The first town I visited after Delhi was Udaipur. The town is on the shores of a lake which contains a famous (and expensive) hotel which was used in the James Bond film Octopussy. There is a local tradition for restaurants to show the film at ‘007pm’ each night.
And it’s tacky, but I went to a showing. I sat on a rooftop, watching a DVD that had been copied from a worn VHS cassette. The moon was full and I had a fantastic view of the lake to my left. Octopussy is not a great movie, but there can’t be many better ways to watch it.
Of all the cities I visited in Rajasthan, Jaisalmer was probably my favourite. It was where I booked my camel tour, it has some good restaurants and a decent bookshop. To the south of the city is a peaceful lake with some ruined pavilions. It was a lovely place to sit and read in the evening.
In a Delhi restaurant, on my last night, I saw an image of the pavilion below. The photograph showed the lower steps covered by water. The rain in Rajasthan has been poor over the last few years, meaning many of the lakes are emptier than they would be normally.
This ruined fort, in the South of Delhi is a pain to get to. It’s worth it though. It was cursed by Nizamuddin Auliya, a sufi mystic, who said the fort would be unoccupied and used only by shepherds. The ruined monuments are incredible: huge walls, broken towers, and a couple of underground passages. When Dad and I visited we only saw one other group of tourists.
The hotel I stayed at in Chittorgarh was described by the Lonely Planet as “tolerably clean”. This was not quite true. I made the mistake of walking to Chittorgarh’s fort in the early afternoon heat so didn’t end up staying as long as I’d have liked.
While I was in Jaipur my guide took me to a factory to see how hand-made carpets were made. It turned out to be a salesroom. After a quick glimpse of the men working downstairs I was taken to a showroom. There was no way the four men downstairs had produced all the carpets that were for sale. The ‘factory’ was obviously a fake, a reason for guides to bring tourists. I wondered what the men did between tourist visits.
Jaipur held a kite festival a few weeks before I arrived. While I was there, hundreds of children were still flying kites. Many more kites had been captured by the trees.
The Amber fort was one of my favourite buildings in India. It’s surrounded by mountains, their slopes draped in fortifications. Above the Amber Fort is another fort, Jaigarh, which has some incredible views.
Varanasi was a lovely place to spend a few days. The town runs alongside the Ganges, with ghats, series of steps down to the water. People come to the river to worship, wash clothes, and cremate their dead.
In some ways, Varanasi reminded me of an English seaside resort. Dad & I made several promeades along the riverside. We encountered teams of children selling candles and flowers, all using the same spiel. We passed many cricket games, played in tiny spaces.
During one of our boat trips along the river, the boatman pointed out a series of marks on the wall of one of the buildings. These were the high water marks from the rainy season. I found it hard to believe how high the river could rise.