A Travellerspoint blog

November 2011

Down South...

Udaipur to Mumbai

sunny 27 °C

large_DSCF4846.jpg

Now sudden celebrity is a hard thing to stomach for any civilian... the constant pressure of the press, being recognised in the street and having to maintain that public image that people recognise and adore. Andy took to the lifestyle of a sudden celebrity footballer with real style... but the pressure of the paparazzi was difficult. As such we chose to get out of Pushkar and get to the quieter shores of Udaipur where many a Bollywood and Indian TV personality hang out to escape the constant publicity. Life as a WAG was not something I anticipated for myself.

Udaipur is in South Rajastan and after time in the camel towns of the desert we thought we were having a mirage when we saw the giant lake at Udaipur's heart. The town is based on the shores of the lake and at it's centre is a massive palace which looks like it is floating on the water. If you have seen the James Bond film Octopussy then Udaipur is where it is filmed. If you haven't seen the film you can rent the film from blockbusters or go to Udaipur where you can catch a viewing of the film... on any street... in apparently every bar and restaurant... back to back... at every hour of day or night. Needless to say we ended up catching it a couple of times.

Come 7pm Udaipur begins to resemble Beirut as the sky explodes in bangs and flashes of fireworks. One thing we have come to appreciate about India is that they love a good firework. Udaipur is the trendy place to get married so firework displays light up the sky every night from all sides. Not a bad view when you are sitting on a roof top with a bottle of Kingfisher overlooking the lake!

Refreshed, relaxed and recuperated we headed on a new night train to Mumbai/Bombay. We had reservations as we had become accustomed to being in laid back small towns rather than the scrum of the city but we were impressed with the spectacle that is Mumbai from the moment we disembarked the train/rickshaw/train combo which got us to the centre of Mumbai from Rajastan in the express time of 20 hours.

The night we arrived, we walked down to the Gateway of India to see the buildings on the front lit up. Sitting and watching the milling crowds of tourists, salesmen, sailors, boatmen, beggars and imagining the changing face of this tiny jetty over the last 200 years was something I won't forget in a hurry. Suddenly, from nowhere I was handed a baby and acquired a five foot tall old lady in a multicolour sari hanging off my arm whilst photo-wallahs had a field day snapping away. Now I was back to being the celebrity instead of Andy... a return to Indian normality.

large_DSCF4881.jpg

Whilst in Mumbai we had agreed on two priorities, a trip to Elephanta Island and Gin and Tonics at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. We did both in one Big Day Out in Mumbai and it was one that neither us, nor the credit card, will forget in a long time! (Only joking Mum! We are being financially responsible!)

On Elephanta Island, Andy became a real lover of ancient temple carvings; he bought a book, he gazed in wonder and spent a long time admiring each sculpture in detail. I was initially impressed with Andrew's new found love of ancient history. This was until I cottoned on to the fact that his real motivation was the absolutely enormous pair of baps that are carved on the Goddess Parvati on each sculpture. When we found a little cafe that served Chicken Handi and cold Kingfisher for a post temple pick me up, Andy was very chuffed with his cultural day.

large_DSCF4916.jpg

Now I never realised that smog could be beautiful or romantic, but coming back on the boat from Elephanta to Mumbai it managed to be just that. As the sun was setting over the city you could see all the historic buildings of the water front and all the skyscrapers of today glowing red and orange though the haze hanging over the city. Mumbai may hold the record for the amount of rats I have seen in one place (Record: 2. And one of them was eating toast inside the entrance of our less than sterling hotel) but pulling into the Gateway of India at sunset you could easily forget that and just appreciate how stunning the skyline is.

