I like reading travel books, I have a reasonably large Bill Bryson collection and I’ve only written one other travel related post on this blog, so this shouldn’t hurt much, although if this does receive a decent amount of good feedback, I might make it a series on the blog.

Like pretty much everyone else on earth I love travelling and I don’t see myself being able to do too much of it in the near to medium future. There are bigger things to worry about, starting with just staying alive. I hope to see whoever is reading this on the other end of this pandemic.

Instead, I decided to blog about a trip I did last year. This post is about a trip to Rajasthan.

This was my first and only trip in 2019 having spent most of the year prior to it trying to start a company and then trying not to haha.
I took the trip with a couple of friends from college, one who I saw almost every other day usually(Shravan) and the other I hadn’t since he left college(Abhi).

I’d been meaning to visit Rajasthan for a while by then, having missed out on a couple of trips due to work commitments, so this time around I had no commitments, and we planned a Delhi-Jaipur-Udaipur-Mt.Abu and back roadtrip.

My friend and I landed in Delhi by flight and were waiting for our Revv (rental car service) to arrive at the airport.
When it arrived it was the wrong car, and so we went though 2 hours of back and forth with their customer care at the end of which we got an upgraded car at the same fare and it was an automatic which made the road trip much easier.

Day 1 was in Delhi, whatever was left of the day anyway, we met up with one of Shravan’s friends who took us around Delhi a bit.
We went to whole bunch of places to eat, I had Cold Brew coffee for the first time at Blue Tokai.

Nitro Cold Brew

We went this lovely Korean dessert place called The For’est in Vasant Vihar where I had my first dinner for the day, we then packed a mini picnic and headed to Rajpath, got some ice cream and then drove around till we realised we needed an early start the next day to actually get stuff done.

Rashtrapathi Bhavan at Night

Day 2 started with an excellent breakfast meal at this place called Fig and Maple in GK-2, after which our guide (the friend) had to go somewhere, she asked us to go see the Lotus temple letting us know that she would join us after that.

Our next stop was the Lotus Temple and unfortunately a test of both of our Hindi skills occurred and we read a sign saying Kalka ji Mandir and figured mandir is mandir and joined the line.

It took us a bit to realise that the line was significantly more devout than we expected a tourist destination to have, coupled with a lack of people who looked like tourists we decided to ask around with our severely limited vocabulary and found out we were at the wrong place.

These setbacks were no match for us, but, a lack of hindi knowledge was, so we called our friend and got her to come back letting her know that we needed the help. Having found our bridge to the hindi gap we visited Humayun’s tomb which I’d been meaning to do.

We also visited Gandhi Smriti which is something that was bang on top of my list to go to.

Gandhi Smriti for those of you who don’t know is a museum with several items of Gandhi’s possession, it was also sadly the place where he was assassinated. I’d recently read Godse’s defence of the assassination which I found informative but, barely acceptable.

The man and his message

It was a sobering experience, and that’s coming from someone who is in general quite sobering. Glad I managed to visit the place.

I met a friend and ex-colleague who I hadn’t seen in a while for another round of Blue Tokai and then headed straight to Abhi’s place(he knows Hindi)

He also had planned our entire trip out, places to see, stay, everybody needs a friend like Abhi, especially one who knows Hindi.

We grabbed dinner while catching up on life over the last 5 years and discussed books while walking into the night, we called in early because the next day needed to start at 5.

None of us were morning people so Day 3 started at 7 instead and we rushed to beat the NCR traffic only to get stuck in it right at the border. Our next stop was Chand Baori en route Jaipur.

Chand Baori is this incredibly picturesque step well built a thousand years ago, its very close to Jaipur.

It’s a step well!

I do recommend you pay a visit if its en route, but, I also recommend not doing so at noon with the sun above your head, this from my experience does not heighten the experience, maybe go at sundown, with a hat and water, that should help.

Regardless it was lovely, it goes 100ft into the ground and fun fact, some scenes in The Dark Knight Rises were shot there!

We got to Jaipur dropped our luggage off and headed to Nahargarh Fort which basically means Tiger Fort, it also serves as a fantastic spot to see the entirety of Jaipur from the top. Fun fact (full of them today) : The patshala song in Rang de basanti was shot here, which I found out after I went to the place.

This fort was built by this Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh and he had more than one wife. In the fort he built individual passages going from his suite to each of the queen’s suites that linked back individually to his suite alone. This man had it all planned out.

View of Jaipur from the top of Nahargarh

I’d never had a proper Choki Dhani meal before and that was next on the list, speaking of lists, I heard a joke by Seinfeld in his new standup on Netflix : “A lot of people around my age like to make a bucket, I made a bucket list and I turned the b to an f and I was done with that, too.”.

