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Watching Octopussy in Rajasthan

Pushkar was the next town on our checklist of Rajasthani destinations. Its another Hindu pilgrimage town, with a Holy Lake surrounded by bathing ghats, but it only has about 15,000 inhabitants and a reputation for being ultra laid back despite being a major backpacker draw. Before Pushkar though, we felt we should pay a visit to the nearby town of Ajmer, home to the holiest Muslim site in India, the Dargah.

Ajmer is a relatively big city, with half a million inhabitants and we met nothing but hassles for the entire morning trying to send a package home (we finally managed to do so, but I got into a heated discussion with the postal worker who wouldn't serve us, despite us having been there much longer than any of the other clients, so we are unsure that our package will ever make it home). Earlier, upon arrival at the bus station we witness a man being beaten violently with a stick as people looked on, including the bus station security guard (who we realised later had lent his stick for the beating). After what felt like minutes, Yann and I yelled out at the assailant to stop. The crowd turned to us and stopped momentarily, looking confused, then the beating resumed. As we walked away I heard people make fun of my high pitched womanly voice. We heard afterwards that the man was being beaten for having attempted to sell tea in the bus station without a permit. After the stick incident and the post office debacle we hailed a rickshaw to the Dargah.

The Dargah is not particularly extravagant, one would never guess that it was such an important site other than the constant stream of Muslim pilgrims entering the front gates and the hundreds of pairs of shoes piled up outside. We sped through the site, with no one to guide us we weren't to certain of what we were allowed and not allowed to do, so we refrained from entering any of the buildings. No one seemed bothered by our presence, we watched silently as the faithful recited their prayers. The most interesting feature of the Dargah are two enormous vats, probably 12 feet in height which used to hold food to serve the poor. Men dressed in special suits were lowered into the vats and scooped out food from inside. Now they are used to hold donations, people toss food and rupees into the massive vessels. Pushkar, in contrast to Ajmer is quiet and hassle free, but there isn't much to do there other than shop and eat. I managed to loosen Yann's tight grip on his wallet for a few moments in order to get myself a new outfit. We made a short trek uphill to get a view of Pushkar from a nearby temple while passing through the city's outskirts and meeting some amazingly dressed locals. Two days of relaxing was enough for us and we headed south to Udaipur on an overnight sleeper bus (which was much more comfortable than the Chinese version, made for slightly bigger people). We arrived in Udaipur at the extremely convenient hour of 4:30 AM. We avoided walking down pitch black alleys, thus getting ourselves completely lost on our way to the tourist district. Luckily we stumbled upon a little old lady saying her very early morning prayers who enthusiastically led us to a local guest house where she furiously knocked on the doors and rang the bell until the owner woke up and found us a room.

Udaipur sits on Lake Pichola and is an elegant city packed with really expensive hotels. The most famous of these, the Lake Palace Hotel is a beautiful white building right in the middle of the lake, visible from most rooftop restaurants, but not accessible to budget tourists (even for a brief visit). The city was the setting of the Roger Moore Bond Film Octopussy and most restaurants have a showing every night. We took advantage of the low season and had a private screening along with dinner. The weeks in conservative India had affected us more than we thought, as we laughed hysterically anytime a member of the all-female Octopussy crew found a way to shed a piece of clothing. The owner of the restaurant recounted how he had played the movie every night for 14 years, now that's a much worse punishment than being beaten with a stick.

9 comments:

2par4 said...

Do you buy lots of stuff and mail it? What kinds of things? Small souvenirs? What's the biggest package you've sent?

Oh and congrats on 200 DAYS of travel! Impressive.

2par4 said...

Isn't Richard Gere the coolest. Not.

Big story in India?

Super-Mario said...

Bonjour,

En effet, ça fait 200 jours que vous êtes partis du pays. Ici, nous avons notre petite routine en suivant vos blogs hebdomadaires et regardant vos belles photos dont je sauvegarde les plus belles (à mon gout). Continuez à nous faire lire vos récits des plus intéressants.

Papa X0X0

Jean said...

Félicitations à vous deux.Sans être trop philosophique, comment vos 200 jours vous ont-ils changé?

Comment êtes vous différents?

Papa

Fred said...

Congratulations on 200 days of Asian exploration!

Yann, make sure you don't smooch any Indian girls....you might get in trouble - and I don't mean by Emilie :-)

Anonymous said...

Coucou les amoureux,

Felicitations pour vos 200 jours, peut etre avec des hauts et des bas. On vous supporte enormement et on vous encourage. Ici au Quebec, cela faisait 40 ans que EXPO 67 etait ouvert et finalement nous avons inaugure le metro de Laval ce samedi. Alors si jamais vous decidez de revenir vivre a Montreal, le metro sera pres de notre porte.(YAHOUHOU......)

ON VOUS AIME BEAUCOUP BEAUCOUP

XXXX

lA BELLE MATANTE DENISE ET MON ONCLE RAYMOND....

Y&E said...

Mailing stuff, oh yes we've mailed alot of things, from India already four packages... eeek. We could have sent them as one big package but we wanted to maximize the chances of getting something home.

Richard Gere...yeah a huge story here. Its totally ridiculous.

Have we changed much in 200 days, I think what I have learned is just how much shit I can deal with and still be perfectly happy.

Anonymous said...

coucou les amoureux,

Yann, j'ai toujours su que tu etais un "TOUGH",en dedans de toi.


La belle matante

xxxxxxx

Anonymous said...

Salut vos deux,eh!oui j'ai reussis à retrouver le blog,mais je ne sais pas par quel champs j'ai passé...J'ai rien vu j'ai rien lu encore,manque de temps,je voulais juste vous dire un beau bonjour et que je pense à vous.Vite vu ça semble pas pire mais les personnages pas sur,pas sur...A plus tard... XOXO Super matante