Tag Archives: India 2010

India diary, day 10

In June/July 2010 I spent ten days travelling in Rajasthan, India with friends; this is my diary of the trip (full list of entries here).

Got up at 9.30 and boarded my taxi to the terminal. Cheeky driver actually asked for his tip, but what the heck, he carried my case for me; better than London!

In the airport; bit of an anticlimax now it’s all over; found an Internet kiosk and caught up on ten days’ worth of e-mail (it’s much clearer when you see it all together how pointless 95% of it is). Gave the last five minutes of my time to an American chap anxious to close a deal…

Flight to London took off dead on time and served an excellent curry half way through. My reaction to the slight turbulence over Russia (wheee! isn’t this exciting; look at all these people looking queasy) led me to believe I was a little out of it, probably a combination of jet lag and being cooler than I’d been for a week.

Landed Heathrow after 7.5 hours (ahead of time!). Took three hours to get back to Oxford, what with being at the back of the plane, hundreds of French schoolgirls in front of me at the E.U. passport control lane (why can’t we have a British lane? Or does asking that make me a racist?), and getting across Oxford from the coach stop.

Collapse into bed and work in the morning; it’s a hard life.

Note to my loyal readers
Sorry it’s taken so long to write this all up. I’m a lazy busy man, you know. Expect to read about 2012’s holiday some time during 2014, and a very Merry Christmas to you all.

India diary, day 9

In June/July 2010 I spent ten days travelling in Rajasthan, India with friends; this is my diary of the trip (full list of entries here).

Rose early to find the storm over and a nice pleasant day forming outside.

Walked into town and went to see an old palace, a throwback to the British empire, now a museum of sorts.

Enjoyed a farewell drink and slice of cake with my travelling companions, then got a taxi out to the airport with K. He departed promptly to spend a few more days with his grandparents, leaving me alone as the only white person in the airport (and probably within miles…).

Bought a Robert Ludlum novel from the tiny airport’s tiny bookshop and settled down to wait.

Eventually caught my connecting flight up to Dheli, where I managed to procure a taxi to an airport hotel and fall asleep.

India diary, day 8

In June/July 2010 I spent ten days travelling in Rajasthan, India with friends; this is my diary of the trip (full list of entries here).

Today, we drove back as far as Jodhpur, where we dismissed our driver at the airport; there was a slight argument as he tried to gouge us for a bigger fee than originally agreed, but having a native speaker with us put a stop to that.

We caught an internal flight south to Udaipur, southern Rajasthan; this was definitely the smallest plane I’d ever been on (two seats either side of the aisle). It was diverted to Ahmadabad owing to bad weather over the landing strip at Udaipur (anxious moments – we hadn’t b0thered with malaria medication as we weren’t supposed to be going outside the low-risk zone), but we eventually hit the tarmac in Udaipur just in time to catch a taxi into town before the gathering storm broke.

From the taxi, we watched the wind blowing the debris from the side of the road everywhere, before locating a cheap and cheerful hotel. By this point it was raining heavily, with the temperature down to a blessedly manageable 30 degrees (but the humidity way up).

A decent dinner by candlelight (owing to the storm having knocked out the power) – definitely the oddest setting in which I’ll ever recount how I once met the Queen – then bed.

India Diary, day 7

In June/July 2010 I spent ten days travelling in Rajasthan, India with friends; this is my diary of the trip (full list of entries here).

The morning after our camel ride, we woke up on our camp beds in the desert, feeling surprisingly refreshed.

After breakfasting on bananas and cake, we set off back to the city on our camels. We galloped the last quarter of a mile, much to my dismay as I bounced up and down in the saddle and kept landing heavily on my gentleman’s area.

We were then dropped off at the hotel, promising to come in to Mr Dessert’s office in town later to sign his testimonials book (which we didn’t. Apologies if you’re reading this, Mr D, but comfort yourself with the thought that I’m hearby recommending you unreservedly to my global readership of two and a half).

We had a nice lazy day at the hotel by the pool (apparently droughts aren’t a good enough reason to upset the handful of tourists wanting a swim), enjoying the colonial throwback presumably responsible for the flat screen TV having BBC World
but not CNN – the first western TV channel we’d seen all week.

We made a brief sortie into the city in the worst heat we’d experienced so far to be shown round an old merchant rest-house, then beat a hasty retreat back under the air conditioning.

India diary, day 6

In June/July 2010 I spent ten days travelling in Rajasthan, India with friends; this is my diary of the trip (full list of entries here).

Day six of our epic trip, and we’re off on the third leg, travelling north to Jaisalmer, on the edge of the desert near Pakistan. It’s apparently likely to be even hotter up there, but I’m not convinced that’s possible.

