Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Our driver met us at our Mandawa hotel at 9:00AM and we set off for Bikaner, about 3.5 hours of driving. Naturally, there were some minor delays:
The first part of the drive was a very bad, bumpy road, but dramamine worked its wonders and nobody became carsick.
Upon arrival, our driver Jay helped us find a the Hotel Harasar Haveli, and we were relieved to find a room where we could all stay together. For him, it seems that if he refers us, the hotel gives him a dorm bed downstairs somewhere. There is always the question about whether he is bringing us to a place that we will like, or that he will like, but we decided to try it out with the theory that if we got anything bad, we could always go back to booking things ourselves. The previous hotel was nicer, but this place was nice enough, and at under $50 US, there really wasn’t anything to complain about. Upon checking in, we were told that hot water was from 7-10 (both AM and PM), and that the water would take at least 5 minutes of running to become hot.
We decided to eat at the hotel since it was past lunchtime and the kids were getting a bit cranky. All Jeremy and the boys wanted for the entire trip was Butter Chicken, so of course we had some of that, as well as one other dish that interested me and that the boys may have a chance of liking. I was a bit sad to discover that the portion sizes were sharing sizes, so I wasn’t going to get to try as many things as I hoped. This was a theme the entire trip.
After we finished, our driver picked us up and brought us to the Junagarh Fort. It was quite impressive. The exterior is quite elaborate. It is amazing to see the incredible wealth and craftsmanship that went into these buildings, then walk out and see the horrifying poverty.
Similarly, the inside was beautiful. India is a country of contradictions, and the sites are no exception. There is extreme wealth and extreme poverty, and it is in your face every time you venture outside. Even when you look at entry fees, the entrance to Junagarh Fort was about $4.15 for foreigners, but only $0.75 for Indian citizens. Even this low local fee is beyond what many of them could afford.
The kids loved exploration. My heart rate went up a bit on the balconies and roof decks. Trying to explain that other countries have different safety standards on railings and balconies was both difficult and awkward.
James loved the section that had an old WWI biplane.
After we finished, we were on to the Karni Mata Temple, better known as the “Rat Temple.” Yes, you read that right. And news to me, no, it isn’t just statues of rats. What we saw was beyond horrifying. What we were told was so gross that if I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I really don’t think I would have believed it. There were thousands of rats crawling everywhere! John loved it…
On arrival, our driver took us to get some shoe covers so that we didn’t have to walk around bare foot. I had learned my lesson, and we had a change of socks in the car, but can you imagine walking through rat feces in bare feet? Apparently some of the devout can, because it is a pilgrimage to spend a night sleeping at the temple, with the rats crawling all over you. There is even a kitchen where you can prepare temple food with rats all around you. Then you delightfully eat the food. A real life Ratatouille experience.
You can not imagine how hard it was to look at the camera for this picture. I suddenly had the image of Moses and the Bronze Serpent. Can you imagine how hard it would be to look high in the air at a bronze snake, after you had just been bitten by one of the many snakes crawling around on the ground? It is really amazing how real and personal this type of Bible story can become, in a very unlikely place.
Anyway, our driver really wanted to take John inside, and John really wanted to go, so since there was no way he was going inside, alone with someone we had just met, we reluctantly decided to go in. I can’t believe we made it as far as we did. After about one room, I almost had a panic attack, and we quickly left.
It is gross. It is horrifying. I have no idea why we went. I guess it makes a good story, but…Really? Definitely no need to visit the “snake temple” that we saw on the side of a road.
On to better things. Next up was a tuk-tuk tour of the old town. There was really only room for two of us, so we fit three into the space, and John rode up front with the local tour guide that we hired. He was only half on his seat and had to hold on tight. He loved it!
The local market was small, but interesting.
The sunset was pretty, and the traffic crazy, but much less so than Delhi.
We went back to the hotel, stopping at a sweet shop on the way, took a walk, then decided that the hotel restaurant would probably be the least likely to cause stomach issues, and decided to eat there again. This time the boys ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala (not much of a difference from the Butter Chicken), and I decided to expose them to Dal Makahni, my favorite black lentil dish, and they ended up loving it! I still miss the version I had in Hyderabad about 10 years ago while traveling for business, but it was still quite good. And I have been drinking way too much Masala Chai. While delicious, the quantities I have had are really not healthy.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Breakfast in the morning was mediocre, especially compared with some of the previous days. Bad English toast with butter, but no jam, a hard boiled egg, an Indian version of hash browns, and some very mushy fruit. Oh well, we were still working on our box of sweets from the night before. It came in unexpectedly handy.
On to Khuri!