A Travellerspoint blog

2 Mosques then back to Delhi


We headed down for breakfast only to find there was no restaurant and it was room service only. Back up to the room for butter paranthas in bed - weird! We headed out past all the jewelers and the Sufi temple, the "fresh" fish stalls and up to the Two and a Half Day Mosque. There are 2 stories on how it got its name: either it was built in two and a half days or it was named after a festival that lasted two and a half days - your choice! It was supposedly a ruin but it looked pretty in-tact to me, just a little damage around the edges and it still had its beautiful carving all over, inside and out. The people were very friendly but we still had to pose for a few photos before we got some peace and quiet to sit and watch. When we were done relaxing and people watching we headed out and back down the road to a Sufi shrine inside a different mosque (Sufism is a branch or "mystical dimension" of Islam). This was an active, lively place with lots of people milling around selling, jostling, praying, begging and offering guiding services. I bought a Kippur to cover my head and eventually found the cloak room after a friendly Muslim temple worker showed us the way. He then took us in the side entrance to avoid the crowds and proceeded to show us around the mosque, first to the huge pots set into the ground where people put donations for the poor then to the area reserved for anyone to let out their bad feelings in any way they see fit. Apparently it is quite common to see women screaming and shouting and pounding the walls, then collect themselves and calmly walk off. Strangely enough not so many men... Then it was round the corner to the shrine room and the place where a Sufi saint is buried. The entrance was a tiny little doorway with a huge crowd all pushing and shoving to get in. We joined the scrum and squeezed through the door into a square, high ceiling-ed room with the tomb in the middle surrounded by holy men who were protected from the crush by a sturdy metal fence. People gave offerings to the holy men who presented them to the shrine and also blessed the pilgrims. We were supposed to move around anti-clockwise but of course, being India, no-one was complying and we had to fight our way out of the other door. Then it was to the donations hall where we gave as a way of saying thank you for the guide, then we were on our own. We went exploring by ourselves and found a quiet peaceful room at the back with 4 tombs and 2 men dressed in ceremonial garb sat chatting. The whole room was beautifully decorated and we sat and chatted ourselves before we heard music coming from the main courtyard. We headed back and found a group of pilgrims playing a harmonium, accompanied by drums and singing, with a large group of people sat around listening. We joined them and got chatting to 2 guys from Jaipur who were jewelers here to see the shrine. It started getting hot so we headed out to buy a drink and then find lunch, before hiding from the heat of the day in our hotel room. We ventured out later to buy Ryan a present of a stool as he has only a bed and a bean bag to sit on. Then we watched the cricket before bed.

We woke, packed and checked out, leaving our bags at the hotel, and went for breakfast at a hotel round the corner, this time with a restaurant. Parantha again but Amy had ice cream with hers this time. We called my parents who were supposed to be flying out to India for a 2 week holiday with us to find out they definitely weren't coming as their flight had been cancelled because of the volcano :( We were pretty upset by the news and moped around town not really feeling in the mood to do anything. We ended up walking into a shanty town where the people were really friendly and this cheered us up a bit before heading back to the hotel to pick up our bags. A short Rickshaw ride later and we were at the nice restaurant outside the train station again where we had an extended lunch while waiting for our train. We headed to the station and caught our evening train to Delhi where we caught a Rickshaw to Ryan's house. We gave him his present, exchanged stories and pictures then went to bed.

Posted by SamAmy 07:10 Archived in India Comments (0)

