India on Two Wheels: Road-Trip through Rajasthan

India on Two Wheels: Road-Trip through Rajasthan

Follow this couple as they journey through Rajasthan, India on a motorcycle.

Contributed by We Love it Wild

From February 10th to 16th, 2016 (7 days trip)

On the vast state of the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent we kick off one more daring motorcycle adventure.

india road trip

It was 2 years ago when I put my feet in India for the very first time. That was just a weekend trip but long enough to fall in love with the remarkable Taj Mahal, drive 300km from Agra to Ranthambore National Park on a Royal Enfield Bullet and track wild tigers in their natural habitat. Two days were way too short for a trip to India. Nevertheless it was during my 30th birthday weekend that the desire to explore deeper this compelling country started to grow inside me (details about this trip will be available soon).

Also read: 25 Photos That Will Make You Fall in Love With India

So as it turns out on February of 2016 we are back to Rajasthan in search of the beauty of its deserted forts, lake palaces, colours, history and vibrant culture. Once again on a Royal Enfield Bullet motorbike. If a road trip in India is a challenge, a road trip in India on a motorbike goes beyond that. It’s the real test for anyone’s concentration and driving skills. The roads are usually in bad conditions; traffic is chaotic; animals such as elephants, cows, dogs, camels ride side by side with tons of tuk tuks, motorbikes, cars, etc. It’s intense. And we love that. Motorcycling in India has some limitations, but a distinctive appeal as well. The majority of which belongs to the thrill of riding a Royal Enfield Bullet. Max was over the moon. There are not many countries in the world where you can experience so much by just riding on the streets and the motorbike allows for a greater interaction with the surroundings – what else would make people stare with curiosity or admiration as you pass? Everywhere in this restless landscape is movement. I couldn’t stop taking photos. Wherever you look, there is always a manifestation of an astonishing new aspect of the unpredictable.

Welcome to the Land of Kings. First stop: Udaipur.

I saw marble palaces rising above a beautiful lake for the first time. It was late afternoon when we arrived in Udaipur, perfect for the beautiful sunset cruise that we did around the lake Pichola. The views from the Jagmandir Palace, the summer resort of the former royal families, showed us another angle of this magical place.

There are many palaces here, each more romantic than the next. Many have been converted into five-star hotels, and the maharajas, who have no power anymore have become hoteliers.

Taj Lake Palace Hotel is a wonder apart. Staying there while in Udaipur is the key to experience the ages of the Rajasthan Kingdom. Built in 1743, this romantic white-marble Palace floats on the waters of Lake Pichola, with 360-degree views of surrounding Udaipur. The former palace used to be a summer escape and pleasure resort by the royal dynasty of Mewar and was converted into a hotel during the 1960s. It not only reminded me of the James Bond movie (it was the main location for the Octopussy film), but also gave me the real feeling of staying in a Rajasthan Majestic Palace from the eighteenth-century. It felt like we were travelling in another time. The most glamorous hotel I’ve ever been. We got a room with a beautiful view of the maharaja’s palace on the shore, which made everything even more special. Access is by boat from the hotel’s own jetty in the City Palace gardens.

The service is superb and cuisine standards are high. Breakfast in the patio where James Bond Octopussy was shot is a must.  Sunset drinks on the rooftop, followed by dinner at one of its fantastic restaurants is part of the unforgettable experience. We had outstanding food at the Indian restaurant in the first night and a romantic dinner at the open air Italian place with views to City Palace in the second one.

The City Palace is, in my opinion, the most spectacular attraction in Udaipur. Located on the east bank of Lake Pichola, it was built over a period of nearly 400 years on a hill top that gives a panoramic view of the city, including several monuments such as the Lake Palace, Jag Mandiron and Monsoon Palace. It’s the largest palace in Rajasthan and has several palaces built within its complex, so it’s much easier to navigate if you have a good guide. Suresh Nagarkoti (94141-68781), who was recommended by the Raj Lake Palace, was great with us.

Suresh also showed us Udaipur around. We drove along Fateh Sagar Lake and did some textile shopping at Rama Krishna, where we got beautiful Kashmir scarves. In the evening, already with our Royal Enfiled (rented from Anu Vikram Singh), we drove through the streets and markets of Udaipur. The area around Jagdish Mandir temple next to the city Palace gate is great for street shopping if you are in the mood. We got a camel bag, books and one painting for unbelievable cheap prices.

Riding 320Km from Udaipur to Jodhpur. On a motorbike.

Our motorbike trip in India starts in the early morning of February 12th. The weather was perfect for a ride: not too cold, not too warm. After 35 km of highway we turned right towards Ranakpur and drove through the Ranakpur valley. We spotted Rajasthan countryside at its best.

The famous Ranakpur Jain temple, in the heart of the remote valley of the Arvallis, was on our way. We had a guided tour there done by one of the friendly monks. Rajasthan is famous for its rich art treasures and the Jain temple is for sure one of the most spectacular architectural monuments. It is considered among the best in the world.

