Well, like I mentioned in the previous post, our summer in Rajasthan was divided into two major parts – Udaipur and Jaipur. After a whirlwind journey that Udaipur was, we set out towards our next destination – Ajmer!
If you havent read how the trip started and what it is leading to, read it here now! Trust me, there’s no fun in the second part if you havent read the first one!
After spending half of our trip being mesmerized by the royalty and grandeur of Udaipur, it was time to head to the comparatively smaller yet no less enchanting city of Ajmer. Even though our destination was the LIC Guesthouse (Thanks to Ritu Aunty, PS’s mum), what got our heads turned was the property right adjacent to it – Mayo College, or as many of us saw it, the closest practical embodiment of the college depicted in the movie ‘Student of The Year’. Mr. Chupa Rustam (our very own RT) ventured on one of his trademark solo exploratory walks ( RT had a thing for solo nature trails in Rajasthan, if only he would inform us before leaving!) and tried to enter the college but was flatly refused. Even upon MP’s persistence that they were there for admissions and their parents were waiting inside. Someday, RT -MP.
After settling into our rooms, we set out on our evening visit to the Dargah Sharif (Full clothes and a hijab!) . Upon being given a brief about the unavoidable inconveniences that we may have to encounter, AG (or should I say Chetak – as she would go to a garden dedicated to Maharana Pratap yet have eyes only for his martyred horse) and RT decided to sit this one out. Amid lashing rains and a 6-seater auto rickshaw, off we went. After anticipating that we would have a lot to brave inside the Dargah, what we had to deal with outside was far more demanding. Entering barefoot through a stream of water filled with every possible kind of debris, we finally made our way into the Dargah. Lesser crowd than expected, people more helpful than anticipated and a divine feeling of paying a visit to the shrine, this experience was worth it. The only anomaly, as NK (Miss Chocolate & Vanilla Pancakes) would testify, one must ensure they don’t carry shoes anywhere near the shrine (even if they’re tightly wrapped in a plastic bag). Honest mistake.
Overall, a fulfilling feeling. Drenched as we were, hunger got the better of us and we joined AG and RT for dinner at a nearby restaurant. Any food would do as long as they obliged to switch off the AC, which they did just looking at us poor souls. Highlight of the menu… Bhakar vadi chaat – A Sanjeev Kapoor special. In all honesty, not much of a highlight. Craving a change of clothes and some much needed rest, we headed back to the guesthouse.
After acquainting ourselves with the city of Ajmer, and having a lot of passerby’s laughing at us like we were aliens it was time to experience the ‘desert feels’ as we made our way to the town of Pushkar the next day. We did so in an auto rickshaw that did feel more like a bullock cart and got us all cheering the moment we felt its speed exceeded 20 km/hr. Mostly an uphill journey with a bit of descent and we find ourselves at the famous Pushkar Lake with the Brahma Temple nearby. The one and only Brahma temple that one would find in the world claimed our guide (which was later negated by RT in his post trip google research). Legitimate claim or otherwise, the place did have a holy feel to it if you minus the incessantly pushy nature of the ‘phool and prashaad’ sellers, badgering us into trying to buy from them and exclaiming that our ‘darshan’ would only be fulfilling if we do so. It was fulfilling nonetheless, especially for MP (our very own Camel Aficionado). An urge to search for the exact place of her origin in Rajasthan was palpable from day one (Fatehpur if you’re curious. Not Fatehpur Sikri, Not Fatehsagar in Udaipur, Just Fatehpur) , she decided to let the Marwadi in her emerge as she was the only one who chose to go ahead with the traditional ritual of pooja and prayers at Pushkar Lake. Hoping she gets blessed with whatever she wished for (plus the answer to her aforementioned search).
Religious cravings satisfied, time to dash into some sand and experience the true fervor of the desert town of Pushkar. A 6 person camel buggy ride seemed like an amazing option until we actually saw the topsy turvey built of the buggy. I think we could have made our mental peace with the fact that any of us could topple over, yet one look into the evidently shaded eyes (read: RED) of our rider/guide was enough to make us a little skeptical. Whatever he was on, it did not encourage obedience or patience. Unwilling to answer any of our (mostly MP’s) questions in a straightforward manner, what started off as annoying turned into loads of fun! Any doubts we had at the beginning regarding this ride were converted into approximately 3 hours of memories involving all kinds of references (real or otherwise) to the movie Karan Arjun, our rider’s fascinating ringtone about Bholenath which we made him repeat at least 4 times and MP getting her wish to ride atop a camel.
