Exploring Jodhpur, The Blue City

Click to enlarge!

The Blue City. Click to enlarge!

It’s time for another travel post! I love sharing these with you because it means I get to go over my photos and reminisce. Hope you guys enjoy them too.

Today I’m revisiting Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. It’s known as the Blue City…for obvious reasons. (The state of Rajasthan also has a Pink City (Jaipur), a Golden City (Jaisalmer), and unofficially a White City (Udaipur).) And yes, the riding pants are named after the city.

My travelling companion and I took the train from Jaipur, sharing a compartment with an elderly woman, her daughter-in-law, and her young grandson. We were glad to be with them because the stop announcements were nonexistent, even in Hindi. Signs in the stations are generally in both Hindi and English, so you can get on the right train at the right platform, you just can’t necessarily get off at the right stop unless you happen to spot the sign going by.

View from the train

View of rural Rajasthan from the train — looks pretty dry, doesn’t it?

A man from our hotel met us at the train station. We almost walked right past him because we’d gotten so used to ignoring people trying to sell us stuff. (Later, back in New Delhi, we projected such an air of being experienced travellers, or something, that nobody at the station even bothered to approach us.)

We’d been travelling through some very intense places for the past week, so we spent our first day in the Blue City just relaxing at the hotel. Like many hotels in Rajasthan, it had an open-air restaurant on the roof — obviously this is a place that doesn’t get rained on much!

Both our room and the restaurant had nice wicker furniture, but the hotel wifi was stronger in the restaurant, so we spent a lot of time upstairs, hiding in the shade from the intense semi-desert sun.

We did leave the hotel to go to dinner down the street. On the way we found dodgy sidewalks, lots of motorbikes, and the alarming fact that after dark, all the local women disappear off the streets. I didn’t notice at first, but every single person we interacted with in public throughout northern India — at hotels, at restaurants, in stores — was male.

(Rajasthan is known as a backwards state, even for India…and it gets more so the farther in you go. Just as a surface example, we hadn’t seen any women in Western clothing after leaving New Delhi and Agra, larger cities where women have more freedom. In fact, we started seeing women with veils over their faces — not opaque veils but sheer ones that matched their saris. This part of India is heavily Hindu and partly tribal, so it’s not a Muslim thing, but I bet it comes from the same impulses.)

The next day we set out to explore the fort (of course). Jodhpur is dominated by Mehrangargh Fort, dating to the 15th century and every inch a fortress. I mean, just look at this:

Mehrangarh Fort, Jaipur

(Lots more pictures behind the jump!)

We walked up a narrow ramp where some street musicians were playing…

Ramp in Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

…and then we got to this:

Windows in Mehrangarh Fort

Those windows alone made Mehrangarh my favourite fort in all of India.

(Those overhanging arches are very typical of Rajasthani architecture. And gorgeous.)

Inside, it’s not as extensive as some of the other forts (wait until I show you the City Palace in Udaipur!) but it does have something most of them lack: a museum. It’s not large, but it has a good collection of a few things (click to enlarge):

Howdah in Mehrangarh Fort

A howdah — a seat for riding on elephants

An etched pen-box for the local maharajah

An etched pen-box for the local maharaja

A medieval suit of armour

A medieval suit of armour

And a really scary cane with a hidden knife in the head.

And some really scary weapons, like a cane with a hidden knife in the head.

There were also some highly decorated cradles in another part of the fort. Even the babies slept like kings!

And it wouldn’t be a Rajasthani fort if it didn’t have some truly extravagant architecture and interior decor. Depending on your own design sensibilities, you might even feel that some of these guys had more money than taste:

Sheesha Mahal -- the Hall of Mirrors

Sheesha Mahal — the Hall of Mirrors

A typical scalloped arch...with a gold ceiling, because they could!

A typical scalloped arch…with a gold ceiling, because they could!

Finally it was time to leave. We walked out of the fort complex, gawking all the way.

You can be sure that this fort, or at least parts of it in disguise, will show up in one of my fantasy stories someday. I mean, hello:

Mehrangarh Fort walls from belowFlowers at Mehrangarh Fort

We were, in fact, so busy gawking that we completely missed our prearranged rendezvous with the auto-rickshaw that had brought us to the fort. So we ended up walking all the way down the hill into the old part of town. At first the streets were deserted but for stray dogs, herds of sacred cows, and a boy on a bike who stopped and wanted to talk English in a slightly antagonistic way. That was a bit scary.

But then we hit a web of tiny streets and multicoloured buildings with no street signs anywhere to be seen. We wove through the narrow streets on foot, trying to follow the flow of traffic (auto-rickshaws and motorbikes, because there was no room for cars) without getting hit.

Street in Jodhpur

(There’s a trick to it, which we were getting the hang of by then. You just pretend you have a right to be wherever you are on the road, and other people go around you as if you have an invisible shield. But they won’t necessarily let you in. Essentially, you’re all haggling for road space all the time. Also, you should probably stick to the left side of the street, but that’s a guideline not a rule, and good luck finding a centre line….)

Finally we made it back to our hotel, phoned the poor auto-rickshaw driver who’d been waiting for us at the fort, and engaged him to come back and take us to a restaurant for dinner instead. Fiery hot lamb in sauce, chicken in tomato sauce, and rice…we ate with an appetite after all that rambling!

And thus ended our stay in Jodhpur.

 

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