Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur = Gold, Blue, White

As it was quiet, cheap and very pretty, we stayed a few days longer in Jaisalmer that originally planned. I've passed over a bunch of the planning/routing duties to Alysha as she is on the tighter schedule. Alysha has brought a much needed boost of enthusiasm to the group, always eager to see and try something new. On days when the girls are not feeling up to much sightseeing, the 2 of us will set off to see what we can find, with our journey about town almost always ending up doing something unexpected. A couple of times now we've been invited into someone's home for a chat, tea, meal, or even a quick yoga lesson! Things are always exciting with Alysha around.
As I've said before, Jaisalmer is known as the golden city as everything is built from the same desert sandstone, and there is a great sandcastle fort overlooking town. 1/4 of the population lives inside the cramped buildings and narrow streets within the fort and while many tourists stay inside, we chose to stay outside and enjoy the view of, rather than from, it. There are also beautifully carved stone sculptures and latticework on the buildings around town and expecially on the Jain temples in the area. We all unanimously agree that Jain temples are the nicest to look at. Jainism is an old religion that branched off from Hinduism the same time Buddhism did but retains much stronger ties. The people are very peaceful, refusing to wear leather and are pure vegetarians.
Jaisalmer exists now solely as a tourist town and in support of the military patrolling the nearby border with Pakistan. There are numerous bases in the area, the roads are kept in great shape (definately an Indian rarity) and the airport is now used only for military aircraft so there is a constant sound of jets flying overhead. While there, we met many other backpackers including a Canadian couple from Vancouver (Ray and Sally) and a Brazilian guy (Bruno) with whom we travelled to Jodhpur. It turns out that Ray was at the trilogy tuesday of Lord of the Rings in the same theatre we were! Small world.
Jodhpur, the blue city, is blue, but only in the old town and you have to angle your camera just right to make it look fully blue. It is however the bluest I've ever seen a town. It is a cool site to see from up above. The highlight of Jodhpur were the lassis though. Lassis are a yoghurt drink made sweet, salty or with various combinations of fruit inside. Bre is the group junkie. In Jodhpur they make excellent, thick sweet lassis with saffron and cardomom. Otherwise, I didn't like Jodhpur and we only spent 1 full day there. I've never been allergic to a city before but I think I was to this one as I was constantly sneezing and finding it hard to breathe. Surprisingly, it also had the worst air pollution I've ever seen though it's only got 1 million people. Alysha and I went on a walk the first evening to check things out and I've heard of fog but not when it was a thick black cloud between the buildings at the end of the street. It was like staring down the hallway to hell..... Needless to say, we got back choking with burning eyes.
On our 1 full day we attempted to see a few things in between our lassi breaks. Jodhpur has a massive fort on the main hill overlooking town but again, as it is overpriced and we'd heard rumors that there was a back route in, the 8 of us went looking for it. We never found it but got distracted talking to the people taking care of some temples near the fort. I don't think they get many visitors as they are most of the way up the hill and on the opposite side of the main entrance to the fort. So we sat and chatted a while and had more free tea (my personal record is 3 in a day). As I said, we never found a secret entrance though we checked the whole thing. We couldn't sneak in the front entrance either though maybe if I'd continued my "I'm escorting Jackie Chan and need free tickets" story at the front gate a little longer it might've come to fruition.... You just can't take things here too seriously. I spend lots of time harrassing beggars and taxi drivers with crazy stories to keep myself amused instead of getting angry. Something I guess I picked up from dad. You could easily write a book on this topic alone. There are only 2 ways I can see of successfully dealing with them. 1. Don't acknowledge them at all. 2. Control the conversation, see if you can confuse them then walk away while their stunned. My finest moment was giving a beggar kid in Sri Lanka a "magic rock" and running away while he stood there trying to figure out how to use it. From Jodhpur we caught a bouncy 7hr bus south-east to Udaipur, the white city of Rajastan. Just like Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Bikaner, Udaipur suffers from city wide power outages for 3-4 hrs every morning as part of a rerouting of power to other areas. They say rural areas but it is also to Delhi and Bombay.... Rather than a fort, Udaipur is famous for it's huge palace complex and all the nearby palaces including one built on an island in the lake in the middle of town. Most of the palaces have been converted to hotels now and access is restricted. Yesterday we went to a cultural dance program, you gotta love a country where people dance with 9 pots balanced on their head. Again, in the intrests of time, we've only spent 1 full day in Udaipur and tonight we take the train south to Ahmedabad and on to Gujarat state for a change. I'm looking forward to getting out of this main tourist route of Rajastan and back to the quieter side of India. Food here has been about 3 times the price of everywhere else, simply because it is all tourist restaurants. Yes, I'm complaining about 10 cents again......


At 6:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

ur stories r great...i love hearing wat u guys r up to!!!

luv ya

Ter Bear


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