What do you think of when you think of Rajasthan? Food? Music? Palaces? Yep, me too. Everyone always raves about how beautiful the state is, and obviously, I wanted in. I visited Bundi for 2 weeks – a tiny little place we hoped would be a little off the beaten track. Everyone knows about Pushkar, Rishikesh, Jaipur and Ajmer, so when my friend heard about Bundi, a quiet little town, it sounded fabulous. A 21 hour train ride later, we arrived in Kota to take a rickshaw onto Bundi with the two backpacks, one guitar, one roubab and one snare drum in our arsenal. Rickshaws are a quintessential way to get around in India, but up until then, the longest I’d spent in one was about twenty minutes. This took well over an hour and it was a fairly bumpy ride. No, actually, it was very bumpy. Heads up number one. It was all worth it when we reached the top of the hill though. Welcome to Bundi.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Rajasthan sits in India’s north-west and literally means ‘Land of the Kings.’ Not so hard to see why! It was breathtakingly beautiful in places (not all, because let’s face it, its India) and so much cooler than Goa, which had reached skin scorching proportions. Bundi, in the south-east, it turned out, is actually a city, though it didn’t feel that way. It was small enough to walk around in and although it apparently has 100,000 inhabitants, it was never overwhelmingly busy. It might only have a fleeting section in the Lonely Planet guide, but off the beaten track it definitely wasn’t. In fact, there was an alarmingly large contingent of daily coachloads of middle-aged Europeans (lots of beige chinos and the like) and French people – something to do with it being listed in the Le Guide Bleu. I was travelling with a Frenchman and I think he was a bit devastated to see so much French stuff everywhere. Even some of the shop signs and info were in French. No English, just Hindi and French – insane!
Bundi’s popularity is probably due to the fact that it’s the city attributed to the inspiration for Kim, by Rudyard Kipling and plenty of people flocked to the summer palace where he’d stayed. And not forgetting, the city fort. And bloomin impressive it was too. It’s practically carved into the cliff-face and seems to have served the city well. They looked like fairly impenetrable walls and if that wasn’t enough, it was completely run by these red-faced monkeys. Bloody aggressive little buggers too. One tried to attack the owner of the guesthouse we stayed in and another managed to sneak into our room. I much preferred the black-faced ones. Here are some photos from around the place:
It was fairly cheap, too. We paid 300 rupees a night for our room (approx £3 with our own bathroom) and it was in a lovely guesthouse, about 10 minutes walk away from the main street. And the people – man, the people. Possibly the friendliest I’d come across yet. Yes, sometimes they gawked at me – black travellers, especially women, not being that common an occurrence. But then, so did a lot of other backpackers. What can I say, I was starting a trend! Schoolkids would shout hello and wave from their overcrowded rickshaws which, I guess, took the place of local school buses. Everyone was so curious – why are you here, where are you from, what do you think about our beautiful city? Just gorgeous.
Now, nowhere is perfect, so here’s my version of the rundown:
Good things about Bundi
- The people. And not just the locals. We met some awesome backpackers there, too
- It’s relatively cheap. Food was slightly more expensive, especially the thali. 500 rupees – possibly the most expensive dish I’d encountered.
- It’s beautiful
- The views are amazing, especially from the fort and palace. You can see just how big the city is, with all the blue and green buildings (we were told that the blue houses were hindi households and the green were muslim)
- It’s small enough to walk most places, so it’s great for those who don’t like scooters and such
Bad things about Bundi
- It’s small. It’s in both lists because while it was nice to be able to walk to nearly anywhere, it was too small to stay for as long as we did, but we had no choice due to onward transportation (mine)
- The cost of bikes were astronomical. Around 500 rupees for a day. A day, not 24 hours. I’d been paying 250 for 24 hours before then and was told that even that was expensive.
- It’s noisy. I know beeping horns is par for the course in India, but in Bundi they took it to extremes. Very irritating after a while
- Things close early. If you’e looking for a bar – move on. Non-existent – this isn’t Goa. You can get Bang Lassi’s though, which I’m told has some kind of hallucinogenic effect. Not my bag. Most shops and restaurants closed around 11ish
- It had a really bad smell in some parts. I can only describe it as rotten eggs. No idea if it was the sewage, but it was distracting at times
- Wifi connection and even cabled internet connection was pretty non-existent.
Good places to eat
There were plenty of places to eat, and we were told some close down pretty quickly, so this might get out-dated but if you go and they’re still there, they’re worth checking out:
- Lakha’s – we ended up spending most of our time in this teeny tiny little restaurant. It’s run by Lakha and he cooks everything, fresh, as it’s ordered. And, he’s great fun.
- Romeo’s – great biryani and a nice chilled vibe. Probably the most ‘western’ place, so always full of backpackers
- Out of the Blue – fantastic pizzas and falafel. Apparently they have one in Pushkar and another opening in Dharamsala (Baghsu I think). However, I’d give the chocolate shake and desserts a miss
If you do make it out that way, it’s well worth a visit, and probably soon, because I can only see it getting more and more popular. I heart Bundi.