After the golden triangle, this city was a rest for the senses and a small step away from the massive tourism. The 6 hour car ride from Agra left us quite exhausted, but the city proved to be so clean and quiet (comparitavely of course) that we felt refreshed.
We walked around the Sardar market, the only place where I have seen many women outside on the street. As our guide mentioned, 90% of their women stay at home and don’t work, so it’s a rarity to swim in the sea of colored fabrics, buying some more colored fabrics around town. For the very first time we were not surrounded by throngs of white tourists, just the occasional backpacker shooting photos of the colorful tide.
Our only English-speaking guide, wearing diamond studs, with an unmistakable British accent excitedly explained that this is a city where rickshaws are not allowed because they are considered an offense to the human body. When we reached the town center, he poutingly told us about the clock tower, which looked a little out of place, crowning the square. I did not find it ugly at all. The British certainly tried their best to make their colonial stamp congruent with Indian architecture. “It’s ok, we dont like it, but we accept it.” said the guide. “They had their golden period like everyone else.”
We spent quite some time at a great tea shop, where apparently Darjeeling limited was filmed. I cannot recall a tea shop in the movie, I will have to watch it again, but the owner did very excitedly show us photos he took with Owen Wilson. My mom bought boxes of saffron, at about 5 dollars a box, some chilli powder and guava tea.
Then we were dragged in the usual cattle-like way to a shop where our guide would surely get a nice commission. I was just sitting there angrily, because I was hungry and because nothing angers me more than being dragged into stores instead of being outside, but my mom was excited so I gave in. Again.
Then we went off to a beautiful restaurant, Indique, which I fully recommend. Make sure you eat the gulab for dessert since its the best we’ve had so far. The airy rooftop gives a wonderful view of the town, and we were lucky enough to have fireworks coming from every direction, since February is a very auspicious month for weddings. From the fireworks, we could tell at least five were going on that evening.
The next morning we headed out to the fort, where we saw some great collection of miniature paintings, carriages used by the maharajas, and a view of the blue city. It’s not entirely blue, but the houses of the holly men are painted in the color since it’s sacred. Again an attempt by our guide to take us into a jewellery store, but we flat out refused.