This just being the tip of the iceberg, his logic about vegetation growing abundantly in the desert, his camel who ignored our presence and continued with its bowel movements, our ego-threatening taunts of it going too slow causing it to rush so hard that we clenched on for our safety in the buggy are just some of the many hilarious moments. Young boys and girls (and some elderly folk too) running behind our buggy with their musical instruments, authentic Rajasthani attire and a general wish for us to give them some money was the only forgettable part of an afternoon well spent. Every haveli was Thakur Durjan Singh’s (we Karan Arjun fanatics know him well enough, and if you dont get the reference, my extreme apologies but your childhood was a waste) and we even passed the window where our beloved SRK had passed a letter to his damsel in distress Kajol. All this coupled with bouts of camel racing, dashes of swag from our rider and an overall sense of relief that we emerged from the buggy on our own volition and not by falling off, it had been a truly eventful first half of the day.
Tired yet enthralled, we began our journey back to the guesthouse where we would relax for a bit before setting off on the last leg of our trip – Jaipur.
The Pink City it was then. First stop, Zostel Jaipur! For most of us, a first experience of the largest and most popular hostel chain in India. We reached late into the evening and the plan was never to settle down and relax. Instead, we dumped our bags in the dorm and Club Naila was going to be the scene of the party for the night. Turned out to be a fantastic ladies night as the only bit absent from the trip thus far – swaying to foot-tapping Bollywood music with drinks in hand was also checked off the list. In the words of our very own RT, Club Naila is an awesome place which would be his recommendation for anyone looking to party in Jaipur.
After getting assured that we have not reached Krishna Cottage and there actually is a Club inside, we walked through the dim lit passage with complete curiosity. And at the first sight of Club Naila, we knew that Zostel Jaipur had led us to the perfect party destination. Club Naila. This place gave us full vibes of Alia Bhatt’s house from Kapoor & Sons.
Going to Club Naila with a party in mind felt worth it because the DJ played the finest collection of songs that got everyone immediately into the groove. From cheerful Desi Girl to merrier Second Hand Jawani to exuberant Balam Pichkari, we dynamically (as always) danced to every beat of the songs. With a small break from dancing, we sat besides the swimming pool of Club Naila, the four of us, in high spirits, discussing in detail about Brahma, his first wife Savitri and his second wife Gayatri. Even if dancing isn’t your thing, Club Naila has a fine dine space with candle lighting right outside the dance hall. And to the surprise of everyone, the club also has a fine collection of books, affirming that even the nerds or bookworms (outside their natural habitat) can relish their time being here. If you’re in Jaipur and simply looking to paint the town red, we recommend you to let your hair down at Club Naila. Yes, it is a bit on the expensive side but it will be worth the gleeful experience that you will have there. Also, do check with Zostel Jaipur, if there are exclusive offers on Club Naila and you could save some expense there.
The plan for the next day was to explore the city also called ‘Paris of India’ for its architectural brilliance and numerous forts & palaces that define its beauty. The first item on the agenda was the picturesque Hawa Mahal. As always, food first though, as we headed to Wind View Café for breakfast. Situated on the 3rdfloor of a building bang opposite Hawa Mahal, the view from this café (as the name would have us believe) was actually the only highlight as the food was strictly average. To the Mahal then, as we briefed ourselves about the history of this monument en route and managed to get to know the significance of each of the 5 floors before entering. The popular notion that one would experience a breeze at any and every point of this structure failed us (maybe it was just an unfortunate day, maybe the buildings emerging in and around the place blocking wind access) and we ended up having to take frequent breaks to rejuvenate from the energy lost to the scalding heat. Whatever we managed to see, carefully avoiding the sun bathed areas, it was a decent experience overall.
