Food, Photos and Travel

Monday, October 06, 2008

India- pt. 2

Dungarpur was a great place for bird watching. I was amazed at the number of different birds could be seen and heard there. I wish I had a book to identify all of the different types we saw. The palace itself had a rather large bird sanctuary featuring ostriches, peacocks and some other very exotic looking birds (which is no doubt part of the Maharajah's private collection.)

In the hills above the small city, is the very well preserved and unoccupied Juna Mahal (or Old Palace). This was probably one of my favorite palace or fort that we saw. The outside wasn't overly decorative or massive, but the inside was spectacular. Many of the rooms contained lots of intricate paintings and glass and mirror mosaic walls. From the top you could see the entire city and the lakes and hills in the distance. The best part, is we were the only people there.

From Dungarpur, we drove to Udaipur- the White City. Udaipur is a smallish city in India, with about 500,000 people, the highlight of which is the City Palace, built on the shores of Lake Pichola.

The City Palace is a massive property, with 2 hotels, the private residence of the Maharajah of Mewar (more about him in a moment), plus the shops, museums and preserved ares of the palace open to the public.

One evening in Udaipur, Jen and I took a boat to Jag Mandir, an island palace in the middle of the lake. There is a grand courtyard, huge carved elephants and a great restaurant (which I'm sure is original to the 17th century design). We were drinking tea in the courtyard waiting for our reservations, when a group of Indian business men wanted photos with us. Each one took turns standing with us, while the rest snapped away with their cell phones. They quickly lost attention, however, when the Maharajah showed up. Soon everyone was rushing to have their photo taken with the king.

(this was the best photo I could get without my paparazzi gear)

From Udaipur we traveled to Kumbhalgarh, which is this huge fort in the lush mountains of Southern Rajasthan. We stayed at Aodhi Lodge, the old hunting lodge of the Maharajah (still owned by the aforementioned king). The rooms were a little damp (everything was damp), but had lots of character. In addition to a pretty enormous fort, Kumbhalgarh also has a huge wildlife sanctuary. I would have loved more time to trek around the area for a couple of days!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Holy Cow

I've been home for 5 days now, and I'm still finding it hard to put the experience in to words. I just fell in love with India immediately. From the moment we stepped off the plane we were just engulfed in the sights, and colors, and aromas. I want to blog about the whole trip, but it was long, so I'm going to have to do it over several posts. We did and saw so much, and I don't want to forget anything!

We arrived in Delhi late at night, and were met at the airport by our driver and taken to our hotel: The Hotel Palace Heights in Connaught Place. It was a clean and modern hotel with a fantastic restaurant. Delhi is an insane city. There is just so much of everything: people, cars, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, shops, noise, smog, and did I mention people? On our first full day we did some sightseeing around the city, seeing the Amber Fort, Chandni Chowk market in Old Delhi where we took a bicycle rickshaw, Humayan's Tomb, and the Gandhi memorial.

The next day we woke up early for a morning flight to Ahmedabhad where our driver was waiting for us (he had left the day before to get there for us). We drove several hours to the Udai Bilas Palace in Dungarpur. The palace was like a time warp. Everything was straight out of the 1930's and 40's. Furniture, old photographs, and even old hunting trophies (including a few tiger heads from the 1930's). The maharaja still lived in the private portion of the palace. My room was this big round room, with a huge bathroom (complete with claw foot tub) and a balcony overlooking the lake temple.

Our second evening in Dungarpur, was the conclusion of the Ganesha Chaturthi, an annual festival to the God Ganesha. Jen and I walked into town that evening, and a local family invited us to the roof of their home to watch the festival. As the sun went down, the fireworks and singing began, and these huge fruit bats were flying above us. It was an awesome welcome to India.

One of my favorite photos of the trip came from the market area in town. I love how her Saree matches the wall:

to be continued...