Bond, The Beatles and the teachings of Mr. Bob
Trip Start Jun 25, 2003
31Trip End Sep 2004
We left Mt. Abu and romantic honeymooners for Udaipur and James Bond. The beautiful lake side city of Udaipur was the site of the James Bond classic "Octopussy" and there is no way to escape this fact. Everywhere I looked upon entering the narrow lanes of the city were signs decrying "Octopussy" showings, which I assume meant film screenings. I hoped to avoid the James Bond kitsch and focus on the city's history and beautiful architecture, but this proved difficult. We stayed in style at a beautiful guesthouse with a view of the Lake Palace, a gorgeous gleaming white palace accessible only by boat that appears to float in the middle of the blue lake
Leaving Bond behind we got an overnight train for Jaipur. Jaipur, home of the striking Amber fort, became known as the "pink city" after it was painted pink for a royal visit by Prince Albert in 1853. By this point in our India adventure we had been to the "blue city" and the "golden city", not to mention several forts, so a city really needed something special to make it stand out. Fortunately Jaipur has great shopping. Within an hour of our arrival Jan had arranged with some other eager ladies to hire a private car for the day to whisk them through the teeming streets to all the best shops scattered around the sprawling city. Breakfast was spent plotting the location of the best shops out on a map and punctuated by Jan looking up from a pile of business cards strewn over the guide book, staring me directly in the eyes and stating "I'll need loads of our cash, and the credit card."
As Jan was driven away in air-conditioned luxury I grabbed my camera and was joined by two friends, John and Jenny, to venture out into the streets to get a feel for the bustling city. Fortunately it was an auspicious day to be out taking pictures as it was Shiva's birthday
Leaving Jaipur our next stop was Bharatpur, home of a world renowned bird sanctuary. The area is mostly marshland making it an ideal nesting site for migrating birds, and ideal hunting ground for the Maharaja. Unfortunately for the Maharaja, modern India frowns upon rich men riding elephants and shooting exotic birds, so the beautiful marshland once set aside for his private hunts has been changed from game reserve to nature preserve
From Bharatpur on to Agra and the world famous Taj Mahal. I can't imagine anyone reading this hasn't seen a picture of the Taj before, nor been subjected to the trite line "The largest monument ever built for love". After so much build up I was expecting a let down, after all I had been to the "Taj Mahal Hotel Casino" in Atlantic City, New Jersey countless times and hadn't been that impressed. But upon seeing the real Taj Mahal in person I was awe-struck, we spent every spare minute looking at the Taj Mahal. We ate on roof top restaurants with views of the Taj, took nature walks around the Taj, and even when visiting other spectacular sights, like the Red Fort, stared off at the Taj in the distance. Up close its perfect symmetry is amazing, and from a distance it appears to be made of clouds
Leaving Agra we finished traveling with our Intrepid Tours group and had to start planning things for ourselves once again. A daunting task as we had been with groups since we left Cambodia and were out of practice in figuring out where to stay, what to eat, or what to do on our own. So we decided to continue travelling with friends who were going north to Rishikesh to chill out, do yoga and relax after our whirlwind tour of Rajasthan. By lucky coincidence, one of them happened to be our former trip leader who continued to plan everything for us. Rishikesh is situated in a bend of the Ganges river surrounded by hills in all directions. In the morning the wind blows down from the Himalayas ringing the bells of the ashrams adding a layer of sound to the ever present chanting. It is a beautiful, peaceful place - no wonder The Beatles came here to find their guru back in 1968.
Like the Beatles we were in search of a guru as well, or at least someone to teach us yoga. I was a bit concerned we would get someone who would be a bit too metaphysical. I enjoy the stretching and balance of yoga but didn't want to focus too much on breathing through my third eye. Turns out I had nothing to worry about in the teachings of Mr. Bob. Seeing a sign for Yogi Mr. Bob we called his mobile phone and arranged a session. Mr. Bob arrived on his motorcycle, loosened his pony tail and once sitting comfortably in his velour track suit began putting us through the paces with all the touchy feely-ness of an army drill seargent. We agreed that he was a bit unconventional but liked the postures and poses he taught us, so we decided to stick with him. So now twice a day I am a disciple of the teachings of Yogi Mr. Bob. I don't think I am in any danger of being enlightened.