The Adventures of Black Beauty and Mixed Veg in the Golden City


A mere couple of days after arriving in Delhi, it was time for us to move on and experience our first of the whopping six overnight train journeys that we were to take in India.  Not sure what to expect, our expectations ranged between “it can’t be that bad” to “oh god, I can just imagine having Delhi Belly while trying to balance over a filthy squat in a moving, over-packed train.”  The reality lies somewhere between the two, though we’re happy to say we never once suffered Delhi Belly, either on a train or anywhere else for that matter.  So for you sick bastards out there just waiting for The Blog where we shit ourselves uncomfortably  we are metaphorically sticking our tongues out at you – we’re far too practised at travelling and eating for that kinda carry on!  Iron Guts rule! But all that said, boarding the train in Delhi was a moment of extreme culture shock, for sure. IMG_3216 The station was packed and not knowing exactly where to board our particular third class sleeper carriage had us running to get on…except the running was more like wading/shoving through thousands of people all also trying to board the train. IMG_2639Stressful does not even begin to describe it.  Nor do the words ‘intense stench of urine’ even begin to describe the railway station experience that is northern India.  Needless to say, we acquired no photos of our entry on to the train but did manage to capture the rather idyllic setting part way through the journey.  Ahhhh. IMG_2666 So where were we going exactly?  Jaisalmer, nicknamed the Golden City, lies in the heart of the Thar Desert of Rajasthan.  The cool bit is that the town itself lies in on a ridge of yellow sandstone at the top of which perches a fort, containing a palace, ornate Jain temples and fabulously intricate haveli (private mansions). IMG_2671 So it was packs on and up the road to head toward the fort…which also contained our accommodation!  Thanks to Ushma for taking this wicked pic of Dan.IMG_3226 The views on the walk up towards our FORT ACCOMMODATION (come on, how often do you get to say stuff like that?!) were pretty spectacular.  The day was super hot (duh, its India) and incredibly dry which was quite a distinct change from Delhi which had been much more temperate.  IMG_2930IMG_2717IMG_3236 IMG_3238 IMG_2683 IMG_2685 Upon arriving at our lodging, we were straight up to the roof to check out the views back down over the city.  It was reminiscent of being projected into a scene something like 1001 Arabian Nights (albeit with less threat of execution).  Plans were instantly  made to recline harem-like on the cushions while looking over the world.DSC04169IMG_2824 IMG_2866At this stage of the game it feels pertinent to introduce another important person – meet  Chirag, Ushma’s brother, who flew in from England to join us for the northern part of our Indian sojourn.  It was the first time these two cheeky siblings had hung out together in two years and the first time that we got to know Chirag more than just in passing at a family event.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Luckily for us, Chirag is not only a fussy fulla but also a bit of an expert on all things food – with special mention going to his love of fine dining and, oh yeah, Indian food.  Handy that!  Between him and Ush we got to try some really cool new items which we wouldn’t have known to even ask for!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Case in point – bhel puri – a savoury snack made with puffed rice, sev (a thin crispy noodle like object made from besan flour) and topped with a tangy tamarind sauce.  If from this description you are conjuring up an image something like rice bubbles with raw broken vermicelli chards, then you’re not far off the mark.  But of course, its way more delicious than it sounds!  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our absolute favourite new snack was a variation on the above, which was served on small round, crispy breads and topped with fresh vegetables and tangy yoghurt – absolutely freakin’ delicious!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The owner came out to introduce herself at one point and was so happy to have a bunch of hungry travellers to feed delightful snacks to, especially a group that contained some Indian faces, she practically adopted us on the spot.

Having read some reviews of this restaurant on Trip Advisor – which, we might add, mainly consist of people saying how crap the Western style food there is…here’s an idea, when in India perhaps try the INDIAN food – we noticed rather a lot of people talking about the over-bearing/blunt/intrusive woman owner.  Perhaps Mrs. Bhatia isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but to be honest we felt like it akin to being made instantly part of someone’s extended Indian family – and what family doesn’t get on your nerves from time to time, right?!  We found her warm, affectionate and interested in us, not to mention the fact she was feeding us random tasty tidbits.  In fact, when another table would order something, she would make extra so we could try it too.  Pretty darn special, if you ask us!  Ignore the mashed potatoes and muesli (come on people!) and ask for her recommendations and a hug, if you so desire, and get a REAL Indian family experience.  No fluff.  And no baked beans.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARight, our little rant out of the way, back to the food.  Mmmmm…. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Right, enough about that kind of food – let’s concentrate on another food stuff for a moment.  You’re probably all wondering by now about a very famous, wandering food item in India, namely cows.  Admittedly, they’re not on the menu for most of India which is how they come to be lining the streets, the alleyways, the roads,  the forts…yip, as you may have imagined, India comes complete with thousands of cows and Jaisalmer was our first heavy dose of this bovine phenomenon.  IMG_2676 IMG_2699 For those of us from countries where cows are kept in grassy pastures, its actually really odd to be having to negotiate cows at every twist and turn.  Cars and auto-rickshaws swerve to avoid them in the streets (not always swerving to avoid pedestrians, however!) and the turn of every corner generally brings you eye to eye with a dopey, meandering beast.  Even standing innocently on a street side can see you shunted into a shop with no warning as happened to H-J & Ush one sunny afternoon in Jaisalmer!  Perhaps said cow was in cahoots with the shopkeep?IMG_2767 IMG_2915 DSC04174 Aside from cows, Jaisalmer is striking, obviously, for the incredible architecture that spreads as far as the eye can see.  DSC04255 The Jain community of Jaisalmer has further enriched this already spectacular city by having constructed stunning temples within the fort.  This complex has structures dating back as far as the 12th century – pretty darn impressive!IMG_2689 IMG_2832 IMG_2831 IMG_2844 IMG_2843 DSC04204 The Jain faith is known for its practice of ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence and more austere members of the faith will wear a white mask across their nose and mouth so that airborne living entities cannot be accidentally ingested.  DSC04210IMG_2835 IMG_2873 The alleys of Jaisalmer were full of life and colour, wherever we turned our gaze.  DSC04183IMG_3338 IMG_3322 IMG_3320IMG_3329 IMG_3336 DSC04176IMG_3291 IMG_2718 - Copy DSC04250 IMG_2920 IMG_2878 IMG_2891 IMG_2728 IMG_3312 IMG_2913 IMG_2732 IMG_3318Having had some encounters with Sikhism and Jainism already during the course of our trip, it was time for H-J to try out of a bit of Hinduism and hang with the pay-per-pose sadhus that lined the streets of the fort.
IMG_2883And for Dan to discuss the finer points of Islam, including the correct way to don a turban in preparation for our upcoming desert sojourn.

