Jodhpur, The Blue City
Our train from Pushkar to Jodhpur was uneventful if a little odd, in that we seemed to be in a nearly empty carriage, and yet an older Indian couple was in the same compartment with us. They didn’t seem to speak English and kept to themselves as we watched the fairly unremarkable desert roll by.
On arrival, we had a car waiting as we had booked into our most posh accommodation of the trip. We were delivered into the Pal Haveli Inn where several smiling uniformed staff ushered us to reception, and then Mr. Singh, owner, appeared to personally greet us as well. Maybe because we had booked 5 nights?
Our wing of the haveli wasn’t especially old, but was tastefully decorated with old furniture, tapestries, paintings, coloured glass hanging lamps, fine rugs inside and outside the rooms. The bed was almost too soft, after getting accustomed to the Indian standard of thin dense foam on a wooden platform. The Fort view from the window was impressive. But nothing was formal or awkward, just nice, nice, nice.
Part of the reason we chose to splurge here was that the roof top restaurant was highly recommended, as was the even fancier one on the roof of the very posh Pal Haveli Hotel we were attached to. So arriving at dinner time, we went right upstairs for a sunset beer and then a meal. The view must be about the best in the city and the food and service were lovely, and it wasn’t especially pricey.
We slept like the dead then luxuriated in a properly hot shower. (The half assed hostel in Pushkar didn’t exactly deliver on this front.) Our plan was to have a day off in our posh room, and we did catch up on writing, bookings, etc, but then we went for a little wander. One turn led to another and we found ourselves clambering up the very steep path to the Fort. We quickly made it as far as the parking lot, where we watched a few Indians getting short camel rides- just long enough for a few selfies, of course. We photoed the view of the city, not as blue as expected, and made it home in time for “High tea” – free chai and bikkies on the roof. Don’t knock salty cumin shortbread until you’ve tried it!
We don’t much like shopping but the weather had been getting progressively colder as we came north, so the next day required a bit of shawl shopping. We didn’t care to ruin the relaxation we had been working toward, so instead of facing haggling in the pashmina shops, we found a nice fixed price emporium with a small stack of very affordable and nice enough wool ones. Taking the long way home, one random turn led to another and this time we found ourselves at the step well. We watched the fish and the selfie takers and young men diving into the deep green water.
The afternoon was drawing to a close and we decided to make the short steep climb again to watch the daily kite feeding in the Fort. We couldn’t find the lower gardens recommended and ended up walking all the way to the very top, where we got an awesome view of the hundreds of swooping and diving birds of prey snatching meat out of the air.
The next morning we made sure to get an early start for a day touring the Fort palace, so up the hill we climbed again. Entry included an audio guide, which we usually avoid, but it was done well and got us through the palace in record time, for us. Barely past mid day, we eventually found the gardens and got well away from the crowds while overlooking the proper blue city behind the Fort. Then we headed back to the step well cafe, had a beer and watched an Indian couple and their crew of photographers, lighting team and a director do wedding photos for a couple of hours. And we still made it home in time for high tea…
Our last day of sightseeing was a toss up between visiting the markets in the blue city or climbing that damn hill one more time to visit the glowing white marble mausoleum that had been beckoning us since arrival. And this should serve as a warning to anyone who might travel with us – we almost always choose the not shopping option. The mausoleum was not spectacular, but we enjoyed the the walk and it was enough exercise to justify a little break at the stepwell for another beer on the way home. Unexpectedly, that loosened us up enough that when we peered into a large tourist emporium on the way home, we decided to let the salesman show us his special wholesale collection upstairs… Even though we refused his tea, we walked out over an hour later, no bedspreads poorer, but certainly having made no new friends.
We kept meaning to head next door for a fancy drink and a fancy dinner in the fancy place but nothing in the menu, view, or reviews seemed worth the price, so we just kept finding other cheap rooftops to try out. We had perfectly nice meals but Jodpur just isn’t a gourmet destination. For our last dinner, we took the risk and went to the highly recommended samosa place for our first street meal. We did it wrong by ordering several items at once, and they were bagged instead of plated. So, rather than eating standing with the crowd on the madly honking corner, we sheepishly sneaked them back to our room and had some of the tastiest food to date. Light flakey pastry with a sweet yet tangy mashed potato and veg filling. Total cost less than one dollar.