A Travellerspoint blog

Christmas in Udaipur and Aurangabad

sunny

We went more upmarket for Christmas and New Year starting with our lake view room at the Jaiwana Haveli which also had the best view of the lake and the floodlit island palaces from its rooftop restaurant - the perfect spot for a sunset beer and poppadums. It was very civilised waking up on Christmas Eve and watching hot air balloons crossing the lake.

Balloon over Lake Palace Hotel

Balloon over Lake Palace Hotel

Balloon from our room

Balloon from our room

Palace at night

Palace at night

Our hotel and washing ghat below

Our hotel and washing ghat below

There's not a huge amount to do in Udaipur - another temple and palace to visit and a restored haveli (with strange polystyrene models of the Eiffel Tower etc). We also went to Shilpgram a very disappointing craft village with strange tranvestite dancers and not much else.

Jagdish temple

Jagdish temple


Bagore Ki Haveli

Bagore Ki Haveli

Unusual polystyrene sculptures!

Unusual polystyrene sculptures!

Ancient snakes and ladders board

Ancient snakes and ladders board


Transvestite dance group at Shilpgram

Transvestite dance group at Shilpgram

We walked around to the other side of the lake and saw pied kingfishers feeding a baby which encouraged us to do a bird watching trip where we saw a lovely white-throated kingfisher and green bee-eaters as well as lots of water birds on the lake.

White-throated kingfisher

White-throated kingfisher

Pied kingfishers and herons

Pied kingfishers and herons

We did the 'must-do' sunset boat cruise and nearly had a drink in the palace hotel sunset bar but were put off by the bagpipers.

Shoreline

Shoreline

Palace

Palace

Palace

Palace

Jagmandir Island

Jagmandir Island

Sunset over Jagmandir Island

Sunset over Jagmandir Island

Pipers at the palace

Pipers at the palace

We also did a really good cookery course making chai, pakora, dips, curries and breads - run by Shashi, a really enthusiastic teacher who barked instructions at us - stand up, sit down, you roll the dough etc.

Rotating the roti

Rotating the roti

Preparing naan dough

Preparing naan dough

We had some good food including vegetable curries for Christmas dinner - didn't manage wine but had two beers!

We left Udaipur for an epic journey to Aurangabad starting with a 5 hour bus journey to Ahmadabad where we had time for dinner (generally service is really slow but as we were killing time before our train it was astonishingly fast) then an overnight 11 hour journey to Jalgaon. Arangabad and Jalgaon which are 160km apart are famous for the caves of Ajanta and Ellora - both World Heritage sites. Our plan was to go straight to Aurangabad by bus and just visit Ellora but we were persuaded that it would be criminal to miss Ajanta as it was on the way. It woud have taken too long by bus so in the spirit of treating ourselves for Christmas, we booked a car to take us to the caves and on to our hotel.

Should have stuck to plan 'A'. Going to Ajanta was like Alton Towers on August Bank Holiday - absolutely packed. The last 4km is by bus up a hill - the queue looked long but if we'd known it would take 2 hours to get to the caves we would have given up then - as it was we walked down the hill to avoid more queues. The 30 caves were excavated between the 1st century BC and the 7th century AD and comprise Buddhist cave temples and monasteries with wall paintings. The temples are hollowed out of granite cliffs in a horse shoe shaped ravine and it is very impressive and picturesque but we were fed up when we got to the caves and not really in the mood to appreciate them especially as we were being pushed and jostled by the crowds on the steep dark staircases. Colin even started berating people for using flash photography despite endless requests from the guards not to as it harms the paintings.

Ajanta - which cave is this?

Ajanta - which cave is this?

Ajanta - one of many Buddha statues

Ajanta - one of many Buddha statues

Ajanta - cave painting

Ajanta - cave painting

Ajanta

Ajanta

Ajanta

Ajanta

Ajanta - reclining Buddha

Ajanta - reclining Buddha

The driver was equally unimpressed when we got back four hours later (little did he know how we'd rushed round the caves and raced down the hill) and drove like a madman to Aurangabad overtaking on blind bends especially ones with signs showing a bus and car in a head-on collision. But we survived to reach the haven of the Lemon Tree Resort - a large hotel set around gardens with a pool. We had booked a special package to include all food, a tour of the Ellora Caves and a shoulder massage each. Every one seemed to be on some sort of package which varied slightly (we were on the New Year package, we went to the caves with Bill who was on the modified New Year Package so our entrance fee was refunded but his wasn't) this caused the front desk endless problems. Apart from that it was great relaxing, swimming and watching Slumdog Millionaire on DVD in preparation for Mumbai.

