Same Destination; Different Experience

walk along

Allan and I had just met four hours ago and he irritated me.

Not because he wasn’t pleasant.  He was male.

I first noticed it when we walked back to his hotel.  The old section of Udaipur has a main street that bursts with humans, rickshaws, cars and motorbikes constructed of various nuts, bolts or chromosomes.  The street heaves, contracting endlessly to fit all these objects.

Offshoots from the main street become snaking one-way streets.  It was down one of these streets when Allan was assaulted.  With kindness.

A male shop worker slapped him affectionately on the back.  Smiling broadly as he recounted how Allan bought them tea at a restaurant the other day.

Another hugged him almost tenderly, telling me that Allan spent an hour in his shop talking like old friends.

A few would idle in front of their stores, yelling a “hello” to him. The type of greeting bursting with camaraderie.

You would think the Maharaja himself was resurrected and here he was in the flesh.

What annoyed me was not Allan’s popularity, but his experiences.

How effortlessly he forged buddy connections in a short amount of time.

Most of my experiences were great, yet could not be rated as warm and fuzzy.  Always the curious questions; sometimes a joke or two.  When I was in a restaurant, usually one male acted as the spokesperson, while the rest hungrily gawked.

I mused about my latest one.  A self-proclaimed neighbor who lived next to my guesthouse offered to drive me back one night.  I had just arrived and was absolutely lost on how to get back, though had a vague idea.  Vague ideas were not going

Horse Whispering in Rajasthan

A Little Historical Reference

The history of the horse in Rajasthan spans hundreds of years.  At one time in the land of kings, horses were used for pleasure trips and thunderous warfare.

Rajasthan society was infused with a social caste system.  This included horses.  The Marwari breed reached the highest esteem, thus only Rajputs were privileged to ride these stunning creatures in battle.

As I poked around places like Jaipur or Udaipur, Chetak by far is the most famous horse. He belonged to Pratap Singh, Hindu ruler of Mewar.  Singh is a revered hero of Rajasthan, prominently featured in the Battle of Haldighati in 1576, the power struggle between the Mughal-Mewar kingdoms.

Several Rajput generals had joined under Mughal Emporer Akbar, but Pratap refused, selfishly protecting his pride and honor.  You can imagine the fall-out.  During the Battle of Haldighati, as Pratap perched on the regal Chetak, he attacked Man Singh on his elephant, a prince and special envoy to Mughal Emperor Akbar.  In the heat of swords clashing and guttural cries of the battle knell, Chetak suffered severe injuries and died valiantly in battle.  His master cried like a baby and entered a page of history.

Pratap Singh and Chetak monument - Udaipur

That’s as much as I know.  When I noticed posters for horse safaris at my guesthouse, it was tantalizing, too hard to resist.

Did I mention I’ve never ridden a horse before?  Ever. I’m the anti-anti Alberta girl.  While farming debutantes were thrust into the limelight of cowtown, I buried myself in my room, writing morose poetry.

The Tour

I was picked up at my hotel and

By |May 10th, 2011 |Categories: Adventure, Udaipur |14 Comments

I’m in Love… With My Guesthouse

I didn’t know what to expect when the rickshaw dropped me off in the old town of Udaipur.  Reviews said Mewargarh Palace is decent and boast fair and accommodating owners.  See, after so many couches, Murphy Beds, and unwashed sheets I’ve become cynical.

As though nothing could possibly please me now.  I stood outside the dull brown latched door, pressed the doorbell, and walked in bracing myself.

I dropped my backpacks and lightening struck. Love. At first sight. Does that even happen anymore?  My insides told me –  yes! Amore.

The charming courtyard:

Intricate window design:

My enchanting little room.  He only charged me 400 RS for a 500 RS room!

Biggest bathroom I’ve had in India:

Cannot get over the adorable sunflower pillow:

Window and pale blue wooden shutters overlooking the courtyard:

Rooftop restaurant:

View from roof:

Chill out area:

My breakfast.  Apple pancakes with fruit and sweet chai masala

By |April 27th, 2011 |Categories: Travel Tips, Udaipur |36 Comments

Rajasthan – Jewel of India

When the train lurches, propelling itself from the platform in Delhi, leaving behind the dense, smoggy air and the concrete monoliths that are brimming with families, that familiar tug of motion bubbles.  A nugget of knowledge that you are onwards somewhere new, saddling uncharted waters.

The volume of traffic and decibels of honking is a faraway din to your ears, as is the lonely, howling dogs. All is drowned out by the pre-recorded train boardings warbling from the loudspeakers at the station. Your berth and seat number afford some insulation as sprawling Delhi begins to fade.

Maybe it’s the twinkle of morning or the dregs of night.  Indian trains always seem the same whatever departure time, a crawling snake the shade of what a depressed sky might look like, a pale blue tinged with grey.  The snake moves faster, changing the landscape from city to country.

You take out the crumpled ticket in your pocket and stare at it.  Jaipur.  Sort of a mystery, yet to be unfolded.

You might snooze for a spate; tinkle around with a novel you’re reading, until finally the mystery unravels.

The window beckons.

Pink jewel mountainous ranges kissing the indigo sky.  Acres of wheat fields where bushels wait to be claimed.  Dust covered, anorexic trees. Camels as work animals or show pieces for foreigners.

The train window reflects light and

By |April 25th, 2011 |Categories: Culture, Rajasthan |21 Comments

The Perils of the Solo Female Traveler

Lately, people keep drilling me about India.

Is there dysentery, floating ashes, dust or monsoons that could drown a buffalo?

Well, all of the above.

Mostly, though, there are men.  Lots of them.  I liken my luck to three things, which somehow leads me to some interesting situations.

Yesterday I boarded a train from Delhi, landed in Jaipur four hours later and was guaranteed a pick up at the train station.

How nice, I thought.  Zaffa showed up on behalf of the guesthouse that I never even booked.

My Delhi savior, Dr. Malik, arranged a hotel for me in Jaipur due to some credit card snags.  Otherwise, I usually do coordination myself.  It’s funny what happens when you let go.

The only information I had was the name, address and mobile number scrawled on the back of my train confirmation.

Zaffa was a gem, making sure to negotiate a decent taxi price to the guesthouse.  Good thing, because it wasn’t even remotely in Jaipur city, but outside.

I arrived and the room is nice for 700 RS.  Not to mention my own bathroom, with shower.  I felt like a princess.  In the lobby, there was a crew of men, not abnormal for India, because friends usually hang together for hours on end.

Everything seemed hunky dory except the staring is intense this time.  Laser focused on my every twitch or uttered word.  They come in clusters to watch my conversations with the front desk guy, glued to us, like they are witnessing a car crash.

Last night I came back from sight seeing and got aroused into conversation with two cheeky guys who plan to

By |April 17th, 2011 |Categories: Jaipur |20 Comments