Pushkar and Back to Delhi

The last day of our tour was in Pushkar, one of the holy cities. The main attraction is a market, selling the generic kind of tourist stuff. We arrived, had some lunch and went for a camel safari. I got on the camel where there was just a stump to hold onto, and was pretty uncomfortable on the top. From my workplace injuries I’ve lost proper grip in two fingers as well as grip in my thumb – I don’t need the list of injuries that I’ve had over the past five years to include falling off a camel. Whilst camels have been used for transport and carrying heavy loads, I wasn’t sure how ethical it was to ride them.

We went to the market, just to see what it was like as we had the next morning to do as we pleased. Our dinner stop was with a local family, cooking us all a vegetarian meal.

The next morning I spent in the market, but being in Asia for ten weeks there was nothing that really stood out. There were a couple of other places to visit that I wasn’t too fussed about seeing.

After a seven hour train back to Dehli, we reached the hotel and I had the next day to do as I pleased before boarding the flight to Dubai, then Budapest. My driver stopped me off at a Sikh temple, Humayun’s Tomb, a market, the outside of the Lotus Palace as the queue was around two hours long, and then the airport.

Chapati Machine in the Sikh Temple

I had been advised by a few people to go to the airport six hours before the flight to leave enough time for traffic, which was heavy when I first arrived to India. The only traffic I encountered was two red lights, so I had five and a half hours in Delhi Airport, a flight to Dubai, then nine hours in Dubai Airport and six hours flying/sleeping to Budapest.

What did I get out of going to India? I saw how other people lived. A massive part of the culture is based on marriage, religion, education level, political views – very different to what I’ve been around my whole life. I’m very content to be able to do what I want to do without being subject to do what is expected of me by everyone in the culture.

I also saw how people live on the streets, people with struggles that I will never have to face – just because I was lucky to be born where I was born. There was someone on the trip who moaned about being uncomfortable on an unpaved road, but if they had paid attention outside the window of the air conditioned car, she would have realised how well she’s lived. I enjoyed a lot of the trip, but at time it felt as though we were at places to be in places, like staying in a fort with not a lot to do around.

I also had a small group of four people, me being the youngest by at least fifteen years, and two retirees. I have a feeling that we missed out on a few things for their comfort, and there was no one really I could have a laugh, have a drink and chat shit with. There’s a few small things that I would’ve liked to do, like fit as many people as possible into a tuk tuk. Whilst it’s something Westerners would do more for a laugh as it’s something we would get arrested for back home, it’s legitimately how people live. They’d rather sacrifice their comfort for fifteen minutes and use the money instead of hiring another tuk tuk to help themselves live.

Would I go back to India? Absolutely. Next time though, the South and Central. As I’m approaching the end of my travels it’s definitely going to be a few years at least until my return, but it’s near the top of my list.

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Bijaipur & Udaipur

The night prior to staying in Bijaipur was our rest stop, a glamping site and I had an epic nap, read a lot and slept.

Our stay in Bijaipur was in a castle – the trip titled “Classic Rajasthan,” meant that it was Classic in the sense of the royalty surrounding the state. There wasn’t a great deal to do there apart from walking around the village and I really think that the company could’ve interpreted the “classic” in different ways, not just staying in fancy places.

Moving on from Bijaipur, we went to Udaipur. After checking into the hotel we went out for lunch where I had Paneer Koftas, then moved onto the City Palace with a guided tour for around an hour and a half – one of the biggest palaces in India.

After visiting the palace and another nap, we headed off to the river to have a sunset ride which was pretty nice. For dinner I saw tandoori chicken tikka and couldn’t help but to have a day off not eating meat, and it was glorious, with a G&T which made it even better. For dessert we had the Indian dessert, Kheer, which is rice pudding with saffron, condensed milk, ground nuts and sugar.

The following day was our free day so I went to a cooking class, which was interesting. I learnt how to make Marsala Chai, Pilau Rice, Chapatis, an Okra dish, a vegetarian potato dish and a daal. I then went on to get my palm read just for fun. Apparently, I’m supposed to face east every Tuesday for twelve weeks and chant, fast every Saturday only eating one meal and to put water in a copper cup overnight and drink it each morning. Obviously, all of which I’m not going to do. He did tell me a few interesting things – apparently I could have two daughters but he can see from my palm that I don’t like children (I’m thinking maybe these daughters are kittens?), that I’m due to start feeling old at around 75 despite my back making me feel as though I’m 75 at the age of 24 and I’m to live into my 80s.

