Life, photos but not the universe

India-into the interior

Well, into deepest rural Rajasthan.  We had lunch at the Laxmi Niwas Indian Heritage hotel (once a minor palace) dsc_2423-1and then caught the train from Bharatpur to Ranthambhore which is where the tiger reserve is.

The Lodge at Ranthambhoredsc_2710-1 was delightful, being smallish, clean and cool with lovely gardens and a swimming pool but  not over the top.  The service was pleasant and friendly but didn’t come in overeager swarms.  The food was nice but had no pretensions and was nearly all Indian and mostly vegetarian.  A bit of a rest in fact from the excesses of the big city hotels : )  No turbaned or liveried ushers and no security guards.  The lady of the house could be approached if you had any needs and you got the feeling that she had her eye on what went on in the kitchens if she didn’t even do a good bit of the cooking herself.dsc_2444-1

And this was waiting for us when we arrived – together with garlands and cold fruit drinks.

Well I’ve shown you some of what we saw in the reserve already.  It was magical to me because it seemed an embodiment of  Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books.  I felt as though Mowgli was looking over my shoulder and I might meet Kaa or even Bagheera and though we didn’t see any wolves I could imagine Grey brother and the four, watchful of us.  And of course we saw Machli who was clearly a much nicer person than Shere Khan, the Lame One.  (You have to have read the original books to understand how this would feel – the Disney film has absolutely nothing to do with Kipling’s India and conveys nothing at all of the jungles there.dsc_2466-1

This was the Ranthambore Fort.  There’s a temple up there which is sometimes used for festivals and worship but otherwise I don’t think it’s visited a lot.

After our tiger viewing there was an air of celebration (did I say we were all convinced that there would be no tigers this trip as we didn’t see Machli till half an hour before the reserve closed for the night?) and we had a lovely meal served at long tables in the garden with lots of (much needed) anti mozzie sticks burning and candlelight and a perfume of jasmine in the air.  While the swimming pool reflected it all.   Heavenly : )

And then next morning we were off at 7.00 for the five hour journey to Jaipur.  Not heavenly!  But interesting as the scenery changed from flat miles of busy roads and villages to flat miles of fields and increasingly, dunes with the weirdest solitary mountains rising out of the plains, here there and anywhere shimmering in the heat and distance.dsc_2859-1 It got hotter.

We eventually arrived in Jaipur, the pink city, and were tipped out of our orange coach at the Golden Tulip Hotel which was another of the posh shiny places.

Actually, now I come to think of it, we didn’t get to our hotel until after we’d had lunch at a restaurant nearby and gone to visit yet another AFT. This time, the City Palace which is the home of the current Maharajah of Jaipur.  We got to see a number of portraits of various Maharajahs of Jaipur.  There was the one who was 7 foot tall and weighed 240 kilos.  We saw his enormous trousers.  There was the one who came to England to visit King George 6th bringing with him two silver pots full of water from the river Gangesdsc_3005-1 because this was needed to make his visit auspicious.  (we wondered if this was the same Maharajah who swopped wells with an English Lord who lived not far from here – I’ll find a link to the story later).  Barney got his photo taken with the matching moustache guys.  And that’s one of the silver pots behind them.  Did I mention they were quite big?

There were four fabulously inlaid gates for each of the seasons in one courtyarddsc_3011-1

Peacock Gate (Summer I think)


dsc_3014-1Spring Gate.

dsc_3017-1Another gate being refurbished.  Winter?

and in the entrance courtyard, brightly dressed elephants on which you could have rides.  (Or was that at the Amber fort?  I’ll have to check).  I checked – it was the Amber Fort.

Well then we went to see the Jantar Mantar, not only easy to remember but quite amazing and fascinating.  It’s basically a huge observatory and astronomical calculator built in sandstone and marble.  There are giant sundials, things for finding the positions of assorted heavenly bodies (including the moon and its phases and the north star) and a whole set of structures to find the astrological bits of the heavens.  All the structures are perfectly calibrated and totally accurate!  Wow!  Designed in 1728 by the Maharajah Jai Singh.dsc_3025-1Sundial.  Where the shadow crosses the white marble curve, is the time.


That’s our shadows, admiring this rather marvelous 18th Century calculator.  (I can’t remember what this one did)

We went back to the Golden Tulip.  We had a lovely barbecue (Indian style) on the roof top restaurant and were allowed to smoke and enjoy the night breezes in peace.  And, as we were staying two nights here, we even risked getting some laundry done!  Coo!  Clean, pressed and immaculately folded shirts and trousers.

The following day saw us wandering a trifle wearily, round the Amber fort dsc_3076-1Gate.  Big gate!

dsc_3084-1Elephants.  We didn’t ride up to the Fort on them as we’d been told they aren’t very well looked after and anyway there wasn’t time.  We bucketed up the steep hill to the fort in jeeps.

dsc_3096-1Val, letting some indian ladies have their turn at being photographed in front of the splendid arch.


