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‘Mindless honking is so deeply ingrained in the Indian psyche’ | Cities News, The Indian Express

View all New York Times newsletters. Two Weeks is Better. Jodhpur, like the other cities noted below, can probably be adequately enjoyed in two days and is an easy hop by plane from Jaipur via Delhi or Mumbai and an easy place, as well, in which to find hotels at every price.

I have tested them all, from the funky stucco pavilions of Ajit Bhawan to the businesslike Hari Mahal. Last of the mega-palaces built over a century-long building spree by Indian maharajahs, Umaid Bhawan is sometimes likened to a Victorian railway station and invariably said to have been built as a charitable work-relief program for a region beset by a prolonged and killing drought.

Believe what you like, the place can be reliably said to belong to its resident owner, the Oxford -educated Gaj Singh II, 64, the Maharajah of Jodhpur, who inherited the immense pile at age 4. Still, the palace retains its time-stopped aura and, perhaps alone among the great Rajasthan palaces, easily conjures an era when palace ladies led segregated, gossipy lives in the secluded zenana, when the gallants of the legendary Jodhpur polo teams played fierce chukkers and returned to drink stiff whiskies in a bar where, to this day, a stuffed black bear stands upright with a drinks tray balanced in its paws.

A visit to Jodhpur logically starts with a trip to the hilltop citadel of Mehrangarh Fort , where, up a series of ramps and past the studded elephant gates is a historical fortress museum almost without parallel in India. Gaj Singh II was an early adopter of Western-style curatorial practices, a welcome anomaly in a country so stuffed with antiquities that treasures are often carelessly left by their owners to be devoured by white ants or to rot in the dust. The Mehrangarh collection includes silver elephant howdahs, Jodhpur school miniatures, arms and armor, and textiles.

The fort itself, though massive, stupendous and ominous when seen from afar, is surprisingly intimate and homey within: a series of mirrored chambers of pleasure and rest. From Jodhpur I go on to Udaipur, again booking a driver and car for a road trip that Google Maps pegs at precisely five hours and 20 minutes. At a guess, the geniuses at Google Maps have never actually seen an Indian road.

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I myself find a useful rule of thumb when in India to double the estimated road time and average things out. Winding slowly uphill through sere desert and a region inhabited by a pacifist tribe called the Bhils, the drive from Jodhpur eventually crests the Aravallis before descending into a startlingly verdant landscape of cultivated fields.

Only by traveling overland are you able to visit the Jain Adinatha Temple at Ranakpur , an ineffable monument of marble whose hall contains either hundreds or thousands of intricately carved columns, depending upon whom you ask. It is an austere place, one whose ecstatic carvings create an atmosphere of quietly humming spiritual intensity, something like a fission lab for souls. A fine and, essentially, the only stopping-off point at Ranakpur is Maharani Bagh Orchard Retreat , a former country house still in the family of the Maharajah of Jodhpur.

Set amid gardens and fruit groves, the hotel is right off a main artery where, come evening, one can watch the traffic of barefoot pilgrims heading toward the temple as red-turbaned Rabari tribesmen head the opposite way with their herds of sheep or goats.

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The end point of this particular road trip is Udaipur, a lovely though to my mind essentially dull spot whose chief points of interest are the finely conserved City Palace of Maharana Udai Singh II, the renowned Taj Lake Palace hotel and the ritzy Oberoi Udaivilas overlooking Lake Pichola from shoreside just outside of town. Udaipur is a great place to unwind, though. For those lucky enough to put up at Lake Palace, there is a ready excuse for enforced idleness, since the only way to reach the hotel or leave it is by boat.

Three Weeks, Divine. Their main task is to keep the fortress walls from outright collapse. In doing so, however, they hope to preserve the ineffable stillness of this golden walled island surrounded by the sand sea that is the Thar Desert , historically known as the Land of Death. One can easily spend two days or more wandering the narrow lanes, where buildings crowd in on one another and where pedestrians used to have to yield to cows.

Time has a funny way of seeming to stretch infinitely before one in Jaisalmer, during days spent visiting the jewel-box Jain temples dedicated to Rishabhdevji, Sambhavanathji and Ashtapadi, idling on rooftop cafes drinking lassi or scanning the desert from the fortress walls. And when you have had enough of that, you can move on to other and even more obscure desert cities, my favorite among them being the rough-and-tumble city of Nagaur, home to a fine citadel.

A mile overland journey from Jaisalmer, Nagaur is a challenge to take up only after getting your travel legs in India. The drive is rough and dusty, and when years ago a woman friend and I first fetched up there, dust caked our clothes and filled every uncovered orifice, and our fillings had nearly shaken loose from our teeth. We swore bitterly as we banged on the padlocked fort doors, like Dorothy in Oz, until the gates creaked open and a turbaned figure beckoned us inside.

And there in a courtyard not far from a 17th-century stable block, we found a cluster of luxurious tents, their walls made from hand-block printed cottons, their camp beds covered in thick quilts, the private baths fitted out with showers that rained hot water. If it is true that in India a traveler is often tested by the tumult, the hustle, the dirt, the pollution, the first-world prices and sometimes second-rate service, the inevitable upturned palms and the overall din, it is also the case that as the advertising campaigns promise, India is in fact incredible.

How else to explain the experience we had of emerging from our private showers at Royal Camp, Nagaur Fort open only from October to March to find that we were the only guests at the fort, the sole patrons being served cocktails by a freshly kindled wood fire in a broad Mughal courtyard under the cold black dome of desert sky?

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A delicious Rajasthani thali meal was presented on a table set up in an ancient pavilion. Perhaps too much terrible Indian wine was consumed. In our individual tents the bedcovers had been turned down and desert chill staved off by hot-water bottles discreetly tucked into the beds. Delirious sleep overtook us. When we awoke, we found that our plans to stay just a night had suddenly changed.

In India the plans you made at home are seldom the final word on the matter. Do yourself a favor and keep that in mind.

India in One, Two or Three Weeks

Oberoi, New Delhi Dr. Zakir Hussain Marg; ; oberoihotels.

ROADS THAT HONK - Incredible India - Motown India

A walk down the Rajpath will take you from Rashtrapati Bhavan presidentofindia. Jamali Kamali Masjid in the archaeological village in Mehrauli. The Taj Mahal. The meals are also all-inclusive, with a beautiful deck on the beach serving up endless delicious curries. Both me and my sister kept going back for multiple courses from the wonderful staff who probably thought we had worms. The small group was the perfect size to relax and chat, with the owner Clemente making an effort to talk to everyone in depth.

For what to do? Swim, dolphin tours, kayak, yoga, visit local towns or just relax on the beach. In terms of environmental practices, Clemente collects food waste from the restaurant and local spots and drops them all off in their compost bin. He also ensured the resort was kept to minimum size to avoid damage to the pristine area.

In terms of the rooms, there was no plastic in sight unless you wanted to buy water which unfortunately is very difficult to do without. The best part? They have two adopted stray dogs that live on-site and curl up on your feet at dinner. This absolutely magnificent Portuguese-style house is years old, hidden away in a quiet South Goan village.

The best part of this house is the encouragement to eat lunch and dinners together as one large family, with three-course mouth-watering courses from the on-site chef. We were only there for a few days yet managed to meet fascinating people from around the world over cocktails and local delicacies. The house thankfully has no screens in sight, just endless books to read and a private garden.



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