Exploring the desert of Rajasthan
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After travelling for almost 5 months in Southeast Asia I decided to change flavours, smells and culture so I buy a flight to India.
1ST CITY: JAIPUR
Arrival in Jaipur at 10 pm on 9 June. I’m with my friend Luis and here, in Jaipur, I continue my journey also with Maarten, a Dutch boy who I met in Vietnam. Travelling in India for a single woman is not particularly recommended. So I decide to travel with 2 guys: I feel more confident.
We stay at the Vinakyard hostel paying 250 rupees per person in an 8-person dormitory (about € 3 - € 1 = about 80 rupees).
The next day we decide to get a Vodafone SIM card. We go to a Vodafone centre, we deliver a passport photo, we sign some papers and after waiting about 1 hour in the store, our SIM card is active; we pay 199 rupees for 28 days with 1.5 GB per day (€ 2.50).
Then we start the city tour. Jaipur is the capital and largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan in northern India. It was founded on 18 November 1727 by Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amer, from whom the city is named. As of 2011, the city had a population of 3.1 million, making it the tenth most populous city in the country. Jaipur is also known as the pink city, due to the dominant colour scheme of its buildings. I visit the City Palace (entrance to 300 rupees for students - 500 entrance for anyone) Amber Fort, Jantar-Mantar, Hawa Mahal, Albert Hall (Central Museum) and Nahargarh Fort (it is very nice to go there before sunset to see the view from high in the city). We buy a single entrance for all these monuments (obviously excluding the City Palace): 200 rupees for students; just show a student card and is accepted even if Italian and even if I'm not a student anymore ☺).
We also visit the Monkey Temple and the Water Temple: both are free. You only have to pay 50 rupees to take pictures in the Monkey Temple.
We bargain with a tuk-tuk driver for 400 rupees - about 5 € (all day).
The city looks really nice but I still need to get used to India. The impact is very strong as soon as you arrive in India but slowly you dive into this very different world.
2nd CITY: PUSHKAR
We arrive in Pushkar with a direct, air-conditioned bus from Jaipur (paid 400 rupees - journey time 4 hours). We buy it directly in the hostel because the other options involved a change of bus in a city in the middle.
It is said that Pushkar has its own magnetism: it is quite different from any other part of Rajasthan. It is a city of Hindu pilgrimage and devout Hindus should visit it at least once in their life. The city develops around a sacred lake, which is said to have appeared when Brahma dropped a lotus flower. It also has one of the few Brahma temples in the world. But once I arrived in this city, I've been assaulted by many people asking for money for anything, including children. They were also really insistent. So it was not a city that particularly impressed me.
We stay at the Crashpad hostel. We pay 200 rupees each for a triple room. In fact, from booking.com they seemed to have a dormitory but once we get there they tell us that it has changed management and therefore the images do not correspond to reality.
In the afternoon we visit the Savitri Temple. We take a car with OLA (an app that I recommend you download). UBER also works in some cities.
You can reach the temple through the various stairs or paying 140 rupees you can go with the cable car. We decide to go on foot and once we get to the top we find many little monkeys that welcome us.
Here you can enjoy on one side a beautiful view of the city and on the other, you can see the desert.
Then we walk through the streets of the city and see many camels and cows that run here and there.
We think we have enough of this city (I recommend it only if you have time), so it’s time to continue the journey.
3rd CITY: JODHPUR
We reach Jodhpur with a local bus without air conditioning and pay 200 rupees. We buy it at an agency in the centre. We leave at 7 in the morning and arrive after 5 hours.
We stay at the Hostel Nostop where we pay 250 rupees (€ 3 approximately) for a dormitory of 8 people with breakfast included. Hostel that I recommend. It has a nice common area and also a kitchen; I finally cooked a good pasta with aubergines and tomatoes.
It also has a restaurant with a 10% discount for hostel guests. Here the food is very tasty: you can also find meat which is rare in India since 99% of the dishes are vegetarian.
Jodhpur is the blue city of India. But why BLUE?
