Since we last wrote we've met a lot more travellers and from all over the world. During our time at Mrs Singh's in Bharatpur, we met a couple of couples, one American/Dutch and one Columbian who were very nice; a fellow Englishman called James who we spent
a few happy hours chatting to at our hotel; and a German couple who we shared our train seats with when it was rammed going from Bharatpur to Ranthambhore. It's really nice to meet fellow travellers and everyone seems to identify with one another! It's a bit like Freshers' Week at uni, you bond quickly because of the shared experience.
We spent a couple of hours in Bharatpur itself last week and it didn't really blow either of us away, I wouldn't recommend it. Deeg on the other hand is great! It's about one hour away from Bharatpur and well worth the journey for the palace alone, which is relatively modern and was used by the Maharajas up until the 1950s. There were fountains everywhere, only used two days each year because of water shortages; and a lake on either side of the palace, which runs underneath to keep it cool. We went inside the building itself with a guide and saw the main room, used for dining and lounging. We also saw the Maharaja's bedroom which as you would expect was grand. On the ceiling of the main room they have enormous fans, which are operated from outside (so the poor servants wouldn't even feel the benefit of the cool air). They also had a stuffed female tiger in a glass box, complete with scary face (why?); and two stuffed elephant feet, one designed for use as an ashtray and one as a perfume holder. Isn't that how we all want to be remembered?!
I must make some room now to say how much we enjoyed our stay in Bharatpur at the Falcon Hotel, near Keoladeo Ghana National Park. Mrs Singh and her daughter Tina were really welcoming and the hotel was super-comfortable. We spent several lovely evenings chatting to them and ate the best food we've had in India, freshly prepared in their own kitchen. A new discovery of mine is Malai Kofta, if you can find it back home, get it!
From Bharatpur we moved on to Ranthambhore National Park, home to tigers! Sadly we didn't see any, though. The village nearby is completely geared to safari-goers and closes for three months of the year. We arrived on the 30th September, ready for the first day on the 1st October and the town had a distinct feel of not being ready yet! Painters, builders and cleaners were working hard everywhere to get things ready; and several items on our restaurant menu were available yet, though we did eat well. So no tigers, but we did see lots of monkeys, peacocks, parakeets and two kinds of deer (sambar and spotted) in the beautiful surroundings of the Park. The nearest we came was a reasonably fresh tiger print on the track, which you can see below. It was exciting just to know they were nearby! We were amongst the first to try tiger spotting this season, starting our day at 6am!
At 2pm yesterday we got on a bus at nearby Sawai Madhopur to come to Bundi, where we are now. Guidebook says the bus journey is: 3.5 hours. Reality: 5 hours, 45 minutes. We didn't find this out until about 3 and a half hours in and this was our lowest point of the trip so far. It was crowded, hot and noisy; and Ania and I have now agreed on no bus journeys over an hour long! But we survived (just) and last night arrived in Bundi in the dark at about 8pm. We are staying in the gorgeous Lake View hotel, set in the Meghwahanji Haveli. Havelis are extravagantly decorated Rajasthani houses. There's lots of nooks and crannies in ours and a staircase to a flat roof where we have a great view. The building is 200 years old and is a little shabby, but we love it! The area is very 'buggy', I had to brush a few off our bed and kill dozens of ants in our room, but that one negative aside it's perfect.
Our photos for this post:
Us two, pictured with Mrs Singh and Tina (yes we are using forced perspective here, I'm not really a giant):
A couple of shots of Deeg Palace: