I would like to premise this particular post with 2 statements:
- No I haven’t lost my mind and started writing a food blog in the midst of my Indian travel experience.
- I’m FINE (this one is mainly for all my family and friends who’ve not yet heard about what happened and might read this post.)
Our next stop on our trip was Jodhpur, the Blue City, to be followed by Udaipur, the White City. We had thought about a small detour to Ranthambhore National Park to try our luck at tiger spotting but decided this might need a little more planning. Thank God we did or things could have turned much worse than they did.
Arriving in Jodhpur at 5am followed by a heated haggling session with the rickshaw driver meant we were exhausted by the time we arrived at the hostel and fully passed out on the sofas until the lovely (if slightly crazy) Baddu arrived to check us in. We were back in a Madpackers because they are lovely, understanding people, if a little unconventional, who appreciate the importance of sleep and so let us check into our rooms early where I passed out until 11:00. Still feeling pretty exhausted we had a fairly relaxed, if lucrative afternoon. We decided to hop in a rickshaw and pay a visit to the Umaid Bhawan Palace, which is still home to the royal incumbent Gaj Singh II. As a result the area of the palace you can actually visit is rather small, although the grounds are very impressive. The best part of this trip was the fact we earned ourselves 250 rupees. How? By charging creepy men who wanted photos with us. It’s a great trick as most of them just laugh until they realise we’re serious then they just walk off. Two men however, were game. One paid us 50 rupees for one photo and the other 200 for a few. Obviously you have to be very careful they don’t get the wrong idea but we were at a busy attraction surrounded by plenty of other people and were getting seriously bored of the constant photo requests so decided to get something out of it. It pretty much meant our entire trip to the palace, including there and back was paid for. Result!
From talking to people in Pushkar we had heard the blue parts of the city of Jodhpur were pretty hard to find if you didn’t know where to look so we signed up for the hostel tour for our second day. This left at 7am, which was a struggle considering we’d had a late night and a few drinks the night before. I woke up feeling like absolute s!@* but I put it down to lack of sleep and powered through. Despite feeling really rather rough the tour itself was great and a good laugh as Baddu was leading it. We started off in the traditional Indian way with the best Chai I’ve had yet, although the location outside a prison was slightly questionable. We then spent a good couple of hours winding our way through the narrow streets of the blue area of town. Supposedly it was the Brahmans who painted their homes blue to indicate their religious preference but apparently it’s a great way of keeping the homes cool so plenty of people joined in despite their different religious affiliations.
By the time we left the maze that was the Blue City we were all pretty hungry, so Baddu took us for some spicy street food and a delicious lassi. Unfortunately my stomach had added itself to the list of parts of my body which were not playing ball and so I didn’t enjoy the spice as much as usual, although I can appreciate that on any other day it would have been amazing. Thankfully it did give me some much needed energy to get round the remainder of the tour and up to the Mehrangarh Fort. We have been to many a fort in the short time we arrived in India and this is defiantly one that should not be missed. They offer a student discount which still included the audio guide, immediately a winner, and the whole place is stunning. It’s on an epic scale so does take a good hour to go around but it’s totally worth it. The displays explain all about the history of the royal family and the different aspects of their daily lives, plus the battlements provide amazing views of the rest of the city, especially the blue area.
By the time we’d finished at the fort it was almost 2pm and those of us who’d stayed were all in need of sustenance. We made our way back into town following trustee MapsMe to a cafe which was lovely but did not do food. It did however do very nice coffee which I hoped would help with my energy levels and lack of appetite. It gave me a small boost but I still did not feel up to an afternoon of sights so headed back to the hostel with poor Milly tagging along. By the time we got out of the rickshaw at the hostel, the outside temperature was probably around 30/35 degrees and yet I was shivering and covered in goosebumps. Back in the hostel I took up residence on the sofa under a blanket which is where I stayed for the rest of the afternoon. Not only did I feel extremely rough, I was also really annoyed that I probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy the Halloween party with everyone- the last thing I wanted was a drink let alone vodka jelly! It turned out the hostel had a thermometer so they took my temperature which at this stage was apparently 38.2. It wasn’t until a few days later I realised what this meant and how serious a fever I actually had…
I participated in Halloween as much as I could, although I really should have just gone to bed. Everyone was having such a good time I tried so hard to join in but I was fighting a losing battle. I did get some face paint although Baddu did such a terrible job I wish I had just gone to bed! Still it was hilarious to watch everyone in their face paint getting slowly merrier.
