India – Bundi, Udaipur, Jodhpur & Jaisalmer

Bundi

We arrived in the small, religious town of Bundi in the afternoon, checked into our Guest House (Hotel Bundi House) and went out to explore. Bundi is a really tiny town, it has a lake, a fort (surprise surprise) and a palace. It’s very quiet but not as nice as Pushkar.

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We hiked up to the palace which was pretty cool considering it was up a hill and build in the 1600s. All thanks to elephants I believe. The hike to the palace was bad enough, the hike up the fort was a whole-new kettle of fish.

Garh Palace and the Elephant Gate

It was SO hot. Hottest I’d been so far and the hill with its crumbling, barely-there path was steep. I haven’t done any exercise since Sydney and that combined with the fact I hadn’t really eaten in the past 4 days meant that I was one sweaty and unhappy chicken. I huffed and puffed all the way up there while making angry comments at Lewis because he was the one that wanted to go see it. It’s another fort! Not even a nice one! It was just a decaying old building. The view from the top was alright but not worth the pain.

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View from the fort

When we finally got back down we (well Lewis) had dinner overlooking the lake – I still have no appetite at all. Once again we went to Trip Advisor’s number 1 restaurant which consisted of some plastic furniture on a piece of concrete next to the lake. Saying that, Lewis said his curry was tasty so at least it wasn’t a complete waste of time! The plan was to spend the rest of the evening in the comfort of our AC room (India was starting to get to me already) but Lewis forced me out of the room up to the guest house’s rooftop.

To give credit where credit is due, it was pretty nice up there. I managed to eat some dinner and we played cards and got speaking to a lovely Spanish couple. Just as we were getting ready for bed, the guy running the hotel came and knocked on our door. It was his birthday and he wanted everyone in the hotel to be there while he cut his cake  – the whole thing was pretty cute.

Bundi to Udaipur

Okay, so this was the day from hell. I kind of blame myself because out of the two of us, I’m definitely the more assertive side of the relationship and I shouldn’t have fallen asleep and I should have left Lewis to sort it out but I did and that’s why a 3-hour journey turned into a 12 HOUR ONE.

Manjeet took us to Jaipur, not Udaipur, which is 4 hours in the wrong direction. I kind of slept the whole way to Jaipur – guess I still wasn’t 100%. When we got there I asked Manjeet why we were in Jaipur and he didn’t really have an answer.

Long story short, he had messed up big time and when Lewis had told him he was going the wrong may he just didn’t really give a response. To be fair, I kind of half knew what was going on but I just assumed he knew something we didn’t. In the end, we made it to Udaipur. I didn’t mind the journey that much to be honest, I’d rather have sat in that car, on Indian roads than visit another fort. Lewis really struggled and came out of the car in a foul mood – what a rookie.

Our hostel, Bunkyard, was really nice with fantastic views of the lake. We were supposed to be in a dorm room but Lewis in his bad mood changed us to a private and I was definitely not complaining.

Udaipur

After the previous days’ disaster, we were really looking forward to our cooking class. It was taken by this lovely lady called Shashi who’s story was as great as her cooking. She’d had a very hard life but has come out on top and is now the number 1 cooking school in Udaipur.

Sashi’s cooking class

We made so much food I thought I was going to explode. The day started with chai and then how to make pakora, a number of different chutneys, 3 different types of curry and about 5 different types of chapati and naan – who knew you didn’t need a tandoor oven to make naan! The whole thing was excellent and I would 100% recommend doing this class if you’re ever in Udaipur. We did the class with another English couple and after it, we all went to the Monsoon Festival. It was basically a huge school fair around the perimeter of the lake and was mostly for children – with loads of toy shops and rides, but it was still nice to see. It was ‘women’s day’, so no men were allowed (obviously foreigners were fine) so the whole place was a sea of vibrantly coloured saris.

