bushes right where we were waiting. Success!!!
Pushkar is a small town bordering the Thar desert in central Rajasthan. The town, situated around a holy lake, is often frequented by Hindu pilgrims who come to bathe in the lakes waters via one of its 52 ghats. It’s a quiet town a little off the tourist path with a relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere. The main reason we visited the town was for the sunset camel safaris into the desert. We signed up for a 3 hour camel ride, this was possibly a mistake, after 3 hours the camels not so comfy anymore and I found myself with some painful chafe in unwanted places. Ouch! But in saying that the sunset was absolutely magnificent and it was definitely worth the uncomfortable camel ride!
The final stop of our Rajasthan adventure and definitely my favourite! I’d been wanting to visit Udaipur since my last trip to India and it certainly lived up to my expectations! This town is incredible! Situated on the banks of an artificial lake you might recognize this beautiful place from movies such as James Bond’s Octopussy and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
First things first we took a boat ride on the lake to visit Jag Mandir Island, a small island in the lake boasting exclusive accommodation and magnificent views of Udaipur… we were there for the views. We then spent the rest of the day exploring Udaipur’s Palace complex including the sparkly Durbar Hall, home to the some of the biggest chandeliers in India and the Crystal Gallery, an extravagant collection of crystal ranging from candle holders to chairs and even a crystal bed!
Another must see in Udaipur – Jagdish temple, it’s an important temple in the heart of Udaipur where people come to pray daily. The architecture of this temple is magnificent but the thing I found most interesting is the large marble slab found near the entrance of the temple. It’s believed the marble slab has healing powers capable of easing aches and pains, if you stand and watch it long enough you will see people approach it and press all sorts of body parts against it in an attempt to utilize it’s healing power.
I think my favourite thing about Udaipur was watching the sun set and the city light up from one of the many rooftop viewpoints. We were lucky enough to witness some pretty spectacular sunsets on our visit!
For our final sunset we ventured up to the Monsoon Palace, overlooking the city of Udaipur from the top of a hill you get incredible panoramic views from the palace. The sunsets not too shabby either! Oh and there’s some feisty monkeys that have taken up residency in the palace grounds that make the visit all the more interesting.
As we returned from the Monsoon Palace we found ourselves smack bang in the middle of a celebration, what celebration you may ask? At the time we had no idea but we later found out that it was a new years eve celebration on the 7th of April celebrating the end of winter and the start of spring. It’s was loud and it was colourful and a wonderful thing to witness!