The amazing golden diorama in Ajmer


We took a bus back to Ajmer in the morning with Sam sat o a seat in the drivers cab and me squished into a seat with 2 other ladies. They were really nice and I showed them some photos on our camera and they seemed really interested. We didn't know where we wanted to stay as LP had no good suggestions so we set off walking down the backstreets, devoid of anything but residential houses and internet cafes! We eventually found some hotels, the first was full, the second really noisy, the third was closed for a wedding and eventually we found a nice room with air-cooler. We bargained hard for it as 800rs was massively overpriced and in the end got it for 350 rs. We visited a barbers recommended by the hotelier for Sam to have a hair-cut and shave. The man lathered up Sam's face to look like Santa Claus, almost up to his eyes and shaved his whole face with a cut-throat razor, then after a second later and shave he was really for his massage. Face cream was applied and his face received a thorough pounding- I was worried that it would give him a nose-bleed! Satisfied that he was relaxed enough the shave was complete and Sam paid the nice man. Sam had decided to try another place for a hair cut for two different experiences so we went in search of another place. We got hungry whilst near the train station and stumbled across a REALLY NICE restaurant called "honeydew". After a relax and cool down with the other pale-faces we hit the streets again and by sheer luck stumbled across what looked like a temple with people out so we tried to wander in and were directed around the other side by a security guard. We took out shoes off and went to the ticket office, It was 20rs to go in and a guy there said "I bet you've never seen anything like this in your life" OK it's a bet! We paid and ventured up the steps and into the building. We were taken aback by what lay inside; a giant golden diorama filling a double-story building with gondolas flying from the ceiling, held up with gold cord. Everything was made from Gold and Silver. There were little temples, animals, chariots and people. We found a board explaining that it was a depiction of the Jain universe and how it was created. It was indeed a spectacular display and I have never seen anything like it! After we'd talked to the guy outside and explained that it is indeed amazing and that we didn't want to buy one of his silk elephants we found a street barbers for Sam's haircut. He waited whilst the younger man rushed a guys hair to get Sam next and soon enough it was Sam's turn. He chopped and chopped and shaved his neck with a cut-throat razor and when it was done it looked really nice :) The coolness of our AC room was beckoning us and I had a nap in the afternoon. In the evening we went for another explore, Sam had a street omelette and hasn't got Salmonella yet, then back to the room to watch the IPL cricket before bed.

Posted by SamAmy 07:05 Archived in India Comments (0)

Ghat viewing in Pushkar


We had tickets for the 10.10am train to Ajmer so got up early and took a pain-free bus the one hour drive to the train station at Abu Road. At the train station we sat down to wait and a lady sat next to me and chuckled at how i'd tied my sari, which I thought was right! I stood up and she dressed me- it felt much better when it was pulled tight and tucked in properly! We got onto the train and in our compartment were two old people chopping stinky onions for lunch and farting and three younger men who kept burping and trying to read my diary as I wrote it! I got tired of the people so shuffled up into my bed (the top bunk which was difficult with a long skirt on) and slept for over 2 hours. We arrived in Ajmer and were looking for the bus to Pushkar. We walked straight through the onslaught of rickshaw drivers, out of the car park and round the corner. We decided to take a cycle rickshaw as they have less money. the thin little man cycled/pushed us all the way to the bus station and eve took us in and showed us where to buy a ticket. We got straight onto the bus and the man in front of us chatted to us all the way there. He owned a guesthouse and we agreed to have a look at his place first as he would drive us there. He showed us to his car which was an old beetle-style one and put our bags into the boot. We drove through the mayhem of cows and motorbikes through spaces that I didn't think were big enough for the car. We got stuck behind motorbikes several times and I was worried about the safety of our bags but after 10 minutes we were outside the guest house which seemed nice, if a little dilapidated. He took us inside and gestured that all of the rooms were full downstairs (despite the doors all being ajar during the day) so took us to the top floor and into a drab looking room with wires dangling everywhere. We stayed whilst he showed us all of the 'features' including the "air-cooler" which was a box outside the window with a giant fan inside. He plugged it in and turned it on and out came a giant cloud of dust. He came back in and promised that in 5 minutes the room would be cold (if you didn't die of dust inhalation or become deaf from the noise!) He then proceeded to plug in the TV which involved balancing on the balcony on a chair to pull down a cable from the wall, passing it through the pre-cut (giant) hole in the mosquito net, plugging it in without being shocked by the sparks eminating from the plug socket and wiggling it around until the little red light came on. With the noise from the TV on nice and loud to prevent thinking, he returned outside and banged the air-cooler to release a second plume of dust. We'd already decided that we didn't want to stay here so said that we were going to check out another couple of places first. He then wanted to show us his 'rooftop restaurant' which was on the rooftop but consisted of 2 very dirty tables- it just compounded our decision. We opted for a slightly more expensive, and nicer, hotel and took the more expensive room at rs350 but at least it wasn't one of the tin sheds on the roof! We had dinner, rented a DVD to watch in our room and watched Jonny English and Rat Race before bed.

