Got the bus from Udaipur to Chittorgarh no problem. Semi-deluxe, that's a laugh but I got a seat. The journey was pretty boring, just views of major road works everywhere and dust. The station in Chittorgarh is across the river from the old town so I managed to avoid the trishaw drivers and just walked across the bridge observing the hill fort in the distance. Found my designated hotel - Hotel Ganesh pretty easily. Their website describes it as the best hotel in Chittorgarh. Hmm, hardly. I decide against the "Femily delux AC room suite" and just go for a normal delux room which is adequate. The boss, Mr Kailash, tells me he has specially upgraded me at no extra price. The shower is cold but hot water provided by the bucket. So that is delux. I headed out into town which was better than first impressions. Lots of activity, an interesting spice market and quite a large muslim population. Town is quite flat but the nearer you get to the start of the hill, where the fort is, the older the buildings and narrower the lanes. Quite a few blue buildings here as well, like Jodhpur
Like many Indian towns, animals are wandering freely in the streets but if you look up you can often spy some brightly coloured birds. There are often various kingfishers if there is water nearby and also plenty of birds of prey. I snapped this Black Shouldered Kite in the centre of town. As it was February, it was peak wedding season. I heard the procession before I saw it: The Raju band leading a bunch of ladies with water jugs on their heads. I met them later on delivering their presents at the bride's house. The last photo below is a food stall where I had a meal. Cauliflower curry I think. I could only get the chef's stomach in the photo as he was so big and the restaurant so small.
The following morning I headed up the hill to the town's main attraction, and a UNESCO World heritage site, Chittor fort. It was a fairly steep climb but quite interesting, just following the fort's walls and past a series of gates before arriving at the top of the expansive hill and the fort proper. It only actually took me 20 mins to get up this far and then pay my 600Rs to enter the site proper. I noted there were few tourists and no foreigners. One of the main attractions is the Tower of Victory (Vijaya Stambha). Unfortunately it was being renovated so no chance of going up but there was plenty of interest nearby including a set of temples which were crowded with monkeys and a temple where "worshippers" were tombstoning into the adjoining body of holy water. The fort stretches over such a great area I was soon away from the small crowds of local tourists and able to explore the other further flung temples alone and at my leisure.
The following day I was off again to my next destination: Bundi. According to the guidebook, Bundi has become increasingly popular amongst foreign visitors in recent years and now rivals Pushkar as Rajasthan's most popular small-town retreat. The beautiful architecture, relatively relaxed pace of life and wealth of facilities make this a pleasant place to hole up for a few days. I would certainly agree with the sentiment but I would also say there weren't many tourists either so a real bonus.
It was a fairly short trip so once off the bus I was ready to stretch my legs in search of the Dev Niwas hotel. I just about managed to get to the gates of the old town but then my little sketch map was no use in the myriad of small alleys. I was also rather distracted by the plethora of interesting little stalls and shops along the way. It was certainly an interesting and ancient little town. I eventually found the hotel and it was excellent. From it's website: "Dev Niwas, a late 17th century ‘Haveli’ (mansion), replete with the allure of the bygone era, is situated in the centre of the quaint, poetic city of Bundi, the erstwhile ruling seat of the Hadoti region of the Rajputana. This unique cluster of houses is surrounded by ancient havelis and temples. The rooms have been restored back to their old charisma and are situated around a central courtyard which is approached through a narrow archway."
One of the photos above shows the view from the hotel to the main attraction in Bundi, the Garh Palace. Rudyard Kipling famously lived for a while in Bundi, drawing inspiration for his book, "Kim". He also described the Garh Palace, “…but the Palace of Bundi, even in broad daylight, is such a palace as men build for themselves in uneasy dreams—the work of goblins rather than of men.” And after a hearty breakfast of banana porridge the following morning, that is where I headed.
As usual, I got an early start but even so, I was very surprised to be the only tourist in the entire palace. Fortunately, the caretaker was there and he helpfully opened a couple of the special rooms which contained amazing wall paintings and directed me to some interesting places.
After a mooch round the palace I headed further up the hill behind to the Taragarh Fort. this is a bit of a steeper climb as it goes further out of the town and into the straggly jungle. the fort is now largely ruined and overgrown with a large monkey population watching your every step. The fort commands a marvellous view of the plains with the towers of Bundi far below.
Returning down into town, I did a little more exploring of the back streets and alleys.
Later, I walked out north of the town along the side of the Jet Sagar lake past the Sukh Mahal, the small palace where Rudyard Kipling stayed. There wasn't a great deal to see but the fields by a lake are always good places to spot some interesting birds.