On the upside, everyone’s feeling better and we ma   de good time, arriving in mid afternoon.

We left the car on the outskirts and caught a couple of rickshaws up a very steep hill and through some impossibly narrow gaps, arriving at the offices of the very Indian-
named ‘Mr Dessert’, who we’d been recommended to by someone who’d visited the region last year. We booked ourselves on his camel safari, leaving at 4pm that day and returning the next morning, with a night sleeping under the stars in the
desert in between. It cost the princely sum of 1000 rupees a head – not bad for a trip which turned out to be laid on just for us [the only white tourists crazy enough to be there in the off-season heat?].

The icing on the cake was finding a decent hotel for the next night, which booked us in at half price owing to the off season and agreed to take care of our bags.

We were driven out to the camels, pausing en route to visit an abandoned village. The story, we were told, was that 100 years ago, the prime minister of the state, who was a very bad man with five wives, visited the village and demanded the mayor’s daughter be his sixth wife. The mayor refused to let her go and was given an  ultimatum – hand her over in 24 hours or we destroy the village. So the entire  population upped sticks and fled overnight, and the place has been abandoned ever since.

Whatever the truth of it, the village was definitely abandoned (apart from the old man at the entrance charging RS10 per head to look round!).

We rode out into the dessert on our camels – stopping to see the sunset and arriving at the campsite at 7pm.

Our guides were great – one of them mentioned to K that he’d had no formal education and learnt his (pretty good) English entirely from 20 years of looking after tourists on this trip.

We had a very tasty meal at the camp – no idea what it was, as we’d been forbidden from using any lights in order to avoid attracting mosquitos, but it was delicious. Our camp beds under the stars were just the thing, and we all passed a good night
apart from being disturbed initally by the local stray dog howling at the moon.

All of the above was in no way spoiled by noticing that in the middle of the dessert, my mobile phone had three signal strength bars – more than it does in many areas of Oxford. Clearly the architects of the dreaming spires just didn’t think of the radio waves we’d be trying to get through them 500 years later.

Day six of our epic trip, and we’re off on the third
leg, travelling north to Jaisalmer, on the edge of the
desert near Pakistan. It’s apparently likely to be
even hotter up there, but I’m not convinced that’s possible.

On the upside, everyone’s feeling better and we made good
time, arriving in mid afternoon.

We left the car on the outskirts and caught a couple of
rickshaws up a very steep hill and through some impossibly
narrow gaps, arriving at the offices of the very Indian-
named ‘Mr Dessert’, who we’d been recommended to by
someone who’d visited the region last year. We booked ourselves
on his camel safari, leaving at 4pm that day and returning the
next morning, with a night sleeping under the stars in the
desert in between. It cost the princely sum of 1000 rupees a
head – not bad for a trip which turned out to be laid on just
for us [the only white tourists crazy enough to be there in
the off-season heat?].

The icing on the cake was finding a decent hotel for the next
night, which booked us in at half price owing to the off season
and agreed to take care of our bags.

India diary, day 5

In June/July 2010 I spent ten days travelling in Rajasthan, India with friends; this is my diary of the trip (full list of entries here).

I was quite ill today and spent it in the hotel feeling sorry for myself. Still; I had company – K also feeling pretty ropey. Happily we were both feeling a bit better by evening and resolved to press on in the morning for the third leg provided we felt no worse.

India diary, day 4

In June/July 2010 I spent ten days travelling in Rajasthan, India with friends; this is my diary of the trip (full list of entries here).

Today we left Jaipur to start on the second leg of our trip; unfortunately all of us are feeling a bit off, but that’s possibly unsurprising after all the rich food we’ve eaten over the last 48 hours coupled with the intense heat. Anyway, we’re OK to travel, and our car and driver to Jodhpur await!

A somewhat dull day in the car, trying not to let the sun dazzle us and stay out of the heat. Quick stop at the services, and into Jodhpur by 4pm. Much faffing before we found a hotel that wasn’t full – apparently some sort of conference is in town, and the guest-house we had in mind took one look at us and said ‘no foreigners’.

I considered asking K to ask the bloke ‘what makes you think my friends are foreign?’ but decided on balance we wouldn’t get away with that…

Finally secured a couple of nights in a decent-ish hotel for not too much; our driver is apparently perfectly happy to sleep in the car. A different world…

Dinner in the hotel and an early night under the best air conditioning we’ve had on the trip so far; turned firmly up to maximum and with ‘turbo mode’ on. Can’t help but reflect that having it on is pumping out CO2 which is likely to make the heat worse in the long term; but when the heat outside is bad enough to kill you if you’re used to colder climes, it’s not the time to entertain such thoughts.