I had set my alarm for 6.30 so left Sam sleeping peacefully, donned my sari and headed towards the lake to see the pilgrims bathing in the ghats. There were a lot of people milling about so I followed a group of pilgrims down to the brama temple, bought a drink and headed back down the road as i'd passed all of the ghats. I stopped at an alley with a green 'donations' bow and decided that it would be a good place to go and see the lake. I left my shoes in the rack, pulled my sari up over my head, and walked down the marble steps which were already warm in the morning sun. I sat on a wall about 20 m from the concrete, rectangular ghat and watched a few women at first washing their feet and then a couple got into the water and sat down fully clothed- crazy people! I wasn't sat there for long before a lady sat next to me and shooed away the cow that was stood behind me (which I hadn't noticed) and it turned around and stood on my sari, scraping it's leg down my back, it then proceeded to wee right next to me so I got up and left. I put my shoes on and wandered back along the main road to another smaller alley where I again left my shoes and went to the waterside. There was a tree with a ledge around it so I sat down in the shade next to the half-full ghat devoid of people with the exception of a holy man performing some sort of ceremony whilst keeping glancing over at me, maybe wondering why someone was bothering to watch him and not actually go into the water. We was drinking little amounts of the water in 3 small sips and putting powders into the water, flicking it onto his face and over his shoulders. It was serene to sit and watch. I thought that maybe it was new water (it looked really clean) and he was blessing it? A few people turned up and began to bathe then 2 children arrived, stripped down to their boxers and bomb-dived in creating an almighty splash right next to the holy man but he didn't seem bothered.