Lemon Tree hotel - luxury

Lemon Tree hotel - luxury

We set off early to Ellora before the crowds which was much better. As Wikipedia says - "Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 "caves" – actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills – being Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock cut temples and monasteries, were built between the 5th century and 10th century. The 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu, and 5 Jain) caves, built in proximity, demonstrate the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history" and they were very impressive.

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora - vaulting

Ellora - vaulting

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora

Ellora - Kailash Temple

Ellora - Kailash Temple

Ellora - Kailash Temple

Ellora - Kailash Temple

We also visited the Bibi-qa-Maqbara (aka the mini Taj or Taj of Deccan) where Sue left Colin looking after the bag and shoes while she went in to the mausoleum and came out to find him mobbed by boys wanting their photos taken with him. Colin then came out to find Sue holding a baby for more photos - we thought we would never get away but one of the guards blew his whistle obviously thinking it was all a bit unseemly.

Taj of the Deccan

Taj of the Deccan

Paparazzi

Paparazzi

We left the Lemon Tree reluctantly to get another overnight bus - to Mumbai for New Year.

Posted by armrig 12:42 Archived in India Comments (4)

Jodphur

sunny

We left Bikaner by a day train to Jodphur through miles of desert. Bad start to the hotel - there was confusion over the pickup and then they had no trace of our reservation. But this was all sorted out and as recompense we were invited to polo the following day (possibly there were lots of problems as we went with 6 other guests!). Apart from this it was a really nice relaxed place to stay with a very friendly resident dachshund.

We had a relaxed few days of sightseeing - the Mehrangarh (fort) is huge and impressive.

Mehrangarh

Mehrangarh

View from Mehrangarh

View from Mehrangarh

Palanquin (royal person carrier) in Mehrangarh

Palanquin (royal person carrier) in Mehrangarh

Howdah (elephant seat) in Mehrangarh

Howdah (elephant seat) in Mehrangarh

Mehrangarh

Mehrangarh

Mehrangarh from Sadar Bazaar

Mehrangarh from Sadar Bazaar

Jaswant  Thada memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II

Jaswant Thada memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II

We also had some great food including the most delicious makhani lassis flavoured with saffron, lemon and other spices and worth going to Jodphur for by themselves. We had one each day we went into the centre and had to resist making a special trip on the last day. We also had yummy samosas from a street stall (daring for us) and ate red meat for the first time in India.

Samosas for lunch

Samosas for lunch

The polo was fun and a bit like going to a village cricket match with a similar small crowd. Apparently more people would be at the final the next day including the Maharaja and royal family. We had VIP tickets and sat in the small stand. Fortunately there was an English commentary aimed at people who knew nothing about polo so the basics were explained which was just as well as we were confused by which way they were going as the teams changed ends after each goal. We never got to grips with fouls and free 'kicks' which happened all the time. It was all very fast and furious and great for an hour - our fellow tourists seemed surprised that being Brits we didn't know about polo and watch it on TV at home.

Preparing to start

Preparing to start

Heat of the action

Heat of the action

Final score

Final score

More confusion leaving Jodhphur - we thought we had a 2pm bus so had to leave about 1pm. We were ready early and ordered lunch at the hotel (toasted sarnies for speed) about 12 noon. The hotel guy turned up with the tickets at 12.50pm saying sorry but the bus is 1.30pm and you need to go now. We were still waiting for our sarnies and had to pay the bill - never a simple matter. We managed to leave just after 1pm and the rickshaw driver raced us to the bus office - but not the right one (Jains and JV Jains so confusing) which was 5 minutes walk further on. We rushed as much as possible with our bags only to see a bus leaving at 1.25pm (obviously the only bus in India to leave early) but Colin managed to flag it down and we spent the next few minutes recovering to the amusement of the bus crew. The driver was obviously in a hurry as he drove like the wind for the first half of the journey until it was dark when he became very cautious leading us to suspect that like Sue he had terrible night vision - not a good thought.

Posted by armrig 22:32 Archived in India Comments (1)

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