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Monsson Festival

We were the only white people there so we got a lot of attention (and selfies). We ended up getting coerced into going on this manual swing/merry-go-round thing that was definitely meant for the under-10s but the locals thought it was hilarious, especially the kids, so it was worth it for 50p. I also think we gave that guy a good amount of business because while we were on it quite the crowd had gathered around with all the children asking their parents if they could have a go.

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He loves it

Once we’d got back, Lewis and I went to the museum to see the dance and puppet show they put on each evening. You have to queue for about an hour before to get tickets and a good seat but it’s worth it, the tickets are only £1.50 and the show only lasts an hour. The show included some traditional Rajasthani dancing – a lot of woman balancing things on their heads while twirling at great speeds, it was impressive. Even the puppet show was brilliant, the guy really knew what he was doing and I found myself laughing out loud with the children when he got the puppet to bounce its own head from hand to hand to bum to hand. We were having such a nice time in Udaipur that we decided to stay an extra night.

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Look at her go

We had a slow morning for once with breakfast on the rooftop (Indian’s love rooftops, well to be fair it’s not like you could sit out on the street I guess) and then went for a walk around the lake to get closer to the Jag Mandir palace which is in the centre of it. Following that, I convinced Lewis to do a silk painting class – I was such an Art Attack kid and I love arts & crafts. I painted an elephant and Lewis a peacock and I was seriously impressed with what we produced. We had a little bit of help from the guy – drawing an elephant is seriously difficult but all in all, I’m definitely claiming it as a Bradie original. We spent the evening playing games with a couple G&Ts in the hostel and got ready for the journey to Jodhpur the next morning.

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So proud

Jodhpur

The drive to Jodhpur was uneventful (thankfully) and when we pulled up the hostel, HosteLaVie, the first thing we noticed was the heat. It was about 38°C. We checked in and had a genuinely good coffee in their cafe! After that, we went to the main clocktower and markets. We definitely bought more than we needed – scarfs, shirts & spices but oh well!

Market stall & the clock tower

Once we’d walked around we were hot and hungry so went to the Haveli Hotel‘s restaurant, Panorama 360. We were treating ourselves to a real restaurant for once, it had a brilliant view of the fort and the tandoori chicken was delicious.

Happy Bunnies

The next morning we made our way to the fort. It was unbelievably hot and obviously, I moaned the whole way up – why couldn’t we have just got a tuk-tuk!? Anyways, it wasn’t nearly as bad as Bundi so I guess I’ll just count my blessings.

The Mehrangarh fort was the best fort we visited in the whole of India. It’s expensive (around £6) but includes an audio tour (knowledge is power) and is definitely worth it. The fort is also actually set up for tourists, with a pre-planned flow of where to go and what to see instead of wondering endlessly through corridors and rooms without any idea what they actually are.

Love me an audio tour

There is also a zip-line at the fort. It’s £20 but great fun and gives you fabulous views of the ‘Blue City’. Once we’d done all that I was so thirsty I couldn’t think about anything but water. My mouth was sand. We were so gross, tired and sweaty by the time we got back to the hostel that we just lay star-fished in our AC room for a couple of hours trying to regain some strength.

Zip-lining and The Blue City

Once our body temperatures had returned to a normal range we went for lunch at a small place called Cafe Royal by the clocktower. The family that owns this quaint cafe are so lovely. We had the ‘Clocktower Sandwich’ – it was simple but tasty and was exactly what we were looking for.

Jaisalmer

This was our last day with Manjeet! It had come around so quickly (even if the first few days seemed to go on forever). We arrived at our final city in Rajasthan just after lunchtime and said a not-so emotional goodbye to Manjeet (don’t think he even said thank you for the tip). Our first obstacle was finding the hostel, we walked up and down the road several times but we just couldn’t spot it! Eventually, some guy popped his head out and said this is Swan Hostel – well at least it used to be. We hadn’t been told that the hostel had recently moved location! We were in the desert and the heat was insufferable.

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Bye Manjeet!

When we eventually got to the actual hostel we were pleasantly surprised, our room was lovely and the AC was powerful. The only downside was that because they had so recently moved they were missing some key things – like fans on their rooftop. The rooftop might have been hot but the beers were cold.