Halloween was the final night in Jodhpur for most of the people we’d kept bumping into throughout our time in Rajasthan so it was a sad day saying all our goodbyes in the morning. From Jodhpur we got a clapped out mini bus with broken seats to Udaipur, sat next to 2 guys getting drunk on rum while I tried to get the taste of metallic coke and digestives out of my mouth. It goes without saying it was a horrible journey, culminating in a rickshaw driver who didn’t even drop us at our hostel because he had no idea where he was going and so made us walk the remainder of the way in the dark with all our stuff. Not OK.
Over the next couple of days my health did not improve and no matter how many times I said I’d be better after a nap or an early night I could not get myself back to feeling normal. Getting up 3 flights of stairs to the roof top for breakfast totally exhausted me and I was incapable of holding myself upright for more than a few minutes. In the end I admitted defeat and went to hospital. I don’t know what either of us were expecting but the words “you need to be admitted’ definitely wasn’t it. I have never in my life spent more than a few hours in a hospital back in the UK so to be told I needed to be admitted for at least 48 hours in India was terrifying. It was a private hospital but still I was scared and I’m not afraid to say it did bring me to tears. At this point I still didn’t know what was wrong so I decided to get all my tests done first just in case the Drs were being over dramatic. They weren’t. Although my ultrasounds were fine my blood and other samples showed my white blood cell count was dangerously low and I knew I was insanely dehydrated. Every time I sat I fell asleep and was incapable of standing for more than a few minutes without feeling as though I was about to pass out. I have never been so glad to have a friend like Milly. She had been by my side since we entered the hospital at 11am, asking questions I was too out of it to ask, finding out when my results would be ready and reading over all the forms I had to sign when I was finally admitted at 4:30. Everyone needs a Milly in their life!
I ended up spending the next 4 and half days rather than 48 hours in that hospital, attached to a drip and regularly injected with antibiotics. I have NEVER in my life been on so much medication or watched so many crap films. When I was admitted they told me I had a ‘mild viral infection’ affecting my white blood cell count. This turned out to be Dr Code for ‘you have Dengue Fever’ which they didn’t tell me until I was feeling much better on my third day. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of this delightful disease Dengue Fever is caused by the bite of a female mosquito which hangs around during the day. It is mostly found in cities where there is a lot of stagnant water and one of the worst places to catch it is Delhi. It can take 3-10 days for symptoms to reveal themselves and so I had most likely caught it as soon as I arrived. There are various strains of Dengue but no way of preventing it other than wearing insect repellent and hoping for the best. I already knew all the symptoms having Googled them as soon as I felt ill in Jodhpur but we laughed it off, explained them away as other things because Dengue is something that happens to other people and never someone you know…
As it was a private hospital I was in my own room with en suite bathroom and a TV with multiple film channels in English. I spent most of my time flicking through these channels trying to find films that didn’t just involved people killing each other – who came up with the Transformer films?! They’re awful! I watched a LOT of films including some of the greats such as Bridget Jones, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Inside Out, The Mummy and on our last morning we even found Harry Potter. We’d gone a bit loopy by this stage waiting for my release and had just been singing the Potter Puppet Pals song so it felt like a sign that things were looking up
Despite the TV entertainment and Milly’s visits which always had me in fits of laughter, it was super boring in hospital and I felt bad for Milly being on her own. After 3 days the Drs still wanted me in for one more night so they could test my blood in the morning and then decide if I could leave. The main reason for my will to leave (other than joining Mills of course) was that my appetite had started to return and hospital food is, unfortunately, the same the world over: disgusting. On my final night however I was finally presented with the tomato soup they had been mentioning for the past 2 days and let me tell you I’m pretty sure that’s what actually cured my Dengue. Finally the metal taste had gone, I no longer felt sick and I had the energy to tidy my belongings ready to leave. It didn’t matter that they served it with a very odd grilled tomato and cucumber sandwich, the soup itself was enough to restore my energy levels, not quite to full health but closer than they’d been for days.
