After the rainy coast and mellow vibe of Goa, Shefali and I made our way to one of the more picturesque and well touristed states of India: Rajasthan. Rajasthan translates to the Land of Kings (or kingdoms) so, every couple days we went to another city (formerly it’s own kingdom) and checked out the old forts and palaces that these Rajput kings built over hundreds of years. I will remember this part of our trip as Rajasthani Fort Tour 2011 (RFT 2011). (Please view scores and scores of fort and palace photos.)
Our first stop was the capital city Jaipur which was decidedly less mellow than Goa. Known as The Pink City, Jaipur could also be known as That Crazy City Where People Hustle You All The Time (especially if you’re a tourist). Don’t get me wrong. I would have hustled me too if I could have seen how clueless and touristy I looked half the time. Once you pass the city walls and enter the Old City, Jaipur is a feast for the eyes, the ears and the nose: women in bright colored saris buy produce of all sorts, cows amble by sharing the road with cars, rickshaws, scooters, bikes and people and vendors sell everything you can imagine from mountains of chilis to sewing machines and salvaged and “refurbished” umbrellas. Though a bit jarring, especially coming after mellow Goa, Jaipur was in retrospect a good entry point into Rajasthan because it’s where we fully embraced our tourist status and took to site seeing like it was a full time job visiting all the major attractions (Juntar Muntar, Amber Palace, Jaigarh Fort, Nahargah Fort, etc) in just two days. From Jaipur, we took a train (an interesting experience in and of itself ) to the desert city of Jaisalmer where we toured the old city fort and went on one of those touristy camel tours which actually ended up being super fun. Then we trained it to the Blue City of Jodhpur which turned out to be my favorite city in Rajasthan because most of the forts and monuments were within easy walking distance – thus no haggling with a rickshaw driver – and I enjoyed navigating the narrow alley ways of the old city. Our final stop on the Rajasthani tour was the picturesque lakeside city of Udaipur, most well known among Westerners – and touted by all the hotels and guest houses in town – because much of the action of one of the best James Bond movies starring Roger Moore was shot there. I’m of course speaking of “Octopussy“.
It’s fair to say that by the end of RFT 2011 tour I had pretty serious case of fort fatigue. I mean they were amazing places to behold, but after the umpteenth viewing of the various Rajputs’ dedazzled private chambers or ornate public meeting hall, I just couldn’t find it in myself too get excited. But fortunately, we had ample food to fuel us on our site seeing adventures. I can’t necessarily put my finger on what Rajasthani food is and how it differs so much from other Indian cuisines. We ate a lot of thali dinners with their combindation of dhal, rice, chapati or naan and veggies. Sometimes we’d seek out nonveg places to get our fix of chicken tikka or lamb saag (spinach). While it didn’t blow me away, there were some stand out meals. I especially enjoyed the all you can eat thali dinners at a very local restaurant called Chandan Shree, in Jaisalmer and which became our go to spot in the desert town. I also enjoyed the spicy lamb and chicken at Kashmiri Spice Dhaba, a dive joint in Jodhpur where I stuffed my face sweating into my food while Shefali got more and more heated (pissed off) by the unwanted oggling of a drunken customer seated behind me. Also, the snack foods (samosas, aloo tikki and other deep fried treats) were really good. Please enjoy the following photos of some of the more memorable meals.