Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rajasthan

The next leg of our holiday travels consisted solely of the female portion of the Extension India group since Ben returned back to America for three weeks. India is predominately a patriarchal society and three girls traveling without a male may cause some to worry, but we did just fine! The three of us have grown some truly tough skin in India (which is essential as an American female located in a male-dominated society) and were proud to have extensively traveled around the country with confidence in our abilities.

From Delhi, our next destination along the route was to stop in three different cities throughout Rajasthan, the beautiful desert state. First, we took a twenty hour train ride to the quintessential Indian city, Jaisalmer. This sandstone city lies in western India and is only a couple of hundred kilometers away from the Pakistan border, but located at a safe distance from the danger that occurs in that section of the world. It was a nice change of pace to travel from chaotic Delhi to low-key Jaisalmer. Immediately upon arrival, we booked an overnight camel safari in the Thar Desert, a must for all tourists traveling to Jaisalmer. Overall, fantastic experience, but PAINFUL! Riding on a camel for two days is not a smooth journey and really strains muscles that I was unaware even existed within my own body!Our desert companions (one couple from the U.K. and another from America) were great to have around because it had been so long since the last time we interacted with anyone who completely understood our home culture and language. The tour guides who were taking care of us and the camels were also good company and cooked up some fantastic meals in the sandy desert. It still amazes me how Indians are capable of whipping up such extravagant and tasty meals from scratch in a matter of minutes. At night, we slept without a tent, but only with a pillow, quite a few blankets, and extremely close to one another so that we each could absorb as much body heat as possible since the desert becomes surprisingly chilly at night. Strange enough, there was even a man selling Kingfisher beer deep into the desert, which made for an excellent night!

Other than the camel safari,Jaisalmer was filled with an extreme amount of souvenir shopping and delicious food. We were then off to the next Rajasthani city! Jaipur (the recent Katy Perry and Russell Brand wedding venue) was our next stop and a very short one at that. Since we were on a tight budget, the most inexpensive route to travel through the state was to spend approximately fifteen hours in the city of Jaipur. Due to the overwhelmingly high intensity of this location, we only explored a couple of typical tourist sites: Jantar Mantar (a famous astrological park), the City Palace, and we climbed a tall minaret which gave us a fantastic view of the “Pink City”. After a few hours, we were prepared to climb aboard yet another overnight train and head to our last destination within Rajasthan.

Udaipur would be the site for our Christmas holiday and we were crossing our fingers for a stress-free city with great accommodations. Fortunately, we could not have asked for anything better and were incredibly happy with the guest house in which we stayed. If you ever find yourself traveling to Udaipur, the “Venice of the East”, I would highly recommend staying at Mewargarh Palace. The owner and his family were extremely welcoming, helpful, and took the time to get to know each and every one of his guests. He even hung a stocking with candy outside of our room on Christmas morning! Besides ordering a Christmas breakfast feast, consisting of every pancake flavor on the menu, we sure did treat ourselves nicely for the entire day! All three of us received a much-needed full body Ayurvedic massage, indulged in some serious jewelry shopping, and celebrated the holiday over a large glass of Italian red wine at a glamorous Udaipur hotel. It was difficult for all of us to be without the comfort of home during the holidays, but this was definitely a Christmas that none of us will ever forget!

Next up, Southern India!

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