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Bikaner - Jaipur

Starting the long journey home

View A Big Fat Indian Wedding - India 2014 on Grete Howard's travel map.

As I wandered around the hotel grounds this morning taking photos, I was approached by one of the workers who offered to show me the “Tiger Room” (for some baksheesh of course). The Laxmi Niwas Palace is a quirky, paradoxical place, with long empty corridors (which apparently stretch for 22 kilometres in total, right through the Lalgarh Palace next door which Laxmi Niwas is part of); a bare stone staircase complete with resident bat which looks like it should be in a old castle horror movie; Rajasthan's first elevator installed in 1904 (which incidentally was right outside our (second) room, and looked so antiquated I wouldn't even set foot in it, let alone ride it!); opulent bedrooms with modern plumbing (!), a fairly plain and uninspiring restaurant and a Tiger Room. Doesn't every self respecting home have a tiger room?


Trophy Rooms
There are not just tigers in these two rooms (one which is the current bar of the hotel) but all sorts of hunting trophies. Only identical-looking animals, their faces, and where applicable, horns, in symmetry with each other were seen as worthy of the taxidermist. In many cases, it took years and even decades before the right likeness was discovered and shot.


The royal hunting party never shot game indiscriminately. Allegedly. It was a civilised hobbyists’ hunt with a very pointed quest. A shot wasn’t fired until a hunter found the physical identikit that he and often she, (Bikaner’s queens and princesses tended to be the more excellent shots) desired.


It was kinda lonely in the love-chair without David - who was busy paying the bill at this stage.


Just one more sightseeing visit.....

Vaishno Devi Temple
This gaudy and somewhat Disneyesque temple just outside Bikaner is said to be a representation of the famous Vaisho Devi Temple in Kashmir which draws huge numbers of pilgrims every year (it's the second most visited shrine in India). A concrete mountain symbolises the steep hill where the original 700 year old cave shrine is found.


You enter the temple through the mouth of a tiger


Inside the compound – which is more akin to a theme park rather than a temple - are various bizarre, sometimes grotesque and always fantastical looking deities.

Time to hit that long road back to Jaipur – 330 kilometres. The road is not particularly exciting, at least not the bits I see each time I wake up from my slumber. A few huge trucks, an overfilled bus, a camel cart or two and some women carrying wood catch my eye along the way.


We stopped for lunch and a comfort break at one of the many roadside restaurants. Somehow I missed the signs over the entrance to the bathroom area, and ended up in the gents (there were nothing to indicate gender on the actual doors themselves, just over the archway in the restaurant) and I was very pleasantly surprised to find there was a Western style sit down toilet! Not so in the ladies apparently, so my mistake was a good one!

Bhanwar ordered us four portions of delicious paneer pakoras with a tasty dip, two lassies and two chai, plus a large bottle of water; and the bill came to 285 Rupees, which is around £2.85 at today's exchange rate. I can live with that.


Then it is back to Jaipur and the Umaid Bawan Hotel.


It's like coming home, being greeted like long lost friends and the staff being terribly apologetic that the room we had last time is already taken, but we can have Room 101. OK then.


It is not as glamorous or as big as our last room, but being right next to the reception will be useful for leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning. The room is nice and cool and the bed unbelievably comfortable – shame we are only spending half a night here.


In the last room we had a peculiar walk-in wet room in addition to the regular bathroom; in this one we have a fabulous corner bath!


We take a quick shower and change and meet back up with Bhanwar and Jo and go off to see Sabu and Reena in their home.


The tailor turns up as arranged with all my new tops. I'd left him with one of my favourite blouses and asked him to make me some more; this time in subtle colours for our upcoming safari. He did us proud and at a third of the price the originals cost back home.


I feel very honoured to be part of Reena's very first meal cooked in her married home. Reena and Sabu have been enjoying a couple of nights in a luxury hotel, so this is their first night in their new home.


I did feel for Reena tonight, the pressure of not only cooking for your husband for the first time, but also for foreign visitors; but she did brilliantly!


And so ends a very special trip to a very special country to see a very special couple getting married.

Congratulations Reena and Sabu and may your married life be long and happy!

Posted by Grete Howard 06:04 Archived in India

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Grete, I cannot tell you how much I enjoy reading your very insightful blogs and looking at your photography.
Ed and I have both been reading and re-reading and discussing.

You could so easily turn your adventures into an actual guide or book.

by Homer

I can only echo what Homer said. It has been a pleasure to follow you on this journey. I am so impressed at the way you treat the privations and difficulties along the way with such good humour. I know I could not deal with such heat!

by Sarah Wilkie

totally enjoyed reading your blog and viewing your pictures. Stunning sights, colors, people, culture........ name it, you took a picture of it. Thank you for sharing your experiences with everyone.

by Eddie

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