India, travel from Mumbai through Rajastan
In this entry: India, traveling from Mumbai through Rajastan in this amazing and cheap backpacking country. Making my way from Mumbai through Rajasthan visiting Udaiphur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer by train or bus. The unreal Holy Festival, a Camel Safari and almost becoming a Bollywood Star. Prices, transport and accommodation See our India Train Travel Backpacker’s Guide.
INDIA – A MUST TRAVEL DESTINATION FOR ALL REAL NOMADS
India is one of those countries that all real nomads should try and visit. This was my first trip to India. Travel through this amazing country was cheap and easy. India is not as overrun by tourists as South East Asia. The country is rich in history and the culture is very different and interesting.
I loved the food, the street food here was some of the best and cheapest that I have ever tasted. I enjoyed that everything in India felt real, it was not just a show for tourists. I never had stomach problems traveling in India. I could never understand the impeccable dress sense of the men, nobody wears t-shirts or shorts always long shirts and pants even in unbearable heat.
YES IT IS DIRTY..
Sure, it is a disgustingly dirty place with about 600 million people being without toilets and many of them squatting outside. I could never get used to the constant spitting and accompanying noises. Combine that with thousands of cows sleeping on the street and shitting everywhere does not make for very hygienic conditions. Try to see it as part of the country’s charm, wash your hands and be a little street wise when buying food.
Not having a clue or a plan I decided to start in Mumbai and make my way north. The main tourist area in Mumbai is Colaba located 28km from the airport (about a 10$ cab ride). Since I could not really find recommended hostels with dormitories in this area I decided to go to Anjali hostel near the airport (info below).
From outside the hostel was not a good welcome to India being located in a slum like area. It was neat inside with bunk beds in the dormitory and it was the last time I watched movies for a while. This was the only classic backpackers during my stay in the country. Staying far out was not to bad and the hour and a half train ride to Colaba and some crazy tuc tuc rides to the beach and other sights were always an adventure and very cheap (I never paid for the train since nobody seemed to and I couldn’t find a ticket booth).
In Colaba, Mumbai’s most recognized monument, the Gateway of India was worth seeing. The prince of wales museum was expensive to enter (5$), but very interesting. Colaba Causeway was good for street shopping and watching 1000’s of people’s laundry being done by hand at the Malaxmi Dhobi Ghat. Near the Mahalaxmi railway station is a good stop to take pictures. If you hand in laundry at a hotel it is likely it is getting done over here. Marine drive beach was a nice place to watch the sunset along with thousands of locals, there was nobody swimming, but many kids play beach cricket.
WANT TO BE A BOLYWOOD STAR?
I was hoping to be spotted by a talent scout in Mumbai and become the next Hindi action film star! Bollywood, the Hindi-language film industry is based in Mumbai and I almost had my chance to be a Europian cricket hero! Knowing that mainly western tourists stay at Anjali, the hostel is often contacted by Bollywood agents when European extras are required for shoots. I had two roles as film extra, unfortunately the first one was cancelled due to weather. My second opportunity for Bollywood fame was with two European tourists, the three of us were cast to be British cricket players. When the film crew came to pick us up we found out it was an all-night shoot.My ‘team mates’ had other responsibilies and could not stay all night. Since we were not enough Europeans for the shoot it was cancelled.
INDIA TRAIN WAITING LIST
I was on the waiting list for a train ticket that I bought in advance. I was not successful in getting a seat from the waiting waiting list. Read more about my experience with India trains. I went back to Anjali backpackers and booked a night bus ticket. These can be bought at most hotels/travel agents. The bus is sometimes faster than the train, you also have AC non-AC options. The AC bus was very nice, I had a big sleeper booth just for me with curtains. I closed these and fell asleep watching a movie on my laptop only to wake up in Udaipur the next morning. Just set an alarm about an hour before estimated arrival, you can miss your stop!
The city is often referred to as the most romantic city of India with its three lakes Fateh Sagar Lake, Lake Pichhola and Swaroop Sagar Lake. There is beautiful forts, palaces, temples, gardens and mountains. The narrow lanes lined with stalls in the medieval historic center is an excellent place to shop for paintings and souvenirs. The city is also well known as the site were the James Bond movie, Octopussy, was filmed. This movie shows daily at most restaurants and hostels. Some of the great sites not to miss are the beautiful Udaipur City Palace built entirely in granite and marble and the impressive Jagdish temple.