Me, looking a bit hot.

the Amber fort was a bit like one of those carved Chinese balls where each shell has another within it.  Sections for the guards surrounded sections for the court, surrounded sections for the eunochs surrounded sections for the harem.  Somewhere in there, there would be a section for the King as well and all his retinue.  Each section was a little higher up the mountainside and from each part, you could spy on the lower part beneath it.  It must have been quite interesting for the ladies of the Harem.

And outside it all, a huge wall climbing over and vanishing beyond the mountains.  Naturally we nicknamed it the Great Wall of Indiadsc_3132-1

And then a carpet shop.  Now the rule about shops on tours is you all stand in the heat and watch local artisans (who are always descended from the original artisans who, centuries ago, made the exact same treasures you are looking at now) making stuff in the time honoured way, by hand and using ancient tools (possibly the very same tools used by those very artisans who made this very same stuff all those centuries ago).  Then when you’re tired of oohing and aahing and standing and suspending disbelief on the matter of the originalness of the tools, the artisans and their methods, you get ushered to a cool, softly lit room where you can sit in comfort and sip cold fresh drinks and listen to the entirely ancient and genuine  sales pitch of the shop manager as his underlings swish cloths around and lay carpets out in elegant swirls.

Then you try and find out how much one individual item costs.   Then you try and get them to show you – not, no not, a bigger one or one made of the infinitely better Kashmir Wool but a much smaller and cheaper one.  There’s a bit of a battle of wills as they try to lead you back to the better quality, larger items and you ask about the ever smaller and lower quality stuff.

There was a bit of a cheer for Graham and Pat when they made the first purchase of a small rug : )

I can’t see any reference in my diary to lunch on this day.  I supose we must have had some. We certainly went for a wander round the bazaar which, like English markets often are these days, was disappointing.  Lots and lots of very modern looking tat and although the prices were tiny, the goods were of matching quality.  We did pass a ladies underwear shop but  I felt quite unable to go in and ask for large knickers!  So we bought bangles for the granchildren and left the bazaar.  There was a shoe shop.dsc_3221-1

For people with very big feet?

I’m exhausted just remembering all these places.  It’ll take me years to get it all properly in my head.  I hope you can bear with me while I try and get some of the memories and images in a sort of order : )

Now I’m going to sleep – perchance to dream of brightly coloured places and hot courtyards.

‘Night : )

May 3, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. This is wonderful!
    I get to go to India, Via the best tour guide!
    THose mosaics are out of this world!
    and you do not look hot! you look like your having a wonderful time!
    How many people do you suppose it took to cart one of those silver jugs full of water?
    I think the shoes might fit the teen.
    he got new boots today, size 15.

    I should maybe get a job as a tour guide Sorrow? I don’t think so. I have such admiration for the people who do that. So much work to do while their sheep are safely herded into hotels and grazing peacefully!
    I do think the Indian monuments are quite the most beautifully decorated I’ve seen anywhere in the world.
    We were told how many men were needed to carry the silver pots – it was a lot I know but I can’t remember the exact number. I know the state visit was almost cancelled because the Mahahrajah’s Priest said the dates would be inauspicious and only the promise of having Ganges water with him made it acceptable. And so much water. One wonders if he had to bathe in it or something!

    As to the shoes, teens feet seem to grow faster than is reasonable. It always seemed to me that it was a shame they didn’t grow their feet after they’d left home! It would have saved so much money and argument.

    Comment by Sorrow | May 3, 2009 | Reply

  2. Holy Moly…..size 15!?!

    You DO make the bestest tour guide. And ohmygosh…..the gates with the doors and the seasons–they’re fabulous. Only no way would you get me on that thing they think is a scaffold! Zactly how do they ‘refurbish’ inlays? Oh but they are beautiful.
    Cute hat, btw.

    And all those motorcycles/bikes with barely room to walk let alone ride…….wow……

    Well worth the wait, ma’am……gorgeous photos of wondrous far away places. *sigh*

    What an adventure……

    I think the refurbishing is done the same way the original work was done Mel, (and using the original scaffolding methods definitely) though it seems possible they may use modern tools to make the pieces of mosaic. The Amber Fort was taken over by the British at one point and the governor at the time decided, in his wisdom, to whitewash over all the paintwork. What vandals we were!

    Comment by Mel | May 3, 2009 | Reply


      What WERE they thinking……

      Comment by Mel | May 5, 2009 | Reply

      • I think they were thinking they ought to cover up those foreign, unchristian, excessively colourful and seductively pretty designs and replace it with something thoroughly safe and dull and unexciting Mel. And of course, nice and easy to clean : )

        Comment by letouttoplay | May 5, 2009

  3. wow

    I’m speechless

    you must have had the most amazing trip. . .

    . . .I love the fact that we can see you in the rflection of the silver pot whilst you were taking photos of men with moustaches!



    The mustachioed guards were charging to have their photos taken I and several of us cheated and snapped their reflections from behind. I think Barney got his photo free because they liked his moustache 🙂 This tends to happen all over the world – in India he kept being called Maharajah by enthusiastic locals.

    Comment by I, Like The View | May 3, 2009 | Reply

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