Thompson Travelers

Travel is a way to be lost…and found…all at the same time

Category: India (Page 1 of 3)

Shahpura Palace…the Magic of Blue

Hi friends,

We drove back to New Delhi yesterday, but not before winding down some crazy streets and back roads of Shahpura, bigger than a village but not quite a city.  More crazy animals in the middle of the roads on our way to a gem hidden down the alleyways.

Where do cows sleep? Wherever they want to! 

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Samode…a Village of Surprises

We traveled a couple of hours away from Jaipur to the local village of 20,000 called Samode.  We are staying at Samode Bagh, a lush garden and fountain resort which was once the summer getaway for royalty who escaped from the city to the country to relax and unwind.  Now it has been converted to a hotel.  

Lush Gardens of Samode Bagh

Entrance to Samode Bagh

Having stayed in some luxe hotels so far, our tour guide said it was all downhill from here for the rest of the trip and we would be sleeping in tents out in the village on our next stop.  This place is a very pleasant surprise!  

Our tent!!

Now this is my idea of camping!!

Sixty percent of India’s income comes from agriculture, and here in the country, we get a close up look at farmers working the fields.  The women still wear saris even when tilling the dirt.  Many families have cows and goats.

A new kind of horse and buggy

We traveled by camel carts (I can’t believe I just said that) on the dirt roads, to the farm of four brothers, who inherited ten acres of land from their parents. They built four separate houses on the property, and their families all work the land to earn their living, growing roses, cauliflower, carrots, star fruit, mangos, gooseberries, tomatoes, and jackfruit. 

One of their daughters is getting married in a month. We asked how she met her fiancé since she lives in such a rural area.  Like 70% of families in India, marriages are arranged by the parents. She had been on five dates together in total, and was very excited to be getting married.   The divorce rate in India is one percent. 

Me and Raja

Camels generally live 40-50 years.  They begin training at one year and it takes two years to train them.  They seem extremely calm considering that they deal with cars, motorcycles, and auto rickshaws driving right next to them on the roads.  They take good care of their camels as they are their livelihood. 

Built in the 16th century, we spent the evening having dinner in the raja’s palace, a former member of royalty, no longer having power, who has turned the palace into a place rented out for dinners, weddings, and special event venues.  Wow, these guys sure knew how to live. 

Raja’s Palace Entrance

Our arrival in the dark was met with the hotel lighting up, a rolled out red carpet, sari-clad maidens throwing fresh flower petals over us, a marigold lined staircase flanked by four camels, a flute playing snake charmer, and fireworks over the hotel!  Holy mackerel, you only get this kind of greeting in the movies!!  

The Hall of Mirrors

The Hand-painted Banquet Room

Dinner was another royal event with a appetizers followed by a six course Indian feast beneath a splendor of chandeliers in a 300 year old hand painted ballroom.  

Six course Indian meal!

As we left, we had another fireworks display overhead, and the logo of our tour company laid out on the marble floor made of colored grains of rice.  It took one artisan seven hours to complete it.  

Gate 1 Logo made out of rice

It was difficult getting the guys back on the bus to go back to the hotel. The twenty concrete arched outdoor car garage spaces held vintage automobiles. It felt like we were in some Indiana Jones movie where they are exchanging priceless cars for secrets from the raja.  We traveled back to our hotel by camel.  What a night…something you could only experience in India! 

The Pink City…Jaipur

We’ve traveled six hours to a new capital city named Jaipur, nicknamed the Pink City because it was all painted a pink (brick red really) to welcome the Prince of Wales in 1876.  With a population of 3.1 million, it’s the tenth most populated in the country.

The Palace of Winds

The lattice work over the windows allowed the royal ladies to watch the happenings of everyday life without being seen.  There was a time when Indian women have veiled faces because Muslims would steal the beautiful Hindu women. When their faces were hidden, they could not tell what the women looked like, thus protecting the women from being abducted.

The Bazaar

This is a fabulous city for shopping.  You can look in every direction, and no matter which way you go, there will be shops with so many souvenirs, you’ll need an extra suitcase.  Take caution though…there are hawkers outside of each establishment to lure you in.  You’ll need to bargain.  They will take you for whatever price they can get.  I bought a pair of rayon pants – they started at $60 US.  I got them down to $6.75 and pity the poor tourist that doesn’t know how to bargain for a deal.  If I had a little more time, I could have gotten it down to $5.

We traveled to Abhaneri, a small village outside the city.  This area was very arid and dry, so King Chanda built this stairwell in 800AD to collect rainwater.  It became a communal place for people during times of great heat, and a place for them to collect water for their needs.  There are over 3500 steps descending 100 feet to the bottom.

Chanda Baori

On the opposite sides, Hindu temples were for Royalty.  It was generally the women that had the task of fetching the water.  I cannot imagine lugging the water back up to the top in this 95° heat!  The poor women!!

Hindu temples for Royalty

Although there are no longer royal families with power, they still do exist, but only have to status of regular people.  What remains of some maharajas still live in the royal residences, but have turned most of the properties into museums.

Entrance to the Royal Palace of the current Maharaja

Painted doors in the Royal Palace

Traffic in India is quite crazy.  The roads are often two lanes in each direction with no lines painted for lanes.  Your car shares space with motorcycles, bikes, camels, water buffalos, cows, monkeys, motor rickshaws (3 wheelers), donkeys, and people crossing every which way, with all having the right to be on the road.  If that isn’t crazy enough, the all important sacred cows seem to prefer sleeping on the left, right, and center of the road.  Add a few snake charmers, people trying to sell you things at every intersection, and fruit and vegetable stands everywhere, and people all looking for a handout, and you will will have an idea of walking the streets of India.

Cobra Snake Charmers

Camels on the side of the road

Chuck & his Camel

The Untouchables

Love the elephants!

Abhaneri

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