Monthly Archives: September 2012

Kathmandu Will Do!

We’re really enjoying Kathmandu. This is our third night in Kathmandu and it feels nice to stay put, to really get to know a place.

Our first night, I mentioned finding the magic.  What I neglected to mention was my glorious hotel find, ahem…  I no longer think I can trust the opinion of TripAdvisor.  I found Hotel Silver Home on TripAdvisor and it was rated at 4.5 out of 5 stars, and the reviews mentioned large rooms, comfort, and cleanliness.  Well, the room was a nice size.  It was large enough for a twin and a double bed, a table, and a couch.  But that’s where the review’s reliability ends.  I couldn’t get comfortable in the room due to the uncleanliness.  The carpet was gross, the bathroom was even grosser, and the sheets were definitely not clean.  The toilet seat was an abomination, and there was a hole in the wall of the bathroom that lead to nastiness.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, as we were getting comfy in our travel sheets (a must while traveling) Seth found a roach trying to snuggle with him.  Yuck! So we shook out our sheets and tied the top opening in a knot.  Fire hazard, maybe, but at least it was effective in keeping out the bugs.  At the end of the day, it was really my fault.  No matter where you go, a ten dollar hotel is still a ten dollar hotel.  I had set my hopes too high on the exchange rate and put too much trust in TripAdvisor.  Never again!

The next morning we made our way to Hotel Courtyard, which is much better.  Clean and comfortable, it has it’s own quiet courtyard and it’s far enough away from the busy section to have a quiet night’s rest.  Ahhh…

In Old Kathmandu is Durbar Square.  After walking through twisting narrow streets, lined with shops, we made our way to the sectioned off part of the town.  The asian influence in this area is quite strong.  The architecture shows it.  We meandered through countless temples, pausing to take in the sights of various depictions of gods in the various forms.  The highlight for me was seeing the living goddess of Kumari Chowk.  Yes, you heard me.  The cult of Kumari worships a living prepubescent girl who is said to be the incarnation of Taleju.  There is a selection process in which girls aged around three to five from the buddhist Shakya clan of goldsmiths are interviewed a lot like how the Tibetans choose their incarnation of the Lamas.  Apparently there are 32 auspicious signs of the Kumari which include odd things like a neck like a conch shell, and eyelashes like a cow.  Horoscope is, also, rigorously checked to see that it is not in direct conflict with that of the king (though at this point in time there is no king in Nepal anymore).  The Kumari’s feet never touch the ground, and she is not allowed out except on special occasions, like festivals, where she is carried upon her throne.  Though photos are strictly forbidden, we were lucky enough to show up right as the Kumari decided to make a short appearance at one of the courtyard windows, where she looked around for about half a minute before returning inside.  This Kumari was chosen in October of 2008 at the age of three, making her about 7 years old.  It is said that when the Kumari bleeds, whether from menstruation or otherwise, the goddess’s spirit leaves the body, and therefore she retires and a new Kumari is chosen.  Becoming a mere mortal can be difficult, even to find a husband, because it is said that whoever marries a Kumari will die young.  So, Seth and I saw the incarnation of a goddess.  I thought the whole situation was weird and really interesting.



On a side not, this has to be the most awesome cutout we’ve ever seen.


In the evening we went to a fancy shmancy restaurant in a super fancy hotel.  In this restaurant you get to choose anywhere from a six to twenty two course meal.  We opted for twelve and it was definitely too much food, but you better believe that I finished most of it.  I think the experience was way more exciting than the actual food.  Though I did like the momos, little dumplings, and the pureed fruit and yogurt dessert was good.  It was nice to be dressed up, in a country that we, so far, like, and drink wine with my husband.  

dressed up


Today we did a bit of shopping, or at least browsing.  Then we went somewhere really cool.  We went to the Buddhist temple.  It is like walking into it’s own little world.  There is a large domed temple in the center and people walk clockwise around the temple on the path.  There are tons of restaurants and shops selling prayer beads and other handicrafts.  The temple area and the maze of streets that spiral outwards consist of a little Tibetan community.  The architecture and everything else inside reflected that.  

We ended up finding a basement restaurant called 3D.  We had delicious Tibetan food.  Buff momos (buff = buffalo), and Seth ordered hot and sour soup, and I ordered egg thukpa (a noodle soup).  The food was really delicious.  We also ordered honey, lemon, and ginger tea, which was perfect.  We were really jonesin for some warm liquids to soothe our throats.  Kathmandu has a lot of road construction taking place right now, which causes a lot of dust to be in the air.  Today we bought face masks, but the soup and tea were needed and enjoyed.

Tommy Can You Hear Me?

