Travel: Generous Jodhpur

imageShukriya is the first word that I learned in Hindi. It means “Thank You.” This is always the first term I learn when traveling in a foreign country because it allows me to thank all the kind people who help me find my way when I am lost and confused.

 

For me, it tells the locals, ‘Thank you for sharing your culture and heritage with me, Thank you for your generosity, and Thank you for welcoming me.’

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Today, is Christmas Eve, and it seems like an appropriate day to be grateful for the luxury of traveling. Too few people are given the opportunity, or have a passion to explore the world as I do. Let’s be honest, the hobby of adventure requires both capital and time, and such a large portion of the human population enjoy neither.

 

imageA family who can afford this extravagance is the Jodhpur Royal Family, and we visited their private residence, the Umaid Bhawan Palace. Built in 1943, the construction of the palace provided employment to thousands of citizens during a famine. Numbering at a total of 347 rooms, the building serves three purposes. It functions as a home, a hotel, and a museum.

imageLeaving the opulence of the structure behind, we headed back to the Saree store from yesterday for a final fitting. The fit was off, and the design of the blouse was not what we had discussed. Nick and I were both extremely frustrated as we had spent about 2-3 hours at the store yesterday to discuss and hash out all the details to make sure we got what we wanted.

We ended up walking out of the store unhappy and disgruntled.  Fortunately, my deposit was negotiated down to 500 rupees, so I only lost about $7 on this Saree attempt.

imageWe ended up making a third attempt at buying a Saree at the Sadar Bazaar, and settled on a dark blue Saree of a different style. I already decided that I refuse to buy more shoes or bangles to match this new color, so some clashing may occur. Thankfully, I know that no matter what I wear, I will still stand out of the crowd at the Wedding.

imageAfter dropping off our purchases at the hotel, we started to hike up to the fort before realizing it was closed for the day. On our way back down the streets, Nick started conversing with a young man, around our age, who promptly invited us into his home, which had been in his family for over 100 years. His mother and father were super inviting, and presented us with chai. Granted, much of the conversation was lost on me, but the mother asked to take a photo with me because she thought I was so beautiful. 😀

imageWe bid adieu with the intent to return to our hotel. A group of kids in an alley stopped us and asked for American coins, I felt bad because I didn’t have anything to offer. Their family also proceeded to welcome us with open arms, and we spent some time talking with the kids and their parents while savoring our second cup of Chai. They played a few games on my cell phone, and when the girls wanted to paint my nails, I couldn’t say no. Their future dreams ranged from working in Law Enforcement to being a Doctor. It was incredibly heartwarming to hear about their ambition, and Nick and I encouraged them all to study hard as we left.

Our hotel, the Castle View HomeStay threw all of its lodgers a party for Christmas Eve. We lit a lantern and attempted to let it float up into the sky, but alas, the windy conditions were not in our favor, and the lantern dropped like a rock. It was really funny at the time, and incredibly endearing how much effort the staff had put in. A ‘Santa Claus’ was nominated who gave us small handicraft gifts that are local to the region, and we enjoyed a buffet dinner together with some Gulab Jamun, a sweet milk dessert from a famous bakery in the city.

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Travel: Sleepers and Bazaars

After Ranthambore, Nick and I had booked a night train to our next city, Jodhpur.

imageAs has often been the case, we were woefully unprepared for how basic the sleeper cabins were. Unlike trains in Europe, you are only provided a cot. It was only after we found our berths that it dawned on us why so many people on our platform had brought pillows and blankets.

 

Needless to say, it was the coldest night we’ve had. The train windows are openly ventilated, and despite putting on all our layers, time passed slowly. I’m pretty sure I contracted a cold because of this. 😦

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Jodhpur is known by two names, the “Sun City” for the year-round sunny weather, and the “Blue City” due to the uniquely blue houses that surround the fort. It is the second largest city in Rajasthan, and was formerly the capital of the Marwar Kingdom.

 

 

imageNick and I were not up for much after we finally arrived at our hotel. It was also the King’s Birthday (royalty still resides in the palace) so all of the major tourist attractions happened to be shut down. We opted to visit the Ghanta Ghar “Clock Tower,” and roam the nearby Sadar Bazaar to make a second attempt at finding me a Saree.

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It took quite a bit of negotiating, but we finally found a shop that had all the pieces and would measure me so that it would be a custom-fit. We then proceeded to buy all the requisite shoes and jewelry to match this outfit before heading back to the hotel for dinner and an early night.

Travel: Modern Jaipur

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

 

After our lunch break, we decided to cut through the Bazaar on our way to the Albert Hall Museum. I have never seen as much color as I have in Jaipur. Nick says that the handicrafts of Rajasthan are so vibrant to contrast the muted colors of the desert.

 

In truth, the aristocrats of Jaipur were avid patrons of the arts. They often coaxed skilled artisans from around India and abroad to settle in Jaipur and make it their home. I’ve included a few pictures below to illustrate the broadness of their crafts.

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

imageThe Albert Hall Museum was designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob in 1887, and exemplifies Indo-Saracenic Architecture. This form of architecture originated in the late 19th century as a movement by British Architects to merge elements from native Indo-Islamic and Indian Architecture with the Gothic and Neo-Classic styles of Victorian Britain. Some of the typical characteristics you may see include: Onion Domes, Scalloped Arches, Minarets, and Domed Kiosks. We decided not to meander too long on the exhibits, because Nick isn’t a fan of museums, and I’m still a little museum-dead from my epic Eurotrip.

Our last stop of the day was the Birla Temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the preserver, and his consort Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.

imageDespite being a “modern” structure, – completed in 1988 – symbolism is still rampantly prevalent in the architecture of the building. Each of the three huge domes of white marble represent the three different approaches to the religion, and intricately stained glass windows illustrate scenes from Hindu Scriptures. Something that is singularly iconic to Hinduism is the acceptance of all other religions. This is demonstrated by the carvings along the exterior walls that depict import figures from both history and other faiths.

 

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Taking one last glance at the temple as the sunset illuminated it in the background, Nick and I returned to the bazaar in search of a Saree for me. While I don’t typically buy ethnic clothes while I travel, I felt it necessary for this trip as I will be attending a traditional Indian Wedding when we reach Mumbai.

Unfortunately, as is often the case when I am shopping in Asia, we hit some roadblocks in the form of sizing. I found a color scheme and pattern that I loved, but, as Nick would put it, my broad,, manly shoulders made the top a bit too snug. T.T.