Thursday, June 5, 2014

India in Photos Continued: Chittaurgargh, Udaipur, & Return to Delhi

Chittaurgargh Fort

The drive from Pushkar to our next destination, Udaipur, was our longest stretch of highway of the entire tour.  Thankfully we had a stop planned at the beautiful Chittaurgargh Fort on the way to break up the journey.  We piled into motorized rickshaws that drove us up to and around the fort, stopping at various sites within the compound.  Our first stop was a Hindu temple for Krishna with architecture similar to Angkor Wat.  Just outside stood the smaller Meera Temple, both with ornately carved facades.

Our next stop was the Victory Tower, which celebrated victory over an invading Mughal army.  A few of us climbed to the top through a sort of ancient spiral staircase, detailed carvings following us the entire way to the top, where we enjoyed a nice, cool breeze and a view of the surrounding landscape.  

We also stopped by a small palace and a Jain temple, which included an ornate tower similar in design to the Victory Tower, during our visit.

And zipped by a local woman carrying a bundle on her head, as we made our way back to the bus in our rickshaws.


That night we arrived in Udaipur, my favorite city of the tour, staying in a quaint hotel called Mewar Haveli, with a beautiful rooftop patio overlooking the lake.  The next morning we explored the town with our guide, first stopping by another beautiful Hindu temple of Vishnu, complete with more intricate carvings, including quite a few elephants.

We spent the next few hours at the City Palace, a sprawling complex with stunning architecture and views of both the lake and the city.  Many of the rooms were decorated with paintings - both frescos and actual canvas - and many were filled with period furniture.

The streets of Udaipur were fun to explore on our own - the winding alleys in the center of the city are too narrow for cars, so it was much quieter than other cities we had visited.  Instead, the roads were full of the ever-present Indian trio:  motorbikes, rickshaws, and cows.

The following morning, we set off on a day trip to Ranakpur, passing through sprawling farmland and a number of small villages en route to an astoundingly beautiful Jain temple.  Built in 1460, the temple was constructed on 1444 pillars, each completely unique.  A massive structure of white marble, I was blown away both by how large the exterior was, and how incredibly gorgeous and detailed the interior was.  Our guide wasn't allowed to enter with us, so I spent a full hour slowly wandering through the cross-shaped floorplan of the temple, taking in the long corridors, intricate columns, ornate ceilings, and delicate details of the marble structure.  It was one of my favorite stops of the entire trip, well worth the long drive, and I could have easily spent much longer than the allotted hour exploring!!

The following morning, we packed up our bags to be sent to Delhi, and ventured through the City Palace to catch a boat for a leisurely ride around the lake, enjoying the blue skies and cool breeze.  As we cruised around, we saw the city palace, a large pavilion where boats would have launched for the Maharanas, kids swimming and splashing near the shore, and even a few locals doing laundry and bathing on the opposite bank.  We stopped by the Lake Palace to explore for about half an hour before piling back onto the boat to return to have lunch and prepare for our departure.

We had an overnight train ride booked to Delhi, which was an experience in and of itself.  We were definitely not in first class, as a group of eight of us were given seats in a car surrounded by locals, with seats in groups of six (three on each side) with a pair of opposing seats on the other side of a narrow walkway.  When it was time to sleep, we flipped up the platforms to sleep, three on each side in our small open compartment.  The beds didn't have a curtain (though the compartment as a whole did), and paper bags with basic sheets were passed out by the train workers.  Sleeping was a bit rough as the train jerked about all night, and as we all sat in fear of the tiny roaches running around, that they might scurry over us in the night!  And the next morning, instead of nice scenery in the early morning light, we mostly caught views of piles of trash and local men doing their business, squatting next to the tracks.  


Back in Delhi, we explored Humayun's Tomb, an impressive structure that looks like a smaller version of the Taj Mahal, constructed in sandstone and marble.  (And rather than built by a husband for his wife, this was built by a wife for her deceased husband, and also utilized as a tomb for other members of the same family.)  The geometrical shapes and symmetry of the mausoleum were beautiful to explore.

Just around the corner, we also visited Isa Khan's Garden Tomb, a much smaller structure with a white central dome, surrounded by smaller blue domes.  The interior ceiling of the structure was spectacularly decorated in beautiful detail.

We spent our remaining time in Delhi exploring local markets and having a lengthy group dinner at a nearby restaurant called R2Square, where we had celebrated our arrival just over a week before, sipping beer, sharing small plates, and reminiscing about the journey as Bollywood music videos played in the background.  Over the next few hours, members of the group slowly departed, some that evening, many the next morning, a few the following afternoon, back home, or onward to our next destinations...

For me, that destination would be Nepal :)

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