You know who you f#$kin wit??? Sand Gangsta!!!!We were lucky enough to spend three days all up in Jaisalmer, visiting temples, exploring the nooks and crannies of the twisting streets, eating Rajasthani cuisine and open-mouthedly gazing up at the astonishing sights.  And at the end of each day it was to our rooftop retreat to catch up with our crew, shoot the shit and gaze upon the setting sun of India.   IMG_2941 IMG_2946Skux!IMG_2961 IMG_2972

It all looks and sounds a lot more thoughtful and reflective than it actually was – to be honest, the days were long and exhausting, full of cow-dodging, hawker-dodging, hot, dry sun and trying to fit in as much as possible and we were often just glad to get back to the roof and chill out!!!  Its a tough life, but hey, someone’s gotta do it, right?!

Starting to get the hang of this India thing by this point, we were picking up a few lessons along the way:

1. Calling a woman Black Beauty or Dark Fantasy is NOT the quickest way to her heart (sorry, Ushma!);

2. However, calling her sibling Mixed Veg is f**king funny and is a nickname that will probably stick for the remainder of the trip;

3. That EVERYONE in this part of the world has an uncle/cousin/mother/son in some kind of place that will require you stopping there to make a purchase on the way to somewhere seemingly unrelated;

4. Customised scrunchies are alive and well in Rajasthan and may just be your reward for promising to go back to a shop (“yeah, we’ll come back later”) and actually doing so!;

5. That fireworks here are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP!!!!; stock up or face regret;

6. And that fearing for your life while careering in an auto-rickshaw through tiny, pot-holed, cow-ridden streets is redundant – hop in, hold on (or don’t!), ask the driver to turn up the music and sit back and enjoy the ride…

Incredible India.  It just keeps on comin’ at ya!

Categories: Food, India, Photos, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , ,

22 comments

  1. incredible architecture and light, photogs dream. you guys look like moviestars chilling on that roof!
    Namaste

  2. Been there a few years ago with Charu and it is still my favourite place. Being a ”JAIN” first time saw a Jain temple with a basement.Remarkable colours and very nice to see my two together.Lovely pictures. WELL DONE.

  3. thanks for the wonderful “trip” you always take me on, glad you are enjoying India,
    I was going to tell you to go by and see my daughter while you are in northern India, but, …..

  4. The colours are amazing!!! I’ve never really wanted to go to India but I might change my mind! 🙂

  5. Keep ’em coming! You need to put these posts into real book…seriously. Also, you win my personal award for best post title! Love it!

  6. Awesome photos and stories. Love it!

  7. Your travels continue to become more amazing. The photos are so beautiful and yes…I’m a huge fan of bhel puri too but haven’t eaten it for years as not many restaurants in the UK make it 😦

    • Its super tasty, agreed! Actually, one of the coolest bits about our India travel was discovering all the different types of cuisine that belong to the different areas. Before going there, we had no idea of the diversity and what came from where. YUM.

  8. Gorgeous photos! India is a place I definitely want to go one day…but it also scares the beejesus out of me!

    • For sure, it scared us too – and upon arriving in Delhi we were asking ourselves what the heck we had gotten ourselves into! However, we relaxed into it fairly quickly and, while difficult/smelly/overwhelming you start to find yourself seeking out the hard bits or it doesn’t feel enough like the ‘real’ India, haha. Definitely worth the effort 🙂

  9. Wow!!!! Sandstone splendor!!!! Customized scrunchies!!!!! Dan lookin’ gangsta in a head wrap! Good job you guys – I’ve always wanted to go to Rajasthan. The trip there sounded intense. So thanks for still posting + being funny as usual!

  10. Great photography. Those food shots are making me hungry.

  11. a great photographer. thanks for sharing a great post.
    yes! India is a amazing collection of incredible cities.

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