Jodhpur – The Blue City
It was a long drive to Jodhpur, our second to last destination in Rajasthan, before waving off our driver. The three restful days in Jaisalmer and our separation from each other had allowed driver and passenger relations to be restored to more friendly less tense mood levels. So we set off as a harmonious group for the long drive to Jodhpur.
The drive is around five hours and we had no stops on the journey other than at one final overpriced restaurant and a more acceptable local chai stall for refreshment. The journey was not very memorable as I am writing this a few days after we made it and I cant remember anything of note about it.
We arrived at Jodhpur at about three in the afternoon and the first hotel offered by the driver was a nice heritage hotel. Despite the usual bartering on price we decided it would fit the bill quite nicely. We were only there one night and by the time we got to see the fort and bazaar and had eaten dinner and slept, we would be up and out on our way to Udaipur.
The walk up from town to the fort at Jodhpur is pretty steep and there are quite a few slippery stone steps, worn to a nice shine over the hundreds of years people have been using them. However, the reward in the form of views of the city are impressive and we enjoyed watching the sunset from here. The fort itself is not one of the finest, but the views are what you come here for. Many of the cities houses are painted in the traditional (indigo) blue and in the setting sunlight of the day they provide a picturesque vista.
The bazaar centred around the town clock tower is busy and has many a bargain laying in wait for the eager shopper. We were getting hungry so gave it only the briefest of visits before settling back to get some food at the hotel, we were still a little tired (and sore) from our desert camel trip.
Jodhpur is also famous for its lassi drinks and a great shop can be found on one side of the arches at the end of the main bazaar. The bazaar is similar to those in many of the cities all over Rajasthan but you can also purchase the obligatory pair of jodhpurs here, we are definitely too old to get away with sporting a pair of these trendy pants.
The Road to Udaipur – Our Final Day in the Car
On our final day in the car we set off at 8am towards Udaipur. On the drive there we discussed with our driver that we would let him finish a day early so that he would make it home for Christmas Day (it was now Christmas Eve). Although a Hindu our driver explained that it is becoming increasingly popular amongst youngsters to partake in the world-wide shopping phenomena (as opposed to the religious festival) known as Christmas. Chander also had clients on the morning of the 27 so it was going to be a quick turnaround for him once he made it back to Delhi.
We stopped on the way to visit the most unusual of temple shrines. It is strange not for its wonderful or historical architecture but that it has an old Enfield Bullet motorbike as the object that people worship. Praying here is said to protect you on a long journey and the bike is festooned with flower offerings. The story goes that after Om Singh Rathore, its owner, drove it into a tree and was killed, the bike repeatedly made its own way from the police pound back to the crash site in the dead of night. The bike was therefore deemed a religious icon and put on display here, some claim to still hear the revving of the engine.
A Pit Stop in Ranakpur
On route Udaipur we past through some beautiful countryside on our way up into the hills to Ranakpur and learned that Michael Schumacher had visited this particular area with Chander for a few days some years back. There are many nature reserves here around Ranakpur and you can go hiking and horse trekking through the mountains if you are staying here for a while. Had we had the time we would have definitely opted for an overnight stay here to admire the lush green reserves and break up our long last journey.
We stopped off at Ranakpur and visited a Jain temple which was very impressive, but the place was packed due to this time of year coinciding with school holidays and government closure of certain departments. This meant that as well as the influx of international visitors it was also a busy vacation period for Indian tourists.
This festive period also allowed the driver to warm us up for his final hotel choice story by saying that most of the better choices of hotels would be fully booked in Udaipur. We knew this to be mostly true and after having tried a few that were full we settled on one in the centre of town with a wonderful rooftop restaurant overlooking the palace, but sadly no lake view. We decided to try it for a couple of nights as we planned on spending quite a few days here to relax and unwind after the hectic pace of the road trip.
The negotiations were the now familiar half an hour of debate where we saw the price plummet from 1850 without breakfast to a more acceptable 1100 including breakfast. We lasted only two nights here however as the place had the all too familiar ‘couldn’t give a damn’ attitude to customer service. Beer was only allowed in the restaurant after dark unless you asked the manager, the tables were never cleared or cleaned and the food was at best mediocre.
We went on a search around town and found something much more acceptable and have been settled in here now for four days while we catch up with all the picture editing and writing from our last 13 days on the road.
It is a real pleasure as the staff are fantastic, the food equally as impressive and we have yet to work our way through the whole menu. Despite this we have not found a dish we didn’t like. The manager has moved us into a nicer room with a big television and it looks likely that we may end up staying here for New Year too. Especially as we have just heard on Indian CNN that the Mumbai government have decided stupidly to levy an extra 20% entertainment tax on all food and drinks for New Years eve. Sometimes you do wonder at the mentality of the tourism leaders in India.
We have not yet explored any sites in Udaipur and are content with just wandering around town and soaking up the nice pleasant atmosphere, sorting new sim cards, getting a haircut and shave having the clothes laundered and eating our way down the fantastic hotel menu. Maybe if we regain some energy we will have a day exploring the sights of Udaipur before setting off to Mumbai in the New Year. We really like it here, and its not just the fabulous views of the lake from the rooftop restaurants and bars, or the cool mountain air, this place is just so charming and relaxing that we don’t want to leave.