Monthly Archives: June 1997

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Rooftop dining

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:09+00:00 June 26th, 1997|India|

This was the first room that I had had, since coming to India, that actually had an Asian toilet - and to my delight it was immaculately clean. Not comfortable to use for long periods though as I'd get pins and needles in my feet from the squatting. I finally got myself together and decided to go for a walk around the city, if only to find an entrance to the fort so that I could go straight there tomorrow. I found the folk of Jodhpur a little irritating as they would attempt to draw me into conversation wherever I went. This was particularly the case for the children, I suspect their school teachers encourage them to make conversation, but whatever the case it was annoying because all the short-lived conversations went the same way: "Hello, hello, hello, hello." "Hello friend. Rupee, you give." "Hello. Chocolate?" "Hello. Nice pen?" "Hello. Which country?" "Hello. What name?" Sometimes they could get a little cleverer: "Hello. I have coins at home, English. I have fifty pence. You change to Rupee for me?" [...]

The longest night

By | 2017-02-27T16:01:38+00:00 June 26th, 1997|India|

On a 'luxury' bus somewhere between Udaipur and Jodhpur ... We had only just set off from the last service station twenty minutes previously - before pulling in again at an incongruous road junction flanked by cafés.  The bus had been late to arrive, we had spent half an hour at the service station at 12.30 am and now we had stopped again. It was going to take all year to get to Jodhpur. There was something wrong with the engine and we were informed that in about an hour we would be able to proceed. Great! Along with most of the other passengers, I bundled off to take a pee and stretch my legs. I was watching them fiddle with the engine when ... it caught fire ... which was quite alarming (especially for the people still sleeping on the bus who woke up to the intoxicating smoke of burning rubber wafting down the aisle). There was a mad rush as everyone dived on to retrieve their luggage ... just in case the fuel line went up!  I [...]

The Monsoon Palace

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:09+00:00 June 25th, 1997|India|

Makesh, one of the boys from the School knocked on my door around midday. He was desperate to have something western from me, a T-shirt ideally. I said I couldn't really spare one.  He loitered so I offered to teach him the rather over complicated card game of cribbage. "That's western" I thought. I won, naturally, but only by one point - he had picked it up surprisingly quickly. After lunch Makesh took me to see where they had an 'exhibition' of Kashmir weaving. It was actually more of a shop and from the moment I arrived the three Kashmiri gents in there were all over me insisting that I didn't leave without buying anything. However the rugs started at around £1000 - so I wasn't going to succumb even to their very hard pressing sales technique which they had honed to perfection. The work was stunning I might ad; apparently some of the finer rugs take around six years to complete, made with the finest silk, cotton and wool from Kashmir. Thankfully I eventually escaped their clutches and [...]

The Kama Sutra

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:09+00:00 June 24th, 1997|India|

Having waited for Ajit for several hours, because he had promised to return my photos, I decided that I would send squeeze a Fax, having only just realised that, unless Indian post was exceedingly quick, she wouldn't have had sight nor sound of me since the I left on the 13th. At a price of 120Rs per page I knew I was being ripped off - so I agreed 150Rs for two pages which the man at the corner shop agreed to.  "Do you want to receive?" he asked. I thought this was a dumb question - if he had to get the fax machine out of the cupboard and had to plug it in before I could send - how could he possibly expect to receive? Clearly Indian logic. Afterwards I went around to the art school for a beer with the boys - a sort of farewell drink - and a last opportunity to see more of their artwork. Earlier that day I had eventually found Taldar Travels - the travel agent I had looked for a [...]

India’s nuclear secret?

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:09+00:00 June 23rd, 1997|India|

I took it easy most of the day doing little more than sitting in a restaurant updating my diary. Ajit had promised to take me to the Monsoon Palace - so when he met me at six and informed me it was too late to catch the sunset at the Palace I was naturally disappointed. Instead he suggested we go to a good point from which to take a photo of the City Palace. I agreed. Just as we were leaving - his wife and son appeared; they were staying in a room downstairs.  His (2 year old) son wanted to come with us, apparently he enjoyed riding up front pretending he was steering, so that's what he did. We skittered through the outskirts of the Old City over a bridge to a section of land that jutted into Lake Pichola just opposite the Palace. It was indeed a good place to take a photo from. It was hot and a group of local children were enjoying a swim in the lake from the Ghats where we were standing. [...]

