Two-three hours (depending on roads and cow traffic) towards what seems to be the middle of nowhere lands you in the tiny village of 6,000 residents. Though throughly cliched, “off the beaten track,” might be an appropriate description of Narlai. The reason to come here is to experience rural India, within the comforts of a world-class heritage hotel. No one I’ve talked to knew of this place, even those who holiday frequently in India, this added to the appeal. I found it through Truffle Pig (who arranged our honeymoon), and trust them entirely with any suggestion. It certainly lived up to all expectations.
We weren’t promised we would get to sit. The local train that would take us from Bundi to our rural heritage stay in Byaipur for three hours only guaranteed we would get on the train, not much else. Luckily, we did manage to grab seats, even if they were cramped and situated next to a baby who insisted on trying to gnaw on my book while the mother looked on with amusement. Continue reading
The curtain blooms and falls in time to the wind as our bus plods its way through the country side. A song on my iPhone reminds me of Africa, of that fateful day I left a country I’d grown to love. The day, much like today, the sun beats down, a flurry of wind from opened windows gives slight respite, dust circled the air as children run through rural fields. It was the day, I knew I would travel, always. It was such a moment of serenity, of understanding. The memory is welcome reminiscent, what I wouldn’t give to be back there. But I am here, I’m a bit older, the world doesn’t seem so big. I’m comfortable in a way I never knew I was capable of, on the bus with rickety seats and no air conditioning in a foreign land. I couldn’t have known then where this new path of uncertainty and freedom would lead. Now that I’m here, there is nowhere in the world I’d rather be. And I understand, distinctly that my wandering is far from over. As my life unfolds this instinct will change, and adapt, but it will always, always be with me. The hum of the engine, the slow rocking of the bus, the wind. I’m given the gift of fond memories, and renewed sense of purpose and joy. Here I am, exactly where I should be, wherever it may be, wherever it may lead.
We were leaving the city behind to drive out to a rural village 50km from Jaipur to stay in an old renovated fort. I had been, admittedly skeptical about a “rural heritage visit” thinking it would just be villagers entertaining us in a forced manner. But that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, the fort itself is beautiful, crumbling, and seemingly preserved in time. Upon entering the village the fort can been seen from a distance, I imagined it would be a fantastically interesting place to stay, having no idea that in fact, it would be where we would stay. Though the facilities are basic, each room is beautifully decorated in varying fashion, all with a distinctly antique feel. There are ornate, color saturated paintings, low, cracked ceilings, and intricate chandlers lining the open air dining hall where one might imagine sipping cocktails decades past in the same dusty room, sweating glasses etching circles in the rickety wooden tables. We spent the entire day wandering the fort and village. It was fantastic to be able to catch a glimpse or rural life in India, especially considering most of the tourist attractions are in large cities. The pace is easier, slower, the air is clear. Shy women in beautiful, rich colored saris work the fields and tend to children. A group of young men paint a house that will be used for a wedding in the upcoming week. For this experience, I am glad to have been on a tour, or else, I likely would have only seen large cities. And, I’m happy to report that I’ve been nothing but impressed and quite happy with the tour thus far. My group is good, I love how easy everything is, and how we’re still given a lot of freedom to make our own decisions. If I were on my own, I would certainly consider it. Though, the high cost is still a strong deterrent (along with the lack of complete freedom), but it does come with perks, and I’ve certainly enjoyed them.