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Beers & cards

For dinner, we went to Jaisal Treat, a 10-minute walk from the hostel. The food there was fabulous. I was craving chicken and the curry we had there was arguably one of the best we had.

The next morning was the day Lewis had been looking forward to since we’d booked our flights – the camel safari with an over-night stay in the desert. It was pushing 40°C and if I’m completely honest, I was dreading sitting on a camel for an hour and a half in the baking sun.

We got to the safari company ‘Trotter’s‘ office after lunch, put our bags in the lockers and jumped in a Jeep. It was so hot I could feel my eyeballs inside my skull. Our first stop was to an oasis. It wasn’t much to write home about looks-wise but I guess an actual oasis in the desert is a pretty cool thing to see. The second stop was to the ‘Empty-City‘, a village out in the desert that was abandoned overnight 200 years ago.

The final Jeep stop was to the camels themselves! It was an hour and a half through the desert to the ‘camp’. If you’ve ever ridden a camel you’ll understand that they are probably the most uncomfortable animals you can ever ride and my old woman hips were not agreeing with me!

Lewis had envisaged this romantic night of us sleeping out beneath the starts so the camp was, how should I put it… rustic. Personally, I would have gone for a bit more luxury, maybe a tent with a bed in it but this was his thing and I wasn’t complaining. What our camp consisted off was a mud-hut for storing the bed frames and a piece of tarpaulin on the sand.

When we arrived we were instructed to sit on the tarp and relax, beer in hand. This was genuinely nice for about 2 minutes before a sandstorm decided to hit us – including mini sand-tornadoes! So our relaxing beers turned into me sipping it under the scarf that was draped over my face. It then suddenly started to rain. We ran inside the hut to find a family with a baby already hiding in there from the sand and the rain – who brings a new-born baby to something like this!?

Eventually, the rain passed and we managed to sit outside and chat with the other campers for a bit. We couldn’t see the sunset (or the stars) because it was cloudy but I didn’t mind as long as it stayed dry. I spoke too soon.

This time it really started to rain, meaning all 12 guests were huddled inside this tiny hut. To put this into perspective, this is the first time it has rained in 3 years. Excuse me!? The rain lasted so long that we even had to eat dinner inside the hut. It was getting hotter and hotter inside there that Lewis and I decided that standing in the rain would be better. Luckily for us, we’d brought an umbrella! I mean, it was meant to keep the sun off us but there you go, who’d have thought you’d need an umbrella in the desert.

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Once it had finally slowed, they set up the beds outside and told us that if it started raining again they were just going to put some plastic over us, that didn’t sound sweaty at all. Even though it threatened to chuck it down several times in the night, the most we got was a drizzle – a blessing I suppose! Now, just because it didn’t rain doesn’t mean I got a good nights sleep. There were wild dogs running around our beds and barking, camels grunting, beetles flying and last but not least, a 7year old child screaming at 5am that he wanted a camel ride. Once that kid was up, so was I.

My bed was covered in sand. I had never been so sandy in my life, I could hear it crunching between my teeth! When I got up I shook all the sand off of it and declared it a ‘sand-free zone’ which Lewis was allowed nowhere near and subsequently found hilarious seeming as we were literally in the middle of the desert.

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The sunrise, however, was stunning – it made the whole sky a glorious pink which was in sharp contrast to the rolling golden dunes. We were given a simple breakfast and jumped on the camels for the ride home. Luckily, the ride back was considerably shorter than the ride there!

Once we were back in Jaisalmer all we wanted was a cold room and a shower. Luckily, Trotters have their own guest house which they let you use to shower and chill in for as long as you want, free of charge. That evening we boarded our flight to Mumbai with a change in Jaipur and actually landed a bit early. We got an Uber to the hostel, Backpacker Panda Colaba, which was an hour away (the Uber cost £6! – can you imagine if they were that cheap in the UK!?). The hostel was nice but expensive and our bed still had the plastic on the mattress which was weird! Luckily we were too tired to care and fell straight asleep.

 

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