Friday, November 10, 2006

The Blue City of Jodhpur... yes, that is where the original riding britches were first made!

Nov 10th. Arrived at the Haveli Guest House in Jodhpur after a 5hr bus journey that for some reason felt like a lot longer! Bit of a different feel here. First big city for a while and you can definitely tell the difference from some of the smaller towns we have visited. Dubbed the "Blue City" after the colour-wash of its old town houses, Jodhpur is overlooked by the very impressive Meherangarh Fort, whose ramparts rise from a sheer sided sandstone mountain and can be seen no matter where you are in the city. Today with a population of just over 1.2 million, it is quite small by Indian standards, although often used as merely a stop over between Jaisalmer in the west and Udaipur or Jaipur in the east (which we have still to see!). Anyway, looking forward to checking out that fort tomorrow!

Nov 11th. Up and out by 8am today with some of the gang to check out the town and then head off to the Meherangarh Fort! Had breakfast at the famous Omelette Stand (there are actually three of them right next to each other, in front of the city's clock tower; all attesting to being approved and recommended by Lonely Planet. How to tell which is the "real" one - who knows!). Then wandered through tons of alleyways and back streets up, up, up and away to the imposing building above us! Wow - really incredible and so beautiful too. The 360 degree view of the city shows so perfectly how it got its name as there are clusters of blue washed buildings all over Jodhpur. The fort, described by Kipling as "the work of angels and giants" really does give you a taste of how things used to be back in the 1800's in Indian forts and castles belonging to the aristocracy.

In disrepair until 1972, when the current Oxford educated maharaja (who took office at the age of 4) created a foundation to rescue it from its derelict state, the fort is now visited my tourists all year long. You can really imagine elephants thundering up the steep winding cobbled road, or see the maharaja's wives hiding behind the latticed windows looking out at the blue city below. Loved this place I have to say.
And learned tons too - like "purdah" was originally designed to protect women from mens unwanted glances! Aaahh... how gentle women must have been in those days! Also saw many of the gilded carriages the maharajas wives used while visiting other royalty - they even had the one used when visiting King George way back...With regards to all that blue white wash painted on houses all over Jodhpur, well some thought it was originally used by the high caste Brahmins to let people know they lived in certain houses; others believed it was used as a way to rid homes of insects at one time. Amazing what you learn eh!

The womens quarter was so beautiful and peaceful. The gorgeous lattice work let the many wives look out on to the city below as well as any big male meetings that would take place in and around the fort. Yet it was built in such a way that although they could look out and see everything surrounding them, there was no way for those on the other side to look up and in at the women hence a perfect system eh! And we had a great chat to two of the men working there that day; oh yes and had a puff of this guy's opium pipe too (nah just kidding there!).

Check out these two smily ladies who wanted to chat away to us outside the fort! They were working away on the land and when they saw us, they waved us over. We then proceeded to have a lovely chat in Hindi and English with none of us understanding each other - until....they asked us for some money for the photo! Dash - yet again caught! But to be honest they were working so hard and it was so hot, I was quite happy to help out a wee bit.

As if this wasn't enough beauty, we headed off to Jaswant Thanda, which is some 500m north of the fort.

This building is a pillared marble memorial to the popular ruler Jaswant Singh II, who purged Jodhpur of dacoits (apparantly the name for robber gangs back in the 1800's)and did lots of other great things for the city e.g. built irrigation systems blah blah blah (like you want to know, right!)....

Then we headed back into town after some tricky negotiations with our tuk tuk guy who told us we were 5 big girls, we needed to give him alot of money cos of all the petrol he would use driving us the short distance into the centre! Ahhh 1) how to get your customers on board and 2) why then, did he decide to give us the world tour of the city.. what a daft guy, but lots of fun, especially when he liked making some of the girls scream as he dodged the odd cow or two, pretty darn close!!! Me - i was like ice, no problems hahah!

So now to one of the best meals i have had on my whole trip to date! WOW - I MEAN WOW! Please view the deluxe thali from the Priya Restaurant on main street, Jodhpur! Fantastic and yes, i ate every single thing on the plate - well, except the dessert which was stinky! Ahhh food glorious food!

We - especially Ewan - had a lovely surprise for his birthday at dinner. As we sat around having drinks on the terrace looking up at the gorgeous fort, silhouetted in the nightime sky, the people who owned the hotel, put on an impressive fireworks display; even their 10 yr old son wanted in on the act, and lit his own firework in honour of Ewan's big day! How lovely! So a great finish to our quick trip of Jodhphur and tomorrow we are off to Udaipur, another fab destination in gorgeous Rajasthan!


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