Traditionally, blue represented the colour of the Brahmini families, but in fact, the distinction is no longer as rigid as it used to be. Besides shining with a mysterious light, this colour seems to have the property of keeping insects away and making the house cooler. We visit the Mehrangarh fortress (entrance fee for students 400 rupees and 100 to take pictures). It is one of the biggest fortresses in India. Built around 1460 by Rao Jodha, the fortress is located 125 meters above the city and is enclosed by imposing thick walls. Within its borders there are several buildings known for their intricate carvings and courtyards. A winding road leads to and from the blue city below. Then we visit various markets, the clock tower and the step well (a pool where the local people take a bath and the children and kids dive from various levels). we walk and lose ourselves among the various streets of the city, finding many blue houses that prevail over others. Everything is very interesting, especially to observe the daily life of local people. This city is really beautiful; so far it is my favorite city.
In the evening, together with a French boy met in the hostel, Marc, we decide to try the Indian night train; so we book the night train to Jaisalmer. We pay the train 305 rupees and are 6 hours and a half away. The train is without air conditioning. We can sleep well, apart from the fact that I was seated on the lower seat so I woke up covered with sand (I had forgotten that I was in the desert of Rajasthan).
4th CITY: JAISALMER
We arrive at Jaisalmer at 6 am and head to the Mustache hostel; here we pay 135 rupees per night in a 6-person dormitory but it's just us 3 inside (around € 1.70). Very cheap, comfortable beds, great bathroom, great location (with views of the fortress), all perfect if it was not that before falling asleep we see a little mouse running in the room but fortunately the guys after several attempts are able to catch it. Despite this episode, I recommend it. Remember that you are in India and the cleanliness is not always the top and I must say that this hostel is quite clean.
Jaisalmer, nicknamed "The Golden City", is a city in the Indian state of Rajasthan, located at 575 kilometers (357 miles ) west of the capital of the state of Jaipur. Once known as the state of Jaisalmer, it is a world heritage site. The city stands on a ridge of yellowish sandstone and is crowned by the ancient Jaisalmer Fortress. This fortress contains a royal palace and several decorated Jain temples. Many of the houses and temples of the fortress, and the city below, are built in finely sculpted sandstone. The city is located in the heart of the Thar desert (the great Indian desert) and has a total population, including the residents of the fortress, of approximately 78,000. It is the administrative seat of the Jaisalmer district. I am really fascinated by this fortress.
We continue to visit the city walking and we go to see the sunset at Vyas Chhatri (entrance 50 rupees) . Vyas Chhatri is a beautiful example of Rajasthan architecture and as the name suggests, it is dedicated to the wise Vyaas, the writer of the epic Mahabharata. This local version of a cenotaph (burial monument without the mortal remains of the person in whose honor it was erected) consists of delicate carvings that are a sight to behold. Here we saw a new sunset: not red as you are imagining but rather white (because the sky is always covered). It is however a place that I recommend to visit: it has a special charm.
If you want you can do the safari sleeping a night in the desert and riding camels (cost 2000 rupees - about 25 €). Unfortunately now it is the monsoon period so there is a lot of wind and it is not the best time to visit the desert.
From Jaisalmer we take a train (paid 110 rupees of 6 hours) at 10 am to Bikaner (famous city for the Red Fortress); here we only stop for 4 hours and then take the train to the capital: NEW DELHI. The train leaves at 19:45 and the journey lasts 11 hours; ticket price 330 rupees.
For 8 days I explored various Indian cities of Rajasthan desert. Surely it is not easy to visit them with the high temperatures of this period (max 38 degrees -min 28). But it was not the heat that stopped me. I was really fascinated by this new culture. Not to mention the food: everything is delicious. Prices can range from a few cents of euro (or 20 rupees if you eat at banquets on the street chapatti with legumes) to 2-3 € or 150-200 rupees if you eat in a proper restaurant. All dishes are hot (spicy) so start preparing yourself psychologically. I recommend not to drink tap water: here in India, it is not drinkable unless you are used to drinking it as a child.
Now it's time to leave the scorching heat and to cool off in the deep north.
Next goal: the pure air of the Himalaya mountain.