India diary, day 3

In June/July 2010 I spent ten days travelling in Rajasthan, India with friends; this is my diary of the trip (full list of entries here).

Quite a day today!

First, we drove out (supposedly before the worst of the heat, but certain people didn’t get up early enough…) to see Jaipur’s fort.

Then, back to K’s grandparents’ place for a splendid lunch laid on by caterers for us and a large number of visiting members of his family including my first taste of an authentic Indian curry (chicken, obviously, not beef). Delicious!

After hiding from the heat with my book for the rest of the afternoon; as darkness fell we dressed up and ventured out for one of the highlights of the trip: the last night of a genuine Indian wedding (apparently they typically last several days!). Friends of K’s family were getting married in style with 300 guests, and we caught up with the wedding procession marching up Jaipur’s equivalent of the A34, much to the annoyance of passing traffic.

It had elephants, a man on stilts, a marching band, 300 dancing guests, a lot of electric lights, and a man throwing fireworks into the air overhead.

After going round the block a couple of times, the procession marched into the grounds of the hotel where the dinner was being held. As we gorged ourselves on a wide range of delicious Indian food, TV cameras whizzed overhead on wires, televising the whole thing to screens on stands around the place. I felt quite sorry for the bride and groom, sitting on the grand stage at the front, being congratulated by and photographed with all their guests in turn – no chance to get at all the food!

Returned to our hotel thoroughly full and with lots of happy memories of an amazing night.

India diary, day 2

In June/July 2010 I spent ten days travelling in Rajasthan, India with friends; this is my diary of the trip (full list of entries here).

Sunday 27 June

First full day out here, and I slept reasonably well in spite of the heat – thanks to the air conditioning and the jet-lag, presumably.

In the morning, we drove into the centre of Jaipur to see the city palace:

City Palace Frontage, Jaipur
City Palace Frontage, Jaipur

Behind the palace is the observatory. Measuring the movement and position of the stars and planets is important to Hindus as astrology is part of their religion. The life-size instruments were pretty impressive, and provided shade from the blazing heat:

Instrument at the observatory
Instrument at the observatory

After lunch and waiting for the worst of the midday heat to subside, three of us ventured out to the Rambagh Palage Hotel – 700 rupees for a White Russian, which is pretty horrific in India, but about the same you’d pay in far worse surroundings in Oxford. Had a couple of those and lazed around enjoying the serious air conditioning.

That evening, K’s family very kindly invited us out to dinner – as it turned out to the very same hotel! Fantastic food and unforgettable surroundings -a great dining room originally concieved by the British and immaculately refurbished.

I think of myself as a right-winger but couldn’t help but reflect on the dark side of capitalism whilst being driven back from that dinner amongst the peacocks and fountains, past India’s poor sleeping in the streets. While we were out there the government of Rajasthan cut the water supply from one hour a day to one hour every two days because of the lateness of the monsoon. If you’re rich enough to have a tank on your roof, you don’t mind, and if you’re not, you go without for 23 hours out of 24…

India diary, day 1

In June/July 2010 I spent ten days travelling in Rajasthan, India with friends; this is my diary of the trip (full list of entries here).

Saturday 26 July

Landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport at 9.30AM local time. Walked out of the terminal into searing heat (over 40 degrees in the shade) and a medley of noise and traffic. Dodged our way through the traffic and found our taxi waiting. Saw our bags strapped to the roof and set off into the traffic. As we’d been warned, the only similarity between British driving and Indian is that both countries drive on the left – in India the horn means “get out of my way please, I want to pass” and flashing your lights means “I’m not going to stop, so get out of the way or I’ll ram you”. In the city, people, animals and motorbikes all compete for road space with the cars and lorries, there are no traffic lights to speak of, and the smallest gap is made to be squeezed through.

On the main highway – this first day we’re driving from Dheli to K’s grandparents’ house in Jaipur, approximately 200 miles to the south-east – the sheer volume of traffic and the two-lane road limits progress to a maximum of 50mph. Drove past Debenhams and M&S on the way out of Dheli; wondering just how westernized this country is…

Stopped for lunch at India’s answer to the motorway services, about 1pm. Stepped out of our air-conditioned taxi into searing, dusty mid-day heat and ran for cover in the building, which had just enough air conditioning and fans to reduce the temperature from ‘horrifically hot’ to ‘bearable’. Ate a nice samosa with a coke, then back to the car.

Arrived in Jaipur at about 4.30pm, glad to get out of the car. The drive down wasn’t particularly inspiring; mostly motorway.

Met K’s grandparents – great people, made us feel really welcome – settled into our hotel and had a really nice meal with them before going to bed (or trying to; despite the air conditioning, still pretty warm!).

Editor’s note: more to follow soon, with photos!