Thursday, February 10, 2011

Quick Recap

(Written in Mumbai – February 5th)

I feel like I’ve been jumping around a bit as I blog and I’m not sure you, dear reader, have any clear sense of what I’ve been up to.  Let me fill you in, in case you haven’t pieced it together from my random blog posts.  I started in Delhi, after a marathon 15-hours flight (complete with non-stop screaming from toddlers on board) from Toronto.

After that came ... Agra
– home of the Taj Mahal, which makes it a necessary stop.  Other than that, it’s a decidedly unpleasant place.  Enough said, except that this is where I first discovered I’m a rock star in India, with my paparazzi following me around the Taj to snap my picture.

Next up ... Jaipur
– the “Pink City” so named for the coat of paint (maintained ever since) applied to its old city in honour of a visiting British monarch (I forget which one).  Meticulously planned and laid out by an emperor centuries ago, it’s become a tourist mecca with all the attendant problems of aggressive souvenir hawkers and pushy rickshaw drivers.  Traffic is insane.  There are some delightful buildings, though, with the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds, the royal women’s residence) in town and the Amber Palace and Monkey Temple just outside.  Was blessed by priest in Monkey Temple, supposed to be good luck to help me find a husband (whether or not I want one is, apparently, beside the point as they don’t understand single women here).  Interesting trip to Bollywood movie at ridiculously opulent movie theatre, followed by Bollywood dancing at a nightclub.

Next up ... Pushkar
— chilled-out town clinging simultaneously to its status as a sacred Hindu site and as a hippie mecca, so it’s a bit of an odd mix.  Really liked it, though, as it’s very relaxed by North Indian standards and, while people do incessantly try to sell you stuff, they aren’t that pushy about it.  Did a camel safari out to the desert from here.  Received blessing from Hindu priest as the lake in Pushkar is a holy site for Hindus.

Next up ... Udaipur
— much more relaxed than Agra or Jaipur, but chock full of interesting sights, from the City Palace (former residence of the majaranas) to the Jagdish Temple to the Lake Palace.  Numerous man-made lakes surround it (Rajasthan’s a desert so there’s no naturally occurring bodies of water) which I spent a morning cycling out to see.  Went to see a cultural show, too, with some of the traditional dances and music of the area.

Next up ... Ranakpur
— not even really a town, just a large Jain temple complex with some hotels in the vicinity.  Or maybe there’s a town but I just didn’t see it, as we stayed at a lovely resort-type hotel in the midst of trees and mountains without any other civilization in sight.  Stunningly gorgeous temples, but don’t quite understand the religion yet.  Incredibly peaceful after the full-bore onslaught of North India and before the manic intensity of Mumbai.

Next up ... Mumbai
I’m writing you from here, as I kill time before I meet the group to head to the airport later for our flight to Goa.  It got a separate post all to itself so you might have a flavour of the place already; it’s a veritable assault on every sense you have and quite overwhelming in its sheer size and noise and crush of people.  Only spending one night here, which is quite enough; I think the best of India is going to be (for me, at least) outside the major urban centres.

Hope that helps.  Perhaps I’ll try to write more chronologically in future, but when I only have sporadic internet access it ends up getting a bit muddled.  So you’ll just have to take it as it comes.

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