Better than a ruined palace? One with monkeys.
Boy, did I love Bundi.
One day there, we trudged up the cobblestone hill from the quaint, blue-painted city to the palace, swinging the peeling red monkey stick our guest house lent us for the day. The sunny morning of a Rajasthan spring was nearly too hot for us, but it didn't seem to bother the monkeys much. They rule the ramshackle avenues of this town.
Eating breakfast at a nearby rooftop cafe, we watched a monkey nearly make off with our egg sandwiches. Across the narrow alley below our cafe, a family of macaques sneaked across the roof to some pots left by a careless housewife. One by one they dipped their inquisitive paws into the leftovers. A cunning youngster jimmied a rooftop water cistern open and took a swim. A baby and his mother scavenged a garbage heap far below.
A woman a few doors down, a laundress hanging up bright clothes, wasn't having any monkeys in her washtubs, though. She kept a slingshot handy while she worked and took accurate aim at monkeys climbing the old city walls. They avoided her.
At the 17th century palace, wires and screens had been put up over one of the rooms with the best-preserved murals. The marbled corridors and rooftop garden were fair game though, and monkeys swung from the trees and balustrades eyeing the tourists walking into the encaged area below; a strange zoo reversal.
Farther uphill, at the 14th century fort, was where our day changed from ordinary sightseeing to living out childhood Jungle Book fantasies. The red monkey stick didn't do much to scare off the loop-tailed langur monkeys who fed on leaves in the overgrown courtyards and patrolled the maze-like hallways.
And, while Kipling didn't visualize the exploits of a boy raised by wolves while in Bundi, he did write part of his book Kim here. Our third day in Bundi, we tried to go a little farther than the monkeys' hilltop kingdom by hiring an autorickshaw (three-wheeled taxi) to take us to some nearby villages.
The driver was willing enough, if not real sure where us crazy foreigners wanted to go. His vehicle was another matter.
We got about 30 minutes out of town, into a thorn-tree desert landscape of ochre fields and lonely brick houses, and stopped at an intersection for a cup of hot tea at a roadside shack. While we waited for the tea Dan went around to all the turbaned men drinking tea and gossiping and took their portraits. I tried to chat to two women waiting for a bus, a conversation that mostly consisted of smiles. We all waved goodbye exaggeratedly and repeatedly, which was why it was such an anticlimax when the rickshaw wouldn't start.
Five would-be mechanics, five attempts at pushing and one at towing later we got back to Bundi one adventure richer.
**Click here to see our photos from Bundi!**