Tag Archive: Rajasthan

And it’s a wrap! Kaput. Enough. Pen down. Laptop off. One off the bucket list. Who knows when we’d return to explore more of this exotic country? But for now…… we rest our pens.



Photo Credit: BobI Francisco

Photo Credit: BobI Francisco

A Shutterbug's Haven.

A Shutterbug’s Haven.






Amber Fort

Dressing Up for Diwali Festival

Mehrangarh Fort in Johdpur

Ranakpur’s Jain Temple

Taj Mahal

The Sikh Temple in Delhi

Shah Jahan, the Master Builder

Qutub Minar



The opulence and poverty alternate in quick succession.

The opulence and poverty alternate in quick succession.






A Birthday In India

The Colors, Sounds and Scents of India







A Posh Birthday Lunch in a Royal Manor

First Impressions of Taj Lake Palace Hotel

Day 2 in Taj Lake Palace Hotel




Street Food

Street Food




As Spicy As It Gets

Feeling Royalty in Jharokha



It's good to be home 😄

It’s good to be home 😄

Ranakpur is some 5 hours drive from the blue city of Johdpur. The 15th century temple in the Aravali Valley hardly invited my attention for 2 reasons. First, I knew zilch about Jainism. Second, I have the beginnings of temple and fortress-fatigue by now. It didn’t help that the roads leading to Raknapur was such a rugged landscape, no lush forests nor vegetation, and our long trip was marked only by an occasional strange rock formation here and there.


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Out of the mud, cow dung and rubbish littering Johdpur’s narrow alleys into Aravali Valley past processions of holy cows and goats meandering along the major roads, we came face to face with monkeys guarding the temple gates. I confess monkeys scare me out of my wits but these monkeys were quiet, oblivious to our presence and obviously uninterested in humans. The nearly peaceful demeanor must have something to do with the tenets of Jainism which invokes that all living things have divine souls.




This belief kept the Jains inside their homes by sunset, wont to linger outside in the dark where they may accidentally step on bugs and other tiny insects. You bet you won’t see a Jain swat a fly or shoo shoo a flying beetle. The idea drives me insane but such is their faith which commands respect and yes, admiration.




Jainism is one of 3 ancient Indian religious traditions along with Buddhism and Hinduism. It promotes not only non-violence to living creatures but also non- possessiveness or absence of wordly attachments. Some Jains believe monks should be naked, completely renouncing all passions and bodily instincts and senses. A tough order, if you ask me. Yet for all its non-material attachments, I do find their temple an architectural wonder in marble. What with the corbelled ceiling and ornately designed arches as well as all 1,444 pillars — no 2 pillars are the same —intricately decorated.


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It may not have spread across oceans outside India, but there remain Jain communities within this incredible nation. Naked Jains? We spotted one. And frankly, it’s easier for me to understand that than letting tiny bugs bite them young babies. I won’t, can’t aspire to be a Jain. Non-violence yes, but I think I’d still instinctively hit a mosquito within swatting distance. 😔




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The eve of the Diwali Festival fell on October 23 this 2014. This is like New Year’s Eve across India where a festival of lights, fireworks and gifts of sweets is celebrated nationwide. It is a 5 day festival where homes and buildings are festooned with lights and people get busy days or weeks before, cleaning their premises and hanging those lights. People also buy new clothes to wear and the nightsky get all lit up by fireworks, much like welcoming the new year.



Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word deepavali which means “row of lights”. It is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains alike in the tradition of welcoming home Rama and Sita based on the Sanskrit epic Ramayana (Hindu), or the release and homecoming of Guru Hargobind (who was imprisoned by a Mughal emperor) in the Sikh tradition. Among Jains, Diwali celebrates the attainment of enlightenment of Lord Mahavira who laid down the tenets of the Jain religion as practiced today.



However it is celebrated and regardless of faith, the festival is marked by fireworks, gifts of dry fruits or sweets, acts of charity, lighting of oil lamps and prayers to deities. Here, the celebration of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance assume universal appeal. We were lucky to celebrate this lights festival with locals in Jaipur’s Diggi Palace.



It was a perfect excuse for us to buy and don our sarees. What a chore to choose from all those lovely, vibrant colors! And what an even bigger chore to wear them. I did mine in a jiffy but felt uncomfortable the entire night, worrying I’d leave so many yards of gossamer fabric like a heap on the floor. It took us too long — along with the picture-taking — to leave our hotel for the dinner-show cum fireworks display in Diggi Palace. We caught the last few numbers of the cultural performance while enjoying dinner under the night sky.



Today, many cities elsewhere in the world observe Diwali Festival. Diwali decorations adorn homes and buildings especially in areas where there are Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities. We were only too happy we celebrated it while we were in Jaipur.