After a quick change in the Rat Pit and an excursion onto the streets to buy Andrew some shoes we were dolled up and ready to play the part in the top class Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Full of images from books and stories I was pretty chuffed with myself, pulling up in an old school Ambassador taxi, getting in (that was the first hurdle we were worried we wouldn't make!) and then settling down for Gin and Tonic in the Harbour Bar! I bored Andy for at least an hour trying to tell him the plot line of 'A Night in Bombay' whilst Andy tried to get his moneys worth from the extortionate drink prices by eating the place out of the complimentary crisps, fried beans and nuts. After we spent up (it didn't take long!) we headed into the hotel to explore the luxury from the inside. A quick stop in the toilets, where they have attendants who volunteer to do everything but wipe your bum for you... I think you have to ask for that service if you need it.... and they ensure that your cubical is squirted with perfume before you enter (bear in mind the Rat Pit Hotel had shared unisex squat toilets...) we wandered into the hallways and the posh shops inside. We were home and dry until we got the camera out and then the Secret Service of the Taj Mahal were on us very quickly and politely enquiring as to whether we were guests at the hotel? (code: Get out you backpacking imposters). We left and found an altogether more affordable drinking hole to end the night. Memorable to say the least!

large_DSCF5007.jpg

Mumbai was topped off with a visit to the Dhobi Ghat, which is essentially an area where all the washing of clothes is done for the whole of Mumbai. It is a bit like a giant, human powered washing machine with men, women and children beating the dirt out of clothes continuously in a kind of ancient times conveyor belt. I agree it is a strange thing to go see but it is a real spectacle! Andy was less than impressed as he has grown a hatred of hand-washing on this trip. However, when wandering round he found a reason to be there as a kid threw him a cricket ball in the backstreet. That was that, Andy was suddenly the star bowler of the street cricket match. The cricket field was the general street, the boundary for a four was the buildings on either side and the wicket was an old trailer. The fielders were stood on the tin roofs of the nearby buildings and the crease was the line down the middle of the road. The game was occasionally interrupted by laundry vans, cows and general cars wanting to use the cricket pitch to get to their destination (selfish or what) but my word did Andy get a crowd (maybe he was missing his celebrity status as footballer after all).

large_DSCF5017.jpg

Again leaving a sporting legacy in our wake, we departed for pastures new.

Posted by Annie Thornton 21:55 Archived in India Tagged palace lake mumbai udaipur gateway_of_india Comments (0)

The Aint No Party Like a Pushkar Party

The Pushkar Camel Fair

sunny 25 °C

large_DSCF4632.jpg

Hello – We have been in Pushkar for the Annual Camel Fair for the past week and it has not been disappointing. Every year the fair attracts 100,000 camels and 1000's of horses, cows, goats and elephants for buying selling, racing, showing off and general debates about the size of your camels humps, or how many people you can fit onto your camel. Myself and Annie have already been on a camel ride, but we thought we would try out the camel taxi! I'm fascinated by camels, there are so many uses for them! The camel taxi (basically a camel which pulls a four poster bed on a truck) took us on a journey around the fair for about an hour and only cost us 250rupees, which was a bargain. Annie received many complements (and she did actually look beautiful in her newly acquired dress) from turban wearing camel and horse men along the journey. As the sun sets over the camel field you can hear the moans and groans of thousands of camels and the arguing and busking of local camel traders and gypsys. What a sight to see and hear.

We arrived on 31st October, a few days earlier than expected because we'd heard good things about Pushkar – not just the camel fair. Pushkar is a holy place, and this means that it is a vegetarian city (including no eggs) and no beer/drugs/dressing provocatively, and it is set within a valley and centred around a holy lake with holy men and ghats aplenty. Holding hands is strictly forbidden as is other forms of affection and inappropriate dressing and nudity. Despite these very strict we saw at least three contraventions within two minutes of walking round the lake – a little old lady smoking what can only be described as a crack/opium pipe whilst having her babs out in the lake! Annie skipt around her whilst I got a full on view of the merry lady who nemaste'ed me to complete the comedy picture, and had to laugh out loud trying to keep myself from falling in the lake!

The entrance to Pushkar lake is littered with 'holy men' giving you flowers, whom then lead you to the side of the lake to participate in a Puja, which is basically a prayer to the Gods for health, goodwill, prosperity in your family and friends. You need to repeat a mantra over and over again (however Hindu's do this 108 times – for this is a good number) then have to give money dependant on how much you love you family and friends – basically, its a bit of a gimmick to give money – I've never been emotionally blackmailed before from a 'priest' as he called himself, so I called his bluff and told him to shove it! Actually, I gave 60 rupees for me and Annie. This whole procedure is called a Pushkar Passport! And yes, it is a con for the toursist, but I actually enjoyed the mantra. Sorry to say that Dad, Ian Sue Sophie Will, you were only worth 60 rupees! I'm sure Dad would be more proud of me for not getting conned out of £50!