Hello, from Nepal!  I’m writing this post to see if I can get some kind of response.  People tell us that they, and their friends/coworkers/family/etc. read our blog, but aside from somebody ‘liking’ my status on Facebook every once in a while, we don’t get many comments on our blog.  So, If you are reading this, please take a second to post a comment.  For one, it will let us know that you are out there, and secondly, it will make us feel loved!

So, who’s reading this?

I’ve Found the Magic

Like Seth mentioned, India was easier for me to handle than for him.  But, that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t confounded or appalled at times.  As a matter of fact, upon leaving India I ended up becoming so infuriated that I was barely holding myself together.  If I were a different person I would have started punching people, but luckily I have a thread more of patience, but really it was only a thread.

We began to see enormous mountains peeking through the clouds from the airplane.  It was really exciting.  But the real excitement came when we began to walk around the area surrounding our hotel.  We, luckily, booked a crap hotel in a good area.  Thamel is the super touristy area, but that means that food is basically safe wherever you go.  There are tons of shops, overpriced of course, but many things to look at.  Bustling streets, live music, and the best part… no cows!  And when there are no cows, there are no cow patties.  And, on top of that, the streets are clean!  I can walk without looking down.  I can look at shops as I walk past.  It’s amazing.  But, what I really found here in Kathmandu on our first night, was the magic that was missing in India.  It was clean, safe, and smiling.  I felt as if a huge weight, that I didn’t even realize was there, was lifted from my shoulders.  I’m not going to say that I completely disliked India, because there were parts that I enjoyed.  But, I don’t think I felt as relaxed, comfortable, or happy one single day while in India, as I felt this first night in Nepal.  

See ya later stink town!

So, Berkley has been a bit more kind about her description of India than I would have. The last month in India has been above and beyond the most frustrating, and at times perplexing, portion of our trip so far. I don’t even have the energy to write about India. Lets say it took quite a few of these to make me someone Berkley wanted to travel with.

Kingfisher Strong

We left Delhi (after an infuriating situation at the airport) and took a short 1:45 minuet flight to Kathmandu, as soon as the plane touched down it was like the monkey on my back had jumped off. (pun intended)

kathmandu flight

It feels great to be out of India, Kathmandu has been a wonderful change.


A Symbol of Love

We left Jaipur bright and early to make it to Agra with enough time to make some visits.  Our first stop was to Fatehpur Sikri.  This is a combo fort and deserted city visit.  We visited the old fort, which we think was not actually a fort, but a mosque.  I think we got some info wrong, because it was set up like a mosque, and the happenings inside the building were very reminiscent of the mosques we’ve visited.  We were going to go to the deserted city, which was what we were initially interested in anyways, but it was unbearably hot and we were getting quite hangry, hungry + angry (thanks Emily and Neil, that one’s come in handy).  So we made our way to Agra proper to have a bite to eat at a South Indian restaurant named Dasaprakash. We ended up ordering the vegetarian thali, and it was so much food that we couldn’t finish them.  Delicious though.  We paired them with mango lassis, which were quite tasty.



We, then, got in the car to visit the Taj Mahal.  For me, this was the highlight of India.  I was a bit apprehensive of visiting the Taj Mahal, because we had run into one or two people who said that once you got there it was a bit of a let down, because you already knew what it looked like from photos.  I thought it was beautiful.  Gleaming white domes and spires with nothing but blue skies and fluffy white clouds draping around it.  Surprisingly, we were the only white people there.  Maybe there was another couple that was hiding behind a bush, but the majority of visitors were Indians.  And quite reasonably so.  It is quite inexpensive for an Indian to visit the Taj Mahal, only 20 rupees (the equivalent to abut $0.40, or the same price as a litre of milk here).  For foreigners it was 750 rupees, which pans out to about $15.  In the US everyone pays the same price, with the exception of small discounts for students, children, or seniors, and the difference is quite minimal.  Since we’ve left Europe, the discrepancy in entry fees has been unreasonable.  India must make a killing off all of these attractions.

Berkley Taj Mahal

This is a picture of Seth at the Taj Mahal.  Note the many people between the camera and Seth.  Once you leave Western countries, the idea of waiting or taking turns disappears. Whether it’s someone pushing between you and a railing to see into an exhibit in a museum, or walking through the line of a camera lens, all semblance of patience is nonexistent. 

seth taj mahal

Our hotel was quite comfortable and clean so we were quite happy cooling off for a bit before dinner, even though they charged 200 rupees per hour for internet.  The way they rip off tourists is not right.  This is the one thing I will not get used to while traveling.  

For dinner we went to a place that locals visit as well.  We ordered two delicious dosa, and they were for the local price, which was nice.  

The next morning we were dropped off at the train station to make our way to our next destination.  The train station was filled with beggars.  The majority of the beggars were little children who obviously had a handler nearby.  This means that whatever you give to a child will go straight to the handler.  But, before we came to that conclusion I had given a shirt that I no longer wanted to a little girl.  I really hope she tucked it away for herself, because when I handed it to her she got really excited and smiley and held it up to her body for quite some time.  I really hope it didn’t get confiscated.  Something else we saw while we were waiting was another tourist give a bar of soap to a boy.  The boy got really excited and immediately took the bar of soap to the fountain and began washing himself vigorously with the soap.  He was pretty excited about it, and after he was through soaping up he carefully replaced the bar in the plastic, and then the box, then tucked it into his shorts pocket.  Well save a bar of soap for any train station kids we see.

Agra Beggar Girl

Aside from the beggar children there were the usual ‘sad woman with sick child’, shuffling old man, and man without limb.  Sometimes when you turned your back or they thought you weren’t looking their limp would disappear or a child would smile.  I’m not saying that they didn’t have issues, but what am I supposed to do. I gave the shirt to the little girl before she began begging.  And aside from the beggars, there was the filth.  The train station smelled like a bathroom, because essentially it was a bathroom.  There were people doing all types of their business, on the platform and squatting off the platform onto the tracks.  The weird thing is that you’d see people using the train tracks as a toilet when there was a toilet no more than 20 feet away.  I don’t get it.

After a fairly comfortable and air conditioned train ride with pretty countryside views, we made it to Jhansi.  That train station smelled even worse and was more crowded than the one in Agra, so we were a bit nervous.  But, luckily we were heading to Orchha, a small village.  The village is small and there a few monuments to see.  The palace was pretty and had some nice views.  Luckily it was a small town because our driver and I think guide (it was a weird thing where he was there and then he left with the driver), they left us.  That was about noon and we didn’t have any info on the town in our guidebook, no info given by our tour company (surprise) and we weren’t even quite sure of the name or location of our hotel.  We wandered around for a bit before it became too hot and we found our way back to the hotel.

That night just before sunset we made our way down by the river, and the amazing sunset made up for the difficulty we have been having, quite beautiful.

Orcha Sunset

Today we went for an extremely hot walk to the river and watched some kids swimming.  It’s a very pretty village with a nice river, but we can’t go in it, so…  This evening we hop on a train to Delhi where we spend the night before catching a flight to Nepal in the morning.

Honk, Honk, Zoom!

We’re back in a big city.  Jaipur, known as the Pink City, we’ve decided is actually more of a tera cotta color, but that’s ok.  Yesterday, after an absurdly awkward switch in drivers, we are now in better hands.  Not only does this driver speak English, he offers tidbits of information while driving, he drives safely, he honks his horn minimally, and he answers questions.  Man, we’ve missed out.  If he had been our driver from the start we would have had a much better experience.  Oh well, what can you do?

Anyway, we started off by seeing the City Palace in the Old City.  It really is pink (or terra cotta).  Though it was a pretty complex with intricate designs on the ceilings, we’ve seen so many that we’re overloaded.  But, this palace had attractions! Heh… I finally got henna.  So, I walked around the palace trying desperately not to run into anything.  The highlight of the city palace were the giant silver urns that one of the maharajas had made to bring holy water from the Ganges on his trip to England.  They were huge!

jaipur Palace

Berkley gets Henna

henna hand

Just outside of the City Palace exit was the actual highlight of the day.  There was a snake charmer with two real live cobras.  I’m not afraid of snakes, but cobras are venomous.  So, I was a bit nervous getting near them. But, this guy was confident and they seemed still enough for the tourist before me.  They were pretty still while he played his horn like instrument, but then they got feisty.


After the city palace we came back to The General’s Retreat (our hotel/homestay) to do some internet chores.  This is the first hotel on our tour that actually has functioning internet.  And it’s pretty fast.  It’s much appreciated.

In the evening we went for dinner at yet another Lonely Planet find, The Peacock Rooftop Restaurant.  It was really delicious.  We ordered the vegetarian thali (remember, that’s a set meal) and it was huge.  That alone was enough for the two of us.  But, we didn’t know that and ordered Chicken Tikka Butter Masala as well.  The sauce was really tasty, but you really can’t beat the protein in the US, the chicken was ok.  That’s why we’ve been mostly vegetarian here.  With our meals we drank our honey lassis, and they were excellent.

Today, we went to the Amber Fort.  Yet another fort.  This one didn’t have much to look at inside.  It was mostly empty, but cool to wander around.  There was an ancient underground tunnel that turned out to be filled with bats.  We smelled them before we found them.  But it was really neat.

berkley elephant

Afterwards we went for lunch at Natraj.  Seth has been searching for dosa since we went on the food tour in Delhi, and we found it.  Seth ordered the Dosa Paper Masala, and I ordered the Dosa Paneer Butter Masala.  God those were good.  Seth’s was long like a tunnel, and mine was in a triangle shape.  We ordered well, because I preferred mine, and Seth preferred his.  My paneer was the consistency of scrambled eggs and it was so delicately delicious.  We had daal (lentils) and a coconut curry concoction to dip the dosa into.  Seth really enjoyed the daal, while I really liked the coconut.

India Small 16


Once our bellies were full, we ran some errands and came back to the hotel, because we had a cooking demonstration.  Because it’s the offseason, there was no proper cooking instruction available, but the wonderful women at our hotel offered for us to watch as the cooks made us dinner, and they would explain the process while it occurred.  We decided that with the right spice kit, Seth could make delicious Indian food.

On a side note.  All of the beggars call out to Seth his actual name.  They say, “Seth, Seth, Seth!”  True story.  The coincidence is that seth in Hindi means wealthy person. So, Seth keeps getting distracted and creeped out when people tap on the window at stop lights and call out his name.

seth seth seth

Ups & Downs

India is like a roller coaster ride.  You start off on the ground and you slowly make your way up to the top of the coaster, and then, in an instant, you are plummeting to the earth once again.  We slowly made our way to enjoying our time in Jaisalmer, despite it’s drawbacks, and then we were slapped in the face by Jodhpur.  No matter how many guide books you read, they will never prepare you for what you are getting yourself into.  If you are a westerner, you can not read a Lonely Planet blurb, or a comment from Fodors, and get an accurate picture of the town/city you are about to visit.  For example, Lonely Planet describes Jodhpur as thus:

“The Blue City really is blue! Inside is a tangle of winding, glittering, medieval streets, which never seem to lead where you expect them to, scented by incense, roses, and sewers with shops and bazaars selling everything from trumpets and temple decorations to snuff and saris.”

Jodhpur 0001

Jodhpur 0002

Jodhpur 0003

Though they mentioned the sewers, and I expected such smells from my experience thus far, I was expecting nice smells as well.  And, sadly, there wasn’t anything I found to be glittery about Jodhpur.  And to top it off, it wasn’t really blue.  If you go on reading it talks about a bustling hub of merchants selling their wares throughout the winding streets that branch out from the clock tower.  It’s just not how they describe it.  Though we spent a decent amount of time wandering the maze of streets and stalls, I smelled no incense, but maybe their roses really smell like poo, poo, poo, poo (think Cee Lo), because in India, that’s the overwhelming scent wherever you are.  And for that matter, I’m not surprised.  There’s cows wherever you turn, dogs, some places have monkeys, and even the residents urinate and defecate in the streets.  Once again, I understand that this is a different culture, and a different way of living, but when everything is covered in shit (literally) it makes simple things very difficult.  And here’s the thing, I end up looking like an ass sometimes.  The Indian people, as a whole, are genuinely nice people.  Because of our celebrity status (as white people), people want to say hello to us, take photos of us, and shake our hands.  So, I have two choices, don’t shake their hand and I’m an ass, or shake their hand and deem that hand dead and unusable until I get back to the hotel where I can wash my hands with soap.  I’m a bad person?  I don’t think so.  First of all, for the most part, this is how I live in the states as well.  But here, they don’t use toilet paper (so guess what they use) and even if they did wash their hands, the likelihood is that they used the tap water to wash them, which if I ingest accidentally, I can land myself in an Indian hospital bed.  So, if we’re heading back to the hotel, I’ll usually shake a hand or two and put mine out of commission.  Otherwise, I’ll be the bitch.

So, obviously, we weren’t big fans of Jodhpur.  It was congested, loud, and really smelly.  Though we went to a sweet shop and bought some almond paste like sweets that were covered with silver leaf. To be honest, I think it was aluminum foil. But they were kinda tasty, aside from the metallic aftertaste.  And to be fair, we did enjoy our audio tour of the Mehrangarh Fort.  It was quite informative, and the fort had some interesting artifacts and architectural points.  I will say this about India, they know how to get people through a fort.  So far, there is a single path through every fort we’ve visited.  This way you know you don’t miss anything and you really can’t get lost. It’s nice.  

Jodhpur 0005

Jodhpur 0004

We left Jodhpur and made our way through thick sheets of rain down bumpy rural roads, making our way to the small town of Ghanerao.  This place was not in our guidebook, the tour company didn’t give us any info on it, and our driver doesn’t speak English, so we didn’t know what to expect.  But, it turned out that it didn’t matter.  It was pouring buckets of rain until the sun went down.  Luckily we were staying in a castle, and we were the only patrons for the evening.  So Seth and I listened to our audiobook (The Stand, by Stephen King) and watched the rain.  While the day idled by, they offered us lunch and then dinner in the dining hall.  Silly us, we assumed that they were offering because it was included, but we ended up paying generously for our meals (in more ways than one. Forget Delhi Belly, we had the Rajasthan Runs).  Anyhow, we were able to explore the property as we liked and found some interesting abandoned rooms, and a rooftop with a nice view.  When it stopped raining briefly before sundown, we went up to check it out.  We were disappointed, because it looked like Ghanerao would have been a nice little town to walk around and there was a lot of green space close by.  Oh well, blame it on the rain (ya, I know).

Ghanero 0006

Ghanero 0007

On the way to Udaipur the next morning we were going to stop in Ranakpur to see one of India’s biggest and most important Jain Temple complexes.  But, we were a bit early, so we were let out of the car a wiles away to walk a bit and take in the scenery.  It was nice to walk, and the area was beautifully lush and green with overflowing streams cutting through the grasses.  Mountains in the near distance were covered in greenery with the occasional rock face jutting out for good measure.  Eventually we came across some children, who followed us for a while down the road until they got bored and two other children took their place.  Eventually we ran into some monkeys and we hurriedly got back in the car.  They were big.  Real big.  There were, also, some large elaborately plumed peacocks, but we weren’t scared of those.  And, of course, there were cows. (Just assume that no matter where we are or what we are doing, if we’re in India, there are cows. Lots of cows.)

Ranakpur  1

The Ranakpur temples were very nice, but I think we’re getting Jain Temple’d out.  The big one was really nice though.  There were elaborate carvings in the ceilings, and a tree that grew inside.  It was an impressively large temple and the setting was beautiful, in deep greenery.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention.  The temple complex was covered in monkeys.  Cool, right? No, scary.  Maybe if they were tiny little monkeys the size of guinea pigs it might be cute, but these suckers were, at full size, pushing 50 pounds, and many of them were full size, and they have big fangs that they like to show you.  They were quite menacing.  And they filled the trees and we had to walk under them.  Ooh, bad news.  But, we made it out unscathed.  Safe, for now…


Udaipur turned out to be the peak of our up.  See how we slowly made our way back up to the top of the coaster after our low in Jodhpur? In Udaipur we stayed in a home stay.  The woman of the house, Hemant, was full of stories and good recommendations around the city.  Our favorite area turned out to be the Jagdish Temple area.  The temple sits high above the shops on streets that spiral outward towards and away from Lake Pichola.  At night the temple is lit up with lights of different hues, making it quite a sight, magical even.  Though there were cows, they weren’t as plentiful as in other places, probably because of the plethora of motorcycles and auto rickshaws that plow through the streets unheedingly.  The streets had less ‘surprises’ for us to step in and the smells weren’t as strong.  We ended up making some good purchases, such as some Damascus knives that Seth had custom made.  And though we visited the City Palace, it was not as amazing of a spectacle as people had made it out to be.  It seemed to have been stripped of many of it’s artifacts and there were paintings and photographs in their place.  Something I found quite comical were the almost life-size picture cut outs of past maharajas ‘sitting’ in their thrones.  We ate dinner at Ambrai, because we were told that the view was unbeatable, which it was, but the food was mediocre.  The food the night before, at Lal Bagh near our home stay, was way better and had live music.  Here is an mp3.  But the view was quite pretty.  It was set on the lake and you could see the Lake palace, Jagniwas Island, and the City Palace all lit up on the still water.  

Udaipor 11

Udaipor 03

Udaipor 05

Udaipor 08

Udaipor 10

We made our way to Chittorgarh to see the fort and some more Jain Temples.  We ended up getting ‘chased’ out of the fort (where there wasn’t much to see anyhow) by some of those monkeys I was talking about. It’s not good when they lean forward from higher ground and bare their teeth.  We made for the hills, or the temples.  They were pretty neat, one was a large tower structure, but we were tired of walking barefoot around muddy temples that were all starting to look the same.  So, we hopped back in the car (with our recently very moody and disagreeable driver BTW) and set off for Bundi.  

Bundi was a small town with a lot of monkeys, mosquitoes, and bats (and, of course, cows, dogs, and pigs. But, these are a given).  The monkeys are bandits, scaring away groups of small children and stealing peoples’ vegetables before knocking the baskets over to roll on the ground, some finding their fate in the ‘ditch’.  We were intimidated off our hotel’s rooftop by them, and decided to eat dinner (our first flavorless dinner) indoors because of them (and the mosquitoes).  The bats, apparently, live in the fort that is perched on the mountain just above the town.  At about 6:40pm they fly out from the windows by the thousands creating dark moving clouds that stretch into the dusk.

This morning we left Bundi for Pushkar.  Pushkar is a holy city that surrounds Pushkar Lake, which is said to have purifying effects.  Pilgrims make their way to this holy lake constantly, and devout Hindus are supposed to make their way to this lake at least once in their lifetime.  So the road to Pushkar is lined with throngs of people, some rolling on their bellies, making their way to the ghats (bathing temples) which appear to simply be steps that lead down to the water.  Though an interesting and enticing ritual, especially in the intense humid heat, there’s no way I could or would partake. (I needn’t explain why)  We walked through the Sadar Bazaar, which is simply the streets surrounding part of the lake, packed with shops.  We’re told that loose gems are good to buy here, but we don’t know enough to decide whether we’re buying the real deal.  And, we’d check for tips on the internet, but we haven’t had access for days.  We’re thinking that our hotels advertise that they have wifi to add to the draw (and the price), but they don’t actually have it.  I’m really hoping that’s not really the case.  After dodging motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, cows, and their doo doo, we made our way back to our hotel.  Tomorrow we’re off to Jaipur, the pink city.

The Sandcastle City

A glistening gold, due to the sulfurous sandstone cut from a quarry a mere 14 kilometers away, the old fort city of Jaisalmer sits atop a hill breaking up the otherwise flat horizon.  Our driver dropped us off at the gate of the fort and loaded us into a tuk tuk or auto rickshaw.  We became increasingly excited as we perilously advanced upon the center of the fort, winding through narrow, high walled streets, barely missing collisions with motorcycles, pedestrians, and cows.  We made it to our hotel, the Garh Jaisalmer, a heritage hotel, which means its architecture is an original part of the fort and has been converted into a hotel.  This hotel is fashioned in the likeness of 1001 Arabian Knights.  Picture oil lamps with genies within, fantastically embroidered tapestries and magic carpets.  An atrium courtyard that opens to the sky, surrounded by balcony like seating with romantic cushions and silky drapes adorned with embroidery and mirrors ever present in the Jaisalmer textiles.  Seth almost immediately began absentmindedly singing tunes from Disney’s Aladdin.  And it was quite apt because while wandering the halls one could expect Jafar to be scheming quietly in a dark corner.



After getting way too excited about our romantically clean room, we set out to find Bobby.  Our Lonely Planet guidebook mentioned that Bobby’s Henna was the best henna in Jaisalmer.  Though, we set off to find Bobby, we found ourselves in a local’s home with hopes of finding this friendly man’s wife to henna me up.  It turned out that when he said wife, what he meant to say was ten year old daughter, who was vigorously trying to sell her abilities to me.  She kept boasting about her many awards for henna, and showed me her certificate as proof.  And, though her drawings were good, they were good for a ten year old, and I wasn’t about to have doodled flowers on my arm for the next three weeks. 

Eventually we needed some dinner, and went to the restaurant next door as recommended by our hotel.  But, when we got there, the young guy who took our order was coughing all over the place in a hellish way, and we decided not to risk it.  We retreated back to our room to feast on chips and oreo cookies.  Sometimes in India that’s your best, most convenient option.

Day two in Jaisalmer we hired a guide for a walking tour.  The highlight for me has been the Jain Temples.  Jain is, I believe, a sect of Hinduism.  But, they carve amazingly elaborate temples from sandstone.


seth Seth

Jian Temple

Jian Carving


That night we found an amazing restaurant, The Trio.  We didn’t find out until after the meal, but this restaurant was voted the best in Jaisalmer by Fodors and had many other accolades as well.  And they were well deserved.  We ordered what is called a thali (the th is not our sound. It’s more like you say the T then a soft h).  It is kind of like a sampler platter in the US, or what Europe calls the menu of the day.  We received three vegetable dishes, a yogurt, rice, naan, and a dessert.  Starting from the rice at the bottom going counter clockwise the first, red bowl contains Paneer Makhani.  This was my favorite.  It’s rich tomato flavor only becomes more sensational when you get a bite of the creamy paneer cheese.  Above that is a dish of what they have aptly called, mixed vegetables.  They were filled with spices and bits of dried fruit and nuts.  Oh so good.  Then there was the traditional bowl of lentils named Dhora Dal.  Though it was tasty, it didn’t pack a punch like the other dishes.  The bowl of white is their Veg Raita, which was simply yogurt, to cleanse and cool the palate.  The last little bowl was dessert.  Suji Ka Halwa is a sort of egg custard sprinkled with nuts and drowned in a maple syrup or honey like sauce.  Seth compared it to flan, but I don’t enjoy flan, and I truly enjoyed this!  This was the best meal by far.  Even if the food wasn’t so good, it would have been a good meal, simply because the restaurant was clean and the service was excellent.  You have to use different rating systems on every different aspect of a place while in India.  We’ve had some great meals in some places where it was so dirty, and then we’ve had some not so good meals in places that were cleaner.  This place was clean, had good service, and great food.


