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Asia » India » Rajasthan » Jaipur - 7 to 8 February 2016

sunny 30 °C

Once upon a time a Prince asked a beautiful Princess to marry him.

The Princess replied, ‘No!’

And so the Prince lived happily ever after,

…and rode motorbikes, and went fishing and hunting and played golf,

…and dated women half his age and drank beer and whisky,

…and had tons of money in the bank,

…and even left the toilet seat up and broke wind whenever he wanted.

The end

Well, here I am back in Jaipur, the Pink City, capital of Rajasthan, at the end of an eventful three weeks in my all-time favourite country. This story of the Prince and Princess was printed on a place-mat in the dining room of my hotel here. I just thought I’d share it with you.

Smile and the world smiles with you!


I was last here three weeks ago, having a whale of a time with friends old and new (blogs: ‘Here I go again’ and 'A good time was had by all…'). This time, I arrived by train from Pushkar - or, rather by taxi to Ajmer then a train from there. It's a journey of only a little over two hours, but I'd booked 1A Class (1st Class Air-Conditioned) - an unecessary 'luxury' as it happened because the train was almost empty - as the list attached to the carriage door confirmed. That list also told me that there was due to be only a 60-year-old Indian gent in my compartment going to Ludhiana up in the Punjab, but not until he joined the train at Delhi. So, I had the four-berth compartment all to myself, complete with carefully-packaged sheet and towel in case I fancied a nap and a wash.

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My dear friend Lajpal, his wife and their lovely but shy daughter met me for dinner and, although he was snowed under with work on his officers’ training course, Lajpal insisted that he'd collect me and take me to the airport the next afternoon. It had been terrific to see him and his family once more - they're lovely, so welcoming and truly good friends.

Meantime, I also had a unique opportunity to make even more new friends. Have you ever met up with people who’d previously only been 'Facebook Friends'? It’s an adventure into the unknown and, of course, one has to be a bit cautious about which Friends you choose to meet ’in the flesh’, so to speak.

Regular readers will know that I’m an Indiaphile and that, late in life, I’ve become an aspiring ‘birder’. I’d encountered several online 'Friends' over the past year or two in a Facebook group devoted, somewhat logically, to birding in India. I'd admired their photographs of unfamiliar birds, 'liked' them frequently and often commented favourably on them too. When they heard I was returning to India and, more specifically, coming to Jaipur, some had invited me to meet up.

In the two previous blogs mentioned above, you’ll have read about my thoroughly enjoyable and very rewarding outings with one of them, Manish; it was great to do some real ‘untouristy’ things with someone so friendly and knowledgeable. Two other members of that same group, very keen birders Girdhar and his son Yashoraj, hadn't been able to get away when I was first in Jaipur on this trip. Now, on this my last day, here they were in my hotel lobby, larger than life - or certainly much taller than I’d imagined anyway!

After exchanging words of welcome and memorable gifts, I was whisked away in Girdhar’s sparkling white 4x4, first to a place known only to locals and members of the elite rifle-shooting fraternity.

The OASES (Organized Archery, Shooting and Equestrian Sports) complex in the suburb of Jagatpura had been started under a previous government some eight or nine years ago with the intention of boosting Rajasthan’s heritage sports and nurturing budding talent. Here, in 18 hectares (almost 45 acres) of scrub forest with well-made roads, were an archery complex, the skeleton of an indoor polo arena and accommodation towers, all of them unused since that day and now in a rather sorry state. An abandoned shooting-club facility had been restored and now provided good trap and skeet shotgun ranges, all due to the efforts of Girdhar and an influential committee of which he’s a very important member. While he chaired a meeting, Yashoraj took me off on a birding jaunt around the complex.

Despite sounds of shotguns in the background, we found many interesting little birds, a Redstart, a Plum-headed Parakeet (I'd always wanted to see one of these and the knowledgeable Yashoraj found it for me, as if by magic, just from its ‘tooi-tooi’ call), a Green Bee-eater, a Purple Sunbird, and an Indian Robin quite unlike its European cousin. Surprisingly, we also found a large troop of Grey Langur monkeys that seemed to have made its home in one of the concrete structures. The highlight though was a sighting of three Chital (Spotted Deer) that were known to inhabit the complex but had seldom been witnessed by any of the shooting club’s members, yet alone photographed!