The camel fair was meant to start on 2nd November, but in true Indian relaxed style the fair started on the 3rd November and a few hours late. In fact most of the fair including the fairground and parts of the circus were also incomplete. The program started with some dancing girls, and then a camel race around the stadium. I did not care much for the dancing but the camel race was more impressive.

The Chak de Rajastan Football Match!

large_DSCF4793.jpg

The fair is internationally renowned and it rightly attracts many tourists, locals and the regional /national press. I'm told that the the first days activities are the best, which includes local dancing, a camel race and the Chak de Rajestan football match between the local team and a team made up from budding tourists who fancy their chances. Being fit and healthy, not to mention an excellent football player (dont laugh!) this match was right up my street. The match was due to start at 11am, and I turned up at 10am to register myself for the tourists team – I was the first on the list too! The Mela Stadium began to fill up, however only 5 tourists had registered by 11am, so I took it upon myself to rally people by asking every tourist in the stadium if they wanted to play. This enthusiastic act was rewarded by the organisers making me captain of the tourist team! Never before have I captained a football side, and I was determined to do a good job by organising the team, sorting out positions for the squad of 16. Our team consisted of English, Italian, Australian, South African, Israelis and a Dutch girl who was probably our best player. The time was about 1pm and we were given a proper football kit to wear, then we had to line up in the centre circle (which was only laid about ten minutes before with chalk from a bag) to meet the dignitaries (of whom we did not know), but looked really important. Being captain, I had to introduce the important people to the rest of the team and I was given a some flowers which I had to present to this important man! It was so crazy, I felt like David Beckham (only for a brief second!). The actual football match was for 25 minutes a half and playing on sand in the middle of the day, and was pretty difficult. Just before we kicked off, our Australian goal keeper pointed out that the only people out in the mid day sun are mad dogs and Englishmen – and he was correct, being India there were mad dogs on the pitch... and us Englishmen , as well as the odd cow... it is India after all! We started the match brightly, and I nearly scored within the first 2 minutes from a cross by the Dutch Girl which I had to leap high in the air, but unfortunately it just grazed the cross bar. This was to be my only chance in the match! Despite the good start and a few more chances from our team, we went 3 nil down by half time (our goalie had never played football before!) At the interval all of the national media wanted to do a half time interview with the captain of the Tourist Team – which was me! It was a real media scrum, about 5 cameras, 10 microphones (all with names branded on them like TV24 India, News Now, India Today, etc..) I have to say that I gave a good account of the occasion by thanking the organisers and the opposition. I said that even though I’m from Manchester, unfortunately I cant play football like Manchester City or Manchester Utd football stars aka Wayne Rooney, but I did say that people say I look like Peter Crouch. I cant help but think my little joke fell on deaf ears. Needless to say my name went into the Times of India (page 2) as 'Peter'. Anyway, we started the second half brightly and managed to bundle in a goal from 6 yards. The final score was actually 4-1, but we didn’t care, we all just loved being involved. I was interviewed after the match again by all the media again, and they just let me ramble on for about 10 minutes. It was such an amazing experience, we even got trophy’s and certificates presented in the stand by the mayor and other important people. My trophy is now proudly sitting in the hostel on thr highest shelf in the reception area, alongside the 2010 turban tying competition trophy! I loved every minute of the Chak De Rajestan Football Match – an incredible memory. Apparently I was on national TV at 7pm that day but didn’t see it.

Pushkar was a great place to stay and I would recommend anyone to go there because you get a real flavour of the Rajastani culture and customs.

Hope you enjoy the blog. Peace and Love. Andy x

Posted by Annie Thornton 01:08 Archived in India Tagged fair camel rajastan pushkar Comments (0)

Photos from Agra, Fatephur Sikri, Jaipur, Jaislemer

Taj Terrific

Taj Terrific

Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri

Snakey Wallah

Snakey Wallah

Desert Annie

Desert Annie

Camel Annie

Camel Annie

Posted by Annie Thornton 09:08 Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]