Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas at Castle Bijaipur

Continuing with the tourism theme, I made my way to Rajasthan for Christmas. As I chugged my way from Delhi to Chittaurgarh on the train, I was joined by two Canadians who had never been to India before and I felt like an old-hand as I explained that it was quite normal for a family of 5 to occupy the one spare bed in our curtained pod and that the army of cockroaches crawling up the wall really wouldn’t kill them. Castle Bijaipur – owned and inhabited by the local maharajah - was everything you imagine a Raj palace in Rajasthan would be. Over 800 miles from Orissa, it felt like another country. The Castle was set in a very fertile valley parts of which reminded me of East Yorkshire (or was I just homesick?), the vegetation was different in both type and colour, the men wore turbans which you don’t see in Orissa and whilst the women wore saris they were tied in a completely different way to those of their Eastern cousins. Most of the people who were part of our group had come from the UK to avoid Christmas but fortunately for me there were some injections of the festive season. On Christmas Eve we were treated to a display of fireworks around a tree lit with fairy lights and decorated with blobs of cotton wool to represent snow and when I retired to bed I was thrilled to see that Santa had found his way to India and left me a Christmas stocking. During the four days I stayed at the castle, I cycled the surrounding hills, went riding on Marwari horses - indigenous thoroughbreds who sport rather strange ears that are turned inside out and meet in middle - and sat by the pool sipping the G&Ts I’d been dreaming about. We also visited an opium growing area. Supposedly strictly controlled by the government, there seemed to be enough floating around for us to be offered an opium-cocktail made from water filtered through the crushed seeds– which, as I’m sure you’re dying to know, tastes metallic, doesn’t give you a high (or at least not in the quantity we consumed) but does make your lips a bit tingly. I probably wouldn’t rush back for seconds but, as they say, you should try everything, except incest and Morris dancing, at least once. I finished my stay sitting round a camp fire in the jungle sipping whisky and singing Christmas carols. All in all a fabulous way to spend Christmas in India – a great mixture of the exotic and the traditional. Click here to see where Castle Bijaipur is. Click here for more pictures.

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