Posts Tagged With: jaisalmer

India… The good, the bad, and the downright evil

Well India has provided some of the best and some of the worst experiences of our lives. In some areas the scenery, people and food are among the prettiest, friendliest and tastiest (respectively) we have seen, met or had…in other areas …not the same story. Despite this we covered a lot of the country, saw a lot of sights, places, cities and have some insights that may prove useful to future travellers.

India certainly has a lot positive to be said about it and there are some must see items that make planning a trip very worthwhile. There are also some places that quite frankly are ruined by the people that you are forced to encounter along the way. Our trip was more low budget that some but higher budget than the typical backpacking style holiday.

We spent our money on the food, beer, accommodation and transport…choosing to pay that little bit more for the extra space and comfort and things like private bathrooms. That said…accommodation was generally about $20 a night for both of us and at its cheapest was $10. For not much extra (than our allowance) per day you could plan a very nice Indian sojourn and by paying the little bit extra can avoid some of the shonks that we hit along the way. You will be overpaying for what you get but the extra money takes away some of the headaches and surely that is worth a little more.

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Indian Must dos

With the beauty of hindsight this is where I would go to if I was to plan a short (2-3 week) holiday in India (in no particular order).

Agra – Taj Mahal and the fort…this one is obvious but they truly are that good. I suggest that 2-3 days is about the right amount of time here.

Amritsar – golden temple and the border show. Can be done in a one full day journey if time is tight but the people and food are so nice you will want to stay more.

Aurungabad – Ellora and Ajanta caves…absolutely stunning. Two days is about right. This was the surprise for me, had never heard of them but were the highlight of the trip.

Hampi – absolutely fantastic with so very much to see, need about 2 full days but will want more as the people and place are so good.

Jaipur – this has 3 forts, temples, a palace and all the old city walls and is again worthy of about 3-4 days depending on your schedule and timings. Jaipur is in Rajasthan and most of Rajasthan is pretty similar with forts and palaces etc. They are all different but are also very similar so if time is against you Jaipur would be my pick.

Ooty – the Indian blue mountains (Nilgiris) with a toy train ride to boot. Stunning scenery and clean by Indian standards.

Udaipur – we loved this place. The water and lakes make it very different to the other sights you tend to see. If you come in early in the morning you could see everything in a day and a bit so one overnight would be about right..add an extra night if you want to hit the fort and Jain temples which are a bit of a way out. We stayed for 6 days and enjoyed it all but most people will not have as much time.

The end.

My list would leave out 2 key ones on almost everyone else’s list and they are

Goa – a must for beach goers…we could have skipped it. It was nice and we had a good time but unless you are in dire need of sand and water it could be skipped.

Kerala – the cruise of the back waters was nice and a good treat. Our cruise was probably a bit long and one to two nights would be about right. There are afternoon cruises but you stay in the main channel with all the boat traffic.

Great if you have extra time

Now if you have a little more time available then these are my choices for good second tier spots with nice attractions, people etc

Darjeeling – tea fields, toy trains and the Himalayas on a clear day.
Hyderabad – an Indian city that is really trying to get it right.
Jaisalmer – desert, fort, safari. Nice if you have the time.
Jodhpur – nice place..very Rajasthan with forts and palaces.
Kanyakumari – the southernmost tip at the edge of 3 oceans
Mumbai – beautiful architecture, the gateway to India and Elephanta island.
Pondicherry – the French parts

Nice if you have LOTS of time

Mangalore – still the best food I have eaten in India (just not much to see)
Cochin – a nice afternoon but not too much to see
Trivandrum – good zoo and some nice architecture
Bangalore – not too much going on here

Don’t even bother

Bhubaneswar – caves and temples…not that fantastic and the experience is wrecked by the lying and cheating of what feels like almost everybody in the town. The worst that India has to offer.

