We leave Hampi and reach Mumbai in morning hours after 18 hours of journey. We didn’t plan to go to Mumbai as we wanted to keep away from the chaos of big cities, but we had to transfer there on the way to Rajasthan. We had the chance to wander in Mumbai for 14 hours, waiting for the next train. After leaving our backpacks to the train station and just seeing the mighty buildings from the times of British colonization era and visiting the city center where “Gateway of India” stands, we went back to the train station for our 16 hours trip to Jodhpur.
Now, we are in the northeast India, in Rajasthan state. Rajasthan means “The Land of Great Kingdoms”.
When we go up to the terrace of the guesthouse we found after searching in narrow streets of Jodhpur, we face with Mehrangarh Fort, which looks more magnificent than in the movie, The Fall.
While walking among multilayered buildings and seeing just a small part of the sky, we are trying to run away from motorcycles, make way for cows and avoid stepping into the shit. We can’t take our eyes from the surrounding world in streets that can get too narrow sometimes and turning into stairs.
Sardar Market, at the touristic center of Jodhpur, captures us with peddlers around the clock tower, shops that can you can find almost everything available and its always open market. Its atmosphere is very friendly and even “familiar”.
We climb up to the castle by walking. It’s for free to enter the fort; it is paid just for the museum. The audio guide is very well prepared. We are illuminated both about the fort and the culture of Rajasthan.
Also you can fly over the great view of the fort with zip line; even it is a bit expensive, or just sit on the bastions and enjoy the scenery of the blue city.
As we wanted to celebrate the color festival in Pushkar, at the east of Jodhpur, we go to Ajmer by a train. Then we reach Pushkar after a 40 hours bus journey from here.
Pushkar is both a holy city with 52 “Ghats” and temples around the lake, and another center of gathering especially for backpacker travellers. The difference of Holi celebrations in recent years (we didn’t know how it is until the day of festival) is spread abroad and caused more tourists to come here. Because of that, we run into most of the travellers we met in the south. Every night, there is a gathering with music in one of the Eastern Ghats. The tea shop at the small square in the market street, where colorful clothes and Hindu accessories are for sale, is another meeting point.
Textiles are sent from here around the world. Some people just buy as they had the chance to come here, some of them come every year and takes kilos of clothes to sell in their country. Ebru also thinks of shopping, but she gives up as it is not clear when we will go back to Turkey. But it is clear that, all the hippies and Indian textile lovers around the world are clothing from here.
While we are looking for a room in a guesthouse a bit out of the center, we like its garden and put up our tent. The tent has always been the most comfortable place to stay in India. And the hammock we place just next to it.
There are two days for Holi Festival that will be celebrated in full moon. In this time, we both explore Pushkar and start preparations for Holi. Colorful paints, white clothes… By the way, in most of the places in Pushkar, colorful cloth bags are given rather than plastic bags.
Holi Festival celebrations start after sunset the day before with “Holika” fire and fireworks. The real party starts at early hours following morning.
Our face is painted at 8, in front of our tent, before we step out to the street. Everybody throws colors to each other while walking to the party started in the market square. When we reach the square all colored, we witness a crowd dancing like crazy with electronic music.
We also join the madness and dance for a while, but it is just 9 in the morning. Then we leave the square in search of food. All shops are closed not to get painted. We go up to the roof top of a restaurant and watch the crowd from there. The party is planned to be over at 14, and dispersed by the police coming just on time. We go back to our hotel and go on playing there with dyes. All colors are cleaned after a nice shower. Everything and everybody turns normal. Crazy Pushkar Holi is like that; tradition is extant, but practice changes a lot.
Actually there were some more cities we wanted to visit in Rajasthan: Jaiselmer and Udaipur. But we are heading towards the east, and go to Jaipur; our last stop in Rajasthan. We are exhausted a bit in India, we desirous of going to Nepal.
Jaipur is a city especially for those who are interested in jewelries. Precious stones are very cheap here; you can buy kilos of stones and sell it in your country. Ebru also buys some stones to use in her macramé works, but this big city is not for us anyway. We walk in the streets aimlessly and go to Agra after 1 day without visiting “important” places as they are expensive.
Agra, where famous Taj Mahal stands, is in Uttar Pradesh state neighboring Nepal in the north. Entry of Taj Mahal is 750 Rs. (15 $) for foreigners, but for Indians it is just 20 Rs. (Less than 1 $). Even this injustice is tedious, we don’t want to leave without seeing this monument, considered one of the most important buildings on earth.
The white mass made out of marble is literally dazzling in daylight. But in a kind of funny way, the monument looks more monumental from the out of its garden and looks like it is getting smaller as we are getting closer. Under the dome, there are only graves of Mumtaz Mahal, for whom Taj Mahal is dedicated, and her husband Shah Jahan, who loves her as much as to build this monument (and of course rich). This great love story touches everyone, but for us both the story and the building are pretty overrated.
We have the best view of Taj Mahal from the rooftop of our guesthouse, which we pay 400 Rs. (6 $) per day, close to the south gate and it is not even the best thing we see in Agra.
We really enjoy our visit to the ruins of Fatehpur Sikri Palace, 1 hour from Agra by bus, but the most impressive place for us is the park called “Taj Nature Park” that we found by chance while walking around Taj Mahal. 100 Rs (2 $) is asked for the entry from tourists, but of course we don’t pay this for a park (the behavior of ripping off the tourists becomes aggravate). While we are looking for a way to reach the bank of the river, we get into the park for free by jumping over the low wall on the right side of the nursing home just next to the park. The view of Taj Mahal from the park worth seeing (but it doesn’t cost 100 Rs.).
With many peacocks, the green park also hosts colorful tropical birds and reminds us nature that we missed.
We decide to go to Nepal in April to welcome spring in Himalayas. But not before going to Varanasi, the city of Shiva next to the holy Ganga River.