Varanasi, Taj Mahal, and Rajasthan

We decided that two and one-half years in Korea were enough and to return to Europe. Nepal and India were on the way, so we visited and trekked in Nepal for one month (described in my post about trekking in Nepal with a small child) and then continued to India.

I always feel like I am on a movie set when I am India. The streets are filled with sundry races, colorful clothes, and all kinds of sounds, plus the fragrance of delicious food and incense in the temples (don’t get that watching a movie). I had the best-tasting lassi of my life in Varanasi, and we went back for more each day of our stay.

Needless to say, it is a photographer’s paradise, only photos of cremations along the Ganges are prohibited.

Getting clean for ritual bathing in the Ganges

We took a boat ride early one morning, and our boatman was adamant in making sure that we took no photos of such. Understandable! Imagine going to Europe or North America and then going to a funeral/burial of strangers and taking pictures!

Laundry time

Then a train ride to the Taj Mahal.

I had been there only 10 years previously, but things had already changed immensely. Now there was an entrance fee, whereas previously we had just wandered in whenever we felt like it, and the two French guys, whom I was traveling with for a couple of weeks, had smoked hashish with an old man working as a guard there. We had also entered the grounds during the full moon, which gave the Tag Mahal a special aura.

Lawn mower in action

This time there were touts everywhere, and it had become the most annoying city in India due to them. There were also a lot more Indian tourists than previously, who were especially friendly when they saw us traveling with a small child.

Monkeys also abounded, and one as big as my daughter jumped down and tried to steal her juice drink from her hands. However, she held on and the monkey scattered when I screamed and ran toward it, although they are normally so aggressive that it is the other way around.

On to Rajasthan, first stop Jaipur, the pink city. Of course, an elephant ride up to Amber Palace was a must!

Our hotel had one of the most disgusting communal toilets I have ever seen in India, which is quite a feat. We met an American woman, who often traveled in India buying jewelry to sell back home. She recounted that she had been bitten by a dog there the previous year and had paid a couple of hundred dollars at a modern hospital in Delhi to get rabies shots. She had a checkup after she got back home, and the doctors there told her that she did not have antibodies or anything else to indicate that she had received the medicine she had paid for.

Hawa Mahal or the “Palace of the Winds” in Jaipur. It has 953 windows and a honeycomb structure, which both allowed cool breezes to pass through as well as to allow the women inside to view goings-on outside without being seen, which was forbidden.

Ready to pounce

Local traffic

Next stop Pushkar, a magical place in a beautiful setting. A small town and great place to relax.

Old Rangji Temple

Monkey business

I was sitting with my daughter at a tea stall along a small dirt road while a cow leisurely walked by. We had left Germany before her first birthday, and now at 3 ½ she had no memories of it. We would be returning to Germany in a few weeks, and she asked me “What’s Germany like?”

A difficult question. Well, no cows walking along the street like here. People look different, and it will be colder. But I really did not know how to explain it. But she soon forgot her question and continued her poker game with her monkey (she always won!).

Camel rides are always a treat, and here was no exception. In addition, we got the chance to encounter Rajasthanis with their colorful clothes and jewelry. There are a distinct ethnic group without their own language and culture. Groups of Rajasthanis migrated to Europe with their music, where they were later termed “Gypsies” or “Roma” as they now prefer to be called. The director Tony Gatlif filmed a documentary entitled Latcho Drom (“safe journey”), which traces their journey from India all the way to Spain, and they are credited with the creation of flamenco. Seeing their colorful dress in India makes the connection to flamenco very real.

Udaipur, the City of Lakes, with its magnificent Taj Lake Palace in the middle, a very expensive hotel that we could not afford. The city is full of beautiful palaces, and we were able to find a cheaper one where we felt as if we were maharajas.

Traditional dances are always a treat

Would have loved to travel on to Jaisalmer and other places in Rajasthan, but unfortunately no time. We put that off to another day that never came. So it was on to Chittogarh to catch a train back to Delhi and our flight home, but not without a stop to visit the Baroli temples nearby it.

Sex education Indian style

Last days in Delhi; Red Fort and street scenes

After 2 1/2 years in Asia, back in Germany: “What awaits me here?”

3 thoughts on “Varanasi, Taj Mahal, and Rajasthan

    1. If you get a chance, wast the documentary by Tony Gatlif entitled Latcho Drom (“safe journey”) about their migration to Europe. He is a director of Roma heritage. My favorite film of his is “Gadjo dilo”, and his other films (not documentaries) deal with gypsy music in different European countries.

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