We left the lovely Pushkar after our breakfast and set out towards Mandawa, this was going to be one of the longer travelling days on this trip at six hours. The journey though is full of sights though as a great deal of it is away from the main highways and you travel through great little villages and towns full of life and activity.
Touts are mostly none existent here apart from the odd locals who will do a Haveli tour with no shops for 100 Rp, but you really don’t need them, it’s fun just to wander around the place itself on your own. Discovering little alleyways and hidden Haveli’s about the city. Some of the Havelis have been turned into hotels and ask for a range of fees to look inside, we found anything from 70 up to 250 Rp. for the prestigious Castle Haveli. We paid the fee at the Mandawa Haveli and got a lovely tour from the manager and his staff and a delightful pot of masala coffee as we sat in the central courtyard of the building pretending we were the rich traders of old who built these incredible places.
Although this place has been turned into a hotel it has retained all of the original frescoes in their natural state which gave the place a real authentic feel. The staff were lovely and we would recommend a stay here as they don’t use the driver commission rates so you can find it on your own or insist your driver takes you the and loses his commissions.
They also have some of the more interesting frescoes here with a mother giving birth and another with one of the Kama Sutra positions detailed in paint.
The town is tiny and two hours will enable you to walk the length and breadth of it leaving plenty of time or marvel at the paintings and buildings. The locals here are really friendly and if someone asks you to take a picture it will not necessarily end in a request for a fee or payment, just be sure to show them the result.
There is a liquor store in the town where you will have to barter to get near to the local rates, although you should be happy to settle twenty or thirty rupees above the MRP marked on the bottle or the box it comes in. To get there find the Mandawa Heritage Hotel first and with your back to the hotel entrance turn immediately right then right at the first junction and you will find it about 80 meters down this road.
We banked on the driver having got the message about our attitude to commissions and hotel choices so didn’t ask for his recommendation at Mandawa. We did however have a 800 rupee option in our back pocket if we didn’t like his suggestions. In the end the hotel he took us to was beautiful and even their opening offer (1700 no breakfast) was lower than any rate we could find on-line for the hotel. However, we pretended to think about it for five minutes then asked the driver to take us to see our 800 rupee option, suddenly the manager offered the room with breakfast for 1200. We pretended to think about it for another minute then bit his hand off.
As the sun sets on Mandawa, as in many other places we have seen in India, the national kite flying pastime comes to life and you see kids and adults alike appear on the rooftops with their single line kites and set them soaring in the sky as the sun sets. This all makes for a rather wonderful backdrop as you sip your first beer on the terrace of the hotel, don your winter woollies and wait for the temperature to drop.
What is a Haveli?
The name haveli is derived from the Persian word “hawli” which means enclosed place as many of these places were built during the 19th Century by the rich traders and merchants. . They are remarkably similar to the Riads we stayed at while in Morocco, although the decoration here is unique to the region.
Like Pushkar, this is one of those relaxing places in India, the village life runs at a slow pace and with the very few exceptions you are left alone as a tourist to marvel at the local sights without interference
A bizarre thing has now happened to us in two place we have visited. We have had people approach us who know John’s name, in fact here when we queried how somebody knew this we were quoted our drivers name, the car registration and the destinations we have already visited. This may be spooky and worthy of a call to the European Court of Human Rights were we back home, but this is India and I guess the lure of a tourist spending power is about the top and bottom of this very impressive espionage. The tom tom drums here are fantastic, or it may just be the power of the local mobile phone network, who knows?
It is in places like this that you can restore your faith a little in human nature and interact with the locals without your cynical head thinking they are after being your tour guide or directing you to their family shop. It’s a shame you get into these mindsets, but also nice when you happen upon a place like this that for the time being at least will allow you to interact free of cynicism.
We spent a pleasant evening in the hotel terrace with some chatty Canadians who were, like us, on the road with their drivers. They were also keeping their driver on his toes so we swapped experiences of hotels and rates as they were going in the opposite direction to us. A good day on the whole and much calmer than our frustrating time in Jaipur, se we really are enjoying Rajasthan.