After finishing our cycle ride, our driver Chotu collected us and took us back to our hotel to change. I certainly didn’t want to be doing a walking city tour in my padded cycle shorts.
It was starting to feel pretty warm by the time our guide met us and walked us over a narrow pedestrian bridge and in to the old city. The huge gates were studded to prevent elephants from gaining entry.
First he took us along the side of the Lake Pichola where women were washing both themselves and their saris in the water. It seemed rather odd that we had been advised to cover up and wear loose clothing to avoid attracting unwanted attention while these women were stripped to their underwear in public. Apparently it is the older women who do this, not because they don’t have water in their houses, but because they choose to follow traditions.
Women washing in the lake
Our first port of call was the Jagdish Temple, a large Hindu temple dating back to 1651. After taking our shoes off we wandered around the perimeter of the temple admiring the intricate carvings. A ceremony was taking place inside and we climbed up to watch before the noise of the constantly clanging bell drove us back outside. We were somewhat taken aback when a cow just wandered in and started eating some of the offerings however no-one else took any notice whatsoever.
Leaving the temple our guide ushered us on up towards the City Palace. We were really keen to stop and take a look at some of the small shops on the way but were told that these were really touristy and that the shop owners could be come quite aggressive if you didn’t buy. Later we realised that he would much prefer that we spent our money in the “government” shop in which he could take a handsome commission. I’d like to say we learnt from this but to be honest it took us a few more occasions of guide driven shopping before we really cottoned on. Turns out there is no such thing as government shops!
The City Palace, on the banks of Lake Pichola, is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan and has been home to the ruling Maharajahs since the 1500’s. The current Maharajah apparently now lives in the former British guest residence in the grounds as he prefers its mod cons. I can’t say I blame him as, beautiful as the palace undoubtedly is, it rather lacks for creature comforts.
Leaving the City Palace we had some time to spare before our boat ride on Lake Pichola so our guide had Chotu drive us out to a shop where he assured us that we could get the best goods at excellent prices. It’s true to say that we were like kids in a sweet shop; seduced by the beautiful colours of the huge range of textiles on offer. Jackie came into her own as a fearless haggler whilst Jacquie and I sat back and watched. An hour or so later we were each the proud owner of gorgeous but eye wateringly expensive shawls.
Last stop of the day was a boat ride to Jag Mandir, a lovely summer pleasure palace built in the middle of Lake Pichola. Guarded by eight elephants, it was the perfect place to sit and relax for a while after our very full on first day in India.
Back at the hotel we amused ourselves (and the staff) by wrapping up in our new shawls and taking photos as we waited for Gaurav from Rajasthan Trekking to come and take us to pay the balance of our trip. Pretty hair raising walking in the dark through the incredibly narrow streets and trying not to get our feet run over. His idea of 10 minutes was more like half an hour and we felt pretty lucky to arrive there in one piece. Fortunately we got a tuk tuk back. Loved his farewell when he returned us to the hotel. We asked if this was the last time we would see him as we were setting off for Kumbhulgarh the next morning. His answer was technically yes – at least for this lifetime!
Tomorrow we set off to Kumbhulgarh where we start our trek.