Ranthambore & Bundi

From Jaipur we moved onto Ranthambore to take part in a game drive, which I wasn’t impressed by. It was uncomfortable on the track with my back – a lot rougher than the ones in Africa. There was a lot of protruding foliage twatting me in the face and I ended up covered in dirt. We didn’t see any tigers, but instead a sloth bear which is rarer than the tigers.

The following day we headed off to Bundi- upon arriving I had a three hour long nap and our guide had to come and get me from my room to go and see Bundi Palace, as well as the town. We’d already seen a few palaces so far, as well as spending ten weeks in Asia, but this one was definitely worth a visit. We’d stopped off at a stairwell before and through the market after. The highlight for me was on the way back to the hotel, seeing a group of cows just chilling in the middle of the traffic, forcing traffic to go around.

Ranthambore & Bundi

From Jaipur we moved onto Ranthambore to take part in a game drive, which I wasn’t impressed by. It was uncomfortable on the track with my back – a lot rougher than the ones in Africa. There was a lot of protruding foliage twatting me in the face and I ended up covered in dirt. We didn’t see any tigers, but instead a sloth bear which is rarer than the tigers.

The following day we headed off to Bundi- upon arriving I had a three hour long nap and our guide had to come and get me from my room to go and see Bundi Palace, as well as the town. We’d already seen a few palaces so far, as well as spending ten weeks in Asia, but this one was definitely worth a visit. We’d stopped off at a stairwell before and through the market after. The highlight for me was on the way back to the hotel, seeing a group of cows just chilling in the middle of the traffic, forcing traffic to go around.

Madhogarh & Jaipur

From Agra we went to a village called Madhogarh. There’s a fort where we stayed the night which had a very famous Bollywood movie director checking it out during our stay. On the way there, looking out of the air-conditioned car window, I saw actual poverty with people who could not have access to sanitation, proper/safe nutrition, shelter, education etc. It really hit home how lucky I am to simply have been born where I was and the challenges that the poor people have here are not ones I will ever have to face.

Once in Fort Madhogarh we were given time just to wander around the premises and to have lunch. In the evening we popped into the village where there’s kids playing in the street, and begging the tourists to take their photo, as they enjoy seeing their picture straight after. I can only imagine what would happen in the UK and Australia if people were taking pictures of other peoples children in the streets.

We moved onto Jaipur afterwards, stopping at the Amer Fort on the way. Again, we had a tour guide specifically for the Fort, telling us the functions of everything inside. When you’ve been to a few of these kind of places, they all feel the same. My favourite place inside was the Mirror Palace.

Moving on, we went to a tailoring place, endorsed by Intrepid. This kind of place likes to make you buy something, showing us various kinds of duvets, blankets, tablecloths, jackets, scarves, the list goes on. I was tempted by a duvet because no matter how much I travel, bed is one of my favourite places so it’s worth making an investment. However, without owning a bed or even having a fixed address, I passed.

The next stop was Hawa Mahal, the outside of the building is allegedly heaps better than what is on the inside, so had a quick stop to take pictures before heading to the hotel, where we didn’t do much else besides eat dinner.

After a lay in the following morning we had a look around the market which wasn’t completely open, though did have a quick samosa stop with some kachoori thrown in too, before heading to a jewellers and dropped back to the hotel and left to our own devices. I had to go to an ATM, passing a place for some lassi. Whilst crossing the road someone came up to me trying to sell me stuff that I do not want. When he asked where I’m from what seemed to be the perfect opportunity to make him go away turned to shit – he asked me where I’m from and the first place that came to mind was Germany. He gave me a sales pitch in German and I didn’t understand any of it. I have a feeling that next time I should pretend to be Polish.

I went to the City Palace, not staying too long as it was hot and had a really nice tuk tuk driver on the way back, asking me what he should expect for visiting Europe for the first time later this year. Apparently everyone has told him to be prepared for the cold. During the evening we went out for a vegetarian restaurant for dinner and had the nicest meal I’ve had so far (I got our guide to choose my meal), finished with an Indian rice pudding. Our guide took us to a traditional Rajistani sweet shop afterwards and I let him pick for me, which he seemed really excited to do.

