We left the hustle and bustle of Jaipur this morning, to head for Bharatpur and the nearby Koladeo national park. After the first long journey we had, this ride was a bit of a let down, as we travelled the whole way along a dual carriageway. That being said, no dual carriageway as we know them at home. The cars may have been driving 100km/h, but there were still camel carts, scooters carrying 3 or 4 people (the ladies always sitting side-saddle), and vans with people hanging off the back of them. There were also a fair few occasions where we had oncoming traffic on our side of the central reservation… all part of the course here.
Along the way we stopped at a very colourful temple. Like others we have seen, the decoration is only on the outside, with a very simple interior… the only adornments being about 80 strip lights on the ceiling. After a short stop to take photographs of the temple, and a camel which happened to be stopped too, we continued on our way.
Bharatpur is a small town, which I guess no-one would visit if it weren’t for the renowned Koladeo park – apparently the best bird park in India, and formerly a favourite hunting spot of the maharajas. Our hotel is therefore a bit of a surprise. Two huge buildings, each worthy of a maharaja and all his friends. Since we had nothing planned for the afternoon, we decided to relax in our deliciously airconditioned room, did some reading and had a bit of a snooze. This is the first night where I actually have a real bed, rather than a camp-bed. Looking forward to it!
Before taking a pre-prandial swim, we took some photos of the hotel in the fading afternoon light, and the more adventurous/daft of us (ie. me), took a paddle in the ornamental water display to try and get a good reflection shot. Unfortunately, it didn’t really come off, thanks to the ripples I created. After finishing with photography, we all took a dip, in the official swimming pool this time. Very refreshing after the heat of the day.
Dinner and lunch are buffet-style. The food was pleasant enough, but a little disappointing… Indian dishes, but with very little spicing, clearly dumbed-down for sensitive tourist taste buds. For most of the meal, we were the only guests in the dining room, meaning that we were the sole focus of attention for all the waiters in the vicinity. A little overwhelming. Service here is very good, but usually a little overeager.
As a bonus, we had a wildlife photography opportunity at the end – bats in the underground tunnel between the Amber and Tiger forts. With very little ambient light it was hard it was hard to focus, so the end results weren’t too great (Marcel’s are better).
After the fort we stopped briefly to photograph the water palace, so named because it is in the middle of a lake. There weren’t too many viewpoints available, and we were quickly distracted by a young boy who wanted to show us his magic tricks – very impressively done.
It also housed a large textiles shop, where I modeled a sari. Quite comfortable, though I doubt I could ever figure out how to put one on myself. After a lunch break, we visited another textiles shop (with yet another sari modeling session), where Marcel found some scarves. Something to watch out for on his blog, when he does his next model photo shoot.
We were all beginning to flag a little by this point, but our day wasn’t over yet. We had a stop at the observatory, where we were shown a number of sun dials and other confusing but impressive looking astronomical and astrological implements.
Then for the almost final stop – the City Palace, with a textile museum, which was quiet interesting, though frankly the content was of less interest to us by this point than the air conditioning! Before we dropped, one final stop, this time at a jewelry shop, which we passed through as quickly as politesse allowed, before returning to the hotel.
Arriving in Jaipur, we were completely overwhelmed by the city, and the new scale of traffic we experienced. We tried to photograph the stalls on the side of the road, but were invariably thwarted by passing scooters and rickshaws.
After lunch in the Peacock Restaurant, we were taken to our hotel, and shown around by the rather obsequious hotel manager, who told us ‘everything about the hotel, including when it was built, and when it was not’. We have an impressive room, with separate sitting area (with my roll-in bed) and a balcony.
We finished the day with dinner in the rooftop restaurant at the hotel, accompanied by folk music and dancing, performed by 4 teenagers. The (girl) dancers were impressive, the (boy) musicians, rather less so.
One of the most important things you should do when you get back from holiday, is start planning the next trip… So, here are my travel plans so far for 2010.
At the end of March, I’m going to Bavaria with a couple friends, for a photo workshop focusing on bears, wolves and lynx.
Then I have my next big trip – to India, in search of birds, tigers and the Taj Mahal. And, of course, curry.
After that, I’m off to Canada to celebrate my Grandmother’s 103rd birthday with her. Once I return, I think I’ll just lay low for a little while and recover… or maybe not!