Lokisthan

The short vacations to places near Bangalore were getting boring. The last time we went on a vacation to some far off place was way back in the summer of 2013, when we went to Kashmir. Thereafter, since our second child was young, we never mustered the courage to take her to far flung places. Now that she was old enough, it was time that we went on a holiday to a culturally different place. We chose Rajasthan as the destination. It was on my list of places-to-see for many years now. December was an ideal time to visit the state and so we started planning our vacation.

It did not take much time to finalize the logistics. I booked the air tickets online and took the help of a travel agent [Frontier Tours and Travels, Bangalore] for the itinerary in Rajasthan. In quick time, I finalized the below plan:

  • Day 1: Arrive in Jaipur. Drive to Ranthambore. Overnight at Ranthambore
  • Day 2: Safari at Ranthambore. Visit Ranthambore fort. Drive back to Jaipur. Dinner at Chowki Dhani. Overnight at Jaipur
  • Day 3: Sightseeing at Jaipur covering Amber fort, Hathi Gaon, Jantar Mantar, City Palace, Jal Mahal and Hawa Mahal. Overnight at Jaipur
  • Day 4: Drive to Jodhpur. En route visit Pushkar and Ajmer. Overnight at Jodhpur
  • Day 5: Sightseeing at Jodhpur covering Mehrangarh fort, Jaswant Thada, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Mandore Gardens, Shopping near Clock Tower. Overnight at hotel.
  • Day 6: Drive to Udaipur. Sightseeing at Udaipur covering Saheliyon-Ki-Bari, Lake Pichola, Lake Palace. Overnight Stay at Udaipur.
  • Day 7: Sightseeing at Udaipur covering City Palace, Maharana Pratap Memorial. Return to Jaipur and overnight at Jaipur
  • Day 8: Take the return flight back to Bangalore.

I made a couple of mistakes when planning the above schedule. The first one was that I could have booked the return flight to Bangalore from Udaipur, instead of going to Jaipur again. The second was that I could not cover Bikaner and Jaisalmer in the above schedule. Covering these two would have meant a lot of travel by road and hence I decided to leave them out for now. Perhaps a second visit, sometime in the future. This blog is not a detailed write-up of the various places that we visited. I will not be able to write anything new when compared to what is already available on the internet. I will instead highlight a few aspects that made my experience unforgettable.

