Not for anyone over the age of 25.

Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of India  ,
Tuesday, March 20, 2007

About 50km from Mora we crossed into Rajasthan, possibly the most visited state in India, and one of the poorest. It is also far less fertile than Gujarat, as it is dominated by the Thar desert and has no coastline. The differences between the two states were pronounced and immediately clear, which I had not been expecting. As soon as we crossed into Rajasthan the countryside took on a more barren aspect, with longer stretches of uncultivated scrubland dotted with desert thorns and cacti. The culture was also radically different. A local form of Hindi taking over from Gujarati as the dominant language. The famous and beautiful traditional clothes and jewelry of Rajasthani women contrasted with the western clothes more in evidence in Gujarat. The shockingly bright hues, reds, yellows and purples, stand out strikingly against the dusty backdrop of the trek to the local well, and many women complement this with scores of bangles of bronze, gold, silver and ivory, ear rings and huge nose rings. Even young boys were often wearing earings.

However, what really took me by surprise was the shift in attitudes towards us. After becoming used to small gestures of hospitality and at least honest dealing in resaurants and shops (petty theft and guilt-trip overkill notwithstanding) I was stunned to be comprehensively abused in my first two transactions over the border. Some overpirced banannas were no big deal, and the attempt to charge 3star restaurant prices for some roadside slop was quickly rebuffed, but the fact that both of these occured witnessed by local villagers testified to a culture where foreigners are to be taken for as much as possible, and to help them is frowned upon. This was confirmed many times in Rajasthan. Whether it's the effect of greater poverty or greater tourism, or indeed the legacy of the haughty, warlike Rajput princes, Rajasthan is a harder, meaner place to travel.

Our first town in Rajasthan was Dungarpur, 'city in the hills'. The flat plains of Gujarat had given way to rather more hilly, as well as arid terrain, so we were hot and exhausted by the time we arrived. We found a cheap and tolerable hotel in the new part of town, which was a functional area of charmless shops in modern buildings. In the morning we set off in search of our first Maharaja's Palace. Rajasthan has palaces and forts in some abundance, due to the system of Rajput city-states which historically divided the region. It is these which draw so many visitors to the state. The Maharjas palace in Dungarpur is not the finest or best-preserved example of these palaces, but it had one redeeming feature. Hidden in a cupboard on the top floor was a detailed and graphic mural of the Kama Sutra. I'm not too mature to giggle at ancient (and quite inventive) porn.
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