India’s sheer size is daunting. It is literally an entire subcontinent on its own, and it is filled with so many wonders in every corner, that picking a few cities to visit clearly won’t do this massive country any justice. India is so vast that planning a trip requires focusing on a particular region at a time, especially if you are only visiting for a brief period. A lot of people max out the 90-day travel period that the visa allowance provides, but even then, for more seasoned travelers who want to take it slow and really savor the country, this is simply not enough time.
I’ve already been to several regions in my trips to India: I’ve been to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in the south, and the region of Delhi and Agra in the North. Recently, I traveled through Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra in the north, ending with a few days in the empire’s crown jewel of Mumbai. On this recent trip, I only had less than two weeks to go through all my plans, and throughout my planning phase, I really gravitated towards the idea of going to Rajasthan, which is famous for its many fort cities, colorful towns, and rich history. Rajasthan has always been one of those places that inspire a restless lust for travel in me. I love the idea of fort cities and markets and culture and history and rich architecture all in one place, and I am glad that it did not disappoint.
My Rajasthan itinerary was by no means easy. It was a mad chase for train, bus, and car rides, jetting from city to another to try and keep up with the billion things I wanted to do and experience, but you know, India sort of inspires that kind of frenetic and crazy energy. I was barely in any city long enough because I really wanted to cover much, even just on a surface level, but still thoroughly enjoyed it. This time, unlike other previous trips, I was not working, so the extra 2 kilos of my work laptop did not weigh me down, leaving me with all the freedom to be jostled by India’s heaving mass of people. It was an ecstatic experience, and I hereby share my crazy itinerary and some quick overview for each city. I plan to write about these ones in detail: I already have an entire blog roll of India-related posts so watch out for that in the coming weeks!
Meanwhile, my crazy-but-not-impossible 7 day jaunt through Rajasthan:
Day 1 & 2 – Jaipur
Day 3 – Pushkar
Day 4 & 5 – Ajmer & Jodhpur
Day 6 & 7 – Jaisalmer
Day 8 – Udaipur
DAY 1-2 – The Pink City of Jaipur
Jaipur was the perfect introduction to Rajasthan. I flew into Jaipur from Kuala Lumpur in the middle of the night, but I was welcomed warmly into my hostel with a chai party in the small kitchen. I met some friends in Jaipur whom I’ve gone around with and partied with during my stay in this city. Jaipur was wonderful in its hectic and busy pace. I love the contrast between the crowded alleys and the quiet museum-like interiors of the forts. I also love that the food was great, and that I had a friend who was a local guide me through some of the great street foods. Jaipur is known as the Pink City of Rajasthan, though the city is much more like a rusty orange color than pink. Still, this was where I first got a taste of what the “Real India” was like, because previous trips were one with a regimented conference schedule, so there wasn’t really much room for roughing it out in the streets. Going around Amer Fort with my new friends gave me a glimpse of what was to come: a whirlwind of majestic forts with their interesting contents and fascinating histories. And oh, somehow I ended up in one of Jaipur’s snazziest and most exclusive clubs and danced the night away for the first time in what seemed like ages. Me. In a club. With gorgeous Indian people dancing to a good mix of Bollywood and Western music. So far, so good.
DAY 3 – Eat, Pray, Love (and Shop ’til You Drop) in Pushkar
I met a girl named Gia in Jaipur, who was also heading to Pushkar so we decided to just do the trip together. We booked a really cheap Uber instead of trying to figure out the bus and the train situation. After a blissful and really smooth ride from Jaipur, we were dropped off in our hostel which was at the banks of Pushkar Lake. Immediately, I felt a change in pace and energy, as if my blood pressure dropped a few points. Pushkar was beautiful: the sort of beauty that comes from absolute serenity and peace. Pushkar’s lake is deemed holy, and every day, people come from far and wide to ceremonially bathe in it. It was also the Hindu god Hanuman’s special feast day that day, so the entire lakeshore was filled with devotees who prayed, lit sacred fired, chanted, and played music to celebrate the auspicious day. The next day, I just about went crazy at the bazaar, which is known for cheap finds and bargains. With my bags laden with a fresh load of goodies from Pushkar, I moved on to the next city: Ajmer.
Day 4 & 5 – Forts and Lakes in Ajmer and Jodhpur
Ajmer was a quick stop. It was basically just a 3-hour wander around the city, but I had to stay close to the bus station because I was to catch my bus to Jodhpur, which was my next big stop.
In Jodhpur, my goal was to visit Mehrangart, a fort that has been the subject of my geek military history fantasies. The Fort is virtually impregnable and has survived centuries of attack. From atop the fort, one is afforded a great view of the Blue City, as it is called because of the various shades of blue that the roofs are painted which gives a birds eye view of what looks like a calm sea in the middle of the desert. I also had a blast going around Jodhpur old town’s bazaar, where I found a stepwell surrounded by shops and stores that were teeming with very tempting wares. From After spending a night in the city and exploring the Mehrangarh and the surrounding bazaars, I took my first plunge into Indian train adventures and got myself a sleeper on a journey from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer.
Day 6 & 7 – The Desert Safari of a Lifetime in Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer is easily one of the highlights of my journey through Rajasthan. I arrived there early in the morning, but immediately, I hit a snag and was temporarily set back because an ATM in town took my money and debited from my account! Running low on funds, I was losing hope and I was about to miss my opportunity to do the desert camel safari experience that I had been itching to do. Jaisalmer is really famous for its close proximity to the Sam Sand Dunes, which was a famous route taken by the Silk and Spice Trade raiders and caravan riders of antiquity. After getting a miraculous, 11th hour money drop via Western Union, I was finally on a camel and was on my way to the desert to stay the night, on a mattress under the billion stars.
Day 8 – A Beautiful City Palace and Lake Tour of Udaipur
Fresh from having spent the night in the desert and after a tour of Jaisalmer’s ancient citadel, I was on my way to Udaipur, which was my last stop in the the State of Rajasthan. I met with a friend there and we spent the entire day going around Udaipur’s city palace, which is situated on the shores of Lake Pichola. My friend Irene and I also sampled the local delicacies and of course, did serious damage to our food budgets by eating everything on sight. Udaipur was my gateway to Gujarat, the next phase of my Indian adventure. I left Udaipur filled with new memories and looking forward to a new chapter in a new state.
Watch out for more stories on this trip! I have looooads of photos and memories to share from this India trip and it I am sharing these with you with the desire of encouraging you to jump of the deep end and give India a chance. A lot of travelers are intimidated by the thought of India, especially in light of negative press, misconceptions and stereotypes that it has been getting in the media. However, as this series of entries will show you, India is a beautiful and spellbinding destination that will surely draw you in as much as it captivated every single part of my soul, engaging my senses with the smells, sights, sounds, and feelings of being in the country of my dreams.
If you have any questions, especially tips and planing help in getting together an itinerary for your Rajasthan adventure, please do not hesitate to ask.
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