Entering the magnificent gates of the old town of Jaipur leads you to the usual Indian scene of vendors, traffic, rickshaws and touts, beggars and dirt, a riot of Rajasthani colour, stylish pink turbans and saris lavishly embroidered in gold. It is so much to take in when it first hits you that you end up just standing still and looking around in sheer amazement!
This is why India is the most unique place on earth and a consciousness expanding experience on so many levels. It intensely awakens all your senses; the smells, sounds, sights, flavours and textures will challenge the boundaries of what your body, mind and soul are familiar with. It often means an initial culture shock until you are able to recalibrate to this new reality. The City Palace and Hawa Mahal are not to be missed highlights and are a good introduction to old Maharajah opulence, but the street markets at dusk will indelibly remain in your memory.
After a couple of days I was keen to move deeper in to the Thar Desert via Jodhpur and the mystical fortified town of Jaisalmer, a medieval trading outpost from the time of Marco Polo. Beyond that I had heard that the restricted zones near the Pakistan border had some colourful village life, but I would have to bribe some local officials to be able to go out there, especially if I was going alone with my own camels. Well in the end all it took was a bottle of whisky, the preferred grog of Rajput locals. I loved the freedom of being in the desert away from the tourist trails and the local culture didn't disappoint. The image above was taken at one of the local water holes and a good example of the beautiful way the village women coordinate their colours.
I wanted to extend my stay out there, but a very loud voice inside was telling me to move on to my final destination of Udaipur made famous in a Bond film with its beautiful Lake Palace. Little did I know that I was about to experience a romantic thunderbolt.