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Day 8 - Agra - Jaipur Saturday 18/11/06.                   (click here for the map)

1st class waiting room
Rita in train
Rita with dinner
Rita waiting in the luxury 1st class waiting room
Rita admiring view from train to Jaipur
Dinner in our very nice hotel in Jaipur

Well we have made it through our first week in India. Today we rise at 4.20am to start our second week by traveling to Jaipur, where we will remain for 3 days. After showering and gathering our stuff together we head to to reception and check out. We meet our driver who will take us the short distance to the railway station for our first train journey in India so far. He advises us that it is a good idea to use a porter as they are only about 50R (50p) as they will find your carriage and take you right to your seat. As we think that is a good idea, the driver summons a porter, who gathers both of our cases, weighing about 30 kilo's plus and balances them on his head and takes us to the first class waiting room. He plonks us down in the waiting room and then informs us that our train that is supposed to depart at 6.10 am is already about about an hour late. He says that he will come and get us just before the train arrives and leaves us to get ourselves comfy in the waiting room. The tannoy system announces that the 6.10 train to Jaipur has now been delayed 1 hour twenty minutes and will arrive at 7.30. We sit in the waiting room reading our books, which we soon find out that we are sitting opposite the men's toilet and shower room. The tannoy keeps making disturbing announcements that the train is running later and later and the final announcement states that it will be leaving at 10.30am. Apart from we reading our books, we are fascinated to watch all these scruffy looking Indian men, coming into the waiting room and within half an hour or so, they have showered, shaved brushed their teeth and hair and put on their smart clothes and as their trains arrive they are looking very smart and respectable. At about 9am, our porter comes to keep us informed about our train and to tell us that his shift as finished and that he will hand over the job to the porter standing next to him. We say hello to the new porter and he says that he will come back for us later. Just after ten our porter comes and gets us and leads us out to the platform. A very long train that has already been traveling for about 12 hours powers into the station. There is a lot of action around the train as passengers are trying to get on and off the train, porters are loading lots of large crates and boxes, sellers are walking up and down the track shouting about their food and drink they are selling. Our porter speeds off and we follow as he finds our carriage and leads us straight to our seat. After a little haggling over the price (started as 50p when we first arrived in the station, he wanted £1 due to the waiting time and told me all about his poor three children and his wife. I gave him 70p, must be getting soft in my old age). Our seats are still set out as beds, so the train usher makes all the beds up and we sit down and have two whole comfy benches to ourselves. We settle down for a journey that we don't really know how long it should take. We both carry on reading our books and catch up on a little sleep. Our express train potters along at a speed that does not feel like an en express train, in fact I'm sure than someone has just cycled past us. Our train finally stumbles into Jaipur at just after 4pm, nearly twelve hours since we left our hotel in Agra, which is only about 120 miles away. Although tired and weary, we both enjoyed our first train journey in India. As we booked our hotel in Jaipur quite late, we did not have time to arrange our pick up from the hotel, so we arrange a prepaid Tuk Tuk at the railway station and for 30p they get us and our luggage there safely. On route we find out our drivers name is Rahul and I think that he fancies himself as a bit of a ladies man, he has lover boy painted on the front of his Tuk Tuk and I notice that he has 6 wing mirrors, at least two of which are so that he can look at himself and check his hair. We arrive at the Hotel Umaid Mahal (click here  for their website) at about half four and we arrange for Rahul to come back tomorrow to show us around Jaipur. We check in and make our way up to our room. Our room is a beautiful room, it a Royal Suite, about £35 a night including breakfast. The room is completely covering in green marble throughout, with an exquisite hand painted ceiling and lots of dark carved wood furniture. As soon as we are in the room, we order some food to be delivered to the room. Less than half an hour later we get our food, a tasty Veg Thali (an assortment of 6 various dishes), Aloo Gobi (potato and cauliflower), a couple of 7ups and couple of bottles of mineral water, all coming in at about £2. Apart from a banana and an a orange between us for the train journey, we have not eaten for nearly 24 hours. After eating, we chill in our room and watch a bit of telly and fall asleep very early (well I do, Rita still manages to find the time to watch a couple of crap American films on the TV)

Day 9 - Jaipur Sunday 19/11/06.

Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds)
Jantar Mantar
Rita at City Palace with two gentlemen with smashing moustaches.

We arranged to meet Rahul for a whole days sightseeing around Jaipur, known as the Pink City as most of the buildings are washed with this colour. We carry out the normal routine, I think you know the drill and the packing list by now. After breakfast we walk out to the front of the hotel and are greeted by a smiling Rahul, we chat about our plan for the day set off into the centre which is officially the Pink City. We park up just inside the city gates and Rahul informs us about the city walls and that there are 7 gates into the city. He drops us so that we can go for a wander along the busy street. The city was built with long, wide avenues, but that does not stop it from becoming a mass of cars, rickshaws, tuk tuk's, motorbikes, cyclists, carts (being pulled by camels, horses or oxen), all fighting their way through the traffic, all trying to avoid the wildlife which includes cows, goats, pigs, monkeys and donkeys that seem to just bimble along the road without a care in the world and none of them get phased by the traffic and the constant tooting.
Rahul drops us off firstly at the City Palace Museum. This was built as the palace for Jai Singh II, who ruled for 40 years. He is responsible for the building of Jaipur (meaning City of Victory), work on the city started in 1727 and took only 7 years to complete. The City Palace is a sprawling complex of Rajput and Mughal architecture. We stop to watch an artist demonstrating how he does miniature paintings and are impressed enough to buy a couple.
On leaving the City Palace we stroll across the street to Jantar Mantar, again built by Jai Singh II, who was a keen astronomer. Completed in 1734, It resembles a giant sculptural garden, containing 16 large instruments that even to this day are used to predict how hot the summer will be, the expected date and arrival, duration and intensity of the monsoon and the possibility of floods and famines. Again a couple of minutes from Jantar Mantar is Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), probably the most distinct building in Jaipur. Built in 1799, though 5 stories high it is only one room deep. It was built so that the ladies of the harem to Jai Singh II could watch the colourful life in the streets and bazaar through the perforated screens of the windows, without being seen by the riff raff below, smashing idea I think may get one myself.

On leaving Hawa Mahal we
were then duped into visiting a carpet and textile shop, under the guise that we were seeing some Mogul craftsmen at work on the outskirts of the city. We were greeted by the owner, who is a smart well spoken Indian gentleman, who briefly explains and demonstrates how their carpets are made. We are then swiftly led into a large sales area with racks full of rugs and carpets.

'What kind of rugs or carpets are you interested in?' he asks.

Rita and I both look at each other, 'None' we reply simultaneously.

I feel that Rita is working with me on this one, unlike the visit to the Jewellery Shop. I sense that my wallet can rest easily in my trouser pocket. This does not seem to dampen his spirit or his pearly white smile and he seems determined to carry on with his sales pitch. Various large rugs are uncurled in front of us to tempt us. Failing to get any sort of positive reaction, he then commences in showing us smaller and smaller rugs. As the rugs get smaller, so does his smile, until finally as the rugs are no larger than a small hand towel, he resigns himself to defeat and with a strained smile, he shakes our hands and wishes us well. We are then escorted to the floor above that deals with textiles for round 2. Again the same question is thrown at us 'What textiles are you interested in?', none really came the reply. Unperturbed he started to show us various designs in bedspreads. We were both on the ropes for a while as we both liked one or two and prices were talked about, discussions into discounts for not having it shipped home took place, then slowly but surly we fought our way out of the corner and said 'We'll think about it and we may come back tomorrow' he threw one final punch 'these prices are only for today' we blocked it with a 'ok no worries'. Again we said our goodbyes and made our way downstairs back to Rahul, pleased with our two victories.
Rahul returned us to the hotel, we asked if it was possible to go out the following day for another tour, he said that he was busy, but his cousin would take us. We said goodbye and returned to our room where we order some food to be delivered. After eating we decide that we need to get the train station to book some rail tickets for a couple of days time to Udaipur. Failing in our mission to get any we return to the hotel and off to la la land.

Day 10 - Jaipur Monday 20/11/06.

Amber Fort
Rita with guide from Amber Fort
Traffic negotiating around some elephants.

After breakfast, we make our way to the front gate of the hotel at 10am and wait for Rahul. Whilst waiting I speak to the owner of the hotel and ask if he could arrange a car to take us to Udaipur, 'No problem' came the reply with the customary wobble of the head 'It will be 5,000R (about £50) as it is over 200 miles away and will take about 5 to 6 hours. With that agreed and arranged we returned to waiting and waiting for Rahul's cousin, after 20 minutes or so it was obvious that he was not coming. Another Tuk Tuk appears and asks where we want to go. As we negotiate another two Tuk Tuks turn up and a row breaks out amongst them, it turns out that the first one had no right to take us as the others had all been waiting in line at the top of the road. All sorted and agreed the new driver agrees to take us to the Amber Fort for the afternoon for 250R (£2.50). The journey is quite a long one for a Tuk Tuk, about 7 miles out of town, up in the hills. We encounter a new form of wildlife on the road, and unlike the others, the cars slow down for them and go out of there way to go round them, we have seen our first elephants on the road so far in India. We get to the bottom of the Fort and are dropped off in a large carpark, where we are transferred to a Jeep to take us up the steep road to the Fort. Due to the maze like qualities of the Fort, our guidebooks advise us to hire a guide for the tour, so we bypass all the younger lads claiming to be guides and decide to go for this elderly man with a very interesting face. He informs us that this large impressive fort was built in 1592 and was the capital of the Rajisthan area until Jaipur was built and the capital for the area moved to there. Our dear little guide did a great job of leading us around this maze like complex and telling us various facts and stories about what life was like in this fort. After a very interesting and informative tour, I pay the guide his £2 and we head back down to meet our Tuk Tuk driver that is waiting for us. He returns us safely to our hotel, amazingly without having to stop at any carpet or jewellery stores on the way. We have an early night as we are being picked up in the morning at 7.30am.

Day 11 - Jaipur - Udaipur Tuesday 21/11/06

cows crossing motorway
Motorway brought to standstill as cows cross all 6 lanes
Rita by pool at
Hilton Hotel in Udaipur
Arty farty picture of sunset from the Hilton Hotel garden.


We are met by our driver, who is a stern looking man, who we notice carry's a large, nicely decorated cosh down the side of drivers seat, we are not sure why he needs it, we are hoping it has nothing to do with passengers in his car. We set off from the hotel at about 7.45am for the 5-6 hour, 230 mile drive to Udaipur. We have decided to take the car instead of the train as the trains to Udaipur and slow and not that frequent. Early on we realise that the driver has a great economy with words and for the majority of the drive remains perfectly quiet, just staring ahead. Before long we are out of Jaipur and on a 3 lane toll motorway. The countryside leaving Jaipur is fairly flat and featureless, it is quite a dry area with little vegetation. We stop briefly for a cup of tea at a roadside cafe, but apart from that we will continue without stopping. We find out, from one of the drivers few urges to speak, that after he has driven for 6 hours to drop us of in Udaipur, he will turn around and drive straight back the 230 miles to Jaipur. Although the motorway is seemingly as normal as any motorway in the Uk, it soon becomes apparent that it is not. On more than one occasion, the whole motorway grinds to a halt as either cattle or goats are led across from one side to the other. Our driver has to keep alert as we also find out that other local drivers often use the wrong side of the motorway to drive down to get somewhere as they feel it is more convenient for turning off. On one occasion we are driving down the fast lane when he notices a tractor coming towards us and has to take evasive action. Our driver drives in a very calm and carefree manner and does not seem to get flustered by any of this. The only time when this calmness was broken was when a cow suddenly launched itself from the central reservation into the fast lane that we were in, but once he'd dealt with it he went back to his normal calm self.
We arrive in Udaipur just after 1pm and our driver drops us off at the Trident Hilton, were we are staying for just one night. In my previous enquires to locate accommodation in Udaipur, I was offered some luxury tents by a river. As they could not provide me with any pictures, I have arranged to go and see them today, so that if we like them we can stay in them for a couple of nights. As we walk out of the very posh looking Trident Hotel, we are met by a Tuk Tuk driver, who turns out to be called Mohammed. He agrees to take us to the Hotel Udia Kothi, as this hotel also operates the luxury tents. On being dropped off by Mohammed, we agree to a full days sightseeing tour in a couple of days time. We meet the owner of the hotel, who is a very well spoken lady, who we later find out is called Daisy, who with her driver, takes us to go and see the tents, which are about three miles out of town. The tents are very comfortable, with on suite facilities, proper beds, electricity, fridge and nice old furniture. We agree to book the tents for the following day. We return to the Hotel Udia Kothi for a lovely dinner on the roof terrace overlooking the fantastic view of the old town and the huge lake in the middle. We return to the Hilton just before sundown and have a quick half hour by the pool, as we feel obliged to as it has cost us a £100 for the night and we have hardly been there to enjoy it.

