Bikaner 8 | bellsandtrance's Blog
We left Jaipur at 9:30 on route to Bikaner, 330 km north west of Jaipur and 480 km from the Pakistani border.This journey took us the whole day because of the traffic. Good old Milap is an excellent driver and plays us some very soothing Hindi music while he dodges traffic, although it gets a bit much for some of the other passengers. The kids now all have flue as well, so it's a blessing that they are getting to sleep in the car for the day. The country side is lovely to see, remember Rajasthan is a desert state so there is scrubby bush around and a few hills in the distance. It looks like the bush veld. There are a lot of trees and people dotted around doing farm labour. Pa was saying, it's so strange, they build this majestic wall around their property and the they have this tiny little shack on the inside.
The sky also always seems hazy over here in India although we have only been to the north of course and it is winter here.
We arrive in Bikaner as the sun starts to set.We are staying in a totally opulent royal palace. A real one. We are greeted with rose water to drink and blessings on our foreheads. It's called the Laxmi Niwas Palace Bikaner..please google it!
We rest for the evening and go off to see the Bikaner fort the next day. It's a fort like all the others but this one is one of the best preserved forts around. The reason being that Bikaner is not a main stream tourist destination, in fact we are the first people in the fort for the day. No beggars, no tourist touts. It is really quiet and very enjoyable. Inside the fort we see the throne room totally in tact ...Neville just wants to sit on it as he thinks he is the Raj now. It is solid silver with red velvet and huge. The floors are marble with inlay work, the walls to the ceilings are covered with beautiful paintings and patterns. It truly is one of the most well preserved forts we have seen.
Bikaner is famous for its agriculture and camel wool products. We are off to see a miniature painting school....I enjoyed that so much as we got a demonstration of how they get colour pigments from natural sources like stones, moss, leaves etc. the miniatures are fantastically done!
India has the best quality woolen products in the world. We hang with some shop keepers who sell wool, they come from Kashmir and really know their stuff. The best quality Pashminas (shawl/scarf combo) cost around 20 000 US dollars. They are so expensive because everything is done by hand of course, but also for the quality of the yak wool. The best comes from the baby yaks.The locals collect the wool high up in the Himalayas from tree branches that have snagged off some yak hairs. Imagine.
There are thousands of colours, patterns, scarves, bedding, blankets pillow cases in any design possible. Ma, Charmaine and I spend hours in shops like these. " Die vrouens wil al weer koop!" Garth also thinks they are beautiful! I think I am becoming a scarf addict. My pashmina ( not the 20000 us dollar kind) really does keep me warm and I wear it almost everyday here...Bikaner is quite chilly. They say that parts of India are the coldest in the world with temperatures of minus 40 degrees Celsius in the Himalayas so they know about keeping warm. Aaaah I wish I had a pashmina for everyday of the week! They do become heirlooms madam.
Anyway back to our hotel. What a place! It was built in 1900 by the royal family. The walls are all carved in pink sandstone. The grounds are surrounded by sprawling green gardens with fishponds and trees. Each room is different and we are sleeping in copper four poster beds.Ma and Pa have a room the size of a small flat. Charmaine has her own huge room with antique wooden beds and even an antique cot for Cate. This place rocks! In the centre of the palace is a huge courtyard paved with marble and a little square patch of lawn with a fountain inside. All around the courtyard are rooms decorated in the style of the times, a combination of Indian, English and French. A billiard room, a smoking room, a hunting trophy room...counted 8 tiger skins, a formal dining room decorated with 40 kg of gold leaf. Crystal chandeliers hang in every corner. Garth and I explore the place and almost get lost a few times....you can climb up to the roof and see views of Bikaner from every angle (population seven hundred thousand). We ask the porter to show us the best rooms, the Maharaja's of course, it is so opulent, four poster bed with steps, gold painted floor to ceiling, thick Indian carpets and even a grand piano. All the furniture is antique and it really has a wonderful atmosphere. There are twenty other guests and we barley see them...it feels as if we have a whole palace to ourselves. Dinner is formal and a set menu so you just sit and eat and have waiters hovering around you in their turbans. Its totally delicious western and indian food. I am getting so round. Nothing is too much to ask here.
We go to bed in our luxurious room. As I lay there in the dark listening to the drums and Hindu singing downstairs I think....I am in India, my dream, I am sleeping in a royal palace, my husband and kids next to me....I drift off and think...what could be better.
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Bikaner 8, posted December 27th, 2012
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