Updates:Blogs: Agra (Taj Mahal), Rajastan (Jaipur and Bundi)Photos: none (for now)Videos: Laos Adventure Sports, Saigon Traffic Crossings, Angkor Wat comments, Angkor Wat walking, Calcutta Beer Science, Calcutta Taxi Ride, Calcutta Guest House, Varanassi Boat Ride, Varanassi Cows & Bulls Game, Taj MahalBusy little bees we have been with no time or place to upload. As ever, please let us know if some of these videos don't download fully. Thank you!
Jaipur and Bundi
And so it was that we entered Rajastan, home of the Maharajas and the fearsome and revered Rajput warriors.
We have become addicted to Bollywood movies (more specifically to the storyline and over-the-top song and dance routines). If the movie has to do with something from India's glorious past, then it's filmed in Rajastan. Every town has a palace and a fort. The palaces look like working palaces that were built in a time of warriors, princesses (in distress, of course) and strife among people who wouldn't think twice of committing ritual suicide before giving up or charging full throttle at the enemy with odds totally stacked against them. The wives would throw themselves on the husband's funeral pyre and be burnt alive with him as a sign of commitment and respect.
So it's fairy tale country. Unfortunately history shows that the Rajastanis couldn't stop fighting amongst themselves long enough to get properly organized, so inevitably they were overrun by people with more political aspirations (always the politicians eh?). So they were offered deals where they could keep their land and holdings and were as free as possible, but they would need to fight when called upon to do so.
Luckily they liked fighting, so I guess it was a good deal for both sides. So this is the world we entered and from day 1 we encountered people with enormous hospitality and concern for the those in their care. From our moto-taxi driver Mr. Chandra, to our guesthouse family and host Mr. Chintu, all we got were "Be careful here" "I will show you how to get that" "Let me help you with this" "No problem" (the real "No problem", not the other one).
Strangest thing though - most people warn you away from Jaipur. We found it to be an oasis of calm where the people trying to bother you are of the amateur variety, or just not bothering too much with their bothering duties.
On from Jaipur and we went to Bundi which is a small town described as "a fairytale city set next to a fairy tale palace and fort".
If Jaipur was an oasis of calm, then Bundi is the place where oases go to get away from it all. Our bus was about 4 hours late (break down or driver strike, we're still not sure) and arrived after 9pm. Mr. Chintu our Guest House owner was still waiting for us from 5pm. We only e-mailed him and asked if he could please come to pick us up - he did that and so much more. We entered his "haveli" which is basically a three story house with rooftops and rooms tucked into corners and arranged around various little courtyards. It's as great as it sounds!
He commandeered his mother-in-law (only in India!) to make us some dinner and sat with us as we ate before tucking us into bed with a final series of questions about our welfare. For the first time since I got to India I slept like a log (see again how really good clichés are really meant only for those occasions that do them justice?).
His guesthouse (Hadee Rani ) is named for the princess Hadee Rani whose husband was a fearsome fighter, but after marrying her, he didn't want to leave and go to battle. She told him to get fighting and stop whining. He got lonely on the battlefield and sent someone to ask for a reminder of her. She thought she was a distraction to him and so cut off her head and had it sent to her husband. He promptly hung it around his neck and continued with the fighting… each to his own I guess, but this is testament to the old-school chivalrous nature of the people in this area.
Bundi is where most weary India travelers go to escape everything chasing them. We did the tourist thing for about 2 days and then just let Bundi happen. We met an Ozzie who taught us a valuable lesson in how to travel (Thanks Alex!).
His story (short version) is as follows: Flew into Mumbai from Australia and wanted to leave immediately until he got used to India. He has been here 6 months and has had all sorts of adventures happen to him after he stopped whizzing around chasing one tourist site after the other. In doing so he discovered his long lost Indian family (!) and went to stay with them. He acted in a Bollywood movie and got paid for being a freelance reporter (a lifelong dream that was realized by accident). All this by just staying put in a place and allowing the place to work its magic on you.
We didn't give Bundi enough time for this, but the lesson was learnt and we have had our own moments of serendipitous magic happen, but that is part of our North-North India story which will have to wait for the next blog update. We are currently in Himachal Pradesh region, Mcleod Ganj, home of the Tibetans in exile and the Dalai Lama.