On caparisoned elephants who marked the path with giant mounds of “ellie dung”, we made our way up through the 7 kilometer-fortress walls passing the Sun Gate till the courtyard of Amber Fort. Swaying left to right then back, I dared not use my monopad for some selfie shots for fear I’d drop it in that noble beast’s mound. Yay!



Most everyone seems to be having a great time. Giggling as they “slide” while the ellie sways, on this square space atop the beast that seats 2 people. I had a good look on the beast’s painted face and felt guilty. I bet these animals didn’t relish all these facepainting. Nor did they enjoy going back and forth through the serpentine cobbled pathways and ramparts ferrying camera-toting tourists from all corners of the world



High up on a hill, this 17th century fortress palace in terracotta looks impenetrable. Absolutely a top attraction of Jaipur although it is situated in Amer a town some 11 kilometers from Jaipur, the Pink City. Inside, there are halls with ornamented pillars, doors made of sandalwood and ivory, beautiful mosaic work in glass.



The story goes that the beloved queen loves starwatching so much that the King had the Sheesh Mahal built. This top attraction and many visitors’ favorite has walls and ceilings carved with beautiful flowers made of pure glass. Thus, a singular light — like from a candle — is reflected around the Hall like thousands of stars.



Wow, you can say the Mughal Emperor Akbar knew how to live once you get here. But then of course, what do you expect from this great man with over 300 wives? Nearly one for each night of the year! But I do wonder about the lives led by the wives and concubines. What occupies their minds? How do they spend their time in this royal fortress- residence? I bet there’s a book to read about this. Curious, Curious!



Some photos on this spread were grabbed from the albums of Maricel and Chit. Thank you, dear friends.

Soon after breakfast, we drove from Delhi to Jaipur, the Pink City. All of 6 hours. Bad for my back. Thank God lunch did not disappoint. Amidst all the hassle, dust and dirt of Jaipur is this oasis for the soul. Completely unexpected and charming, you forget all that rubbish as soon as you climb up to enter the gardens. Hey, the air suddenly smells differently here as if one’s transported to another part of the world. A world so self-contained, nearly intimate.

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We were tired. We were hungry. But the charming elegance of the nearly two centuries-old Samode Haveli made us forget about our grumbling bellies. This royal family manor is now a luxury boutique hotel that blends Rajasthani and Mughal art and architecture. I hear the 1984 hit HBO TV serial adaptation of the novel “The Far Pavilions” was filmed here and in the Samode Palace. I’ve read the book but remember more the Omar Shariff and Christopher Lee-starrer.

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The courtyard garden is pretty at noontime. I can just imagine how lovely it looks by nightfall with lighted corners and illuminated pomegranate and jasmine trees. I can likewise imagine the flowery aroma wafting through the garden with every passing breeze. A patio looks out to this garden, and it looks every inch stylishly elegant and atmospheric.

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The dining hall evokes a royal ambience with its ornate, handpainted murals from floor to ceiling. My, those are damn good artisans! The colors remain bright and vibrant, and I wonder how much restoration work was done here, if any. I would have felt quite happy just being here and settling for “mediocre hotel food” but I was in for a pleasant surprise.

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A buffet of seriously ethnic and authentic Indian cuisine satiated our senses even before our spoons and forks reached our mouths. Maybe we were really hungry. Famished even. But I know my dahl and mutton curry. And I had my best dahl (lentils) and mutton curry in this place. There was a good selection of flat breads, chutneys, the ubiquitous palak paneer (a popular spinach-based vegetarian dish) which I love.

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By the time we rolled out of the former royal dining hall, we were simply too happy. Our senses were completely satiated. Food for the soul; bellies fed. NAMASTE!

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My second morning here. Another glorious day in Incredible India. Perfectly timed while I turned 60+1 in this Pink City of Jaipur where Maharajas of the Mewar Dynasty once lived. You may ask: Maharaja (Sanskrit)  or Maharana (Hindi)? Both mean “great king” or “high king”.  In my book, either refer to royalty. The Mewar Dynasty is one of the oldest dynasties in the world, having produced 75 rulers from 600 AD to 1947. Quite a feat, especially with the many forts and palaces built during their reign. But what history lessons for the young Indians. I couldn’t even remember a few monarchs’ names, so I can imagine how nerve-wracking it is for Indian youth to review their history lessons. 


The Lake Palace. In JAIPUR. Lovely, isn’t it?


The highlight of today’s trip is the ride on caparisoned elephants up to Amber Fort in Jaipur —- reminiscent of the Royal lifestyle of the Maharajas of Rajasthan.

Pink is the Rajput color of hospitality. Where I stand (rather, sit “rocking” on an elephant) now, I see Pink. Not really pink. It’s more like faded terracotta or my fav SALMON PINK hue splashed on Rajasthan’s lovely Jaipur with its many hill forts and series of palaces I could hardly commit their names to memory.  Also called Amer Fort some 11 kilometers from the city of Jaipur.  Its sheer location tells you this is a fortress palace with an encompassing view of the entire pink city.  Built in 1592, the hues range from honey-colored to salmon pink to terracotta orange. Not exactly pink, but NEAR PINK.