Agra and The Taj Mahal

In Agra there’s not just the Taj Mahal but also the Red Fort, featured on the back of some of the bank notes. If there’s one thing I’ve not been able to do recently, it’s been getting out of bed before 11am but getting up at 5 wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

After a two hour train ride we arrived in Agra and straight away went to the Red Fort, with our private guide who told us about the history behind it and how it functioned mainly with the Indian royalty, but also with British soldiers.

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After the Red Fort we went to a carpet making center. The tour company put it in the itinerary as handmade carpets don’t get made too much. They want to be able to support these businesses to help prevent it from dying out, so fair enough. It’s interesting to watch people make them and to hear the amount of time it takes to make them, but it is awkward when you are technically homeless like myself, have nowhere to put a au$1000+ rug and having people just present a lot of rugs at you.

After lunch at the hotel and chilling for a couple of hours we went to the Taj Mahal. The last few years I’ve seen some of the most famous places in the world – the Sydney Opera House, Sangrada Familia, the Colosseum, Eiffel Tower, etc., so it doesn’t really hit me to see things in the flesh anymore. With that said, it is very impressive and well worth the visit.

During the evening I went out for dinner with one of the guys on the tour as well as the tour guide. The place we went to is well known for BBQ food, and I am trying to stay off meat whilst I’m here. I had Paneer Tikka, which is spiced BBQ’d cheese with naan which was great.

Delhi

From Malaysia to Delhi was a five and a half hour flight – a lot longer than I’d expected. I didn’t get up to much in KL, though I’ll post some pictures within the next couple of weeks. I got to the hotel around half 8, but went to bed when I arrived.

Yesterday was the day prior to the tour group meeting. I was pretty hesitant about going out alone as India does not have the best reputation for safety for a foreign woman alone so I booked a tour. The choices were food, New Delhi or Gandhi’s Delhi – I’d definitely be eating local food on this trip with the help from a guide, and I’m going to be visiting places similar to what is included in the Delhi tour, so I opted for Gandhi’s Delhi as it’d be the most unique one.

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It was just the guide and I so our first stop was the place where Gandhi was cremated, and Sammy, my guide, took me over the early stages of his life and how he died. I had planned to read his autobiography on the flight over here but I got distracted by the Lord of the Rings movies on the entertainment system. Nowadays it’s a historical monument so is protected by fencing but it’s interesting that the flowers decorating the slab where he was cremated are changed every day.

Next we moved onto a stepwell, which is unrelated but served the purpose during monsoons to contain clean water for households. It’s no longer used for those purposes but now it’s a hangout place, there’s been movies filmed there and it’s a popular spot for people bunking classes as it’s fenced off. Whilst we were being driven to places Sammy told me a lot of information about the area and about Gandhi’s non-violent philosophies, and some of the major events in his life.

We’d stopped off to get some food – starting off with a samosa and some chai, which honestly is one of the best things I’ve ever drank. This was followed by a dessert called gulab jamun; it’s a semolina ball with nuts, spices including cardamom, deep fried in butter and served in a sugar syrup. I knew if the food was like this all along I’d be in for a treat.

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After the samosa pit stop we went to the museum of Gandhi, where he spent his last 144 days before being assassinated. They’ve left his few possessions there including his bedroom, glasses, flip flops and walking stick. There’s too much information there for me to take in, especially on a hot day and Sammy highlighted the major bits.

In the garden there, his final footsteps have been marked along with an alter right where he lost his life. It’s a very well maintained area and very quiet in comparison to the rest of Delhi that I’ve seen.

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Today, the group went on a tour of Old Delhi, starting at the Hama Masjid Mosque, and then a Sikh temple, both of which were pretty standard in terms of places of worship – I may still be templed out from Cambodia. We then had a stop at the spice market, then back to the hotel to chill for a few hours. We signed up for a street food tour with the company for tonight which I’ve recently arrived back from, and I feel as though I would still need an uber to walk a couple of blocks. In addition to the food in the pictures below we also ate Samosas, Kulfi (saffron ice cream with nuts) and Momos (Nepalese Dumplings).

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Chapati making in the Sikh temple

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Paneer Shawarma
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Golgappa
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Pao Bhaji
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Gulab Jamun

Tomorrow we’re off to Agra where the Taj Mahal is located for a one night stay.