Visiting Bundi, My Favorite Town in India.
Bundi is the first place I have been in India where I both felt welcome as a traveller and like I was in real India. Anjuna and Hampi were relaxing and easy to live in. But they felt like little bubbles of the outside world within Indian. Every other large Indian city has been challenging to stay in by comparison. Maybe it was the relative lack of garbage, traffic, and pushy shop owners, but I really connected with Bundi.
In Bundi I felt I could walk out of my guest house and down the street without having every single vendor trying to get my attention. The people in Bundi were genuinely happy to meet me and talk with me. They didn’t seem to have any other motivation than learning who I was, where I was from, and if I liked India. This includes the shopkeepers who would always invite me for chai and conversation. I never felt pressured to buy anything afterwards. At a few of these shops I returned a day or two later to buy something. Only because they were selling what I wanted at a good price. The best part is when I would walk up to the shop and see genuine smiles on their faces as they recognized me.
My decisions to go to Bundi was because of the the Palace that sits just above the town. Doing my research on the web it sounded like a cool place to take photos. The promise of a medieval palace was too much to resist. When I arrived I was not disappointed.
Bundi feels like a ancient town that just happens to find itself in a modern world. Everywhere I went I could find the remains of defensive walls and large gates. The remains of the gatehouses where armed guards would have watched the crowds are visible and accessable. It’s easy to imaging the ghosts of those guards still present and watching over the modern crowds.
The palace rests in the hills above the town and is the highlight of Bundi. From the outside it looks as I would imagine a castle from Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. The palace is in no way symmetrical. It looks like the architects changed many times as the palace was built. Its been described as built by trolls the way it rises out of the mountain. I would instead attribute it to Dwarves. I can imagine somewhere there is a secret entrance that leads down into the mountain where the real Dwarf city remains hidden.
Just inside the main fortifications the ground is completely in ruins. Visible are what may have been pathways to stables, guardhouses, wells, and maybe even merchant areas. The disarray of this area is such that it could not ever be open to the public in any first world nation. There are so many ways a person could seriously damage or accidentally kill themselves that no one would ever risk the inevitable lawsuits. If you take small children to visit this palace you will want to keep them on a leash.
For instance I walked up to an area that looked like a well. The pit was 5 meters by 5 meters and 4 stories deep. There were no barriers, warning signs, nor staff to direct people away from the pit. And this is just in the main yard, I had not even reached the palace yet.
Entry is 100 rupees, with another 50 for a camera change. There was no price difference for a local or tourist which a nice change from most tourist attractions. There is no extra charge for a tripod either and I’m glad I brought mine. Many of the rooms are dark and I was able to get long exposure shots that show the art on the walls better than if taken with a flash.
The entrance to the main palace inner yard was super impressive as well as the walk up to the entrance. The road is much steeper than any modern road and paved only with rough stones. I tried to image horses or armed warriors walking up and down the road. More likely servants carrying people in litters. Even with modern footwear I had to take care for fear of tripping or slipping.
The lower palace has a main yard surrounded by balconies and what looked like a platform where a person could address a crowd standing below. On the next level up there is a balcony that overlooks the town below. The courtyard had a small pool in the middle and what was once beautifully decorated rooms on either end. In one of the smaller rooms on this level I came across bats. As I entered they started flying around my head which was a bit freaky. The bats did calm down and went back to sleep, hanging from the ceiling. (Bat photo in the slideshow)
The upper Palace was reserved for the King and Queen. It is the best preserved part of the palace. It has a garden that is still cared for as well as a pool which looks like it was made for people to relax in. Above the garden are rooms that still have amazing paintings on the walls. To keep the monkeys from damaging these rooms the area is enclosed with cages. I spent quite a bit of time in this area taking photos, and this is where my tripod really came in handy.
When I was there I came across many monkeys hanging out in the garden area. I had a moment of panic when I left my camera sitting on the tripod as I used my other camera to photograph the town below. I turned around and a large male monkey eyeballing, then slowly strolling towards my tripod/camera. I didn’t know if he was just curious or if he was thinking of taking it for himself. Fortunately he passed it by and went to hang out in the old pool. I retrieved my gear and gave the monkey a dirty look.
The rest of the Bundi was super cool as well. Of course the cows run the town. They are everywhere keeping tabs on all the people. I was able to make it to the Saturday market and walked the whole main road checking out the stuff for sale. Bundi seems to focus on bracelets. Oddly I didn’t get any photos of the bracelet shops. I guess I figured it would be the typical shot that everyone goes for because they were everywhere.
In the town just below where my guesthouse was located is a large reservoir that looks like it was once used for a water supply. Now it seems to be used as a garbage dump. I tried photographing it to avoid capturing any of the trash. One thing I couldn’t avoid is the overwhelming stench of sewage and rot. The water was was a nice green colour, but that came from pollution, and algae. Pretty to look at but not to hang out at for any length of time. With a little photoshop I was able to remove the garbage from the nice shots. Check out the slideshow at the end of this post to see some of the garbage.
Shivam Guest House
I stayed in a guesthouse called the Shivam Tourist Guest House. This is the first place I stayed where I actually felt I was a guest in someone’s house. Check-in was done on one of the sofa’s in the living room. Grampa was sitting on the other sofa keeping the attention of a toddler. Every time I left the guest house I would pass through the living room. It was always filled with family members and friends hanging out, watching TV, or folding laundry.
Rates for the guest house were a super reasonable 300 rupees per night. The rooms are based on double occupancy so I ended up paying 600 per night ($12 USD). Still I felt it was a great deal for what I got. I had an exterior window that overlooked a tiny alleyway, and a ceiling fan that was so powerful there was no need for AC. I had my own private bathroom and lots of shelf space to put my cameras and backpack.
Find a place to stay in Bundi
The hosts were super friendly and helpful. They even have their own ‘restaurant’ with menu on the third floor. It was great for having breakfast every morning without having to walk to a restaurant. The power only occasionally went out and when it did the Wifi router would still stay online. I’m guessing they had it on a battery backup. The speed of the Wifi was nothing special but it was enough to keep posting photos on Pixelbip.
Tom and Jerry’s
The place I hung out most in Bundi was Tom and Jerry’s restaurant. Owned and operated by Tom and Jerry. Both super nice guys who I suspect were drinking Bhang Lassi’s regularly. Or else they were just smoking a lot of weed. The restaurant is veg, and limited to they typical Indian choices plus Italian. The Indian food was great, and super inexpensive. The Italian menu was pretty good by Indian standards. It actually tasted Italian, and not an Indian version of Italian. For some reason they were always out of the Dahl Fried, but all the other curries were delicious.
I am so glad I was able to find a place like Bundi. In Bangalore I was sick and unable to explore the city. In Jaipur I stayed in a hostel where I was not able feel comfortable. Bundi was just what I needed to help me relax and feel like I had found a jewel hidden in the vastness that is India. I recommend Bundi to anyone visiting India. Unless you are a diehard solo traveller I think most people would enjoy it more as a couple or group. I would definitely visit Bundi again. Next time I would like to have friends there to share the experience.
To see all 88 photos from my stay in Bundi click the image below to open a slideshow.