On safari

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:09+00:00 June 22nd, 1997|India|

Today I decided it was a jeans and Timberlands day - after all I was going on safari - didn't want any nasty biting creatures being able to attack my bare flesh.  Ajit arrived with a lunch packed by his wife and we set off on his motorbike. Before leaving town I paid for some petrol and bought a couple of mangoes for snack purposes. We headed out through the west of the city and passed the road to the Monsoon Palace (a mountain top palace that can be seen from all over Udaipur) and headed into rural India. The scenery was stunning - the mountains rolled away from us in all directions - some covered in small bush-like trees, others a rusty dusty brown colour - where the trees had been felled. The narrow road weaved along past fields being ploughed with oxen, women carrying bundles on their heads, other people on mopeds and bikes, Jeeps (no-one would take a car on these roads) and the odd bus or lorry - which would take up the entire width [...]

Up on the roof

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:10+00:00 June 21st, 1997|India|

Today I decided to take things easy.  I stayed in bed until twelvish and was finally up and around by one o'clock. Later I would go and check out buses to Pushkar via a travel agent's as recommended in the guidebook. I decided that now would be a good time to meet the landlord and see those safari photos he was on about. When I told him this he dashed away excitedly and returned with a whole handful of photo albums. "Oh - great." I enthused through clenched teeth. We sat in my room for well over an hour looking through pictures that his guests had taken - I found some of it quite interesting, but he talked decidedly too much for my liking. Ajit had many a tall story and it was hard to know what to believe: That he studied Kung-Fu under a Korean Master? Was a bodyguard to Rajiv Ghandi? Speaks seven languages? Is now the Maharana of Udaipur's bodyguard for state occasions? Has the ear of the leaders of the local political parties? His father [...]

Tea at the Palace

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:10+00:00 June 20th, 1997|India|

I checked in to The Golden Palace Hotel having had a restless night at Shampoo Villas.  Aside from the runny bottom and the traffic noise first thing in the morning, I had been disturbed by the cleaning boy; who insisted on coming in and half-heartedly moving a brush over the floor and then asking for money for his hard work.  I gave him 1 Rupee and told him that I wasn't happy - what with there being no electricity or water. The policy that most budget hotels seem to have in India is that, if the room is empty or presumed empty, all amenities are switched off. I pointed out that brown smudge down the toilet to the boy. "No Water" I said and HE was dissappointed with 1 Rupee?  Ha! The manager wasn't in yet, to check me in, so I got comfortable in the room before he turned up a couple of hours later. His name was Ajit, or something like that, about five foot four and wearing a baseball cap that read 'Commando' with a little [...]

The day I paid an elephant

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:10+00:00 June 19th, 1997|India|

Hotel Shambhu Villas, Udaipur. I awoke around eleven and decided that there was no way I was going to check out by midday. So I relaxed a little and got ready for a day of sight-seeing and post-office hunting, which as vaguely indicated on my map. After an omelette at the roof garden restaurant around the corner I headed for the City Palace Museum. The City Palace is vast. It houses a five star hotel, two museums and a Royal Residence. Quite impressive. I wandered through the museum admiring the artwork, the marble architecture, the narrow passageways, the winding stairs, the beautiful works of glass (including peacocks made from over 5000 shards) and the views over the city, mountains and lakes.  In the centre of the Palace was an oasis, a marble courtyard with pool and trees, with a spectacular view over the lake. In a section called the Queens Palace I discovered a room which had photographs of all the British dignitaries of the region, from the time of the Raj, Queen Victoria and mainly military chiefs. I [...]

On the set of Octopussy

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:10+00:00 June 18th, 1997|India|

8am. I awoke to find the train stationery and the people in my booth collecting their things together. "Udaipur?" I asked hopefully - they nodded. I got out of the train and found a bench to sit on to collect my thoughts. It was already noticeably hotter than Bombay.  Task 1: find a hotel. I eventually succumbed to the hawkings of a Rickshaw keen to find me a hotel and to earn himself some commission.  He led me out to his three-wheeled contraption painted in a similar fashion to the Bombay Taxis. I got in and after the machine had back-fired about three times we eventually got going into Udaipur. The journey was relatively short; I had requested he take me to a place on Lake Palace Road - Mahendra Prakesh.  We arrived and I went in to see a room. Rs 350 for a crappy single room, but they did have a pool.  I said "No" and left. The rickshaw took me to a place next door called Shampoo Villas or some such name, where I ummed and [...]