Day 12 - Udaipur Wednesday 22/11/06

Inside tent
Rita outside tent
Me by lake
Inside our luxury tent
Kids sitting in the village school
Me having lunch by the lake in Udaipur


We are picked up by the driver from the Hotel Udai Kothi from the Hilton at about 11.30am and taken straight to the tent accommodation. We are greeted there by Daisy and are shown the facilities. We quickly settle in and before long we are sitting on our veranda, enjoying the sunshine, reading our books and admiring the view across the river, where people and their livestock come down to the river to either drink, wash or are just passing through onto who knows where. It is just fascinating watching the small village opposite just carrying out their simple, and probably very mundane jobs to them, such as bathing, washing clothes, carrying water in large stainless steel pots on their heads, all dressed in bright vivid textiles. After a little relaxing time on the veranda, we get the courtesy car into the town. The first impressions of Udaipur is that it is a lot more relaxed than any other Indian city we have visited so far. We walk through the back streets and find a small hotel and restaurant right by the waters edge and decide to sit here for a while and have a bite to eat and drink and enjoy the view. We enjoy some Dahl, potato and tomato curry, rice and some drinks and just gaze at the beautiful view. We are also amused by the ten or so cheeky chipmonks that every so often jump up onto someone's table and steal a small piece of food and invariably make the guest jump. On leaving the restaurant we stroll up the main street and we do a bit of light shopping in some of the craft shops and textile shops that line the street. We drift back to the Udai Kothi Hotel, I visit their travel desk and enquire whether he could put together a package to include a driver for four days, some hotels in Jodhpur and Jaiselmer, a flight back to Delhi from Jodhpur and some return flights to Kathmandu (Nepal) from Delhi. He said that he would sort out a package and a price and get back to us the following day. We then have a drink on the roof terrace and to watch the sun setting on this beautiful city that is built around these various huge lakes. In the middle of the lake is the famous palace that appeared in the James Bond film Octopussy, which is now a very expensive somewhat over rated hotel. We return to the tent and lie in bed falling asleep to the sound of frogs croaking, crickets and various other animals scurrying around outside the tent which we believe (or hope) are chipmonks.

