Great as always to get back to Bangkok. View is from our apartment balcony on 29th floor. Sit out till midnight and still in 80’s. New buildings rising up everywhere as always.
Celeste has a friend, Jean, who was operated on for a brain tumor in mid December. She and her husband raised their family in Danville and moved down to Los Osos near Morro Bay for retirement. The tumor was malignant. Celeste e-mailed Jean before our trip and said she would pray for her recovery at the Erawan shrine in Central Bangkok. This Buddhist shrine is the Thai’s favorite for good luck and special favors. Celeste received an E-mail from Jean’s husband that Jean had passed away unexpectedly early New Years morning. Celeste fulfilled her promise yesterday.
This shrine is where they had the terrorist bombing a few months ago. The shrine was up and running two days later. The threat of violence has become part of our daily lives but life goes on.
Two more days in Bangkok and then back home. Gotta go. It is lunch time and we are going to get one of those Micky D’s black bun burgers
It was a long 7 hr. drive from Jodhpur to Udaipur. This included a 2 hour stop over at an amazing temple of the Jain sect of Hinduism. The temple is chiseled out of solid marble. It is in the mountains along a narrow winding road which passes through numerous small towns with amazing city life viewing.
Now in Udaipur, we toured the city. The palace has a well presented museum of its history. Udaipur is a great boutique and clean city by India standards. We are staying at a wonderful new 2 yr. old hotel spread out over multiple acres. Quite beautiful. Each free standing bldg. has 4 units and each bldg. has 4 solar panels on its roof for hot water and the water is very hot. Only 500,000 people live in the town which is built around 5 man made lakes. This town is quite a contrast to the arid desert cities we had become accustomed to. Tomorrow we fly back to Delhi for the night. Then onto Bangkok for 4 nights. We will miss our driver Vinod Kashi. He has been with us 12 days and has become like family. Calls us mom and dad. After all he is only 40.
After another 5 hour drive we arrived at Jodhpur, second largest city in Rajasthan. Our driver is quite skilled at maneuvering all obstacles whether they be motorbikes, huge trucks, farm tractors, broken down vehicles in lane, cows, sheep, goats, dogs, to name a few. The roads, in general, are two lanes wide with constant passing of slower vehicles. He has one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the horn. A constant ballet of zig, zags, ins and outs. What started out in Delhi to be hair razing is now nothing. I always ride shotgun. Have the total spacing and passing thing down. A herd of 10 cows, no problem, wiz through them at 80 kph.
We spent the afternoon touring the impressive Mehrangarh Fort. Almost always on the highest hill, this is a stupendous fort/museum. Home to one of the 59 kingdoms in Rajasthan. Over 400 years it grew to multiple stories in height. The current king came to power 3 months after Queen Elizabeth in 1952. He is the second longest reigning monarch on earth after Queen Elizabeth. He is 67 years old and ascended to his throne at the age of 4 after his 29 year old king father crashed his private plane. On exhibit were many carriages which were hand carried on men’s shoulders or some on elephants backs. The king has spent a lot of his wealth restoring his properties.
One point of interest was the large center courtyard. One of the attached photos shows the windows all covered with cut out screens looking like lace. These screens were hand carved out of solid sandstone or marble depending on the palace within the various forts. Inside these rooms looking out were the king’s wives. They could see what was going on in public areas but could not be seen behind the screens. Remember, the king’s were Muslims.
- Bikaner is a very small town. There aren’t many hotels here but we are staying in our first converted royal palace into a hotel. The grounds and gardens (peacocks roaming) are beautiful. The rooms are oddly shaped since they are designed within the existing structure. The king of Bikaner still owns the palace and hotel. Rajasthan state has 59 royal families who are titular only. They are very rich and propertied to this day. The billardroom has about 24 whole animal skins with heads (mainly tigers) hanging on the walls. These are interspersed with mounted animal heads (cape buffalo, wharthogs, deer). The king in the 20’s and 30’s was an avid hunter.
Bikaner Fort is the most preserved and intact Fort we have visited. The king set up a trust for the upkeep of his property. All funds collected go back into the trust. The Rajasthan kings are all Moghul (Muslim) kings. We hear a lot of “calls to prayer” blasting. Today the area is about 50% Hindu, 40% Muslim, the rest are Christian, Jain. The architecture was allowed to incorporate Hindu architectural elements or Hindu Islamic. Some of the kings took on Christian and Hindu wives. The English left Rajasthan alone. Nothing changed, no British architecture.
Old Bikaner’s marketplace was great. All attached photos are of marketplace. Being off the tourist path, this was a local marketplace without tourist trinkets, pushy merchants, and no kids with their hands out. It was an experience walking their streets.
Tomorrow we are off to Jaisalmer. A long 6 hr. drive. Desert area 100 miles from border with Pakistan and about 175 miles from Lahore.
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