Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Road Trip

Ten days in Rajasthan. We went with our driver in our compact Maruti-Suzuki "DZire." The drive took us through 4 cities - Jaipur, Ajmer, Pushkar and Udaipur. On this trip we traveled over 1,000 kilometers - mostly in semi-desert terrain - on India's Hwy 8. The highway is actually in pretty good shape, but has only 2 lanes and many crazy trucks driving North-South. Clean toilets and safe food are often few and far between - but on this trip none of us got sick and we had pleasant weather (Rajasthan can start to get really hot during the day in March). We found some really great places to stay. All of the hotels were mid-range in cost and are recommended by Lonely Planet.

In Jaipur we stayed 3 nights in all at Madhuban. A converted "Haveli," or mansion. The staff were a little grouchy on our last night , but it is run by a lovely family and is very charming. Great garden for tea some snacks and a good book to read. Madhuban has a simple menu for dinner. The kids enjoyed pasta and toasted cheese sandwiches. We enjoyed their veg and non-veg Indian dishes. Audrey has fallen in love with the banana "Lassi," a traditional sweet indian yogurt drink. (more about these later).

Next we were off to Pushkar for 2 nights. It is a small - somewhat hippie town that is famous for its Brahma Temple - the only one of its kind in India. There are many Indians who pilgrimage here each year to see this unusual temple. Westerners - Israelis, Europeans, Australians and a few Americans hang out here for the peaceful atmosphere, clothing and craft shops and the really great food.

Our hotel, was by far the best place we have stayed in India - "Seventh Heaven." Also a converted Haveli. Attentive friendly staff, reasonable prices for food and lodging and the rooftop restaurant, "Sixth Sense" is fantastic.
Our kids really enjoyed the manager of the restaurant who joked and played games with them. We all enjoyed the western/continental dishes for a few nights respite from Indian cuisine. And yes, Audrey loved the banana Lassis - I think she had one with every meal. Because the restaurant is on top floor and the kitchen on the ground floor the hotel uses a dumb waiter on a pulley system to deliver your food.
Our final destination was Udaipur - my personal favorite city on this trip. Although it is a city of 700,000 it has a very small feel to it. Not crowded or crazy like many of India's more urban areas. Narrow winding streets lined with shops and temples. Udaipur is most famous for its "Lake Palace - a large palace that looks as though it is floating on the water. Our hotel here was also lovely - the Mahendra Prakash Hotel. Built in the 1950s it was spotless, traditionally decorated and was reasonably priced. Best of all the Mahendra Parkash has a large, crystal-clear pool! We all swam in this everyday - especially nice in the hot afternoon sun of Rajasthan! And yes, Audrey enjoyed her banana lassi by the pool (Evan had fresh, cold Chocolate milk shakes)! We really like Rajasthan.

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