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Back to our Roots
Alavidā Rajasthan, Namastē Gujarat
The Museum of Random Things
On Wednesday we travelled from Jaipur to Udaipur, a journey of 440 km which took approximately 7 hours. Although the majority of the journey was on a national Highway, a toll road which is mostly used by trucks and motorbikes, there are also frequently cows, tractors, dogs or people on this road, so one has to drive with care in order to avoid collisions with animals. Occasionally we passed through small villages or past basic roadside tea shops which are small shelters constructed out of wooden branches and tarpaulin where one can buy crisps or fruit or tea. Usually there were dogs, cows, goats and sometimes pigs around, roaming freely around these areas, searching for food in the piles of rubbish that is left around human settlements or on the sides of roads.
Sadly we also came past the site of an accident where a bus had run into a cow. The cow was dead and the bus was badly damaged. The passengers, were standing by the side of the road, by the look of their faces they were in shock at what had happened.
When we arrived in Udaipur, our driver had to negotiate his way through streets packed with auto-rickshaws, motorbikes, cars, cows, and the occasional elephant transporting his owner on his back. To get to our hotel near Lake Picchola in the old part of Udaipur was a little tricky, as the streets are very narrow around here, and clearly not constructed for cars. However we got here at last and checked into our hotel (which is owned by a German who also owns the German bakery across the road). From the rooftop restaurant of the hotel we had amazing views over the Lake and the Lake Palace, a hotel in the middle of the lake which served as a setting for the James Bond film Octopussy!
We have seen these little charms created out of one lemon, seven green chillies and a piece of charcoal on a string all over India. They are usually in the entrances of houses or shops or they are attached to cars or auto-rickshaws. When I enquired what they are, I learned that they keep the home or business safe from evil spirits. They are usually renewed every Saturday. A “Nimbu-Mirchi Totka” as it is called, traditionally has “seven mirchis” (chillies) and “one nimbu” (lemon) to protect the home from all bad and evil energies.
Yesterday we spent another day in Jaipur. After an 11 o’clock start (late for us) we headed to Jaigarh Fort which is an old army fort on one of the hills overlooking Jaipur where there were lots of monkeys which we fed, with bread. Some of the females had babies clinging on to them. After going inside the fort where the biggest cannon in the world is, a monkey ran past, thought mama was a handhold or a tree, jumped on her and ran on which came as a shock to all of us. Luckily she was fine. Next we headed off to the Nahargarh fort where we got some views of the old city of Jaipur, took photos and had some drinks before heading to the old town, called the pink city, to do some shopping. After that we went to eat (it was already 5ish and we hadn’t had lunch) at a great restaurant where we had the best paneer dish (Indian cottage cheese) I’ve had since we’ve been in India and, trust me, we’ve had a lot of paneer!
The next day we went sightseeing in Jaipur. Our driver had booked a guide to show us around the city while he drove us to the sights. The first sight was the Amber Fort. To get up the hill, Me,Mama, and Milan rode on an elephant, (my favourite animal) while Papa and the Guide walked. The elephant had a sort of platform on its back with bars surrounding it so we couldn’t fall off. The ride was great but the riders had small clubs for guiding them, with a spike on the end and they were poking the elephants with them which I thought was really cruel. Once we got off and went into a Hindu temple where people were praying in. then we walked into a garden and we then saw a building with mirrors on it, called the Jai Mandir (hall of victory). Also known as the winter palace. the guide explained to us how with big velvet curtains and oil lamps, it was kept warm inside. The most memorable part was where the king played hide and seek with his wives. The rules were slightly different at the time, 1 hides i.e. the king and 12 seek i.e. his wives! After lunch we headed back into the old town also known as the Pink City, (originally painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales in 1876) the main sights we saw were the city palace and the early 18th century observatory called Jantar Mantar. The small sun dials have a 20 second time accuracy, but Jai Singh II the founder of the city and great warrior & astronomer wanted it to be more accurate so a larger one was constructed with a 2 second time accuracy. After we got back to the hotel we watched a puppet show before dinner and ended the day filled with many facts, figures and dates!