Cheng Chin Yuen

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Fast Forward!!

Hi there!

It has been quite a while since fivetospare has been updated. Three technological tragedies namely the demise of my laptop’s screen, the malfunction of my external harddisk and the corruption of my 2GB memory card (with more than 1000 photos!) has hampered the updating process. On top of that is my inherent laziness and the realisation that we have only 40 odd days left in India!

So to hell with the techno stuff and onward with the sightseeing! We still have lots to cover and I have decided to record my experiences in the good old-fashioned travel journal. Hopefully I can type and upload the lot when all the hiccups are fixed.

Here’s a brief fill in on what I have left out so far:

1) Udaipur – Romantic chill out and pigging out in the India’s Venice. It is not at all like Venice but the ‘palace by the lake’ view is stupendous. Here we also got to talk to a retired professional cricketer who initially didn’t want to talk to us because he thought we were Korean. He made a fortune in his 2 year stint in England, sending back 32,000 Rs every month when the average middle-class income was 12,500 Rs. In India, ‘middle class’ means only 10% of the total population. We also had a memorable meal at Sunrise restaurant. The food took about 1.5 hours to come. Can’t blame the folks here, we were warned on the menu that ‘Perfection Takes Time’. The problem was that the vegetarian fare was quite far form perfect. The photos for Udaipur are uploaded.

2) The fort of Kumbalgarh was impressive. The ticket fellow boasted that only the Great Wall of China was bigger than those that surrounded the fort. The fort here is special as it is set on many levels on a hill unlike the flattish ones we have seen earlier. The 34kms of walls also enclosed a village and several ancient buildings. The villagers once worked for the Maharajah. The surrounding hilly scenery was pleasantly free of buildings making the place feel more medieval. The fortress was so strong that it was taken only twice. We stayed in a little one street town 8 kms away and were the only tourists in our guesthouse so we had the whole dorm to ourselves. Here we also enjoyed the best ice-cream in India. It came form a little stand by the roadside. The owner’s brother owned an ice-cream factory near Udaipur hence the freshness and unique flavours. Dinner was vegetarian again and on a rooftop overlooking fields of wheat waiting to be harvested.

3) Ranakpur is another isolated place famous for the Jain Temple with 1444 unique pillars. The Jains are a strange bunch of people who cannot kill anything even ants, pests and bacteria. They also have something against onions and garlic. Here we had a pleasant company of Chris, a Brit who was in India for 2 weeks.

4) Jodhpur was miserable for me. I was down with a stubborn fever for 3 days. The first doctor gave me ineffective antibiotics but thankfully the second chap did a good job and the ordeal was over in half a day. The two doctors had the same surname. I was tested twice for malaria. It was all in all a good experience. The private hospital here made our polyclinics look really advanced. The huge fort on the hill here is my favourite partly because of the splendid audio guide that came with it. It was great to be out after 3 days in our guesthouse.

5) Jaisalmer was where we had our camel desert safari. It was more like an excursion as we opted to start in the evening, camp for the night and continue for a short walk the next morning. The heat of the day was not worth suffering and hours on the camel isn’t good for you bum. The star-studded night in the desert was perfect. We could see the stars shifting as the hours went by. There were no mozzies, only dung beetles. Sleeping in the open was cooling and we woke up several times at night and put on our glasses to admire the stars. Camel riding also got us attuned to these docile creatures which were controlled by a rope tethered to a wooden nose stud. Jaisalmer was also great for meat dishes. One day, we rented a jeep to explore the villages in the desert. It is amazing how these people could survive in the desert. You are drenched in sweat just sitting in the jeep. The villagers have tons of children. We visited a household with 11 kids, 9 of which were girls.

6) Bikaner is famous for the Karnimata temple. Rats are worshipped here and there are thousands of them, running around in the open unafraid of humans. The rats looked diseased and have unusually large testicles. One ran over my bare foot and it was supposed to be a sign of good luck! The temple grounds were splattered with rat and bird poo and we had to go around barefooted. Special attention was given to the feet during that night’s bath.

The past month in Rajasthan was impressively diverse! Men here wear a variety of turbans whose colour and style reflects their caste and profession. Most have both ears pierced, a thick moustache and go around in lungyi. Women wear a large number of bangles on their arms. They start at the wrists and get larger as they go up to the armpits. I counted 34 on one woman’s arm on the local bus. In the past these bangles were made from camel bone or ivory but now plastic rules. They also wear huge nose rings and thick silver anklets and most keep their face covered with a translucent veil.

Check out Karen's Blog for a much more detailed write up about Rajasthan.


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