We continued to ride for five hours non-stop towards Jodhpur. The mountains and green colours of Ranakpur valley slowly turned into a dry vegetation until the landscape changed completely when we finally reached the Indian Thar Desert. Everything spoke of remoteness: the emptiness of the highway; the local women working on the fields dressed with their beautiful saris; villages in the middle of nowhere; herds of animals crossing the road. Although the prescribed Udaipur – Jodhpur trail can be quite obvious, we felt isolated during the journey between the two cities.

Jodhpur

We arrived at the Blue City just before sunset and watched the sun going down from the Umaid Bhawan Palace.

Jodhpur’s history is based on the Rajput dominion, merchant traders and polo‑playing princes. The  ancient desert city is the second largest in Rajasthan, with more than one million population. Full of chaos, buzz, commerce and shops of handmade goods. It’s divided into two parts – the old and the new city. Surrounded by a huge and legendary fortress wall, the blue buildings in Jodhpur contrast beautifully with the neighbouring Thar Desert. It is referred to as the “Blue City” due to the vivid blue-painted houses around the Mehrangarh Fort. While its royal family may no longer reign, the maharaja still resides in his palace, Umaid Bhawan – reborn as the Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel in 2005.

Also read: Why India’s Blue City, Jodhpur, Is the Best Place to Chase Away the Blues

A visit to the vast 17th-century Mehrangarh Fort and palace while in Jodhpur is mandatory. A monument packed with legend, towering 120ft and arresting one’s attention from almost any point in the city. It’s the magnificent and spectacular fort that towers over the Blue City. An architectural masterpiece. The fort is massive and stupendous when seen from afar and from there you can enjoy expansive views of the surrounding Thar Desert and the traditional houses all painted Krishna blue. We spent the entire morning there in our second day in Jodhpur.

Even though we had our motorbike with us, we decided to leave it at the hotel in Jodhpur and hire a tuk tuk driver (Dharmendra +91 9414678304) as we didn’t want to spend time getting lost. This was a great idea as the driver turned out to be the most lovely and appealing character and also an amazing guide. We met him right after having a good coffee at  Cafe Shesh Maha and from there we explored Jodhpur together.

I usually don’t enjoy spending my time shopping during my travels. Jodhpur, however, was an exception. There are a handful of shops worth exploring. Gems & Jewels Palace (+91 2912516666) produces the traditional confections of silver, gold, diamonds, rubies and emeralds. But there is beautiful contemporary work as well. I got two wonderful pair of earrings: one with emeralds and diamonds and the other with Safire and diamonds, both for very good prices compared to what we usually get outside India. In regards to textiles, there is nothing like Maharani Textiles & Handicrafts (+91 2912653152). We visited the massive showroom they have and almost got lost there. We got beautiful double-faced cashmere wraps and pashminas, some of them made for top fashion houses in France and Italy, but available here at competitive prices.

Dharmendra walked us around the old part of the town behind the Mehrangarh Fort . The medieval streets of the blue city is full of shops, bazaars and animals everywhere. Walking through this area made me understand better what’s going on in Jodhpur: how the locals live, how their houses are and their relationship with the animals and the trash. There are also a few nice points in this area from where you can observe the old town. Our guide took us to one of the rooftops, where we had a beer with a nice view.

On our way to the Sadar market we did a quick stop at the Bibaji Churi Wale, which is a glass bracelet store. I read about this place when doing my pre-trip research. The shop is a complete mess and they have all types of glass bracelet that you can imagine. I would have never gone inside without reading about it beforehand. They have from the simplest styles to outrageously gilded iterations. I got a very beautiful one with smooth cuts in jewel‑clear.

The Sadar market next to the Ghanthagar clock tower is a must-see. It’s a full-on Indian market with a barely contained riot of sights, sounds and stinks.

Since we stayed at the glamorous Lake Palace in Udaipur, while in Jodhpur we decided to experience a local guesthouse. Bhavyam heritage guesthouse was our choice. The people there were extremely friendly and we had a nice view to the city from our room. We like to mix luxury hotels and local guesthouses during our travels.

The best hotel in Jodhpur (arguably) is RAAS, where we had dinner and breakfast during our time in this town. It’s located in the heart of the walled city. The 150 year old building was built with Jodhpur’s ‘rose-red’ sandstone and has recently been renovated by local craftsman to create a luxurious hotel. It boasts spectacular views of the fort looming above. Fabulous. The Raas is Jodphur’s very first boutique hotel and is both luxurious and peaceful, with its terraces, courtyard and central swimming pool. From the restaurant you can enjoy stunning views to the fort. They serve delicious Indian, European and southeast Asian cuisines. We had the Indian, of course.

Heading to the Indian desert

The journey continued on the road. A five-hour drive from Jodhpur, the trip to Jasailmer included a quick stop at the small village of Pokhran.

