I have left Delhi following some more days of sightseeing which actually proved that Delhi was slighly nicer than my initial reaction of horror. There are some nice parks, markets, palaces, museums and pleasant areas that are not really chaotic.
I am now on a two week tour around the region of Rajasthan in West India. We hired a driver to take us around as is a good way to get about and not too pricey.
This area is where all the grand palaces are that you see pictures of in books about India and include lots of towns with hill top forts. We started in a place called Mandawa which is a little town with lots of havelis (mansions decorated with beautiful frescoes) and I had the embaressment of allowing myself to be guilt tripped into buying a gemstone that a spiritual doctor wanted to give me. After we had spent about an hour drinking their tea and being shown around their haveli I felt bad not reciprocating. However, I will eat my hat if the stone is anything but blue glass!
After Mandawa, we travelled to Bikaner to see more forts and palaces with incredibly ornate carving and lots of beautiful paintings. Bikaner also has a temple nearby where they believe that rats are reincarnated souls and therefore feed them and allow them to live in the temple. The temple is absolutely teeming with rats scurrying around the floor, out of the walls, ceiling and inside the shrines. It is apparently good luck for one to run over your foot and one ran over mine. I jumped out of my skin and instinctively kicked it off me, so am not sure if I get good or bad luck for that!
From Bikaner, we travelled to Jaiselmer which is known as the golden city as it is an old fort town built of stone from the yellow desert. Jaiselmer was a lovely place to stay as the area inside the fort is inhabited and has lots of hotels, restaraunts, temples and winding little alleyways that you get lost in. There are cows absolutely everywhere just wandering around the streets causing havoc with the rickshaws and motorbikes who fly around some of the backstreets.
There was a wedding nearby and we got to see the extravagence of a rich Indian wedding with camel drawn carriage covered in orange flowers, troops of curly moustached brightly coloured turban wearing sabre weilding men dancing/fighting, along with loads of musicians, dancers and more men on camels leading the procession.
We also did a camel trek from here to spend a night in an area called Sam. Having to tell the locals our names caused them much amusement! There are some beautiful sand dunes and we stayed in little huts not far from Sam village. They also have some water here when it does actually rain, but not enough to really call a lake (that would have been really funny for both myself and my brother). They organised for a local family to come and dance and play music for us which was really good. They also gave us curry, rice, dhal and chapati which I had to eat entirely with my fingers and just about managed.
We then arrived in Jodhpur today and this too is another hilltop fort town with a grand palace and temples. Jodhpur is known as the blue city as many of the buildings here are painted sky blue and look really pretty. This includes our hotel which is called Cosy Hotel and has a great rooftop terrace to watch the sun go down over the city. It has the nicest lassi's I have tasted so far...and I've tried quite a few.
Talking of lassi's and sundown, I think I will head off to the roof to relax for the evening!