A snake charmer hides his prized pet when we tried to take photos. A dollar for a photo, please. But we managed to sneak a few.


It’s a rocky ride as the elephant sways left and right, and sometimes sprinkles some water (?) on its back, reaching its unsuspecting passengers.

The pink shade of the stone used exclusively in the walled city is a major attraction by itself. Same with the City Palace. Now throw in the beautiful filigree screens, the myriad honeycombed and latticed windows bathed in the special glow of the afternoon light, and you feel like walking into a period movie set. Bollywood, baby! I wonder what movies or TV series were filmed here.


As soon as you get off, the interiors of the fortress palace compel you to wander around to view the city from all angles, and to check out the many pillars and latticed windows.

Pink takes on a variety of shades here depending on the time of day. The colorfully clad Rajasthanis complement the big picture of this truly fascinating place.  The only sore point is the unrelentless sun on this humid day. Lines were manageable, and a good time to sneak a few shots of the elephants queuing to climb up. 


Another shot of the climb up the fortress palace on caparisoned elephants.


Rajasthans, no. But I couldn’t resist posing with these sweet young things in our newly-purchased saree. Perfect for our Diwali Festival Night at the Diggi Palace.

POSTSCRIPT: Prepared this while preparing to attend the Diwali Festival in Jaipur’s Diggi Palace. Uploaded using iPhone cam shots on the coach ferrying us to the Fest. Please revisit this blog as I upload better photos from my and my friends’ cam 😄

Those extra 2 1/2 hours mattered. We arrived in New Delhi just as I turned 60+1, Manila time. The morning after, I had a birthday candle to blow just before we rolled out towards the pink city of Jaipur. And that was just breakfast time. Sweetness!


My First Breakfast in India is my Birthday Breakfast!


And this is my Birthday Lunch in Samode Haveli, a former 16th century royal palace now functioning as luxury boutique hotel with a fine restaurant serving authentic Indican cuisine.

No amount of polluted air, dust and incessant horn-blowing could deprive us of a lovely day. It’s a long drive broken only by a sumptuous lunch in a former palace hemmed in by pomegranate trees. The group counted 16 of us where the average age is pulled down by 3 pretty young ladies who have amazingly acquired a high degree of tolerance towards giggling “young once”. Giggling, and in awe, of this former royal residence not too far  (40 kilometers) from the pink city of Jaipur.  The interiors will floor you, with its display of Mughal and Rajasthani art and architecture. 


Pretty Sabrina under the lovely arches counting several hundred years of history. I hear the HBO TV serial adaptation of The Far Pavilions was filmed here.


I wonder how old these pomegranate trees are? That’s me enjoying the courtyard gardens — just a tiny square within the entire complex that seems ideal for late afternoon coffee or tea, and a good book to read.

We had to put the rest of Jaipur “on hold” today. Diwali Festival happens tomorrow and dinner was arranged in Diggi Palace. A saree is simply too tempting to buy. Surely, we can forgive ourselves for just dining, wining and shopping today. We had a good preview of the Pink City and we can wait till tomorrow. (Let us off on this one, ok? It’s my birthday!)


This patio looking out to the courtyard hemmed in by pomegranate and jasmine trees let that exotic aroma waft in while you comfortably sit yourselves like royalty here.


The Master Photographer and his Muse. I’m lucky to have Ernie and Yola Albano in our travel group. Ernie allowed me full access and unlimited authority to use his photos. Surely, I won’t waste that chance.

Sarees, gems, carpet were the order of the day. The bazaar displayed many colors of the beautiful Indian sarees. If only I could learn how to wrap them around me.  (I did learn. Wrapped it in 5 minutes flat. Not exactly perfect, but I just realized I have the aptitude for this. )  Oh, don’t forget the doll gifts from the puppet show I got for my birthday…… and another birthday candle (and some glasses of wine) to blow just as my birthday ended. This time, India time 😄


This lovely stairway leads you to the courtyard. I can imagine myself walking , ever so slowly, in my saree of vibrant blue ( I got a pink saree too!) to enjoy some solitude in the gardens.


And this is just the BAZAAR! Look at that chandelier, ceiling and balconies. Too exotic for your taste?

Thank you, Chikie and Ernie for some of the photos on this spread. And thanks everyone for celebrating with me.


Pretty Joyce beats everyone else in her saree. So resplendent in its shining blue hue.


And here are the dolls from the puppet show. The puppeteer kept referring to them as Romeo and Julia.


All of 26 1/2 hours to celebrate birthday breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thank you my friends!