It is such a hard life! After relaxing on the houseboat we went to relax on the beaches of Varkala. The beaches here are considered to be sacred, and there are distinct "tourist" and "local" beaches. It was strange to us that locals come to the beach fully clothed in jeans and saris in which they swim.
With one week left in India it was time to get into sightseeing mode! We really wanted to see the Taj Mahal, after all, how can you come to India and not go see the Taj? On the way to Agra we had to spend one night in Delhi. Let me tell you, one night was enough! We arrived at the hostel and were showed one room. The door was opened and about ten cockroaches greeted us. "OK?" the hotel employee asks...not OK. We were showed another room, sans roaches but as we were getting ready for bed a little mouse ran across the floor. We were happy to leave the next morning.
We made it to Agra, checked into our room and went to the roof top terrace. There she stood, all majestic, the Taj Mahal! We couldn't wait to get out to explore. The Taj is every bit as beautiful as they say it is...particularly at sunset. We just sat in front and watched as the marble changed colors from white to pink to gold as the sun set over the horizon. It was truly magical.
We then began to hop across Rajasthan. First, Jaipur. We walked around the old town and visited the Hawa Mahal, another palace built by yet another maharaja. It is here is Jaipur that we ate McDonalds for the first (and last) time in India. Since Hindus don't eat meat there are no Big Macs. Instead they have the Chicken Maharaja Mac. I ate the McAloo Tikki which was basically a deep friend potato pancake on a bun. It just wasn't the same!
We then made it to Pushkar in time for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. This little town doesn't even show up on most maps of India and still we celebrated the holiday with about 150 Israelis at the Chabad House. Actually Pushkar almost feels like mini-Israel. All the signs are in Hebrew, all the tourists are Israelis and the locals speak better Hebrew than I do (nine years of Jewish education, down the drain). As we walked down the streets, store owners would say "shalom" and "shana tova". Apparently we look Israeli...at least Gadi does.
Our next destination was Jaisalmer. We bought tickets for two reclining seats in the front of a super deluxe bus. We got on the bus to discover our seats were the last row of the bus. Not only were they not reclinable, but they weren't even seats, just a bench at the back! We totally got screwed and had to sit there for the ten hour ride through the night. What a nightmare!!!
Jaisalmer has beautiful architecture and old fort but it was way too hot to tour much. We were recommended a beautiful hotel called Pol Haveli. We spent much our time just lounging in the cool breeze on the roof top terrace. Apparently marijuana is legal in the province of Rajasthan and there is even a government run store where you can buy "special cookies" and other various products. I took the opportunity and on the last night had myself a "special" banana milkshake. VERY GOOD!
Our last and final stop was the romantic city of Udaipur. This is where the famous Bond movie, Octopussy, was filmed. The lakes are truly magical and were the scene of my 27th birthday. It will be a very memorable one.
Looking back, I can't believe we hit so many cities in the span of about a week. It was time to leave India and continue our adventure. Thailand, here we come!