Notes from Mt. Abu, Udaipur, Jaipur, and Pushkar in India

My globetrotting friend, Nobuko, is posting again from her current visit to India.

I have been only a tourist for the past several days, which has kept me away from cyber cafes, and once I was ready to write some updates, there was no cyber cafe or just unreliable electricity supplies. Today is 4 July, Independence day, in the U.S.A.

26 June 26  at Mt Abu

My experience sucked. The only good thing is the cool temperature we are having. Merchants are liars, and the manager of the hostel (Shri Ganesh Hotel – don’t stay there if you go) was very unwelcoming – in general just bad energy – and also lied to me and other guests about bus time – my guess is that he hoped that I would miss the bus so I would have to end up using their transport service.

He knew I had already gone to the bus station and inquired about the schedule. Yet he had a nerve to tell me that the schedule had changed, and I was informed of the old schedule. I ignored him and was able to get a bus to Udaipur as I planned. Anyway, six college students from Pune I met in Bhuj were there too, so I had  great company to dine and walk around the town with.

27 June 2012 from Mt Abu to Udaipur

The students and I shared our itinerary to Udaipur, so we spent some time together there. They found a great hostel called Hanuman Ghat, which is in a quiet area, but has a nice roof top terrace and an awesome view of the famed lake and palace!  The owner Baba is smiley and has a striking resemblance to the God Hanuman himself (I say this in a friendly way)!

28 June 2012  in Udaipur

The students and I visited the palace and hired a guide, which was a great decision, because he was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Some parts of the palace are still used as the residence of former royal family, so it was off-limit. One section of the palace is converted into a luxury hotel which costs a crazy amount of money to stay, of course. The Queen’s gGrden can also be rented for a wedding or other events, but it costs $40,000 per night to do so. I am waiting for one of those six students I met to get married there and be invited to the wedding!

The students were due to return home that night. Before we parted, they gave me a farewell gift – they called it a momento (leather bound notebook as a diary)!!  It was a very nice gesture and made me feel so special. Realistically speaking, I should be the one to give them gifts for taking good care of me. I was very moved by it. Thank you, to the students.

I met another wonderful Indian person at the hostel and he was going to Jaipur the same evening. So I decided to hitch along. At 9:30pm, the bus left Udaipur and we arrived i Jaipur at 6 a.m. the next morning. We had sleepers which are like capsules, but you have  privacy, because you can shut a sliding door to sleep while keeping windows open for much needed air.

But the ride was really, REALLY bumpy. The bounces were so big that my body lifted off of the sleeping surface countless time – I prefer going through a turbulence in an airplane.

29 June 2012 in Jaipur

It is called the Pink city. And it is really pink. My companion and I stayed inside the old city wall, which made it easy for us to go out into the heat for a few hours and retreat back to the hostel to rest, and repeat this multiple times throughout the day. We found a lassi stand that serves the best lassi I have ever known, and a stand that serves a food called Poha. This I want to make myself – it’s a mix of rise, tomatoes, onions, cirantro, masala powder, and finished off with lime juice. 10 rupees for this tasty snack.

The merchants and rickshaw drivers were lots more aggressive and persistent in Jaipur, and I was the magnet for them. So I purchased a tie dyed scarf. A nice woman showed me how to wrap it and conceal my face. After that, obscured also by my sunglasses, the approach decreased by 90%. Amazing!  And it kept me from getting sunburned and my nostrils clean at the end of the day.

We visited Hawa Mahal (the Wind Palace) where court women used to live (or were locked up, depends on your view). It was a small place, but it was beautiful and offered many spots that just make you want to snap a photo and stroke your ego by making you feel like you have the best eyes for selecting great views.

At night we ate at the Ganesh Restaurant. It is so hard to find as their sign is very tiny and hangs over the entrance to a very small stairway. We looped around and finally found it on the second try. Once we walked up the stairs, there was yet another sign saying Ganesh Restaurant with an arrow pointing to the left, directing us to a dark path on a rooftop.

At the end of the path, we finally  saw lights and there it was! We had a server who looked stern. But he smiled once we ordered Ganesh Special, the spicy Indian way. He smiled once again when he saw us cleaning up all plates. This made us feel like winners.

30 June 2012 in Jaipur

We visited Nahargar Fort at 10am. The rikshaw driver dropped us off 1/3 way up the zigzag path, so we walked up the remaining 1.5 km at a snail speed. Once we got there, we found out that a Bollywood film called Shera (due to be released in November) was being filmed!  There were lots of stuntmen and extras in period costumes, many of whom wanted to take pictures with me for some reason. I think they just were bored of waiting for their turns and also wanted to have an excuse to touch a woman. Now that I think about it, I should have charged them 100 rupees for each photo opportunity. There was a famous movie star name Sanjay Dutt also. It was so much fun hanging out with the crew members and the security guys that we stayed there for several hours.

About the stares – In Jaipur, a touristy city like Jaipur where I would assume they have seen enough Asian faces, men would come directly in front of me, face to face, to stare at me up and down (including my boobs), when I did not cover my face. No discretion here. Open and somewhat gross curiosity, their expressions annoyed me somewhat, so I stared back at them. Sort of a game to see which one would give up staring first. But they continued to stare for a long while.

1 July 2012 from Jaipur to Pushkar

We visited the observatory – Indians have been very keen on learning about  space since a long time ago. My companion Mansoor had to go home on this day, but he accompanied me to the bus station and made sure that I got on the right bus. He was such a gentleman. Thank you, Mansoor.

The ride to Pushkar was supposed to be only 2.5 hours. But it lasted four hours. The heat was almost unbearable – reminded me of the very dry and high heat of the Mojave Desert, it was almost suffocating. When I arrived in Pushkar, I was exhausted. Settled in a hostel with a swimming pool and plunged right in when I finished a registration. No wonder, the temperature here is 43 C = 107 F. If you have been to a Bikram Yoga (AKA Hot yoga), you know how hot it is.

2 and 3 July 2012 in Pushkar (only in my hostel room)

Not much to report on these days. I don’t know if it is the food I ate in Jaipur, or the first dinner I had in Pushkar at the hostel, I suffered from a (nicely put) stomach problem. I only left to get food at expensive, but reputable places, to buy water and toilet papers, and to briefly check email. The air is so hot that all a ceiling fan can do is to spread and push down the risen heat onto my bed. But turning it off was equally unbearable. I kept on drinking ginger/lemon tea which helped.

4 July 2012  in Pushkar (not in the bathroom anymore)

I changed the hostel since the first one was kind of unfriendly. I am now at Aroma Hotel which is close to the lake and bazaar, as well as to the desert stretch at the outskirt of this small town. I have not seen anything here yet. So to be continued!

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