I decided that it was time to get Sam up so bought some cold water and returned to the hotel. When I arrived I decided that I was tired again so got into bed and went back to sleep. We woke at 10am, had breakfast (I tried museli which was salted rice-crispies with coconut, cashew nuts and hot milk- never again!) and we retired to our room to plan our day. I did our clothes washing under a tap as there was no bucket and Sam got the bad news from his parents that there is an ash cloud over the UK from a volcano in Iceland so there is a high chance that they won't be able to come on holiday and see us :( We went to see the ghats at 1pm in the midday sun and the marble floor was excrutiatingly hot! We left our shoes in the rack and ran down the steps, our feet felt burnt when we reached the shade under the tree where I had been this morning. A group of Indian pilgrims arrived just after us and each unloaded a bag of clothes and proceeded to wash them in the holy water. They had brought a priest with them and he came over to us, did a little chant, tied some red and yellow string around our wrists and asked for a donation- he seemed unhappy with our rs10 but to be fair a) we're not religious so giving money to god is a bit silly and b) we didn't ask him to do the 'blessing'! We ran back to our shoes and headed to the Brama temple. It was closed until 3pm and it was now 2.45 so we wandered around the tourist-tat stalls which, in this area, were mostly swords and plastic toys. At 3pm we approached the temple but, as there was no-where safe to leave the camera we went in one by one- Sam first. I sat on a bench behind the shoe minders and mainly kept my eyes fixed on the ground because I don't like the looks that I get from Indian men when i'm by myself- they're sleezy. When Sam returned 10 minutes later he said that it was definately worth it so I left the bag and my shoes with Sam and sped past the slow-moving old people on the steps, through the 'security' check where the lady asked me what country i'm from before beeping through the scanner and walking in. The marble stones on the walls and floor were inscribed with Hindi as tombstones and the shrine in the centre was bustling with colour, bell-ringing and prayer. A man introduced himself before showing me the metal deity shrine in the basement and telling me about the temple in his town which is, according to him, the number 1 temple! I rang the bell here once he'd left, the first time i've rung one then had a look at the main shrine upstairs once i'f fought my way in. The tombstones, some inlaid with rupee coins were my favourite part of the temple. I went outside to find Sam making friends with the locals so he said goodbye and we went in search of chai. It wasn't long before we found a seller in the street and we each recieved our little plastic cup of sugary yummy chai. Sam took a photo of the guy straining the tea (with his permission of course!) We were wandering along the main street and saw a shop selling what looked like pestel and mortar bowls. We were having a look when the owner asked if we'd like a demonstration. Yes please, so we sat in the back of his shop whilst he explained that they were used for healing, made Sam lie on his back, placed the bowls on his and rubbed them with the stick to make them reverberated. Once we'd seen them in action and decided that we didn't want to buy one, the man tried to get Sam to give him money for the 'healing'! We had walked a little further down the road when an old man told us to go down that alley way to the ghats, I thought that maybe we'd missed something so I headed in that direction. He followed us down to the lake with the other man from his stall, the older man pretended to not speak any English so the younger man took over. He told us to take a photo of the ghat (which you're not supposed to do) then to put our hand together, we soon let go though as we didn't feel it appropriate. He took us down to the edge of the water made us sit down, cup our hands together and do a little 'repeat after me' ritual. It was quite nice but I was wary of the camera in the outside pocket of the bag on my back and wondering when the "now give me money" was going to come. It came soon enough. He started talking about 'poor people eating' and 'donating' then showed us a photo album of people having a fest then said we could donate 20, 30 or 50 US$ to his 'charity'! I don't think so! I started to walk away and Sam tried to reason with him but to no avail and left with the man saying "this is bad luck" boo hoo, he obviously doesn't realise that scamming people is a 'bad luck bringing' kind of job! I bought a couple of little elephant painting from a lovely old man who turned his shop upside down to find all of his small paintings and also a string of cotton elephants from a different stall. In the evening we went to the sunset cafe and chatted to an American man about what it's like to be British in India. A busker came over as we'd just finished eating and crouched down to play his Serangi (stringed instrument from Nepal). Sam asked if he could have a go and the man demonstrated a scale for him and handed it over. Sam figured out all of the basics straight away but it was difficult to get it to sound good! He had a CD of him playing and his wife singing so we bought one for rs 156 and took it back to the room to listen to it before bed.

Posted by SamAmy 06:45 Archived in India Comments (0)

Mount Abu and the hunt for wildlife

sunny 24 °C

We left Jodhpur and the peaceful Heaven Guest House on a 7 hour bus journey complete with hard seats, stopping for food, water and outside a temple for people to throw money out of the window for a prayer. We soon realised why nobody had sat at the back- it was almost spine-breaking! We arrived in Mount Abu just after it had gone dark and my poor navigational skills failed again, we got to our hotel after getting directions from a small boy pushing a box on wheels that they use there as 'rickshaws'- i.e. they mainly carry luggage and the odd lazy person. The hotel was Ok, definately not nice but it was dark and we couldn't be bothered to look for anywhere else. We chose the cheaper, less smelly of the two almost identical rooms and had dinner in the restaurant which was a mistake! To say that the place was recommended by the lady from Heaven Guset House, it was very shoddy! The food was horrible, the curry was just thin liquid and the naans stodgy. We walked to buy some mosquito coils after dinner and then met a man called Charles in one of the nicer hotels who will take us on a trek into the mountains tomorrow to hopefully see some wildlife. Off to bed with a coil burning- stinky but hopefully we won't get bitten!

