We left Jaipur to drive to the small town of Pushkar, stopping off at Ajmer on the way. Ajmer possesses a huge mosque with attached market and tomb. We had a local guide here called Ajmal who spoke to us softly and smartly about the history of the city, the philosophy of the local muslims and hindus, his own art and wider topics of people and technology. He was genuinely one of the most interesting people I’ve met in a long time, I could have happily sat and discussed and debated with him for hours. Despite all the hustle and bustle, his calmness was infectious.
After departing the mosque, it was only a short trip around a mountain to our hotel in Pushkar. Pushkar was the first place we stayed in India that wasn’t a City. Much of the town was forbidden to traffic, which led to it being significantly more serene than we’d experienced so far. Our room looked out over the small, sacred lake that the town encircled. After a trip to see the only Brahma temple in the world, we were fortune enough to happen across a Hindu fire ceremony and we participated in a puja or prayer for our health, happiness and family. This was a beautiful town, filled with spirituality and calm.
The next day we had a long drive down to Udaipur. I’ll confess to not having heard of this city before we reached India, but we were again staying on the waterfront in a lovely room with a balcony.
Udaipur was one of the locations for ‘Octopussy’ and there were at least 8 hotels and restaurants in town showing the film on a nightly basis. We demurred, but headed for the temples and palaces instead. The tall Jagdish temple of Vishnu was impressive, and the City Palace spectacular – built onto and around the mountain.
We finished the day with a trip to the local gardens before watching the Sun set at the Monsoon Palace above the city.
We hustled onto Jodhpur for the final stop in our short tour of Rajasthan. We were finally relaxing in India, after a few tense days in Delhi, the process of traveling around all these more restrained and organised locations was allowing us to feel more comfortable. Yes, it’s still noisy and colourful, but less intense and jarring. In Jodhpur we visited the large Mehrangarh, the fort and residence of the Jodhpur royal family. While it would be easy to get a little ‘fort-ed out’ this still had the capacity to impress.
We finished up our Rajasthan tour and flew back to Delhi the next day, before heading back to Hong Kong. Before we left we had one last visit – the Qutab Minar complex in South Delhi. This was the nicest monument we saw in Delhi – and one of the best audio guides I’ve ever had. It was striking the comparison with the run down and underwhelming Red Fort.