We had kept the very touristy bit of shopping for this leg of our trip and the girls duly set off to look for a variety of things while RT and PS designated milkshake duties to themselves. After the so called therapy that is shopping (the girls surely disagree with the sarcasm) and some much needed cold beverages, we were on our way to the Jantar Mantar. This was undoubtedly the highlight of our sight-seeing escapades in this city. Built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II (bestowed with the title of Sawai for his intelligence and by the end of our tour, we would know why!) as an astronomical observatory with a collection of instruments to display time as well as decipher zodiac signs based on the position of the sun and the corresponding reflections. These instruments were products of the vision and acumen of the Maharaja. The fact that he could manage to envisage these scientific principles with such a great deal of accuracy at a time when there was absolutely no technology or methodology in place to aid his intellect left us truly spell bound. Our guide was informed and engaging, the practical illustrations of telling us the time by the reflection of the Sun on a piece of marble carefully demarcated to depict accurately upto 20 seconds as well as the explanations in relation to the zodiac signs and formulation of a ‘kundali’ on its basis tapping our fascination.
Almost right next to the Jantar Mantar, the City Palace. Not very different from the palaces we already visited, a brief tour of the place suffices in terms of getting an idea about the residence of the erstwhile rulers and their ways of living. In a nutshell, not the most enchanting of the things to see in Jaipur (Jantar Mantar definitely takes the cake) yet a fair insight into the history of the royal family of the city.
After Zostel, it was time to get back to resort feels as we headed to Mansingh Towers Resort. Upon resting for a bit post spending half the day covering most of what we had in mind in relation to Jaipur, we visited a café Kaleidoscope (after carefully considering the recommendations of Zomato) and it turned out to be fantastic. The ambience, the food and most of all a multitude of Zomato Gold memberships! We tried a variety of items from Mushroom Risotto to Chicken Hakka Noodles, ultimately culminating with Vanilla and Chocolate Pancakes (this is where NK was rightfully nicknamed – a look at her expression as she devoured this delicious dessert was evidence enough!) Some of us who had energy left to shop further headed straight to the market, the rest of us landed up right back at the resort to recharge our batteries for the party scenes planned for the night.
Next destination then, Blackout. A lounge with not the biggest dance floor but trendy Bollywood music as well as decent food and cocktails. The Bruschetta was particularly good, the Nachos quite decent. When it comes to beverages, the Moscow Mule can definitely be given a miss while the others (such as LIIT, Lusty Gin and Tonic and Ship Wrecked) were fairly standard and along the lines of what one can normally expect. Rounding off the night by partying a little more back at the resort (also louder than permitted as 3 calls from the reception would testify), we went to bed knowing we had reached the last day of this trip.
The ultimate day was more a case of individual preferences. Whether it be chilling at the resort itself, finishing up on shopping by purchasing the renowned Rajasthani delicacy Ghevar ( travellers tip: Rawat Kachori MUST VISIT, you can even carry the ghevar and kachori through airport security.) or RT once again setting off on a solo stroll in search of Uncle ki Coffee (touted as the best coffee in Jaipur), it was time well spent. The evening was earmarked for a visit to the Amer fort, especially to witness the Sound and Light show (two shows – Hindi and English – tix can be booked online, avoid the queue). It was a good experience, the voice of Mr. Bachchan (Hindi show, most recommended), the detailing surrounding the sound and lighting effects and information about the overall history of the fort. The flipside though, we missed a tour of the actual fort as we were 4 minutes late! Closure of the gates at 9:30 was followed with rigorous punctuality and this led to the only blemish on our itinerary as we had managed to cover all the other things we intended to.
That was that. The only thing left to do was get back to the resort and sleep in time to wake up for our early morning flight back. Rajasthan, we came expecting royalty. We got that and much more. A plethora of experiences, innumerable sights which will remain in our memories forever and most of all, the time spent living all of it together. Always the possibility of coming back, whether to explore the untapped regions of this beautiful state or just relive the places we visited during this time, there will surely be another occasion when we say Khama Ghani to the mighty desert land of India. You were amazing Rajasthan, you will be missed…till then PADHARO MHARE DES!