My alarm went off at 6am- a different tune to usual as i'm sick of hearing the same alarm. We put on our walking clothes and headed out to see if our taxi had arrived yet. it was waiting so we jumped in the back of the grey, military style jeep (which appears to be the normal taxi style here) and trundled off dodging cows, women and children. We arrived at the entrance to the national park near Trevor's tank, paid our RS160 admission fee and set off walking. We followed a dirt road at first, through the green trees which were a welcomed change from the desert of Rajastan. We walked in silence as we had all just woken up and Charles hurried to keep up with us as he was much shorter. When we got to Trevor's tank he explained the history and that there are 12 crocodiles living there- we could see one swimming in the water. It was a lovely walk up to the top of the mountain from where there was a nice view out over the mountain range stretching North East to Delhi and South West to the coast. We chatted for a few hours about Indians, visas, poor people (in both India and the UK) and the roles of Indian people in the UK. On the walk back down, Charles pointed out some plants including orchids, we saw jungle fowl running through the undergrowth and he explained about the trees that the British people brought here because they liked the colour of the leaves but that now are causing widespread problems because they spread quickly and in the dry season set on fire! We walked down a different way and stopped in a little village. Charles asked if we would like to stop in a shop for chai, there was a moment of doubt in our minds after the Chinese tea-shop incident but we figured that it'd be ok so we said yes. The chai was lovely, not too bitter, sweet or smokey and we sat as a tourist attraction for the locals for a few minutes. We drank up and offered to pay but Charles said that the old man next to us had already paid as he is an old friend of Charles. We walked through the village to our taxi which took us back to our hotel.

In the afternoon we went looking around the shops and found a material shop- Sam asked if they had saris and the man said yes so in we went. Out came the packets of material again but the man was nice and said that if I choose a style he'll have it made for us in an hour! I chose a red and green silk material and Sam chose a material and pattern for a shirt. The guy tried to convince me that I wanted a second outfit in cotton with trousers and a long top. I explained that I only wanted the sari and he said that if I only want one I should take the trousers and top instead- he's not a very good salesman telling me not to buy what I want! He measured us up and when presented with the bill for rs2200 we politely explained that we could buy a linen shirt for less than 10 pounds in England and that my other silk sari was cheaper and he was quick to alter the price to rs 1550. Done. He had originally said that it would take one hour but as his staff were now on their lunch, we should come back in 5 hours! Ah well. We had a look round a Brama museum which was really weird, their message was that all religions lead to God therefore there should be one religion, one language, one flag etc, not really achievable as how would they choose them? One guess would be that it's be Hinduism, Hindi and the Indian flag! We walked through the 'park' in the afternoon, which was a path with railings through a patch of grass and up to 'toad rock' overlooking the Nakki Lake. The rock didn't look much like a toad to us! There was a family sat at the top with a drinks stall. We had a whole bottle of water so didn't bother to walk across and instead sat on the rock overlooking the lake. A little boy from the drinks stall came across and started chatting to us, he was very friendly, he said he was 10 and that he lived over there and pointed down behind the rock and went to school at St Monica's (which Charles had told us was a posh boy's school). It is Wednesday so we asked him why he wasn't at school and he said that it is a holiday, despite us seeing lots of children in uniforms this morning. We think that him and his family lived in the hole in the rock as there was a bed and cooking utensils so when he offered us a bottle of water for rs20, twice the retail price, we said "yes please" and he ran to get us one. After 15 minutes of sitting with us he asked if we were not hot, we said no and asked if he was, he said yes, so we told him to go and sit in the shade- he ran and lay down to cool off. We killed 3 hours writing this blog waiting for our clothes to be finished and when we went back he said they were almost finished, come back in 30 minutes. We walked around and waited. 30 minutes later Sam's shirt was finished but needed taking in a little so he went off to the tailors shop and when he came back it looked great! My sari was beautiful but the blouse needed taking in a little so I left it there and the man said come back in an hour. We looked for a restaurant for dinner but by the time we found a nice one the hour was up so we went back, The guy said it would be another half an hour so we walked back again, had dinner, played in an internet cafe then went back an hour later- still not done so he offered to sent it to our hotel before 10 tonight, I wanted to try it on again to make sure so said we'd come back. We got a drink and sat in the shop to wait. It was only 10 minutes (waiting makes them work faster)- the fit was perfect! I was happy that it was done so we headed back to try it on properly and take some photos before bed.