I have left New Delhi off this list entirely because my experiences in New Delhi were entirely terrible. I came to Delhi 4 times (including transits) and had an atrocious experience each and every time. I may have been entirely unlucky…or it may well be the worst capital city on the planet, full of lying cheating scoundrels. Alas as New Delhi is a major transport hub you may just have to stop here to get to some of the nicer parts of India. Should you wish to do such a trip then I will let you form your own New Delhi opinion and would be happy to hear it.

I will leave the India topic with a few of my favourite moments…

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And my all time favourite moment…was…

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Farewell India…it has been an experience…

 

 

 

 

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Jaisalmer

We hit Jaisalmer which is a town in north Western India near the Pakistan border. This place is possibly the most tourist oriented place we have been since landing in India. The prices of everything in the town are 2-5 times more than everywhere else we have been (this means that dinner for 2 with beers is about $30). The main attraction is the fort in the centre of town but there are also a bunch of desert related activities available such as camel safaris, jeep safaris and dirt biking etc. The key thing that we have noticed though is the regular returning of fighter jets as they patrol the India/Pakistan border. On our drive to the desert we passed the base and we now know that this is the home of the “Border Bayonettes”.

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Directly opposite our hotel is sunset point. This is a mausoleum area where everyone heads at sunset to watch the sun go down over the desert…which of course we did too. The hotel is owned by a kiwi woman and her husband who also run camel safaris…so we headed off on a 5 hr camel ride through the desert. Jill was really looking forward to this as it is a full moon and the concept of the stars, camels, desert and moon just seemed to be ringing her bells for some reason.

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As we drove in we hit a checkpoint where we had to pay 20 rupees to keep going. The dude told us that we had just crossed the Pakistani border and that was the fee. Some of you may have remembered the Great Wall comment and the gullible tourists who bought it…well I bought this one…I entered into a chat with Jill about not needing visas and that you could just bribe the guard at the gate. It was about 2 hrs before it dawned on me that I had joined the ranks of the gullible tourists. Alas it was a windy day that whipped up the sand and the sunset and moon were both partially obscured by sand.

Now let’s talk about camels. This was my first camel ride. I know others who have been on them and every story that I have heard has not been complimentary. They were right. Having seen a bunch of old movies I knew that the Arab kings had harems, and these harems were protected by eunuchs. Having never knowingly met a eunuch I wondered how they managed to find so many. After having my first camel ride the answer is obvious. The motion of a camel and the anatomy of males do not react well with each other. The first 10 minutes were possibly the most uncomfortable I had been ever. After the ten minute mark my anatomy decided to rearrange itself to possibly my armpits and was no longer in the saddle firing line. What seemed like an eternity later the ride was over and we settled down to watch the sun set over the sand dunes.

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While lazing on the dunes we relaxed to the soothing sound of Indian tourists in 4WD jeeps blasting over the dunes throwing empty beer bottles and general rubbish in what was, at one time, a pristine environment. The killer was as we ground our way through the desert my dude driving the camel was texting and talking on the phone most of the way…when we turned a corner a random guy on foot offered us beers from a carpet bag over his shoulder (kinda shattered the middle of the desert concept). We chatted to our guides who told us that the foreign tourists are great but the locals treat the environment as their own personal trash cans.

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As we sat waiting for the sun to go down we got into a conversation about the location of the Pakistani border. To try and check our location we tried google thinking we would get a 3G signal. As it happened Jill was able to pull up the local wifi signal from the camping spot run by one of the big 5 star hotels. The whole middle of nowhere notion completely shattered we watched the sun disappear behind a cloud of dust and went back to the hotel.

Our movements are slowing as we near Christmas as the transport options are full. After Jaisalmer we returned to jaipur for a night and then off to Udaipur where we will be on Christmas Day. While I love curries I am hoping to have a traditional ham and turkey style Christmas meal but our googling is not yielding results, even at the 5 star hotels, at this stage. Jill has e-mailed a couple of them but the customer service over here has seen no responses.

Categories: India | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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