The Great Indian Desert with a dash of pink#Shutterbug Needa Natterwala • January 21, 2017
In an attempt to tick one more thing off the 2016 bucket list, my sister and I planned a “celebrating the past year – bringing in the New Year with the family” kind of trip.
Executing a trip with a family is five times more taxing than it would have been with a group of friends. Bookings, tickets, cars, hotels, planning itineraries with office colleagues and everything else has to be done in advance. Believe me, this trip began days before the railway authorities even prepared the charts for the train we were to depart in. The excitement level, all the advance planning, borrowing bags and clothes, lists and to-dos were maddening. Our house was a suitcase packed mess the week before.
The journey began with Mom toiling in the kitchen to prepare meals for the entire journey right from 6 in the morning! There were numerous bags, crazy rushing around and the regular meet and greet before we left.
And so it began! Playing UNO, snapping pictures, eating all that home-cooked food and of course – sleeping.
We planned the tour in such a manner so that we pay a quick visit to Ajmer’s Dargah and then head to Jaipur, the Pink City. As we reached the Dargah, it was 6 AM and so it was time to offer prayers and some rituals. We made sure that we made the most of the opportunity as it was the first time we visited this famous shrine. Carrying flower baskets, prayers, putting the traditional blanket on the shrines and whole lot of stuff done on Day 1!
As we (surprisingly) finished the initial leg of our journey in double quick time, we decided to take a detour and head to Pushkar, The Hippie Town.
Pushkar was a colorful riot! We dressed up banjara style and danced our heart out in the desert for starters. Then we did some camel back riding, plucked roses from the gardens – a total ‘worth-the-money’ 4 hours back breaking experience.
Next stop – Jaipur. In true Jab We Met Style, cutting it as close as 2 mins, we ran our way through the station, the platform and then the bogies of the train to catch our seats from Ajmer to Jaipur.
We reached Jaipur at around 6.30pm in the evening and quizzed our driver about the places to go and the things to do. It was more than 12 hours since we were up but none of us was ready to call it a day. We decided to go to Choki Dhani.
Choki Dhani was a Rich Rajasthani Cultural experience, traditional food, photos with turbans, greeting others with ‘Ram Ram Sa’, Mud hut kitchens, DJ with Dhol Baaja, Dancing Kalbeliya & Ghoomar Style, Dodging Camels while moving around, checking out the mini mela, the traditional oil massage stalls (only for men), life size – regional culture capturing houses of every state in the country. This was a good end to our first day.
Day 2 at Jaipur began with a sumptuous buffet breakfast served by our awesome hotel. The princely breakfast was followed by trips to Hawa Mahal, City Palace, Jantar Mantar, Jal Mahal, Birla Temple & the Statue Circle.
Jaipur has huge heritage structures – tourist spots which are slightly commercialized and certainly unfair to the foreign tourists.
Hawa mahal & City Palace were beautiful, well-maintained pieces of art and architecture that constantly serve reminders of our rich heritage. Jantar Mantar was an astronomical wonder created in the past. There were a number of sundials to make astronomical predictions based on the position of the sun. Some of these structures are still used. Jal Mahal was a picturesque palace in the middle of the man Sagar Lake. Birla Temple, a white marble structure, promises peace to everyone who goes there. The Statue Circle was a nice garden with a Statue in the center, where we whiled away our time before heading for dinner.
Day 3 (31st of December, 2016) started and ended with some (okay lots of!) shopping, Johari Market & Bapu Bazaar were full of vibrant colors and amazing salesmen who made the whole experience worthwhile. After shopping, we headed to see the 3 famous forts. Amer Fort was long walks, Diwan-e-Aam, Diwan-e-Khaas and more rooms to see, clicking pictures, dodging crowds and climbing steep steps. From here we took the secret 3-kilometer tunnel route from Amer to Jaigarh fort and then headed to Nahargarh fort to catch the sunset. The view from the top of these structures was definitely worth all the walking we did. We rushed back to Amer fort for the reputed Sound and light show. It was one hour of fascinating storytelling and spectacular use of light and sound to catch all our attention. We decided to check out ‘Hathi Gaon’ while we were at it, as it was late in the evening we had to turn down our chance to get a ride atop an elephant through the thick forest areas of Hathi Gaon.
It was New Year’s Eve and my sister wanted to bring in the New Year the old fashioned way – ‘Gulping down a shot at Midnight’. The not at all crowded club, lack of single ladies around and the minimalist hype of New Year’s Eve made us miss Mumbai. Night Life at Jaipur could do with a bit of a push.
Our last day at Jaipur was kept free of any major commitments to ensure that we all had what we needed and caught the train on time. With 10 bags to carry, filled to the brim with ethnic dresses, jhumkas, gherwar, mojris and many memories, we made our way back to our home.