Hans actually managed to regain consciousness before 9am this morning so we had breakfast before our driver took us out for the day.
Our first stop was the Umaid Bhawan palace which we’d gone past the previous day on the way to the polo game. This is a truly beautiful building which took 15 years to construct, using the labour of 3000 people. Stone was carved many miles away and transported to Jodhpur where it was set in place. Much of the stonework is not cemented, so good is the “fit” of the pieces. They were placed on blocks of ice and moved gradually into position as the ice melted.
Nowadays the building is the residence of the Maharajah and his family, as well as being part hotel. There is also a small museum which we walked around for the very fair price of 50Rp.
Next up was the Jaswant Thada memorial. This is a large white marble temple-like building. It cost 20Rp (plus 25Rp per camera) to get in, and it’s a nice enough place for the small outlay. Essentially just a nice building, with a nice view (both of the city and of the fort further uphill), the main thing it has going for it is how quiet it is.
Actually, the best fun we had was teasing two young kids who were busking on the bridge on the way in. A young boy was sat with a traditional sitar and started playing as soon as anyone non-Indian appeared. His female accomplice, a lovely young girl – maybe 12 years old – would begin to dance and approach the tourists asking for money as she twirled. Being skinflints and horrible people (and also having nothing smaller than 100Rp notes – honestly!) we said “no, sorry” and walked on. As we passed by, the music slowed and stopped like an old gramophone winding down.
So we took to popping out, looking like we were about to walk past again, waiting for them to start playing, then turning around and listening for the music to end. Then popping our heads out again.
OK, OK, we should grow up. It was funny at the time.
The biggest tourist draw in Jodhpur is the Mehrangarh fort (Majestic Fort) located at the top of the highest peak in Jodhpur and casting an imposing shadow over the city. It has the impressive statistic of never once having been breached or captured by attaching enemies and it’s easy to see why. Its position and defences are simply incredible, yet the craftsmanship that has gone into its inner areas is simply stunning with huge amounts of beautifully crafted stonework.
It cost 250Rp to get in, but this included both the camera fees and an audio guide which was very comprehensive. We must have spent over two hours walking around (including a nice 10-minute chat with a lovely young lady who asked if I was from Newcastle as she was from South Shields, though now living in Edinburgh and did I used to go to the Mayfair and hang around on the Green and, ooh, did I know this guy with long hair…? You know how it goes).
Needless to say, the views from the fort are superb in all directions, getting better and better the higher you climb. Jodhpur is often known as the “blue city” and it’s best to appreciate why from up here. Once upon a long time ago, Brahmins (holy men) were allowed to paint their houses blue. Over the years, regular people have also been allowed to do this and so many of the buildings in the old city have been tinted by indigo, which is also supposed to repel insects.
Within the fort walls, there is a lot to see. A museum contains many relics – weapons, elephant howdahs (the seats people sit in on elephantback), decorations and so on. There was also an art display on loan from London’s V&A when we visited.
The one thing I missed was the monkeys. I caught sight of them just as we arrived, but they don’t seem as friendly as the ones on Kao Takiap in Thailand. These things were huge from what I saw, but by the time we got out of the car they’d scarpered around the hillside and away from the fort entrance.
We had one place left to see and we asked our driver to take us to the clock tower, which is located in the main market. There’s no way he’d have got the car into the bazaar itself, so he dropped us off while we took a wander. This was probably the closest to what I imagined India to be like before I got here. Bustling, people in bright clothing, stalls and good everywhere, noise, smells (and not of stale pee), people haggling. Great stuff.
The only shop we stopped at was a bookshop where I talked myself out of buying all the John Grisham‘s I’ve not read yet and instead we strolled around to find somewhere for lunch. Through the gate at the north of the market, we walked to the right and found a hotel and restaurant with a sign asking people to “park outside please”. It was about the only non-streetside place we could find so we decided to give it a shot. We think this was the Pal Haveli, but in honesty the name escaped us. A shame as we’d definitely recommend it. The rooftop restaurant had a perfect view of the fort and the food was delicious. A little more expensive than what we’d been paying recently, but still stupidly cheap to those with a bank account measured in Sterling.
And so our touristy time ended in Jodhpur. I’m typing this up during the late afternoon while Hans has a nap (just for a change) and our plans for later are to go back to the Govind and check our email, much like last night.