Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Road to Mandawa.....Bikaner and the Rat Temple

No extra charge for sitting on the roof

The long drive from Delhi comes to an end and we check in to the Mandawa Heritage Hotel. 

Mandawa Heritage Hotel. 

Mandawa's claim to fame these days is a few remaining old mansions, or known locally as Haveli's.  

Typical Mandawa street scenes.

Today it looks a scruffy little village, but look past the dust and grime and goats and donkeys and camels and rubbish and poop and decay and public urination, and it's obvious this was once a highly prosperous town on the historic silk route. 

One of many Haveli under restoration.

With their multiple wives and scores of children the successful merchants and entrepreneurs of this golden era built grand Haveli's to display their status and accommodate their continually growing families.  The elaborate interior and exterior artworks and fresco's on these impressive buildings are still clearly evident .

Frescoes adorn every surface.

After a tour of the Havelis and a comfortable night in our old mansion we hit the road for Bikaner.

Onward to Bikaner

Spending time with our private driver gives us the opportunity to discuss a wide and varied range of subjects.  Along the drive today Rakesh explains that "the Indian womans are very expensive and have too much dresses".  I suggest to him that we also have this big problem in Australia.  Rakesh gives the appropriate little Indian head wobble as if to acknowledge that the whole "womans and dresses" thing may be an international phenomena.  Glancing at Robyn, the body language suggests to me that this subject will be discussed further in the privacy of our hotel room later.

Laxmi Palace not far from our humble hotel.

Sagar Hotel in Bikaner is our home for the next 2 nights.  Large comfortable rooms with views to the stunning red sandstone Laxmi Palace. 

Robyn enjoying Bikaner streetlife.

Bikaner is the major Asian centre for camel research and development and camels are almost as common in the streets as buses.  Robyn is now a big fan of these proud looking beasts, impressed by their quiet dignity (until they open their mouths and bellow and growl).

Silly old codger reminiscing of bygone days, wind through the hair.....

I decide to treat Robyn to a trip to the nearby Rat Temple.

Robyns lack of visible enthusiasm is disappointing but we push on regardless.  Through the beautifully carved white marble entrance and heavy silver doors we are confronted by thousands of rats scurrying around living the good life.  Drinking from large bowls of milk and devouring offerings provided by the excited pilgrims.  

Now that's a wok. Preparing rat lunch

Rakesh explains the mob of people cramming into a small hot alcove are hopeful of sighting the lucky white rat that usually lives there.  Alas, we are not so lucky today.  

Eventually Robyns apprehension eases and confides she had visions of dog size rats bulldozing through the excited crowd but in reality the temple rats are quite small.

Our regular travel companions, Paul and Robyn Barrett will appreciate the significance of us visiting this holy rat place as we have shared some close encounters of the rodent kind during previous travels together.

The Rat Temple may not have lived up to Robyns high expectations but I'm sure this will be another valued experience she can tick off her bucket list.

 Janagarh Fort

From grand forts and palaces to camels and Rat Temples, Bikaner has it all for the discerning traveller.

Bikaner sunset

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