Bloody freezing morning as we head off in our chair class carriage to Jaipur. A nice guy on the train even lent us a blanket! Had delicious platform pakoras and chai at Merta station. Passed many quarries and a salt lake, Lake Sankher (?). Arrived in Jaipur about 12.30, and off to Arya Niwas hotel, where we stayed back in 1987. Hotel looked the same except for a relocated reception desk. Theres also lots of new buildings around them. We were in room 221 which was very noisy as it was above the kitchens, will make sure we ask for a different room on our return. Went off to explore MI road area, changed money at 44.3 rupees after some haggling! Checked out a very good Rajasthani crafts emporium, then through a very noisy, crowded bazaar. Had dinner at the Trattoria restaurant on the top floor of a hotel up the lane from the Arya Niwas. Terrific wood fired pizzas, better than most Sydney restaurants. Watched an excellent free flute concert at the hotel too.
Off early next morning with our driver, Ashok Singh and his Toyota Innova. Stopped off on the way at a pricy restaurant for tea, which Ashok haggling to get a discount for us! Almost at hotel in Nawalgarh when Ashok took a short cut over a pipe sticking out of the ground and burst his tyre. Finally reached the Apana Dani ecoresort, which was more like a monastery with its list of rules, including no alcohol, noise or shorts! There was an Australian teacher there with her kids staying for 5 nights, poor things. Rooms were traditional style huts, there was a nice courtyard but my god the food prices! Walked into town to look at the famous painted havelis. The paintings were nice and in good condition and sometimes quite surreal.
The Ganga Mai temple has some nice paintings, which all seem so incongruous in such a dusty little town. Ate some yummy kachoris. At the last haveli a food committee of locals decided we should eat at Hotel Teej for dinner, which was a great and cheap choice. Did a really nice alu gobi. Driver took us back to hotel, where we read for a while before the compulsory bed time.
Had a morning ander around the farm, which was pretty small and didn’t seem to be much evidence of any innovative eco practices. Just looked like a local family farm. Had their 800 rupee (yes, 800!) which was pathetic – 4 parathas, tea and yoghurt. Drove off to Dundhod first and looked at the fort and some havelis. Local ruler at Dundhod used to have his horses in his loungeroom! Then to Mandawa for more painted havelis, but these weren’t as good as Nawalgarh. Nice market area and city gates. Headed back to Jaipur, with some crazy traffic. Had dinner at the Copper Chimney, which was delicious, accompanied by an excellent cold Indus Pride beer.