I am now in Jaipur and coming to the end of my journey around Rajasthan. We have spent two weeks travelling around with our driver Mr Singh who has shown us lots of good places and occasionally some not so good, which we suspect are places that give him tips for bringing tourists there.
Since leaving Jodhpur we went to a place called Ranakpur, which is in the hills to see a huge white marble Jain temple. This looks a bit like Angkor Watt temple as it is surrounded by palm trees and has lots of spires, pillars and really ornate carving both inside and outside the temple.
It was nice to stay in the countryside and was a good break from the towns which can feel quite frenetic.
We then travelled on to Udaipur, which is probably the most western of the cities we have seen in Rajasthan. Udaipur is really pretty and is set around Pichola Lake which reflects all the white buildings that surround it. In the centre of the lake is the Lake Palace, this is where Octop**** lived in the James Bond film. It is now a five star hotel and we decided to treat ourselves to an expensive meal there. We were worried we may not get in as apparently they turn people away who are too scruffy, so we put on the best clothes we have and headed down to the jetty where we were collected by their private speedboat and taken to the palace.
It was really pretty inside and we had cocktails in the candlelit courtyard and then went into the restaurant for a great meal. The staff are all dressed in white uniforms with red turbans and you have all the nice touches that you get in a five star hotel eg. spicy cashews and sweet chilli almonds, warm cauliflower cheese dips with toasted bread to snack on. Great loos with lots of little pots of hand cream etc and they even had a big backgammon table that we played on after our meal.
Udaipur itself is nice to wander around and has lots of little shops with nice things to buy. It also had a fort palace and in the evenings you go to one of the rooftop restaurants for a 7.00pm viewing of Octop****
After Udaipur, we went to Pushkar. This is also on a lake and has lots of ghats (steps next to the lake that are holy sites) and which people bathe from or throw flowers onto the lake as a blessing. Pushkar has the most hippies we have seen since arriving in India and you saw lots of people with dreadlocks and tie dye clothing.
After Pushkar we went to Jaipur, which is a big busy city and has a fort, palace, temples and an interesting huge outdoor observatory with various sundials and towers that tell the time up to two minutes in accuracy and apparently also tell auspicious days for weddings etc.
Just outside Jaipur is the Amber Fort on the hillside and we took an elephant ride to the top to get some good views over the countryside.
From there it was straight to Agra with a small detour to Fatehpur Sikri, which is another old city with lots of ruins and some beautiful intact palaces including a monument built to the Maharaja's favourite elephant which has lots of fake tusks sticking out of it!.