Day 13 - Udaipur Thursday 23/11/06

Old potter working by side of street
Palace on the lake - Udaipur, used in James Bond film Octopussy
Rita with our Tuk Tuk driver Mohammed


After breakfast at the Hotel, we visit the Hotel travel desk to see how they are getting on with sorting out our tailor made tour. Whilst we wait for the manager to come from the main office further down the street, I start chatting to the young lad, called Narendra Singh Jhala, that sits patiently at the desk, waiting for any enquires from any of the hotel guests. He is very inquisitive about what life is like in the Uk, what sort of wages people earn and the sort of hours that they have to work to earn them. I enquire about his work and life and find out that he starts work at 8am and works until 10pm, where he goes to the main shop and works for a further hour until 11pm. He works the same daily hours for 7 days a week, all this for 7000R a week (£70), which I work out to be 70p and hour! After a brief glimpse into each others lives, the manager arrives and we sort out some of the details, but he asks us to return at 4pm as he has to finalise a few things. On making our way outside the front of the Hotel we are greeted by Mohammed, our Tuk Tuk driver that bought us into town a couple of days early. We head off for our days sightseeing with an initial stop at the imposing City Palace, it is Rajisthan's largest palace, with a facade of 244m long and over 30m high. It was built by Maharaja Udai Singh II (who built the city of Udaipur and gave it is name, Udai being his name and pur meaning city, see you're learning something here). We hire a guide who takes us round the Palace and provides us with loads of tales, facts and information and before long we are back with Mohammed and are whizzing and tooting our way through the city traffic. He then takes us to a couple of local food and vegetable markets, that are off the tourist trail. They are both extremely fascinating and attack all our senses, the noise is immense with all the traders shouting out there wares plus all the traffic noise. There are sorts of smells and aromas from the various stalls doing foods, hot drinks, spices, flowers etc. On top of that we are completely surrounded by colours of the products being sold and the colourful saris and scarf's of the lady sellers and the movement of all these people bustling about their daily routines. Mohammed walks with us around both of the markets, answering any questions we have and generally just looking after us until we get back to his Tuk Tuk. We also visit some other low key museums and gardens on our travels. On mentioning that we would like some lunch, Mohammed takes us to a restaurant that he believes that we would like called 'Benny's'. Inside the large brass door, the restaurant is rather dark and quite small and cosy and most of the clientele are young local couples and some businessmen. We order a nice potato and tomato curry, a chana curry (chickpea), some rice and a keema paratha for me (flat bread stuffed with spicy mince), with a large beer for me and a coke for Rita. We pay the less than £4 bill and head back to Mohammed. He tells us that he wishes us to see his 'friends' marble workshop, we smell a bit of a rat, but as he has been such a good driver, we go along with it. I feel safe as I know that Rita and I have no need for any marble stuff, So shortly after entering the large shop full of numerous marble products and after saying 'Oh very nice' and 'Oh very interesting' to all the things that we are shown by the escorting salesman as we march past all the shelves of goods we are heading back out again to the exit and back to the Tuk Tuk. We then head back to the Hotel so that we can finalise everything with regards to our tour with the travel desk. Mohammed waits outside to take us to the Monsoon Palace, which sits on top of a large mountain outside of the city wall. As the visit to the travel desk takes longer than anticipated, we are late in getting back to Mohammed and on route he informs us that we will not make it and puts plan B into action he whizzes along and takes us to the Hilltop Hotel and making our way up to the 6th floor we are just in time to watch the sun set over the mountains and across the beautiful lakes from the rooftop bar with a drink in our hand. We make our way back through the darkness to the Hotel and after paying Mohammed his 700R (£7) we head upstairs for dinner, I tuck into a tasty chicken tikka and garlic naan and Rita enjoys a mixed vegetable curry and rice. As this is one of the few days that we actually have a lunch and a dinner we head back to the tent thoroughly stuffed.

Day 14 - Udaipur Friday 24/11/06

Two country girls
Kids at the school
Girls carrying wood
Two happy young girls we met on our way to the village
Kids sitting in the village school playground.
The same girls we had met coming into village, returning with firewood.