Choki Dhani means excellent or model village and it’s definitely worth the experience atleast once, the people there do a really good job of selling you on it.
All three of us love food and we were done with our meal, but, they weren’t done serving us, we felt like pandas eating Bamboo chutes getting tired from just eating.

Don’t believe anyone who tell you its overhyped or not worth the money or anything like that, it’s a fantastic experience with two meals and a half packed into one.
Although if you’re one of those people for whom food is not something to be savoured or devoured, but, merely a necessity, they’re probably right and you should believe them.

Day 4 meant we headed to Udaipur, which is when one of the self-evident truths about driving in Rajasthan hit us (or us them). Cows, a lot more of them than you’d expect in the middle of a national highway, and they’re not going to move, they run this town and you avoid them and the potholes when you drive.

This apart and a ill advised stop at an abandoned fort called Mokham Vilas ( we went fort crazy, also not kidding ) where we had to walk over a mostly submerged wall/road only to find out halfway that it was broken/submerged and return, aside we made good time without harming too many animals on the way. On the plus side we did some bird watching and Abhi pretended to identify some fish in the water.

Abandoned fort?

Our next stop was Udaipur and we made excellent time mostly because I was driving, dropped our bags and went to the City Palace which is an absolute beaut, also Shravan got me what will probably be my profile picture for the foreseeable future.

Udaipur Jal Mahal at sundown

Going around city palace takes a while and then you’re hungry. I made one of my life’s least important but incredibly impactful decision right then. We were driving around in a Creta which is an SUV, and Udaipur roads for the most part are wide enough for it, but, the old city of Udaipur is slopey and narrow and I decided to drive to the restaurant for dinner.

Udaipur at night

What proceeded was one of the most difficult driving experiences for me and every person, vehicle, vendor and cow on the road and I managed to squeeze a massive car across what seemed like a cross between a hill and eternity and eventually found a parking spot at which point I gave the keys to Shravan.
A meal at a restaurant called Upre with a view of the entire city and live music followed.

Octopussy every night!

City Palace served as a fictional hotel in the James Bond movie Octopussy, as seen above, there is an actual restaurant that shows the movie EVERY night at 7PM.

After some sneaky manoeuvring by Shravan we made it to the lake and I was in the mood for Falooda, in a sense I’m always in the mood for Falooda, but, more so then than usual. We managed to find a guy whose paytm name was Mr Healthy who served Faloodas by the lake which was a treat.

Now, before I tell you the story about the rest of the night, I should let you know that the 3 of us in general, are not dumb. Please keep that in mind.

Abhi wanted to see the Milky way, I found a random blog post from 2016 that said you can see the Milky way if you head far enough away from Udaipur to a particular place. That was evidence enough and we got back in the car and started going to said place.

While going down this random set of road about 5 km from the city I noticed a light in our rear view that had been there for a while and had made every turn we had so far. We were in semi rural Rajasthan, only one of us knew Hindi properly and we may or may not have hit cows or been hit by cows at this point.

The place we had in mind was about 20 km from the city and we needed to head up a hill to reach it, we had crossed Sajjangarh and were 15 km in and the light was still behind us, at which point it occurred to me that this was probably something to let everyone else in on.

Abhi had the bright idea to slow down and let him pass, but, as we slowed down the light slowed with us and stayed behind, we came to a crossroads, literally and figuratively and had to take left to keep going to this place, we took the left that took us up hill, the light stopped with us and turned with us, 3 turns in we decided to stop completely and let the vehicle pass. He stopped with us, and slowly drove past us giving us a proper stare.

We waited, nothing happened, 5 seconds later, still nothing happened. 10 seconds later we see him coming back and going past us while staring at us. We decided to go forward and found that the entire road was submerged up ahead and there was no way past.

Now, in a sense ‘nothing’ has really happened, but, we were pretty tired and our imaginations were running wild while our intelligences were running low so we had a mini pandemonium in the car as Shravan eventually somehow became the driver and we found our way back to our hotel and crashed.

When Day 5 began we found out that it was a good thing we never made it to the place as even the city folks don’t venture in those village areas because they’re not very ‘welcoming’ past sundown.

After resetting our dumb levels we headed to Chittor fort which was founded nearly 1500 years ago, while the fort is beautiful and massive in itself, the most impressive part of the fort is the Vijaya Stambha which is the multi storied monument built by Rana Kumbha to celebrate his victory over Mahmud Khilji.