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His meeting over, Girdhar drove us half an hour south-east - stopping off at McDonald’s to pick up a time-saving (vegetarian and chicken) bite to eat on our way - towards Shivdaspura and ponds at Barkheda. Disappointingly, the ponds were largely non-existent, devoid of water. Fortunately, there were still some small areas of water remaining in fields beside nearby Chandlai Lake. There we saw numerous species of waterbirds - including, among many others: Pied Avocets, Northern Pintail, Common Snipe, Pintailed Snipe, Common Teal, Southern Coucal, Northern Shoveler, Common Redshank, and a huge flock of Bar-headed Geese grazing on the short grass that remained.

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Out on the lake’s expanse of water, tantalisingly distant, were flocks of Spoonbills and other waterbirds, but the day had flown by and it was already time to head back to the hotel to prepare for my departure by the evening Jet Airways’ flights to Mumbai and London.

Reluctantly, I bid farewell to my new-found friends, but not without an invitation to return for more, and longer, birding adventures with them next year. I certainly didn’t need any persuasion. They were so kind and had willingly given up their time for this elderly Englishman, previously only a Facebook acquaintance. It felt as if we'd known each other for a very long time. They were really good company and our common enjoyment of the environment, bird-watching and photography made it one of the most rewarding few hours of my entire three-week stay in Rajasthan. I can’t wait until we meet again!



So, that’s Rajasthan (again!) for another year.

Looking back, I’ve made some wonderful new friends, spent quality time with them and with the many close friends I’ve known for years. I’ve visited places I probably wouldn’t have seen as a regular tourist, thanks to all of them - Smriti Van, Jawai, Mount Abu, Chandlai… to name but a few. And, never having travelled around India entirely on my own before, I’ve had adventures that I couldn’t have dreamed of, in places that my previous nine visits to this fascinating country hadn't taken me - Bikaner, Gajner, Khichan, Jaisalmer, Jorbeer, Ajmer, Pushkar... each of them different, every one of them photogenic, all of them exciting even.

What a great country this truly is!

P.S. This is the final entry for my 2016 trip to India - but I'll be back... in 2017, to places new and old in Rajasthan and, in 2018, on a spiritual adventure along and on the holy River Ganges with my elder brother (yes, he's even older than me!).

Posted by Keep Smiling 06:16 Archived in India Tagged india jaipur rajasthan

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I've never met up with Facebook friends previously known only online, but I have met up on many occasions with Virtual Tourist friends in many places, including welcoming them when they visit London. Now we all use FB to keep in touch (VT having closed down two years ago) I guess you could say that's more or less the same! I've made friends all over the world through VT and I don't think it's going too far to say it changed my life, and it certainly influenced many of my travels

by ToonSarah

Forgot to say, lovely bird photos and the deer too!

by ToonSarah

Sarah, thank you for your comments. Your VT connections are interesting indeed (I've been reading about your recent reunion trip). A similar thing happens with those on my previous blog site, although I never participated - I was usually in India when they were in Australia or somewhere! Alas, I think Travellerspoint is probably too big for that sort of thing. Unlike others though it's still a working travel blog site and usually operates well.

Interestingly, although I didn't mention it, the two former Facebook 'friends' mentioned in this blog turned out to be members of a 'royal' family - and I've since stayed with their father/grandfather, the 'raja at his castle - watch this space for the blog!

by Keep Smiling

I'll certainly watch out for that Mike :)

There was actually some discussion here, soon after a number of VT members migrated across, about introducing some sort of meet-up function. Size shouldn't be an issue (VT had more members, and more of them active) but it needs additional functionality and Peter has had enough on his pate so I think (understandably) it's been relegated down the to-do list a bit.

by ToonSarah

I enjoyed reading your thoughts here on India and on meeting online friends. Then I read the comments and see my good friend Sarah from Virtual Tourist left you a comment from several years ago. Funny because Sarah and I are now very good friends. We have met any number of times in person. And it was all because of a web site. Nice to meet you also online. Who knows maybe one day we will cross paths in person too.


by littlesam1

And here's Larry providing the perfect illustration of what I was saying - a VT friend who became a good friend

by ToonSarah

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