Bundi: Greet, Street, Eat

It’s been more than a year since we went to Bundi. It has a special place in my heart for more reasons than one: the first trip I made in more than 3 years and also the first one with Mr.B.

Bundi is one of the least known tourist spots in Rajasthan. At least, the indigenous crowd doesn’t quite seem to appreciate its unusual beauty. The few acquaintances who ended up there after our exuberant recollections, were sorely disappointed and confused. Their contention: “What is so great about a tiny, dirty, town with narrow lanes and a rundown fort full of bats?”

A napping bat at the Palace. Both the Palace and Fort of Bundi are full of these tiny things.
A napping bat at the Palace. Both the Palace and Fort of Bundi are full of these tiny things.

Perhaps, to sensibilities used to the artificially perfect sights of Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Chittor, the raw and untouched beauty of Bundi is not admirable enough. To us, it was and will be. Set in a valley, the town of Bundi is a cluster of (mostly) bluish-white 2-3 story buildings. It’s undulating narrow lanes are peppered with these houses on both sides. One can hardly distinguish between the residential ones and hotels.

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We stayed in a homely hotel called Bundi Inn – A Heritage Haveli. The place is run by a man, his wife and one man-servant. The narrow stairs that took us up to the hotel’s main entrance were painted beautifully. We were welcomed with refreshing drinks, tilak and a garland, something most hotels in Rajasthan reserve only for firangs to add to the ‘exotic’ factor. It was quite amusing to be welcomed that way.

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We couldn’t help but admire the details of the interiors. A lot of thought has gone into creating the ambience and appeal. A traditional seating area with takias on low settees. Intricate jhoomars hanging up above, artefacts on shelves carved out of the walls and all the rooms with grand doors replicating the ones in havelis. Even the windows are cut out in a specific way to bring out the feel of a haveli.

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While climbing up a few more steps to get to our room, we passed a wall with photos of royalty (presumably). Our room had a splendid view of the palace and overlooked the dimly lit street below. The wall just outside the room had an interesting hanging and a small seating area for our convenience.

 

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Another flight of stairs took us to the rooftop restaurant with a magnificent view of the surrounding hills and a distant view of the Taragarh fort. The smiling man-servant served a simple but delicious meal with the much needed chilled beer to wash off the day’s heat.

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After the hearty lunch, the coolness of our neat room with its extremely comfortable mattress, was too much to resist on a hot afternoon. As the sun went down, and with it the temperature, we went out for a stroll on the dimly lit streets. When you travel to small towns – especially little known ones – you realize how far away you are from the lives of the larger Indian population. You not only look, but also feel out of place. Some local lads came up to us and deliberately spoke in broken English. They wanted to get their picture clicked and I obliged. Here are a few snaps of Bundi streets at night.

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On our way back, we stopped by at a cafe right next to our hotel. It had some interesting graffiti and an even more interesting menu! We only had soft drinks though.

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Strangely, the cafe and our hotel was connected by a common passage on the first floor. I have not seen completely different properties with a connecting passage anywhere else. The passage led us to the small porch just outside the main entrance. We chatted with Kamal Singh, the owner, for a while before the hunger pangs got to us. Dinner consisted of dal, chawal, and egg curry. Bundi is quite near to Madhya Pradesh and the geography is reflected in their food habits. Unlike most of North India, people of Bundi prefer paddy over wheat. It also happens to be one the largest producers of rice in Central India.

Although the food was decent, it was not any different than what we were served in the afternoon. Taste-wise. As usual. Mr. B’s food radar was not satisfied. So we agreed to try out some other place for our remaining meals. It’s strange how you find the bestest and cheapest of food at the most unexpected places.

One would hardly imagine perfectly cooked gnocchi and yummilicious thin crust pizza in Bundi! But there we were, munching on 14” of pure sin for dinner at Morgan’s Place the next day. Add to that, view of the lit-up palace from this joint. It is abso-fucking-lutely spellbinding. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me. Morgan’s Place is also a sunset point, provided you are there at the right time (We weren’t). I do have a few snaps of the food we gorged on for lunch on our final day though.

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As for the palace and fort, they were tiring but well-worth the effort. Pretty much the same everywhere in Rajasthan. Only difference being that both the structures are undergoing renovation. Which basically means, we got to see the original structures without embellishments.

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