Saturday, March 29, 2014
Festival of lights in the royal land - Rajasthan
This post has been a long time due. Finally I get time to jostle down memory lane and pen down the happy memories from my Diwali vacation. We have decided to travel to atleast one new destination every year. This year thankfully we travelled to 2 new states. The blog on Kashmir is already posted, now it's time for the colourful Rajasthan. We took the flight to Udaipur aka city of lakes via Delhi on 2nd Nov 2013. At 6:30 pm, looking down from the ATR aircraft, Delhi looked like a bejeweled bride, all decked up before Diwali. It seemed like the Almighty had just strewn some stars and it splattered and clustered on the ground. From the aircraft, Delhi looked like several clusters of stars. The sight was amazing. We landed at Udaipur around 8 PM. The whole market area was decorated with lights and was closed for vehicles. We decided to take a detour and go to the Ambrai restaurant for dinner before checking in our hotel. It's a beautiful restaurant situated by the Lake Pichola. The view of the palaces and the fireworks from the restaurant was breathtaking. The food was good too. The next day we explored the City Palace museum. It has an awesome collection of the armory of the kings and provides an insight in the lifestyle of the royalty. We also visited Fateh Prakash palace and took a boat ride to Jag Mandir, which is another beautiful palace in the middle of the lake turned into a luxury hotel. An old musician was playing "Ajeeb dastan hai ye.." (an old Hindi movie song)on cups and bowls. It was quite peaceful sitting by one of the jharokhas looking at the lake with the soulful music playing in the background. If we didn't have a timeline to take the boat back to the city, I would have loved to spend the entire evening sitting by the jharokha. The best part of the day was a surprise visit by my lovely sis and brother in law at Jagat Niwas, where we were having dinner. I still can't believe they drove all the way from Ahmedabad to Udaipur just to surprise us and made Diwali truly memorable for us. The 4 of us went back to the rooftop of our hotel and enjoyed the fireworks till late night. It was a good change to feel the chill in the air for us Mumbaikars. The next day we started our drive for Jaisalmer, the golden city. On the way, we visited Saheliyon ki bari, which is a garden made for queens and their maids who accompanied them as part of the dowry. It is full of fountains, though not very well maintained. We also visited Ranakkpur, known for the beautiful Jain temple made of marble. It's a grand temple with beautiful marble pillars. We reached Jaisalmer by 7 in the evening. We checked in at Lalgarh hotel in the city. The hotel is coowned by Narpat Singh, aka Naru. We decided to laze around after the long drive and have dinner at their rooftop restaurant. The rooftop provides a great view of the Jaisalmer fort in it's full glory. It was decorated with lights and looked very grand. The evening was full of friendly banter with Naru, stories of friendships, love and loss. On 5th Nov, we left for the fort. The street the fort is lined with handicraft shops and loooks very colorful. We checked in at Garh Jaisal, a boutique hotel in the Jaisalmer fort. There are only 7 rooms in the hotel and all are unique and beautiful. Ours had a nice window seat, actually more of a window bed with a view of the city. I checked in and dozed off for a few hours at the window seat. We had yummy chicken chowmein for lunch at the hotel's rooftop restaurant. The chowmein was surprisingly good. We decided to explore the place on foot. We went through narrow bylanes, passing by houses, temples, shops. The top attractions of Jaisalmer are: 1. Gadisar Lake: It's a man made lake, once the only source of water in Jaisalmer, constructed by the first ruler, Raja Rawal Jaisal. It's a picturesque lake. There are sarangi players on the way to the lake who play soulful tunes. There is also a Government emporium, where tourists can buy the traditional lehariyas and bandhni dress materials, quilts and other knick knacks that Rajasthan is famous for. We went to a small family run restaurant called Cafe The Kaku which is newly started by this very young and entrepreneurial chap named Sahil. The view of sunset is great from the rooftop restaurant and we enjoyed the converation with the very enthusiastic and hospitable Sahil over the traditional Rajasthani dessert dish "Ker sangari". 2. Patwaon ki haveli: One of the largest havelis in Jaisalmer and is a cluster of 5 small havelis. It gives an insight in the lifestyle of the wealthy and influential. One can see the entire household from living room, kitchen, kind of utensils used, bedroom, vanity rooms of the lady of the house and the recreation area for the men to entertain guests. Apart from this, the Jain temple and the fort are also worth a watch. However, we went during Diwali and it's a popular and closer destination from Gujrat so the place was very crowded and we gave it a skip. I loved shopping for the silver jewelry there. However, one should be very careful and shop from the known jewelers only. We stayed in Jaisalmer for 2 days and then left for Sam Sand Dunes. On the way, we visited the abandoned Kuldhera village. There are many stories that go around the abandonment of the village by the Paliwal community, which used to inhabit the village. The version that we were told is that the Paliwals were a very beautiful and talented race. One of the days, a Mughal emperor set his eye on a beautiful Paliwal girl. He wanted to make her his mistress. The headman asked for a time of 3 days and they abandoned the village overnight and went in different directions to save the girl. The Sam Dhani Resort is ideally located on a hillock in front of Sam Sand dunes, 42 Kms from Jaisalmer. It has 8 beautiful cottages with attached washrooms. We were given a warm welcome on the beats of dhols and nagaras and welcome drinks served. We checked in one of the very beautiful and comfortable cottages. We took a camel ride to the dunes and enjoyed sunset in the dessert. It was my first experience and I totally loved it. In the evening, the resort had made an arrangement for folk music and dance and outdoor buffet dinner. It was a fun evening. We checked out in the early morning the very next day. It was a chilly morning and it was very difficult to leave the resort. I just wanted 1 more day in the dessert but so is life, one always wants more of the beautiful things. It was a dream to visit Rajasthan one day, which was made true by my husband. Special thanks to Nirav Vithlani for all his help with research and introduction to Naru (Narpat Singh), who made the whole stay and travel very easy and comfortable for us. We were given a drop till Jodhpur, where we met our friends and drove back to Mumbai.