Monday, July 2, 2012

The Palace and the Patel Family

It really felt good to sleep in late today. For an hour my mind had started it's day but my body couldn't move. Eventually at 830 am I had to force my muscles to move. For the first time in three weeks I went unshaven today, it felt good to be little lazy. Knowing that the window of opportunity for my free breakfast was about to shut I made my way to the dining hall and order a traditional Indian breakfast of parathas, yogurt and spicy pickles. Okay, so it wasn't all Indian, I had a nice cup of black coffee too.

Shortly after I ordered two young guys came in and sat at the table next to me. Starving for company and someone to talk to I introduced myself to the two guys from Ohio. Sorry, names forgotten. One is a real estate developer and the other a school teacher. A nice couple of six years enjoying their their three week vacation in India.

A glimps of the Umaid Bhawan Palace

After a little bit more conversation they mentioned that they were headed to the palace so naturally I invited myself along. Right after breakfast we hopped into an auto rickshaw. Vishu, the driver, spoke excellent English and the guys had used him the day before to go to the fort. These rickshaws only have room for two passengers so I sat on a small bar in the front.

The Umaid Bhawan Palace is still owned by the Royal Family. The construction began in 1929 and the palace was completed in 1943. The photos I have do not do it justice. The entry fee for Indians is 24 cents, for foreigners within Asia it is 48 cents and for all other foreigners it is $1.25.  The museum was okay, nothing spectacular. Lots of photos and art work and ceramics an even old clocks but very little descriptions. The palace is in pristine condition and my photos do not do it justice, you're probably better off looking at photos on the internet of the palace.

The view from the palace is unreal. It sits on top of a small hill of only 400 feet high and has a 360 degree view of the flat desert land. The palace has 347 rooms and is now divided into three distinct parts. The Royal Family still lives in a portion of the palace, a portion is now a museum and a third portion is a five star luxury hotel owned by the Taj Hotels. There is a bar and restaurant at the hotel however it charges a $60 per person cover charge just to get in so needless to say we didn't check it out.

Being low season has it's advantages, there was only one other couple in the palace at the time so it felt like we had the whole thing to ourselves.

Luxmi Patel in the middle flanked by his two younger brothers

After visiting the museum the three of us walked back towards the gate and decided to take a quick break at the concession stand, sit in the shade and have some water. There was a large extended family also sitting there with lots of beautiful kids. Naturally I pulled out the camera and took some photos and instantly we had new friends. A young man approached me and proudly introduced himself as Luxmi Patel from Pakistan. He was so proud of stating to all of us that he was here on a real visa, made me wonder how many are not here on a real visa. The entire family from parents to grandparents and everyone else was so warm and outgoing it felt like we knew them for years. Luxmi' mother was very camera shy in her purple sari but everyone else couldn't wait to have their photo taken. Then we were asked if they could take our photos and with an obligatory yes everyone pulled out cell phones and started taking photos of very one else. It was the highlight of my day.

Everyone photographing everyone with their cell phones

This evening I went for walk (I like to walk) and found Food 'n Fun. It's an ice cream parlor and food joint, and a  very popular place among young adults and students. Outside the crowd just stared at me as I opened the door, inside people hushed but not as much as last night, can't let the ice cream melt just because a stranger walks in the door. The menu was filled with so many choices including Indian, Chinese and Italian. Hungry, but not too hungry, I decided to order dahi pupri. Dahi is yogurt and pupri is a cracker. It's an awesome snack in which crisp crackers are topped with potato chucks and a few peas and covered in yogurt and some chutneys and garnished with some smaller cracker like things. It had to be one of the best I've ever had, my mother would have liked it. I'm here for a few more days and I've decided this will be my regular hangout. Cheap food, Great food, and maybe one day before I leave I'll indulge in some ice cream.

The new luxury living development around the base of the Palace, prices starting at $1 million USD

An overview of the palace

Beautiful twin boys

Look at those eyes!!

Our hired auto rickshaw

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