India Memories, Part Three.

Bundi

After the grandeur of the city of Jaipur and the surrounding forts our next stop was the far more humble town of Bundi which is a five hour bus trip to the south.

6. Friendliest Town

Bundi attracts far fewer tourists than anywhere else we visited, especially during the summer season. Possibly for this reason, or just because it is a small rural town, the welcome we received from the locals was invariably warm and friendly. We stayed in a small guest house, really a private home with a couple of rooms made available for guests and we were the only visitors. In fact we saw only one other western couple during our time in Bundi. There are a few attractions in town which we visited including a crumbling palace on the hillside above the town which was described by Rudyard Kipling as ‘the work of goblins rather than of men’. It provided great views over the town and although large sections of the palace are closed up and left to the bats. The rooms that are open hold a series of fabulous, although fading turquoise-and-gold murals that are the palace’s chief treasure.

Bundi has a number of step wells, most having very little water due to declining ground water levels and unfortunately plenty of rubbish, but one worth visiting is the Queen’s step well which is 46m deep. We also visited a pretty lake 2 km north of town which has a small summer palace where Rudyard Kipling once stayed and wrote part of Kim.

The most enjoyable part of our stay however was just wandering around the streets and narrow alleys in the old town. Many of the buildings are painted Brahmin-blue and we saw many old temples. Numerous cows are to be seen scattered through the streets and lanes enjoying their privileged status. We received many welcoming smiles and greetings and often people were keen to have a chat and share a chai. Children were particularly keen to have their photos taken and to then see themselves on the screen.

7. Most authentic Indian meal

The one western couple we saw while we were in Bundi had already spent a week in the town and gave us some tips on places to visit. They highly recommended a small restaurant near the fort, Jays cafe. We called into Jays mid-morning after several hours exploring the fort. It was too hot to eat but we needed a cool drink. The cafe is run by Jay and his sister Rinku, both in their early 20’s, with their Mum working in the kitchen with Rinku. They welcomed us warmly and ushered us up some steep stairs, past their mother who was sitting in the kitchen and nodded to us as we went by. The sitting area at the top of the house was sheltered and caught a little breeze which was helped along by an air cooler directed toward us. We were brought a traditional lassi each which included cardamom pods, saffron and other unidentified flavours, yum, our new favourite. We chatted with Jay and Rinku while we were enjoying our drink and promised to come back in the evening for a thali, a set meal which includes a number of dishes on a round platter. When we tried to pay our bill for our lassi we were told to wait and it would be included in the evening account.

We returned late afternoon and although they are not licenced they had bought and cooled some beers which we had requested and we enjoyed them with some pappadams before the feast began. When we were ready for our meal dish after dish came out to the table. If we finished more than half of a dish it was replenished until finally we had to ask them to stop. We were served a wide variety of vegetarian dishes and they were all absolutely delightful with everything very fresh and cooked especially for us. We were so busy enjoying the food we didn’t take any photos but finally remembered to take one at the end with Rinku.


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