We finally reached the top of the steps to the palace and most gratefully sank into the seats in Reception. We were now surrounded by archways and columns, rich furnishings and other such trappings. This was now about 7am. We managed to scrounge a wash in a bathroom which had the most incredible view I’ve ever seen. Jungle and ancient monuments for miles – as far as the eye could see.
Paul did a little bit of name dropping (a good friend of his brought many tours here over the years) and we were given the best room in the palace, apart from the Maharaja and Maharani suites. This was on the top floor, with a courtyard the size of a tennis court shared with the Maharaja suite. Our lodgings had an entranceway with bed and pillows, another anti-room, then you walk through another archway to this enormous room with a curved sofa and table, then further along a bay window with cushions and futon, a large bed that is NOT two beds stuck together as per usual, a window you can sort of sit inside and watch the world from, and a large marble bathroom with a shower and a western toilet. It even had toilet paper. Although if you ever stay at this palace, may I recommend you bring your own no.5 grade sandpaper for extra softness.
What a scream We went from fighting off pack dogs and sleeping on a wooden bench on the street to the third best room in a palace in a matter of hours. Nice juxtaposition, what?
From the roof of our palace we looked up at another palace, which was apparently made for the Moghul of the time by the Maharaja. He only visited the place once, the ungrateful sod. Below us was another palace, built as a bachelor pad for the Maharaja after the Maharana went a bit funny and kicked him out. It can’t have been easy or cheap to keep one’s dignity in those days.
I spent a fair bit of time amusing myself taking photos of the vultures on the palace roof next door. Wonderful creepy-looking birds – so photogenic. I was in heaven.
We wallowed in luxury for a bit then went for a wander around the town. This took time, as every second person on the main street (it seemed) came up to Paul and greeted him delightedly. And of course, one must take chai in these situations, or have a “Limca” – local soft drink. This was Paul’s fourth visit to this village and he has made many friends here. But we gradually got around the place and my camera was running hot from use. We sat up in the chattri‘s (several story high memorial monuments) by the river and watched some kind of monkeys groom each other, parrots flying around, vultures skulking the sky of course and the locals down below going about their day. I now have dozens of photos of monuments and ruins to bore people with when I get home. And the people are so friendly and laid back in this place. Even the cows are more laid-back than the Delhi ones, if indeed this is possible.
In the evening we dined in our “suite” and quaffed a gin or two. We were invited to try a bit of “mutton” (which is Indian for goat) in the courtyard by a local businessman. He was a very important man it seemed, because he had his own personal soldiers and 2 men fanning him at all times.
The next day we booked into a guesthouse in town and then went on a tour of the museum monuments. You buy a ticket to visit these ones – there are 6 on a ticket I think – and your ticket is only valid for that day. But you get to see inside the other 2 palaces and view the paintings on the ceilings, walk around the crumbling rooftops, peek through the jali work (sort of fancy stone latticework that the women peek through to see without being seen – all hand carved!) – and totally wear your legs out climbing up and down steps. In India, everything seems to be up steep steps! How on earth they got flash furniture into the rooms on the upper floors I’ll never know. You have to look for the steps before having the pleasure of climbing them because they hid them in little niches. Very narrow, very uneven and sometimes very dark. Sometimes you have to put your hands against the wall to balance, all the time hoping you don’t touch a lizard or a spider or anything else squishable.
On the second morning, in our guesthouse room, I heard a loud chirruping noise just outside. I opened the door onto the balcony, stepped out and came face to face with a monkey. I’m not sure who got more of a surprise, him or me. Turned out there were several of them, and one had stolen some chapati from somewhere. I had a brilliant time sitting on the balcony with my camera and got some very nice shots of them eating chapati on rooftops and stealing them from each other. And a wonderful close-up of the one outside our room who was using the tv aerial cord as his ladder. These were langur monkeys – white-faced ones of a reasonable size with amazingly long tails. They don’t hassle humans like the big brown ones do, so I felt pretty safe. What a wonderful way to start the day. Our room looked over the main street and was right next to the gateway to the market square, so I sat out there for quite a while and happily watched the town wake up and thaw out ready for the day.
We ate at Paul’s friend’s restaurant most of the time. This is a humble little place where you are served on the footpath outside a building with a roller door. Many of India’s flies live here. Can’t say I blame them, as the food is great and the view of the village goings-on fantastic.
Will have to continue this another day, as I’ve run out of time and we have to get ready to get on the train (cringe) to Rajasthan tonight.