  1. Among the first things that struck me in Rajasthan were the vibrant colors everywhere. From humans to vehicles to shops to banners and almost everything there lent credence to the state’s fascination with colors. To begin with, the colors of the clothes that people wore were so sprightly. Yellow; green; pink; red and more… and all of them at their brightest best. The sight of a group of ladies dressed in these bright colors; partially covering their faces from the heat and dust; huddled together cannot be missed. The gents on the contrary were usually dressed in white, but sported a turban which more than made up for the lack of colors on their clothes. A few of them with handle-bar moustache along with these turbans, squatted along with their kith and kin, was a sight to watch. It was not just the humans, but I found this fascination for colors even in the bill boards; houses, shops and restaurants. So much so that this had rubbed off on the trucks as well. Almost all trucks were decked up like brides. They had long plaits hanging alongside the mirrors; the front and side of the truck was adorned with patterns made up of a dozen colors; the lights of the trucks were made to look like eyes; flowers made of plastic were generously placed on the front of the trucks; and so much more. When I enquired about this, our driver quipped that trucks compete with ladies out here.
  1. The weather was a revelation as well. We arrived post noon and it was sunny and a bit humid. This was a contrast compared to the Bangalore weather which we had left behind. We were driving to Ranthambore on the first day. As dusk set in we could feel the pinch of the chillness. And towards eight in the evening, it was biting cold. So much so, that we had to cover ourselves from head to toe. The next morning, when we set out for our drive into the forest, we borrowed the blankets from the hotel to brave the early morning chillness. We had never experience such cold weather in the past. The best time to venture out was clearly from nine in the morning until about seven in the evening. The newspapers quoted that some parts of Rajasthan were experiencing close to zero degrees at night. Looking back, it feels good to have experienced this.
  1. The culinary experience plays an important role during all vacations. I am not so particular about what I eat and how it should taste. But the same is not true about the rest of my family. My wife and both the girls are very choosy. Hence it sometimes becomes difficult to find good restaurants that can satiate their taste buds. However this is one area where Rajasthan scored really big. The food was excellent in every hotel and restaurant. Dal Baati Churma; dal pakora; varieties of parathas; chaas and lassi were our top picks. The grand feast of a meal at Chowki Dhani in Jaipiur was the ultimate supper. One can eat all the authentic Rajasthani dishes out here. Our good driver knew the restaurants that dished out delicacies at reasonable prices. One such stopover was during the long drive from Jaipur to Jodhpur. He stopped at this unremarkable dhaaba to have a cup of tea. As we waited, the kind waiter recommended us to have some vegetable pakora. He did not relent, and in spite of our repeated polite refusals he served some hot vegetable pakora. The dish was so delectable that we ordered and cleaned up three more plates of it.
  1. As tourists, we usually miss out on the lesser known places and events in a city. Unless we have someone who keeps us informed. We were fortunate enough to discover a couple of never-to-be-missed places during our vacation in Rajasthan. These are experiences, which I would recommend, to anyone visiting Rajasthan. The first one is the shopping district near the Clock Tower in Jodhpur. A colleague at office recommended that I should not miss this place. It is known as the clock tower market. A very busy area with a multitude of shops selling everything and anything that one would want. Shops selling traditional clothes, footwear, handbags, leather goods, and knick-knacks were more in abundance though. We spent close to three hours here and my wife was happy at the bargains she struck. I did what I usually do when shopping with my family. Stand outside the shops and soak in the ambience. Watching the various people, the colourful lights, the vibrant display of goods, expressions of the bargain hunters and the ensuing cacophony were memorable. As in any such shopping districts in India, there were many eateries. Following my friend’s advice, I hunted down a shop called Janata Sweets. The place was choc-o-bloc with people. It was selling all kinds of sweets, chats and savouries. As instructed I ordered Mirchi Vada [Chilli Vada] and Makhaniya Lassi [Butter lassi]. The two were a good combination indeed. Both of them had a distinct flavour, which I have clearly not experienced anywhere else. When in Jodhpur, I highly recommend not to miss these.
  1. Another unforgettable experience was at Udaipur. Our kind driver informed me about this puppet show and recommended that we watch it. We trusted his advice and so he took us to this nondescript open-air amphitheatre in Bharatiya Lok Kala Muesuem. The tickets were at throwaway prices. We attended the last show of the day, which took place well into the evening. As we settled into our chairs we could feel the chillness in the air, which we were accustomed to now. The show lasted for about two hours and was worth every second that we spent there. Everything was LIVE starting from the singing, the background music and all the performances. It started with puppet show. This was the first time in my life that I watched a puppet show. It was hard to believe how the artists made the puppets dance, gravitate, fight, romance, chase and much more. There were about five stories which were enacted by the puppets. The highlight was a puppet which would interchange itself from a man to a woman and vice-versa. The dexterity with which the artist changed the gender of the puppet was hilarious and spell-bounding at the same time. After the puppet show, there was a display of various Rajasthani folk music and dance. I could not understand the language, but it did not come in the way of experiencing the cultural richness of the performance. The show stopper was by an artist named Lokesh… ahem. I was a bit bored when I saw him just run around the stage non-stop. Later I realized that it was just a warm-up before he set the stage on fire. Very soon he started stacking pots upon his head and continued running and dancing around the stage. In no time, he had stacked nine pots one above the other and had all them placed on his head. And he went about dancing in circles, making it look as though he was completely oblivious to everything that he was carrying on and in his head. He even went onto dance on pieces of broken glass; knives; et al… all along having the nine pots perfectly balanced on his head. We had a lot of talk about this show during dinner time. Had we been in Udaipur for another evening, we would have definitely seen the show for a second time. It was Rajasthani folklore at its simplest best.
  1. The places that we visited were all spoilt with richness of culture, history and heritage. The state really had it all, from the natural wilderness of Ranthamore to the luxury of Udaipur; from the ornate palaces to the breath taking forts; from gardens to deserts; and everything else in between. We thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the Rajasthan vacation. The tribute to Rajasthan would go unfinished if I do not mention my favourite places. And these in order of preference would be Ranthambore; Mehrangarh Fort at Jodhpur and Lake Pichola at Udaipur. If at all, I plan another vacation to Rajasthan, I would not mind going only to these places and lose myself all over again.

Thank you Rajasthan…!

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