Monday, January 09, 2006
So, right after the wedding, Kaushal, Priti and the two of us headed on an action packed Rajasthan tour. We spent the next day in Jaipur, which is incidentally referred to as the “pink city” as the maharaja (king) of Jaipur painted the entire city pink to honor King Edward, who was visiting at the time. We saw the Hawa Mahal (in the picture above), Amber Fort, City Palace and hung out with our friends, Sonia and Rishi, who were our Jaipur localites and served as great tour guides. That night, we took a night train to Jaiselmer..little did we know that it would be a train ride from HELL!!....Tarak and I, you know by this point, think we’re pretty rough and experienced backpackers..so we thought we’d buy the 2nd class sleeper tickets (as 1st class is usually for AC, which in the cold desert winters, we knew didn’t need) for you know, the lovely 12 hour journey…WRONG!! First of all, the train was late 2 hours..we waited at the FREEZING cold station and we looked around at all of the other 2nd class passengers with thick thick blankets and warm clothing…after the train finally arrived, we thought..good, some warmth…WRONG AGAIN! So, the difference between AC sleeper and second class, for anyone that needs to know, is NOT only the AC option, but HEAT and almost more importantly, sealed compartments, windows and insulation. So, there we were, lying on these ghetto seats, without sheets, blankets…as blasting “bone crushing” wind rushed through every freakin’ open crack in the windows, doors and ceilings. Of course, the stench of the nearby latrine, and no door to block the fumes..was yet another plus. And finally to top it off, the train midway had some type of brake failure or fire hazard (we weren’t exactly sure what was going on besides that smoke was coming in our compartment and that we were too damn cold to care). The city of Jaiselmer was a sight for sore eyes, and then things took a turn for the MUCH better. The city is the oldest inhabited medieval fort in the world, and we were lucky enough to stay at an amazing 500 year old haveli inside the actual fort. There were shops and bazaars galore right outside our residence, along with an incredible Jain temple, and an awesome maharaja and rani palace. It was crazy..the king and queen had separate residences..I actually was a little irritated, that the kings pad was WAY better than the queens…hmm..typical…
Anyway, day 2, we had a chance to take a much talked about, camel desert safari…we left for the sand dunes in the afternoon by jeep, and arrived to experience the incredible desert sunset on camels. Soon after the sunset, we sat by the campfire mesmerized by the sky of stars and the calm of the desert night. We headed back and ate an awesome dinner at a typical Rajasthani dhabi (it was actually called Desert Boy Dhani). The next day, we did some sightseeing, shopping and headed on another overnight train (but this time, we had switched our tickets for AC sleeper..a WORLD of difference) to Udaipur, which is the yellow city. Here we visited the famous City Palace, and then hung out at a rooftop restaurant, listening to live music, eating great food and of course a fabulous view of the Lake Palace. The next morning, our friends took off for Surat and we headed back to A’bad, only to take another (this is our 3rd now) night train to western Gujarat, in the Kuch area, near Bhuj (the area devastated by the earthquake 4 years ago) for our health camp.