India is the most amazing place for people watching (whether you want to or not!) as many of the locals literally live their lives in full view of passing traffic ... bathing, washing and drying clothes, cooking, eating, playing, sleeping, working, and even going to the toilet in some cases.
From Mumbai we made a side trip to Aurangabad which has some amazing world heritage-listed caves nearby - Ajanta and Ellora. These caves, many of which are over 2000 years old, were built by Buddhists, Hindus and Jains and are quite spectacular. Rather than building something up from the ground they started with the enormous slabs of rock and worked down or into the side of a hill, removing the rock they didn't want. The main temple at Ellora is considered the greatest monolithic sculpture in the world.
After passing back through Mumbai we headed to Ahmedabad by train (where we learnt a lot about Gandhi as he spent many years here) then on to Udaipur. This gorgeous city, situated on a lake, has been a highlight of the trip so far. Its palaces were spectacular and it was exactly as I had hoped India would be.
My advice to anyone visiting India would be to brush up on your cricket knowledge as once they know you are from Australia, the locals reel off the names of Australian cricketers and want to chat about who your favourite Indian cricketers are etc. In fact we have found the locals like to chat to you about anything - they have been the friendliest lot we have come across on this trip so far. Sure, many of them are just nice as they are trying (desperately!) to sell you something but many of them just want to be friendly ... and they get super excited and proud (and do that cute head wobbling thing) when you tell them how great India is.
After Udaipur we visited Jodhpur (yes, home of jodhpur trousers and no, Paul didn't get a pair) which has an amazing fort. Then it was on to the desert city of Jaisalmer, where people still live within the city's amazing fortress, which looks a lot like a gigantic, elaborate sand castle. We climbed aboard a couple of camels (the Indian symbol of love) for a bumpy ride in the desert before winding up at a brilliant campsite where we had a plush 'camping' experience. Enjoyed the camel ride but probably wouldn't do it again (at least not until the wounds heal, if you get my drift....). We stayed in a tiny village after this and felt like movie stars when all the kids came out to greet us ... they love nothing more than having their photos taken and looking at the instant results on the digital camera.
Then it was on to Pushkar, home of the camel fair ... just an amazing experience to see the people bathing in the city's holy waters and the camels everywhere. But it was very hectic, with lots of hassle and confronting sights (every freak and his dog ... and cow ... had made their way to Pushkar). We're now in Jaipur which is a much bigger city but less frantic. The other day we went to the cricket to see West Indies defeat South Africa in the Champion's Trophy - great atmosphere as you can imagine as the Indians just love cricket, even if their own team is not playing.
And this morning we are off to Agra, where we will see the Taj Mahal ... can't wait!
So that's it for now, except to say that I have been pleasantly surprised to find that India and its people really are how we imagine them to be (in rural areas at least). For instance, the women really do wear saris or flowing Punjabi suits (that are always clean and beautifully coloured), they really do collect water from wells and carry in pots on their heads, they really do eat food (including messy curries) with their right hand (i.e. without cutlery), there really are cows wandering the streets which people swerve to avoid, many of the men do wear colourful turbans, many people can be seen doing their laundry on the banks of the river thrashing their clothes agains the rocks and we have seen elephants and camels wandering the streets. But it is very dirty, the poverty is heartbreaking and the rubbish everywhere is shocking. All in all I have never loved and disliked a destination so much all at once! Sally