India: Oct 20: Jodhpur

This day we made the untraditional decision to see Jodhpur's sites efficiently and implemented it, seeing everything we wanted to see in the city before dinnertime. In fact, we were so efficient we actually had to kill time in the later afternoon before dinner.

The day's rapid adventures are primarily portrayed in these pictures and movies. As you can tell from the pictures, there's a reason Jodhpur's known as the blue city.

Jodhpur, at least the Old Town, has crooked streets like Udaipur. We thought at first that it also had Jaipur's negative of aggressive salesmen and touts, but eventually realized that these were found only in the center plaza where tourists tend to be; in much of the rest of the city we were hassled less than in Jaipur.

We started the day with a walk through Jodhpur's slightly smelly streets to an omelette shop, which turned out to be closed. Instead, we ended up at the Shri Mishrilal Hotel for makhani lassis. They were sweet, like pudding, but more tart.

We grabbed a rickshaw up to Mehrangarh Fort. For efficiency, we arranged to have our driver for the whole day. During the course of the day, we learned a lot about him such as his age (24) and that he worked in stone mines for five years. (I believed him; I don't think it was a story for sympathy.) He also told us about being mailed fifty thousand rupees (about a thousand US dollars) by an American tourist he drove around for a couple of days. (I think it was pretty clear he was hoping we'd be as preposterously generous.) In addition, he told us an Israeli group he drove around mailed him a thank you gift of chocolates and pictures they took of him with his son. Throughout the day, we kept trying to pay him more because we kept him longer than we'd originally agreed. He kept refusing. Yet, at the end of the day, when we paid him what we agreed (plus a small tip roughly corresponding to the bonuses he kept refusing), he asked for more. I think this reflects some interesting cultural/conversational expectations.

At the fort, I paid extra for the audio tour. It was a good investment. Not only was the tour paced well, it was lively and educational. Since my friends didn't pay for the audio tour, we split up, which led to great difficulty meeting up later. Running up and down the fort looking for each other is a lot of work!

On the way down from the fort, we stopped by Jaswant Thada, which is a cenotaph (a tomb built for ceremonial purposes, not to house a body) for a ruler of Jodhpur.

We then had our driver take us to Mandore, a town a bit north of Jodhpur with many temple-like cenotaphs. Interestingly, all these shrines--and there were many--were built and carved by workers paid only with food.

After Mandore, we were off to another palace, Umaid Bhawan, and its attached museum. Then we went to the train station to book tickets. Given our experience in Jaipur, we knew trains filled up. We waited in five lines as we were referred from bureaucrat to bureaucrat. At one point we were told there were seats in the tourist quota on the train we wanted. Near the end of the adventure, when we were in the back office finally getting things settled, I got the impression that it turned out they didn't have seats in the tourist quota and had to and did bump other people to seat us (because they told us they could seat us). Also, given how protective we were of our passports during the trip, it was nice N managed to negotiate it so we just showed them our U.S. drivers licenses and orally told them our passport numbers to prove we were not Indians. (I think she did it by bluffing that'd we have to go to our hotel to get our passports, and they frankly didn't want to have to deal with us again.)

To relax from our busy day, we had our driver take us to one of the few restaurant/bars in Jodhpur, On The Rocks. It wasn't yet open--we were too efficient visiting sights! Instead, our driver took us to a sweet shop he recommended, Sbree Kanji Sweets. We bought and ate some snacks, then returned to On The Rocks, which still wasn't open. We thanked and dismissed our driver and browsed nearby stores: clothing, alcohol, antiques/jewelry/trinkets.

Finally, when On The Rocks opened (7pm?), except for shoddy service, we had a pretty pleasing Chinese-Indian meal. It was hard to get the waiter's attention. He got one order wrong. The bill was incorrect. We had to ask twice for water, and never got refills despite asking. I guess I can add to this list that the service was slow, but that's pretty typical for India.

By 9:30pm, when we finished dinner, the atmosphere at the restaurant was festive. We moved to the restaurant's attached bar. It was hopping. The music, however, was pretty bad. The bar remixed songs to have a stronger bass line. Yet, it didn't use good songs to start with and the remixing simply made them worse. At the bar I had a glass of Royal Challenge Indian whiskey, which was not bad at all.

And that's how to do Jodhpur in a day. Obviously, refer to the pictures for details/color commentary.

No comments: