Rainbows in Rajasthan

We thought it time to give you a proper update about what we have been up to rather than me wallowing in the melodrama of my nits (which Joey has now declared me free of).

After the serenity of the north we headed west to the state of Rajasthan which is famous for it’s rainbow cities. We started in Jaipur which is known as the Pink city. It felt very frantic after the chilled vibe of Manali, but other travellers we met in Agra who headed there afterwards said it felt calm to them as they completed the traditional Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.

Hawa Mahal Jaipur

We planned a couple of days here to cover the popular sights of the City Palace and Amber Fort. Amber Fort is 10km outside the city and we decided to catch a local bus rather than splashing on a tuk tuk. This was hilarious as we rammed onto benches constantly getting stared at. Being ‘a foreigner’ in India does have its advantages sometimes, yes you will pay more but you generally get given a seat by the locals and people help you out by telling you when you need off the bus. Also stopping at ‘service stations’ (a very loose description of a toilet shack and food stall) means the driver isn’t too likely to drive off without the two white passengers.

The Amber Fort was just one of many forts we covered in Rajasthan. It was huge and very hot, but seemed unique in that in had a Fort and a Palace within in the grounds. Poor Joey had not been well again and there was a massive uphill climb to reach the actual fort.

Amber Fort, Jaipur

Our travels around Rajasthan were completed entirely on buses, some better than others but I began to realise how much I hated travel days. Well not the actual part of it, just the setting off. Upon booking a bus you are told that your bus departs from somewhere ‘near somewhere’ and from ‘near some hotel’. Sometimes you are text the bus number so you can find the bus that way but often you are on your own asking people who give you a vague wave in a vague direction. The bus to Pushkar from Jaipur was particularly stressful for that as we spent about 20 minutes trying to find the bus. But find it we did.

Pushkar was a fairly chilled hippie place with a holy lake. We’d read loads about various scams that happen alongside the lake and in the Brahma Temple. Scams make me mad, but none more so than those carried out by so called Holy Men! Luckily thanks to our research and my cynicism we avoided them and circumnavigated the lake and the temple without any issues. Pushkar also had a couple of sunset points to climb and watch the sun go down. Rajasthani sunsets were the best!

Pushkar Lake

From Pushkar we headed to Udaipur. This involved yet another stressful bus journey. We had gone into a shop to buy our ticket and were told to go to one bus station to catch the bus, only when we got there we were told it was the other bus station so we had to quickly get a tuk tuk. Upon arrival there was a bus there, we’re still not sure to this day if it was meant to go to Udaipur or whether they took pity upon us. The seats that we had booked weren’t available and we had to sit on a bench directly behind the driver so we could see every last detail of his driving. He did at least wait until he’d stopped though to take the not so subtle selfie of us sitting behind him. When we arrived in Udaipur we were the last ones left on the bus and we were dropped at a random petrol station which did make us think that we had been sold a pup. Luckily tuk tuk drivers are like rats and you’re never more than 5 metres from one and he appeared from no where to swoop us up and to the sanctuary of our hostel.

Udaipur turned out to be our favourite place. The hostel had a fantastic rooftop view over the lake and we watched the sun go down every night from there. We did the usual things like temple visiting, a boat trip and visiting the City Palace.

Sunset over the lake in Udaipur

We eventually had to move on to Jodhpur, the Blue City! This city actually lived up to its name of being blue! Jodhpur is home to the famous Mehrangarh Fort which was really good. You get a free audio guide which helped to understand the history of the place. That guide was probably slightly too long and by point 32 we reached slight hysteria about the whole thing. Our hostel ran a walking tour around the Blue City which was excellent and we were lucky enough to have the guide to ourselves.

The Blue City of Jodhpur

From Jodhpur we headed to the Golden City of Jaisalmer, which is home to, yep, you guessed it, another Fort. This Fort is unique in that it is one of the few living forts in India, which helped to bring it to life. Jaisalmer is also where we did a camel safari, which was such a unique, incredible experience. You start by taking a jeep into the desert (visiting a ‘ghost town’ along the way) and then you are given your camel. Camels are incredibly tall, way taller than a horse and also slightly uncomfortable the longer you are on them. We trekked through the desert watching the sun go down. We arrived at camp and slept in the open under the stars. There were SO many stars it was phenomenal. We saw so many shooting stars.

My camel had attitude

The next morning we watched the sun rise from a sand dune and then got back on the camel. My camel definitely felt a bit feistier after a night’s rest!

Sunrise over the Thar Desert

We took the night bus back to Jaipur where we were crashing for a night before heading to Bharatpur, home to a famous bird sanctuary. This involved yet another stressful journey as we tried to find the bus. The instructions on the message I had for this were ‘landmark M R Travels’ and that definitely didn’t exist. I didn’t have any qualms about calling the guy who had sold us the ticket at 5.15am to try and get further information and a bus number. Amazingly it all worked and we actually got dropped off within walking distance of our hotel.

The bird sanctuary was fantastic and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. We arrived for the sunrise opening and hired a guide who seemed to be eagle eyed himself and we saw so many birds that we wouldn’t have had a hope of seeing without him. As well as birds we also saw antelope, deer and jackals which was amazing.

From Bharatpur we headed 90 minutes east to Agra. We didn’t book a bus and just waited on the side of the road for one to turn up. We let one government bus pass us by as it had roughly 20 people sitting on the roof. This was actually the least stressful travel day we have had so far! Again it paid to be foreigners as when the bus stopped we were let on first and got seats. We probably paid thrice the price but you know what? I wasn’t sat on the roof of a bus fearing for me and my luggage.

Surviving Delhi

Delhi was everything we expected it to be and more. The heat was indescribable- the only other time I have known my fingers sweat is when I’m about to play in one of my piano teacher’s concerts!

Delhi is frantic, frenzied and fascinating and any other F word you can imagine. The noise is a constant blaring of horns, which seems to be the way of letting others know you’re there and about to squeeze through the smallest gap possible. The smells are a mix of rotting rubbish, spices and incense and everything is a riot of colour.

Delhi by night

Everyone wants something from the rich naive westerner, it’s impossible to walk more than 5 metres without someone appearing beside you to ask ‘where you from?’ ‘how long in India?’ ‘where you go after Delhi?’ ‘you want spliff?’ I’m very cynical so my tactic is to ignore and keep walking whereas Joey is far too polite and can engage with them. Joey has given up vaping which is a major milestone for him and I am extremely proud of him for doing so, but it did mean he lost his shit a lot on day 1 and I was a little worried about him to start with but he has definitely calmed down now. It did make a nice change from me losing mine though – I could easily do Hanoi again now- read about that here!

We visited the Red Fort which was an experience, and not for the attraction itself. Instead we could barely walk 5 minutes without being stopped and asked for ‘one selfie please?’ And of course, it’s never just one selfie. A lot of Indians don’t venture outside of their country and therefore don’t meet westerners very often so when they come to Delhi for their holidays they are fascinated by us and want proof that they met one! It did start getting a little out of hand and at one point we were surrounded by about 20 women all fascinated by my blonde hair. The highlight was definitely when Joey got handed someone’s baby to hold and pose with! They obviously didn’t realise that he is a dropper!

Red Fort

We also visited the Jama mosque where we fell victim to our first scam – we had to remove our shoes and left them outside and then got charged 100 rupees for someone to guard them! I only wish I’d worn my smelliest pair so he had to sit next to those for an hour. Next time we will carry them with us!

The highlight of Delhi for me was definitely a visit to the Humayun’s tomb, said to be the inspiration for the Taj Mahal and I could see why. It was one of the most beautiful buildings that I have ever seen. Everything about the whole visit was serene and a welcome relief from the chaos of Delhi. We also visited the Lodi Gardens, again a little haven of peace.

Humayun’s Tomb

We’ve been doing a lot of walking and also a some travel by the metro. We walked through a slum yesterday which was not a pleasant experience (the barking dog was the scariest thing – thank god we’d had our rabies jabs!) But it helps put everything into perspective. The metro is great here, cheap, reliable and with airport style security. I personally love the ‘ladies frisking’ line!

The walk from the Metro to our hotel was brilliantly described by Joey as ‘a dash across the road of death followed by a stroll down the street of cheeky chappies.’

Next stop is Leh, a desert city surrounded by the Himalayas. The challenge here will be the altitude as it sits at 11,500 feet (3500 metres) above sea level and I’m not sure they grow coco leaves here!

Welcome to our blog!

This is the very first post of our travel blog. We’ve chosen the name Meandering Maxwells as meandering means ‘to wander aimlessly’ which is exactly what we are likely to end up doing over the next couple of years through South and South East Asia and we’d love to share our adventures, diversions and detours with you.

The main aim of the blog is to do just that, but we’d also like it to be a resource and inspiration to others who may be about to embark on the same thing. So for that reason we have included tips on packing, money and planning – all the things that we get asked about all the time.

We have also included some stories and itineraries from our last travels five years ago which we hope you will find amusing and helpful, or just relieved that it’s not you who’s going through this!

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Enjoy, much love Joey and Becca x

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