I went to “The Blue City” by night bus from Udaipur and arrived at 4am. Traveling at night and sighseeing by day was a great money saving technique. I arrived in Jodhpur a day or two before Hindi the festival of colours . This ancient Hindi festival is a crazy colour fight where participants play, chase and colour each other mostly with dry water paint powder. I enjoyed the blue city (most houses in the old city are supposed to be shades of blue).Here was great street food, friendly people and the Merhangarh ford. The biggest ford in Rajasthan towers above the city.
It was nice to see, but entrance was expensive. A TV program filmed a program on Holy Festival for tourism. An introduction to Holy Festival was organised in the town square. We practiced to throw paint! Jodhpur was a friendly enough city, but I did not make any friends to celebrate holy. I decided to move on to Jaisalmer, also known as the “Golden City”. It is located on the border with Pakistan in the Thar Desert. I saved on another night’s accommodation by moving by overnight bus.
Moving to JAISALMER was a great decision. I came here by local public bus, which was an interesting and very hot trip. I loved the city located in the desert it looks a lot more like the middle east than asia. The massive ford looking over the city is absolutely magnificent andt is a living fort not a museum. More than a hundred people still live inside. Mystic Jaisalmer my hostel was really great. They even sent a porter to come and pick me up at the bus station. I was a guy that was going to stay in a dorm room! Jaisalmer was my favourite place in Rajasthan, good food, nice people, a very very fun Holi festival and a great camel safari in the Thar desert.
The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter and the biggest color fight in the world.
I went to the fort with some fellow travelers from Mystic, what a colour battle waited for us! It reminded me of Sonkran, the massive water fight during the Thai New Year. Similar to Songkran the aim became to get everybody that looks like they don’t participate. Loud music, paint of all colors, people from all countries and ages dancing and singing.
All people and the huge ancient ford was covered in a massive multi colored cloud! An unreal sight that will stick with me forever. It took about two days and 5 showers to get rid of all the paint!
CAMEL SAFARI IN THE THAR DESERT
We don’t do many organised tours, but I don’t have my own camel, it was not crazy expensive and sounded like fun. So I decided to do this one.
I really enjoyed it, the desert was beautiful, our guides were great and hopping around on a camel was an interesting experience. The photographers in our group had an amazing time shooting some unreal scenes. I am just happy that I never fell off. Sitting on a camel is far from the ground and I have heard some scary stories of travelers getting injured falling off.
Good local food was prepared by our guides on the fire. The camels looked very tired just lying around in the sand at our camp site. Sleeping out side the night sky was truly spectacular.
This was my last destination in Rajastan. I stayed with a friend, Liz Bomes, an American girl. We met trekking in the Sapa valley in Vietnam and she is now working for an NGO in Jaiphur. From Jaipur I went to Varanasi by rail.
The food around Rajastan and Mumbai is fantastic and Dahl fried and Mashala Dosa were my favourites. Dahl is a thick lentil soup/paste eaten with chapati/roti (Indian flatbread baked in a pan when you order). Mashala Dosa is fermented rice batter pancake served with chutney, chilli and Dahl. Both dishes are very tasty and very cheap.
MUMBAI – Anjali homestay Dormitory 550 INR (10$), UDAIPHUR – Lalghat guesthouse Double room 400 INR ($6.50) Dorm 150 INR ($2.50), JODHPUR – Kuku Guesthouse Double room 400 INR ($6.50), JAISALMER – Mystic Jaisalmer Dormitory 300 INR ($5).
Mumbai to Udaiphur (16 hours) 2nd class – 1590 INR ($26.50) 3D class -1122 INR ($18.70) sleeper – 430 INR ($7.16)
BUS:Mumbai to Udaiphur aircon sleeper (15 hours) 1500 INR ($25)
Auto rickshow (Tuc Tuc) 15 INR ($0.25) Stop fee and for first km, then 10 INR per km
Masala Dosa – Street about $1.5, restaurant – $3.30 Dahl Fried 60 INR (1$), Roti 10 INR ($0.15) each, usually eat 3 or 4 with 1 Dahl fried
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