Jaisalmer welcomed us with its best as we arrived at the The Serai. Set in the mystical Indian desert, The Serai provides both heritage and luxury, with its tented suites decorated in traditional Victorian-safari-style furnishing. When we thought things couldn’t get better, we got an upgrade to the spectacular Royal Suite, with private spa, separated dining and lounge tents and outdoor pool.

india road trip

The whole experience in this luxury camp takes travellers far beyond the boundaries of convention. The Serai organised for us a sunset dune excursion with camels and one of the best dinners we’ve had in the bush of the Thar desert.

india road trip

Jaisalmer

A 40-minute ride from The Serai took us to the “Golden Fort”, Jaisalmer’s main attraction.

Jaisalmer is a desert city among the oldest of Rajasthan’s fortress citadels. It is the largest district of Rajasthan and one of the largest in India, located close to the Pakistan border. Though it is dusty, it has its own charms.

The fort is a breathtaking sight. It’s a massive sandcastle filled with sandstone buildings, covered from stoop to roof in intricate carvings of gods and mythological symbols. Unlike most forts in India, the Jaisalmer Fort is a living fort. There are shops, hotels and age old havelis (homes) inside the fort area where families have lived for generations.

Thanks to The Serai we had the pleasure to meet the owner of Krishna Boulangerie roof top restaurant (09414763003) and have him as our guide. We spent the day together as he continued to walk us through the history and legacies of Jaisalmer and took us for a nice lunch on a rooftop terrace next to the palace of the king at Trio restaurant. A place that we would have never found without him.

Overnight train to Jaipur

As mentioned earlier, we like to mix luxury and local experiences in our travels. Since we spent the previous night in a 5 star tended camp in the desert, now we had to find the right balance. And I think we did. At 5pm of February 15th we boarded on a overnight train from Jaisalmer to Jaipur. The journey by train in 02 class would have been fine. However we got the sleeper class instead, by mistake, and by the time we figured that out it was too late.  Although not very comfortable, when I think back I am glad we boarded in this section of the train. The trip on the sleeper class added a fascinating new dimension to our experience. There was virtually no other tourists in there and it allowed us to interact with the local people and see the spectacular and diverse Indian countryside.

We arrived at the Jaipur train station at 5am and from there we took a ride with a tuk tuk driver (Mosin: +91 8290845285) to a simple hotel in town just for a shower and quick rest. The same guy turned out to be our guide later (tuk tuk drivers in India are awesome).

The “Pink City”, which is not really roseate, looks much more developed and less charming than the other cities we’ve been before in India.

Our guide drove us through Jaipur with stops at the Amber fort, impressive construction with influences of Hindu and Muslim architecture; Hawa Mahal house, located on the edge of the City Palace and Rajmahal palace, for a wonderful lunch in the garden. This Palace also belongs to Sujan, the same group as The Serai. From there we picked up our luggage at the hotel and drove to the airport in order to catch our flight back to Singapore.

Also read: 10 Places to Visit for Your First Trip to India

Impressions: Everything about Rajasthan is very particular. The culture, the landscape, the food, the colours, the people. It is  said there is more history in Rajasthan than the rest of India put together and we could experience that in every corner that we visited. It’s unique and diverse. Even though the Jaipur-Jodhpur -Udaipur trail can be quite obvious for the regular traveller,  it is indeed the must-see state of this must-see country. And the experience of being on a Royal Enfield Bullet in this part of the world makes the adventure even more authentic.

Summary: We travelled across Udaipur- Jodhpur-Jaisalmer-Jaipur for 7 days. Stayed at Taj Lake Palace Hotel , Bhavyam heritage guesthouse and The Serai hotels. Had delicious indian food at RAAS, Trio restaurant and Rajmahal palace. Went shopping at Rama Krishna, Gems & Jewels Palace (+91 2912516666) and Maharani Textiles & Handicrafts (+91 2912653152). Rented a motorbike Royal Enfield Bullet from Anu Vikram Singh. Our guides: Udaipur – Suresh Nagarkoti (+ 91 9414168781); Jodhpur- Dharmendra (+91 9414678304); Jaisalmer – owner of Krishna Boulangerie roof top restaurant (+ 91 09414763003). We flew with Singapore Airlines from Singapore.

Favourites: Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur; Walking around the Blue City in Jodhpur; Dinning at RAAS in Jodhpur; Shopping in Jodhpur; The Serai tended camp in jaisalmer; The Golden Fort in Jaisalmer; The Royal Enfield bullet motorcycle.

In the bag: Scarves; Light clothes for the day and warm clothes for the evening (desert climate); Girls should avoid clothes above the knees.

Also read: Backpacking India: Essential Tips from a Singaporean Traveller

About Author

Nanda
Nanda

Nanda loves to travel to remote places sidestep away from the obvious. She enjoys writing about nature, wildlife and original ways of travelling, always finding the right balance between luxury and local experiences. Weekends. Long weekends. Prolonged holidays. No matter how many days off she has. She is constantly looking for an exotic location to explore. Join this exciting journey and follow her adventures at We Love It Wild.

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