Posts Tagged ‘rajasthan’

Rajasthan, where the best and the worst of India really collide.  One of the poorest states but with a long cultural heritage and some of India’s most popular tourist destinations.  But you spend half your time trying to fend off people wanting to sell you carpets or jewels or silver or something, and harassment of western women is not unheard of.

On the other hand there are beautiful palaces to visit, intricately carved Jain temples, the jantar mantar, Bundi fort to name a few.  And much, much more than I saw before I got out of the furness.  At the time though, I just couldn’t wait to leave. I don’t know if it was the heat or the hassle, or both, but being in the tourist trap that is Jaipur sent me over the edge.  The constant battle to get the driver to go where you want, the hassle from pretty much everybody outside a tourist attraction and all this at temperatures above 40c.  Nightmare.

There were some highlights though.  Watching Octopussy on a rooftop while drinking beer illegally in Udaipur, hanging out with a dog and a bunch of agressive macaques looking out over blue Bundi, or just the random religious festivals that appear overnight in town centres.

Go to Rajasthan, just wait till winter.  Or just look at my photos here

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On the way home one night we stopped at a bar, the bouncer bar. Looked OK, almost clean, not too many seedy guys. We even got into conversation with a nice guy talking about the good and bad of the country until a guy came in who seemed to be his friend and took over the conversation, tuning his back to his ‘friend’. He went on to ask us
– Have you noticed, as a tourist, any opportunities for exporting Indian goods to your own country?

– No not really, most things are available there, even cheaper, I replied

– But you know, sometimes, there are for example, diamonds you could take for 10-20 thousand which could earn more money in your country.

– But I can only import £500 worth of good to the uk without paying tax, actually £390 – I checked on the customs and excise website.

– I’m not talking about the UK, I’m talking about Scotland, I’d already told him where I was from.

– It’s the same country, I told him – As much as I hate to admit it.

– But you can import as much as you like to the UK as you want on a tourist visa, he went on.

– No you cant, you have to pay tax or your breaking the law, I was loving this now.

– Excuse me but I know the rules better than you. He said – obviously not!

– I’m a UK national that’s travelled many times outside the EU, why wouldn’t I know what I’m talking about.

– Look, are you interested in making some money

At this point andrea buts in and says lets get the bill. I just want to keep hearing this guy talk shit but I can tell It’s time to go so I ask for the bill. It comes – with 20 roops extra charge! I ask why?

– Tax, 20% the waiter tells us.

– But it says inclusive of all taxes on the menu, and before he answers I say

– Ahh skin tax, sorry I keep forgetting I don’t have a tan.

The embarrassed waiter has to go back to the cash desk where the money man changes the bill to 100 roops. The cash guy looks away when I ask him about the skin tax on the way out.

This is India.

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God its hot here, too hot. After travelling through the rest of India in their hottest season I thought that it couldn’t get any warmer. I thought wrong. The heat here is just oppressive, you cant hide. When I went to the toilet in Bundi to brush my teeth and I could barely hold the toothpaste I knew it was time to leave.
It meant missing out on Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, camels and all, but its time to hit the mountains and escape the heat. To be honest though I wasn’t that taken with the ‘land of kings’ as many other tourists are, but maybe this was just the heat.

We came into Rajasthan through Mount Abu, a place popular with Indian tourists. A nice enough place to visit, but as I was stuck in my room in fear of being too far from a toilet, I didn‘t get to see the famous Jain temples or see the views from one of the various lookouts over the plains.

Udaipur was the next place on our short tour of the state. A welcome change from the busy, dirty towns that are pretty much the norm over the rest of the country. And for a tourist town, an amazingly relaxed no hassle kind of place. It was hard to leave. We were a little surprised to find the famous lake dried out apart from a basketball size patch of brown water.

The famous lake palace hotel amazingly had people out everyday digging a trench so that their customers could take a boat the 75 metres to the hotel – a bit silly if you ask me, but I would be a bit pissed to find out my once in a lifetime stay at the 30,000 roops a night hotel.

The only real issue I have with these backpacker hangouts is the food on offer. There’s a kind of vague, long menu of bland Indian, overpriced western and just plain disgusting Chinese. It’s never executed well and never really represents the local food traditions. In fact I’m pretty sure I left Rajasthan experiencing very little real local food – although I did have the worst pizza in my life, in fact talking to most backpackers, nobody’s really that interested in trying local food, only the kind of food that.

In Bundi however, at our guesthouse, we had some of the best food so far. Spinach and lentil curry, panner patia, aloo jeera. All homemade in the family kitchen. A nice change from the tourist food and even the better restaurant food – which can often be too heavy.

Bundi Itself is a picture perfect town with a grand palace and fort on stepped levels all the way up the hill behind the city. The houses are all painted blue making an unforgettable view out over the town from the top. But the heat here was the worst. Stuck in valley that keeps in heat well after sunset its no place for the faint hearted – it rained while we were here but the rain was evaporating before it hit the ground making it seem like you were in a sauna.

Finally we arrived in Jaipur. A place even in my memories I’m sure will be hard to find enchanting. I can’t believe that this town is one of the biggest tourist destinations in India. Maybe it’s a victim of its own success, maybe its just me. I just found the harassment factor went off the scale, and the actual attractions on offer didn’t compensate for this.

In fact in two days we were treated as such retards it was unbelievable. People tried to over charge us for water, added taxes that didn’t exist and somebody even tried to grab Andrea’s boobs while passing on a motorbike – which ended with me chasing him barefoot down a main road with a brick in my hand. I was dreaming about breaking his fingers for two nights – not how I want to feel on holiday.

So were off to the mountains, via delhi, and I hope its different. I’m just not convinced about India.

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