Trips to Rajasthan India are a sensory extravaganza.
India has long been one of my personal favorite travel destinations. It is a country that immerses you into the complexities of their culture faster than anywhere I have ever traveled. It is place that is full of an amazing collection of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Some wonderful and exotic, and some, better avoided if possible. But either good or bad, it is these sensory experiences that stay with you long after you have returned home.
This is a nice piece that appeared recently in the New York Times that gives you a good flavorof what you cn expect when traveling to Rajasthan, India.
Care to take some of their suggestions? Join Boundless Journeys on our upcoming Royal Rajasthan tour, March 7-20, as our itinerary includes many of these great places.
INDIA is modernizing rapidly, sometimes too fast. You have giant malls, but grandmothers afraid to use the escalators. There are villages in the middle of nowhere, with ornate temples soaring into the hot sky. Still, old Rajasthan endures, evoking rulers with giant mustaches, harems of beautiful women in the finest colored silks and some of the most spectacular palaces ever built. They can be found in the state’s three biggest cities: Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur.
1) LIKE A KING
Life in the dusty city of Jodhpur revolves around Mehrangarh Fort (The Fort, Jodhpur; 91-291-254-8790; www.maharajajodhpur.com), perhaps the best preserved of the hundreds of forts in Rajasthan. It offers an excellent audio guide in English explaining the cannonball scars from battles with other Rajput kingdoms and the hidden balconies in the Pearl Palace, which Raja Sur Singh’s wives once used to peek at the outside world. Before leaving, stroll through the Chokelao Bagh, a fragrant garden with exotic flora including sweet white kamini and chandni flowers, exactly as it would have been in the 18th century.
2) HINDI FOR TERROIR
For sheer extravagance and luxury, few places in Rajasthan compare with the Umaid Bhawan Palace (Palace Road, Jodhpur; 91-291-251-0101; www.tajhotels.com), a golden sandstone complex finished in 1943 on 26 acres of lush gardens. The Art Deco-style masterpiece is now a 347-room hotel, with rates of as much as 500,000 rupees, or $10,740 at 47.5 rupees to the dollar, for a night in the Maharani Suite. It is the type of place where Elizabeth Hurley married Arun Nayar, an Indian textile tycoon, in one of two lavish ceremonies. For your own memorable evening, make your way through the delicately lighted corridors to the terrace restaurant Pillars. Skip the overpriced Indian dishes and order the shiitake mushroom cappuccino to start and the spaghetti pescatore. There’s also an excellent chenin blanc from Bangalore. Dinner for one, 3,000 rupees ($64).
3) COLONIAL COCKTAILS
While you’re still buzzing from dinner, glide across the marble floors and twisting staircases to the hotel’s handsome Trophy Bar, which evokes a colonial hunting lodge. Grab a footstool that looks like an elephant’s leg, lean back on tiger skin cushions and order the signature cocktail, the Mathania, a martini infused with chilies (around 2,000 rupees). The maharajah’s family and staff still occupy one wing, so perhaps they’ll drop in for a nightcap.
4) MAGIC NUMBER
Get up early to the hillside resort of Ranakpur to see one of the most spectacular temples of the Jain faith. Built in 1439 around measurements based on the number 72, the age at which the founder of Jainism achieved enlightenment, the structure is a maze of hand-carved marble pillars and small shrines where it is not unusual to see a lone devotee kneeling. You can even stay the night for a 10-rupee donation, a bargain even by Indian standards, though don’t expect anything other than a mattress on the floor.
5) CHAI, NOT TEA
To visit the city of Jaipur is to see Indian life at its most concentrated. For an intimate introduction, stop at the junction of Kishanpol and Gangori Bazaar Road, a makeshift bus depot, and get acquainted with something that unites Indians of all castes and creeds: a cup of chai (4 rupees). Milk is added to stewing cardamoms and other spices on the spot, then brought to a boil and served immediately in clay cups. Buy a sweet fan biscuit or a spicy pakora while listening to the latest Bollywood hit from an old tape stereo.
6) WINDY CITY
The City Palace (Pink City, Jaipur; 91-141-260-8055) is Jaipur’s main attraction, a complex still guarded by turban-wearing watchers. The hall of Diwan-i-Khas houses two urns that the Guinness World Records book calls the largest silver objects ever created. They were made for the Maharajah Sawai Madho Singh II to fill with holy water from the Ganges when he traveled to London for King Edward VII’s coronation. Around the corner is the Hawa Mahal, called the Palace of the Winds because of the sharp breeze that flows through the stairs of this five-story relic. It’s lined with 953 screened windows so that the women of the royal court could watch processions without being seen by commoners.
7) CURRIES AND CHAPATIS
Foreigners are often too timid to venture into local restaurants, which is a shame. Curries in this state are often simple and spicy, not the extravagant cooking the guidebooks often promise — and almost always vegetarian. A clean, hygienic spot is Khandelwal Pavitra Bhojnalaya (Amer Road), basically a big room with rows of tables and fresh food made at the kitchen out front. Order the thali (100 rupees), with unlimited amounts of lentil curry, rice and chapatis.
8) ART OF HAGGLING
The Pink City, the old walled quarter in central Jaipur, is filled with endless rows of market stalls. At Sankhala Handicrafts (opposite Hawa Mahal; 91-141-261-0597), the young entrepreneur, Ashok, will try to sell you opulent embroidered silks and saris while practicing his French. Across the street, Best Jaipurnagra Shoe Stores (56, Johari Bazaar; 91-9-8284-5688) makes leather shoes and slip-ons by hand. Don’t be put off by the aggressive sales ploys. Everything in India is a negotiation, so be ready to play hardball. That includes walking out of the shop. When the owner runs after you, that’s the time to offer 60 percent off the asking price.
The complete story can be found at: New York Times Travel
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