We woke up and were ready for our camel adventure.  The plan was to ride into the desert on camelback to a campground where we’d spend the night under the stars surrounded by the vast scrubland desert that stretches between the India and Pakistan border.  We made our way to these camels in a round about way, stopping at beautiful Jain temples, and ghost towns.  We stopped for lunch at a lake and went for a little meander while our driver/guide/cook ate his lunch.  When we were halfway around the lake we saw that he was cleaning the dishes and utensils in the lake.  Big no no.  Aside from the fact that you don’t mess with lake water in India, he had already mentioned that this lake was used for drinking and bathing.  And I’m sure it’s commonly used as a toilet as well.  The warning bells sounded. People (us included) believe that if you get sick in India you just get a bad case of the runs and you get over it.  But, after talking to a few people (the food tour couple and some of the embassy people) you don’t necessarily just end up in the bathroom frequently, you are likely to end up in the hospital.  But, we leisurely continued our walk around the lake followed by a little ‘shadow’.  If you’ve never traveled far from the european culture, you might not know this but, we’re stars over here.  And you can be too!  So, basically, everywhere we’ve been where light skin, and especially light hair and eyes, are uncommon, you are essentially a movie star.  People wave at you, say hello to you, and follow you while you are doing absolutely nothing.  I understand that it’s because we look so different from them.  In the US we are all different, so seeing people in Africa, or India, is not something so new to us.  But for them, seeing someone with our coloring is quite unusual.  Anyhow, we had a little boy, about nine years old, I’d say, follow us as we walked around the lake.  Though we tried to talk with him a bit, he didn’t speak any english, and we don’t speak a lick of hindi, so it was pretty silent.  But Seth ‘taught’ him how to skip rocks.  They got to share that together, and that was pretty neat.

We, finally made our way to the camels. Yay! We each got to ride our own camel.  My camel was ten years old and I’m told she’s pretty fast.  Her name was rocket, and she, apparently, had explosive diarrhea.  Seth rode a camel, a young 4 year old, named Rabbit.  She must have been bouncy, because Seth eventually became uncomfortable and decided to walk.  We played around on some sand dunes, taking pictures of us jumping off of them, and made our way to the campsite.  This is where we decided it was in our best interest to sleep at a hotel for the evening.  For a few reasons.  Furst of all, it was hot.  So hot.  And missing a night of sleep during a trip like this is devastating.  You don’t just have one tired day that you deal with, you miss out on that day’s travels, and you are usually miserable for a few days thereafter.  And there’s no guarantee that the next bed, or accommodation, will be comfortable enough for a good night of catch up sleep.  Secondly, our dishes were washed in the toilet, ahem, I mean lake.  Thirdly, it was definitely going to rain within hours.  It had been raining on and off for the past few days, and during that day, and there were major storm clouds in the near distance.  Oh, and we saw the sheets we’d be sleeping on.

india Camel

rain motorcycle

So, we made our way back to the hotel that manages the camel safari.  He had told us profusely before we’d left, that if for any reason we didn’t want to sleep at the campsite we could return to his hotel at any minute.  Because it was a hotel, built to be a hotel, it was quite modern.  Well, modern in facilities, not in style.  Which is good.  Bed was comfy, showers were US style, AC worked, etc.  

We still had dinner to contend with, so we headed back to Trio, of course! Why would we go anywhere else?  We feasted on Benghan Baji (an eggplant dish), and two others that were delicious and we failed to write down their names.  One was a rich tomato sauce with onions and chicken.  The chicken was so tender you could cut it with a fork.  And a yellow curry with chicken that was also really tasty.  We decided to stray from our vegetarian lifestyle (for safety reasons in India) and have some chicken, because this place seemed reputable enough.  And it was delicious.  We finished off our meal with some gulub jamun, little doughnut hole like balls of deliciousness soaked in a sugary syrup.

And today we’re off to Jodhpur!

Instant Karma’s Gonna Get You

I may (or may not) get flak for this post, but I’m not interested in opposing views on this one.  I know I mentioned it in an earlier post, but I can not stand for the animal cruelty I’m seeing here in India involving dogs.  I sat through a tour today and I listened to a man give me a long speech about how to be hindu is to be caring to all creatures.  Bullshit.  I’ve watched children run up and hit sleeping dogs, then run after them with the stick, grown men throw rocks at their ‘sacred’ cows, and today I saw a man swerve intentionally to run over a puppy, as the girl on the back of the bike laughed.  Fuck that, I don’t have to accept that.  And I don’t buy into this happy ‘hindus respecting life’ crap, when this is what I see.  I understand that this is not everyone, I have seen one man call over a dog and pet him, and I noticed that our driver stays away from dogs, but I’ve seen way more incidents of abuse that I’m sickened by. And the condition of the stray dogs in India is appalling. Just because a dog is a stray doesn’t mean it has to be skin and bones starving.  For example, Greece or Turkey.  In Greece the people take it upon themselves to take care of stray animals, and in Turkey there are rescues where the dogs are tagged and cared for.

