Donnerstag, 5. November 2009

Udaipur or one big Slice of a Wedding Cake

I get to Udaipur in the morning with the 7am flight from Jaipur.
My driver takes me to the Hotel of my choice rihgt at the shore of Lake Pichola. I get a cozy corner room with balcony overlooking the lake and a washing ghat right below.
I have breakfast at the rooftop terrace in the morning sun.
Then I head for the city palace.
Seems like there is always one more fort or palace. But each time when you think you have seen them all, it is all impressive and magnificent again.

Set right next to the lake, the city palace of Udaipur towers majestically over the city. One stares in awe at all the marble and splendor inside.

I wonder around the vast and winding paths of the palace take a gazillion photographs that are just not capable of capturing it all.

In the evening I work my way to a great point overlooking the palace shore and a splendid site to enjoy the evening sun.
I watch the sun set as a red ball of fire against a pale sky over the far mountains. Then it is dark and the city lights up to reveal it's night face illuminated against the dark night sky.

Dienstag, 3. November 2009

Amber Fort

Just when you think you've seen them all, there is yet an other fort to be seen in Rajathan. This one however truly is a high light. The place had once been the capital of Rajasthan before it was moved to Jaipur since the area of Amber [Amér] just got too small. But holy cow they really built something on the sheer cliffs of the mountins there!
Far up on the mountain the Maharaja built at palace and strong hold for the capital when still today it is a bitch to climb. To ease the ascent for the tourists elephants shuttle back and forth. I feel sorry for the animals trotting up and down the steep hill in the brutal sun (and it is not near as bad as a during the hot time with just slightly below 30 degrees right now...) without a chance to rest for the line of willing tourists is long. So I take the burden upon myself and walk the 10 min. on foot.

I get offers for T-Shirts, post cards, ball pens (!), scarfs (just what I need now) and hat's (ok, that I could use). Once in the first court yard swarms of official guides approach me. I opt for an audio guide to set my own pace.

Inside it's much quieter. No hustling, not traffic, no honking. I like it. But I would like it even better to sit down in a nice cafe now and have a cold coke and a small snack. But no such luck. One just can't have it all!
I meander around the palace listening to my friendly narrators enacting the scenes at court in different roles.

Some of the quarters are really amazing. Made from white marble with all kinds of carvings, ceilings covered in stucco and mirror mosaics - the maharajas truly knew how to live in leisure.

And then I even find a kiosk shortly before I reach the exit and I treat myself to a bottle of cold mango juice. No snacks though. Oh well.

Tomorrow I will head on to Udaipur to finally continue my journey.

Jaipur once again

No places available on buses leaving Pushkar. With several tenthousdands of pilrgims there and almost as many tourist all wanting to leave around now there is no way in hell to get a seat on a bus. And standing all the way to Jaipur in the isle packed left and right with fellow pilgrims is just not an option... So I get myself a private car for the price of one night in a Delux hotel room and drive the 275km back to Jaipur. It's a highway with three lane each way but 70km/h is the most the car can go due to traffic and road conditions. All of a sudden there is traffic coming our way and a congestion where parts of the middle divider misses and cars and trucks turn to the other side into the oncoming traffic. My driver also passes over and now we are the oncoming traffic for the other direction. We stay close to the divider - except to pass trucks and motorcycles off course...
Then we see the reason for all this. On the way to Jaipur a tank truck crashed and turned over to the side blocking all three lanes. Thank god, the tank seems to have been empty. More burning fuel around Jaipur is currently just not needed - and I doubt there are any fire trucks to be spared for such a trifle.

We get to Jaipur though and I manage to get a Superior room again at my hotel for the price of a Deluxe.
It's afternoon to I head up to Nahargarh Fort overlooking Jaipur.
One can easily get confused with all the forts in Rajathan. And they all seemed to be pink also build from red sandstone or pretend to be. They are currently fixing the place up - but probably have been for decades now. The sign at the entrance kind of annoys be as it reminds western tourist not to scratch the walls, write on them or leave garbage. I am one of the very few western tourists here but tons of hindi names written onto or scratched into the plaster. And of course there is the obligatory heap of garbage of all kinds laying around. It makes me sad the natives just don't give a damn about there heritage and preserving it in beauty but it enrages me if on top of it they pretend it is the western tourists who are responsible for the heaps of junk and shit everywhere!
That said, it was kind of a nice place with a neat look. Too bad the weather is kind of hazy. Or is it the fall out of the still burning oil depot? I can make out the towers of smoke far away at the horizon - probably not near as far away as it seems in the haze.
I go to bed early. I caught a cold and my body is aching. My temperature is fine though. So rest assured I'll manage.

Sonntag, 1. November 2009

Climax of a Frenzy

Just when I thought it couldn't get any wilder than this everything turns loose and upside down.
There had been a constant stream of people comeing to town over the last couple of days but today busloads came in literally every five minutes.
Two places I had zet to see: The Brahma Temple of which there are only two in India and the Saraswati temple up on the hill overlooking Pushkar.
The Brahma temple you were not allowed to take any bags into. But checking them at a "locker" was not really an option. So I left my bag a the hotel altogether. Not my first choice but the best under the circumstances. I lied and told the guard at the gate the bulge in my pants where not a camera but my mobile phone and just continued.
You can't imagine the pushing and shoving at the entrance. Neatly standing in line is just not an Indian thing. And with pilgrims outnumbering police 100:1, go figure.
But that was nothing compared to the zoo at the shrine itself. Everyone was desperately trying to present his offering to Lord Brahma pushing everybody else out of the way. It was so much, there were assistants who took the bags of sugar balls from the pilgrims and poped them in the offering bowl. Not all of it though. First you migh need some for other sectiopns of the temple too, and second the offering bowls would fill up too quickly!
Later I climbed the hill overlooking Pushkar to visit the Saraswati temple. Some hike in the burning afternoon sun. I took plenty of water only to find a kiosk tending to all earthly needs at the top of the hill. There was even basting music and some monkeys eating the left overs of the apes climbing the hill.
I can only imagine what the view must be like with a full lake Pushkar in the valley.
Back in town and taking a last stroll along the bathing ghats a fireworks display went off. I would have expected this to be mentioned in the mela program flyer. But no. This might also be a reason why attendane seemed rather low. there was hardly anybody when the ghats could have been packed if properly announced. But it might also be that Indians are just not very fond of fireworks. Thre were quite a few people very casually walking by not taking any notice of the show.
Oh well.
Tomorrow I heading back to Jaipur once again. And for the lack of available bus space I'm renting a car with driver for the 2,5h ride (which took the bus rather 4h).
I will try to see some more of the city that came just a little too short the other day. From there I'll fly on to Udaipur in a couple of days. The alternative would have been to take a 9h bus or train from here, neither of which are very much to my gusto right now.
On the other hand who knows what effect the burning oil depot at Jaipur has.
Thurday night the fire started at a leak in a pipeline. Soon the entire depot was ablaze. Any security expert that they are, there was nothing else they still could do once a couple of the 12 huge tanks caught fire. "Firefighters abandoned earlier attempts to extinguish the blaze and expect the flames to die out in the coming days."

India oil blaze rages on