Today we had a bit of a lie in as we do not have a great deal planned today. I get up at about 7 and potter about on the laptop that Daisy has kindly lent me as there is no internet access in the tents yet and her laptop is linked up to her mobile phone and she has lent it to me for a couple of days so that I can sort a few things out. Rita rises about nine and we get the car to the Hotel to have our breakfast, both opting for a nice ommelet each, plus some pineapple, melon, papaya and banana. After breakfast we head back to the tent to relax on the veranda to catch up with some reading and a little bit or writing. Daisy appears and says that she is going to go for a walk to visit the village that lives across the river and that she is going to take one of her builders as he is from that village and he would happily show us around and wanted to know if we would like to come and visit it. We jump at the chance and before we know it we set off. Within minutes of setting off we are walking through peaceful and serene country side. We cross through babbling brooks, over stone walls, down steep embankments, up and down hills. The views through the valleys is stunning. Along the route we meet numerous children and we stop to give them some sweets and biscuits. On route we stop at various houses and again we hand out sweets and biscuits to the kids and our builder guide provides us with information on village life as we travel. The village consists of over 700 homes spread over the hills and valleys. From any vantage point you can only see less than ten houses and he informs us that all the families like there space and do not like to be too close to their neighbours.
After about an hours walking, off road, we arrive at the village school. The school is home to over 200 kids, from all the surrounding houses, some of the kids have to walk the same distance we have just covered and more to get to school. As we walk into the schools, the children sit in perfect silence and just stare at us. As we hand out sweets and biscuits to all the kids sitting patiently outside, they remain in complete silence and all apart from one very young boy, take their sweet and biscuit, smile and place them in the top pocket of their blue school shirt. Outside the school gate are a large number of children, obviously not in school uniform, some in nothing more than rags. We ask why they are not at school, we are informed that their parents do not send them as they are needed to help in the fields or to look after their younger siblings whilst the parents work. The kids outside the school look very sad and feeling left out.We are then taken around all the classrooms of this immaculate school, and entering each one all the smiling children stand up and greet us. All the classrooms, although perfectly clean, lack any desks, chairs, any colour on the walls or any of the normal things you would imagine seeing on school walls such as posters or pictures etc. All the children have to sit and write on the floor for all their lessons. After an informative visit, we thank all the teachers and the head master and make our way back down through the countryside to where our tents are. Rita and I comment on how disciplined, well behaved and courteous all the children we have met today were, very refreshing especially coming from a country where all these values seem to be eroding at an alarming rate. I think that kids from the Uk should walk in the footsteps of the children here in India for just one week and they would appreciate their privileged lives. Sorry about that, I'll get off my soapbox now, I just had to get it off my chest. Anyway after about an hours walk,we get back to the tents. Rita and I freshen up for ten min's or so before catching the car with Daisy back to the Hotel. After a quick bite to eat on the rooftop terrace restaurant, we enquire about where we can get a boat trip around the lake, we are told to walk just across the bridge and turn right. So we get across the bridge and turn right and on doing so we enquire from a local where the boat trips are. He gestures further down the road, further down the road we enquire again. Apparently it is further down the road, so we keep on walking and keep on asking and after about three quarters of an hour of walking and asking we arrive where the boats are. Over the bridge and just turn right, my arse! We hire a private boat for just the two of us for £5 and for half an hour it chugs along the river past all the beautiful buildings and as we do so the sun is just starting to set on our final day in this beautiful and magical city that is Udaipur.
After getting off the boat we decide to catch a Tuk Tuk back to the Hotel for 60p. In all the travels on these mad Indian roads for the last two weeks we have not seen a single crash or even a small little prang. But today we do, and we have the privilege to have front row seats for it, as a man on a scooter plows into the front of our Tuk Tuk. After the loud bump do the drivers exchange details? No. Do they exchange blows? No. Words? No. They just exchange stares and as soon as it had happened, we have set off again, with nothing more than the front of his Tuk Tuk slightly damaged.
After returning to the Hotel, we visit the travel desk to finalise the details for our trip they have organised for us and the various flights etc and head up to the roof terrace for our final meal in this splendid hotel. We share an egg plant curry and a biriani rice and a couple of drinks before we catch the car back to the tent. We crash out fairly quickly after all this walking we have done today, what with the village visit and the trek for the boat trip.

Well that is the end of week two, we are half way through our trip

To jump straight to a particular week - week 1 , week 2 , week 3, week 4