 So, I don’t know if it’s possible, but for all you people who are thinking about adopting a dog from outside the country, see if you can find one from India, because they are the lowest on the totem pole here.  Even though these abusers are not good hindus, I hope their karma gets them in the end.

India Dog

Off to Rajasthan

We booked a tour with Shanti Travels.  I’m not sure how much of a tour it will actually be.  It seems like we’re booking a driver and hotels.  But, here we go.

So, our drive from Delhi to our first stop, Mandawa was supposed to take between five to six hours.  Due to an insane amount of traffic due to incessant swerving and large puddles in the road, a portion that usually takes about 2 hours ended up being a good full 5 hours.  So, it ended up taking us twelve hours to reach our destination.  So, we spent our first day of our tour in the car.  And we thought we would be seeing countryside once we left Delhi.  We were wrong.  We didn’t reach anything country until the last 45 minutes.  There are an impressive amount of people in India.

Out Of Delhi Traffic

crazy roads

Mandawa was a small town.  It is known for it’s Havelis.  A haveli is basically a mansion built for the maharajas and wealthy people about 200-250 years ago.  They are decorated with intricate paintings, designs, and carvings.  They are quite crumbly and unkept, but you could imagine they were quite magical in their time.

We were staying at a haveli.  It was an interesting chambered room.  We had a sleeping room which fit the bed (I use the word bed lightly), a sitting room, a terrace, and a bathroom.  Definitely charming, but definitely not to our level of cleanliness or comfort.  The ‘bed’ was a wicker frame with a super thin mattress.  It was a painful night of ‘sleep’.

Mandawa Haveli

We left the next morning for Bikaner.  On the way we stopped at a really magnificent and well restored haveli (restored by the french artist who now owns it). It was really beautiful.

Bikaner Haveli

We then made our way to a temple of Seth’s choosing.  I was quite surprised to hear Seth’s request to visit this temple, because it is a temple that is dedicated to its holy rats.  So, Seth, the man who loathes rodents, requested to enter a place where you have to take off your shoes to walk around a temple infested with rats. Curious.  The smell was abhorrent.  I think Dr. Rock (our travel doctor) would be horrified and was waving her finger back and forth tutting inside my head.  I definitely didn’t touch anything.  But, yes, there were rats everywhere.  They had buckets of food for the rats placed everywhere, and even pans of milk for them to enjoy.  Some of them must have indulged too much, because there were many dead rats decaying as well.  It’s interesting that even an animal who carries deadly diseases can be considered holy, while the dogs are blatantly abused.

rat milk

rat hotel

Which brings me to something I realize I haven’t mentioned. We’ve all heard the stereotype that there are cows on the streets in India.  Well, it’s not a stereotype.  They are everywhere, and they rule.  If there’s a cow in the street the cars will stop or go around it. They will walk into homes, food stalls, etc. And the cows are not your garden variety dairy type cow you find all over the US.  These are what we call Brahma Bulls.  Probably because the Brahamans worship them?  Though they are a bit prettier, they are no more intelligent.

Cow Road

There are, also, a surprising amount of camels.  I didn’t expect to see camels in India, but they’re everywhere.  They are used like donkeys, but for heavier loads, I guess.  So there are cows, camels, donkeys, and then there are the street dogs.  I feel so bad for these dogs.  Many of them run on three legs, because one of them is too hurt to run on. Our first night we were walking and one of the street dogs  decided to follow us.  We weren’t doing anything special other than not being mean to it.  It wandered around a parked car near a security guard and apparently the guy kicked the dog hard because he ran away limping and squealing/crying.  It hurt my heart.  The books, and many people, will tell you that you have to be accepting of other cultures and that it’s just different, but there are some things I refuse to accept.  Cruelty of canines is one of them.

We arrived in Bikaner and visited the Junagarh Fort.  It was pretty, but stark.  It was really big, though.  Most of the fort was stripped of it’s contents, leaving most to the imagination.  Once again, it must have been magical in its time.

Bikaner Fort

For dinner we found a place in our Lonely Planet guidebook, named Gallops.  Their logo was horses running through a horseshoe, and they served really cold beer.  Perfect.  Dinner was very good.  We started off with paneer pakora, which is basically spiced battered and fried cheese.  We dipped them in ketchup and a chili sauce.  That was quite good.  For dinner we ordered paneer butter masala, which is similar to tikka masala in the US, but with spicier black roasted chills. We, also, ordered shubnam curry which had mushrooms, fresh green peas and a cream gravy.  To round it out an order of plain naan was our choice.  It was a very good meal.

Gallop Dinner