I was finally freed on Tuesday afternoon (having gone in on the Friday) with a bag full of medication and under strict instructions to return within 3 days to have more tests. I nodded to everything, grimaced as they pulled out my drip and pretty much skipped out the front door into the sunshine and air that didn’t smell of disinfectant. I was supposed to be on bed rest for 5 days but we decided that was a little bit extreme so came up with our own version of bed rest: cafe hopping. We did venture into multiple cafes, mainly the ones Milly had frequented while she was exploring the town solo, however we spent most of our time in one particular place: Cafe Satori. One day in fact we spent 5 hours in one corner and then went back in the evening for our final pre-bed coffee. This place had it all: delicious food (after not eating properly for almost a week my appetite was back in full force); great smoothies (I highly recommend the peanut butter shake); incredible vegan chocolate cake and a super chilled atmosphere and friendly owner. We played marathon games of UNO, snap and cheat while Milly and Raahi (the owner) had a full on s!@*head battle (the card game), which I stayed well out of. There are of course other great cafes in Udaipur- if you’re looking for good beans on toast try the Greek place, just beware of the rowing owner and her staff- but nothing quite came close to Cafe Satori. Not to be missed on a visit to Udaipur. (Photos courtesy of Google as we were having too much fun to take photos)
In terms of sightseeing there isn’t that much to actually visit in Udaipur. The town is centred around the lake in which sit two extremely expensive hotels. There are plenty of rooftop bars and restaurants to watch the sunrise and sunset- did I mention this is supposed to be the most romantic place in India? There are couples EVERYWHERE! The two main sights are the Monsoon Palace and the City Palace which we did get round to seeing…eventually.
The Monsoon Palace sits on top of a hill at the edge of the city and while the views at sunset are great I’m not sure how they get away with charging quite so much or why you would want to go up there at any other time of day. You have to pay for entry and also for the 4×4 which takes you up the winding mountain road to the top. The palace itself is pretty much a ruin with not a lot inside but it does offer impressive views over the city on one side and the surrounding mountains on the other. Despite being surrounded by monkeys which always put me slightly on edge as they are highly unpredictable, we spent a lovely hour watching the blood red sun descend behind the clouds. We were slightly outnumbered by couples but for once very few people wanted their photos taken with us so it actually worked out quite well. The best part about our trip to the Monsoon Palace though was the rickshaw ride there where we saw our first elephant just chilling in the middle of a roundabout munching on his dinner. It was so random neither or us quite believed we’d seen it.
On our last day in Udaipur I had to go back to the hospital for my some final tests- we’d booked a bus out of there anyway so we were leaving no matter what they said. After a morning visit we (predictably) spent most of the day in Cafe Satori but I did force myself to go and see the City Palace as this was my last chance. I left Milly behind eating cake as she’d been while I was in hospital and set out solo. It was well worth the visit although I was grateful for my technically in date student card as it provided a substantial discount. I was also glad I’d waited a few days because there were a LOT of stairs which were a bit of a struggle even after a few days of “resting”. The building itself was stunning, with so many decorative wall coverings and ornate carvings it’s a miracle these buildings ever get finished. There was also a wedding rehearsal taking place, which totally distracted me from the building for a good half an hour. I’m not really sure what part of the wedding they were practicing for but there were 3 main dancers surrounded by about 20 others all working it to a great song and a killer routine- can you tell I wanted to join in? As a setting for a wedding I can’t imagine they come much better than the City Palace and the whole place was going to look beautiful covered in royal blue and bouquets of flowers.
We returned to the hospital that afternoon slightly nervous about what the Drs would say but after their little joke about re-admittance they gave me the all clear on the condition I did not eat street food or dairy for 2 weeks…I had paneer (cheese) for my dinner, but it was only a little bit! This meant that after 10 days we could finally leave Udaipur. Don’t get me wrong there are definitely worse places we could have been stuck in and at least a few positives came out of it: I’d managed to replace my black trousers someone stole of the washing line in Jodhpur; treated myself to a release ring and most definitely put back on all the weight I’d lost while not eating. A chocolate cake a day keeps Dengue Fever away is the saying right?!
On our last night in Udaipur we got ourselves some stunning Rajasthani henna before attempting to see the dance show which Milly had been wanting to see all week. Sadly we didn’t realise how many other people wanted to see it too and there were no tickets left. There may have been standing room but we thought that might not have been the best idea so instead we found ourselves a roof top restaurant where we perched ourselves in a stilted canopy for our feast of a dinner- I was finally back on Indian food. Despite the fact we had a crazy early bus the next morning we (of course) went back to Cafe Satori for a final drink. Milly and Raahi were on rum I was on lime soda given the fact I was taking so many different types of medication for my liver I practically rattled as I walked. It was the only way we could really have ended our unexpectedly long stay in the White City but it was finally time to move on. Fresh air and hiking awaited us.
TOP TIP FOR THE BLUE AND WHITE CITIES: Wear insect repellant from day 1 to avoid unexpectedly and unnecessarily long stays in these delightful towns.