The magnificent Vijaya Stambh

Luckily enough we managed to get access to the multiple stories whose walls are lined with intricate carvings depicting various scenes and characters from Hindu mythology. Interestingly, the details of the architect are also carved into the walls on the fifth floor. Fun fact : the movie Padmaavat was not shot in Chittor despite the story being set here, they recreated an entire set in Mumbai due to protests against the shooting, why am I calling these fun facts.

After a tour of the fort and visiting some of the Jain temples within the fort, we made it back to the city for lunch and headed to Sajjangarh fort, which we crossed the previous night, followed by a trip to the zoo.

We made it back to the city for dinner at a restaurant called Tribute, which I don’t remember too much of because we were just too hungry. We decided to follow it up with dessert at Udai Vilas, which is an incredibly fancy hotel that we were severely underdressed for. To put it in context, India’s richest family held a 2 day pre wedding event prior to their daughters wedding there.

We took a cab into the p(a?)lace and were surprised they let us in, the waiter was not too happy about seating us considering our appearance (one of us was in sweatpants and wearing a darth vader t-shirt), we panicked and ordered a Himalayan water bottle along with the dessert which was definitely not worth the amount if not for the experience of dining there.

Le Udai Vilas

After dessert, we assumed the hotel was ours to roam and promptly got lost before using google maps to find our way back to the restaurant and ordered a cab back home. That place is massive man.

We started for Mount Abu on Day 6 and reached mid afternoon, the weather made it hard to believe we were in Rajasthan, we dropped our bags and headed to Nakki Lake, had a look around, decided to come back at night and left.

We headed for the Dilwara temples which are these Jain Temples at Mt. Abu, and unfortunately they don’t allow any photography there, but, they are amongst the most beautifully crafted set of temples you’ll ever see, do pay a visit if you get a chance.

Following which we headed further up the hill and made a stop at Trevors Tank. So, this British engineer in the colonial times legit built this artificial lake(Mini Nakki) in the middle of nowhere to breed crocodiles.

When we got to the tank we saw this small warning at the opening of the lake.

The warning

It says “Crocodiles! Be careful. Swimming is prohibited. Survivors will be prosecuted” But it was an opening to the lake, the water was fully accessible, so we figured this was a lame attempt at humor and walked around the place until we saw these bad boys getting some sun.

I don’t like crocs

Not sure why anyone would think this is a good idea but, Abhi full of bright ideas on this trip decided to trek upstream and meet the crocs, thankfully the rocks stopped him mid way while Shravan and I failed at this.

Got out of there just as they closed and headed further up to this spot called Guru Shikhar which is named for Dattatreya, who is considered an avatar of (depending on what you choose to believe) in Hindu mythology. It also happens to be the highest point on Mount Abu once you climb to the top to the temple dedicated to Dattatreya, which was the goal anyway.

Guru Shikhar at sundown

The climb isn’t exactly tiring, but, the past 6 days had been hectic and we were pretty exhausted and took our time getting to the top. Which worked out reasonably well since we reached the peak right in time for the beautiful sundown in the clouds.
We stopped there for a while while the sun went down, grabbed some tea, biscuits and maggi on the way down and then headed back to our rooms.

Stopped over at Nakki Lake at night, got some more Faloodas

Gimme more falooda

Day 7 was mostly spent driving back to Jaipur. Once there, we did a little shopping which almost didn’t happen because Shravan and I were not aware that shops around Hawa Mahal closed much earlier than expected and also ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

Hawa Mahal at night

We followed dinner up with some dumb ideas and again, we’re not really that dumb as people. But, we really wanted to see the Milky way. So we found out that Sambhar Lake about a 100 km from Jaipur is a great spot to see the night sky, only problems were that it was 100 km away and we’d just driven a few hundred km already that day and also, its a salt lake with wildlife around it.

We decided to give it a shot anyway, and en route we managed to see some creepy sights like this one.

What even is this

When we got to the lake, it wasn’t as amazing as we expected, but, it was still pretty cool so we hung around for a while trying to identify constellations and stars, and all this while a bunch of street dogs were slowly creeping in on us, when they finally charged we realised what was up and scrambled back into the car and got the hell out of there.

We started Day 8 with some Lassi, bought some food to bring home ( I bought some Ghevar ), headed to Amer fort for a little bit of sightseeing and then we headed to our next stop.

Welcome to my fort

At Neemrana fort which is midway between Delhi and Jaipur, we did some Ziplining with the fort in the background which was exactly awesome as an experience.

Ziplining to the end of the trip

We picked up another friend who’d just landed from the airport along the way, and headed back to Delhi, we were joined by another friend and we hung out till evening the next day, I left the group at this point while the rest of them continued onwards from Delhi for another trip.

So, that was my trip to Rajasthan. Do visit, it’s lovely.

Thank you for reading

Sainath