Posted by SamAmy 05:40 Archived in India Comments (0)

Jodhpur Fort and the blue city

sunny 25 °C

I was woken by my alarm at 4.50am as the train was due to arrive at 5.10. I got up and un-padlocked the bags then waited. We pulled into a station so I asked the guy across from us if this was Jodhpur- he said yes so I woke Sam, we put on our bags and started moving out of our compartment when he said "wait a minute", I was worried that we would miss our stop but Sam said that there was no platform outside the window so it must be a little station and lay down again. I stood waiting just in case and about 10 minutes later we pulled into Jodhpur and got off. It was just getting light so we fought off the rickshaw drivers and found the ticket office to book tickets to Mount Abu for tomorrow. I failed. One lady said "come back tomorrow as you can only get them on the day" and another man said "go to the reservation office on the main road". Neither answer was very useful right now so we asked a rickshaw to take us to the clock tower. I followed our route as best as i could in the limited light and we appeared to be going in the right direction but when we 'arrived' we couldn't see the clock tower as we were in an alley. I refused to get out as we didn't know where we were and just at that moment a woman pulled up next to us on a motorbike and said hotel? Sam said OK, I was impartial as by this point I was in quite a bad mood. Sam looked at the room in "Heaven Guest House" and said it was nice so we took it. I was still annoyed with people preying on us. The lady there offered us chai on the rooftop so we accepted. It was good chai and the view of the fort was beautiful. We all sat quietly and drank before the lady told us to go and have a sleep. ok. Our room was beautifully decorated, ice-cold and the bed was comfy for once :) topped off with soft towels. We didn't go to sleep but instead cooled down, had a shower and planned our day. We would visit the fort as it is reputedly the best in Rajastan. We walked up the short way that the hotel lady had told us about and passed through 'security' which involved beeping through the scanner and just walking in anyway. Once inside it was the easiest set-up i've seen so far in India- pay, get ticket, go next door, give drivers licence for audio guide (included in ticket price) and off you go! We followed the numbered signs and listened to the descriptions of life as a maharaja, the role of opium in society, the role of colour in Indian life along with lots of information about the fort itself. The strangest thing for me was that when the maharaja died all of his wives were cremated with him- alive! The views from the top were spectacular of the blue city spread out below. We had a quick lunch inside the fort before a wander around the walls with lots of cannons and Indians wanting their photo taken with us! We walked around the town in the afternoon from the fort looking for the clock tower, we eventually found it and located a cloth shop near the spice market as I was looking to buy a Sari. I asked what sari's he had and he pulled out packet after packet of material. We asked if he had the top and skirt to go under them and he explained that his wife would bring some now from their warehouse. OK so we drank chai and he explained about real silk whilst making me choose my favourite scarf, I chose one so not to be rude then his wife arrived with a large bag. She pulled out a giant red top and giant white peticoat, they clad me in the sari which was 5m long and tied me up like origami! I think it looked pretty but it wasn't everyday wear like the man had tried to convince me it was, his wife gave the game away when she said "it's good for parties and occasions" i'd feel like a merangue walking down the street in it! She had also brought lots of Shalwar Kameeze (top and trousers) but they were all shades of pink which made me look like a salmon. I didn't like anything but felt really pressured into buying somethin. When they'd decided that I wanted the sari outfit, a green silk scaf and a tailor-made shalwar kameeze they presented us with a bill for rs3000. Crazy! So sam and I went outside for a word. I explained how I didn't want anything but felt bad leaving and he said to go in and tell them. I said I didn't want anything and they said "sit down, if it's the price we can talk about it" I didn't want to talk anymore or be in their silly shop so I walked out and Sam caught me up. We watched the lady make our dinner (to learn a bit about Indian cooking) and she exlained what was going in- it was yummy! It was quite late by the time we were finished so we headed to bed with the lovely air-con on :)

Posted by SamAmy 05:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

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