Jodhpur

Tuesday 29th March 2011

The chaotic scenes of Jodhpur station were just a starter for this crazy city.  I had no idea how big the place was before arriving – but there’s over a million inhabitants and most of them are on the street at any given time.

As per usual I pushed past the rickshaw drivers – there’s a completely new style of bigger rickshaw here – certainly taller than those in Delhi and some are extra narrow, presumably because the streets here are also very narrow.

I walked along the relatively quiet main road – shops were just beginning to open their shutters and looked for somewhere for breakfast but decide to push on to find a guest house.  Yogis Guest House sounded good from the book – but is quite a long walk from the station – probably about 2km – so there was plenty of time for the touts of Jodhpur to clock a new white face in town.

The ancient walled city revolves around the clock tower and market area, all very photogenic and it wasn’t long before I had followed the map to a smelly back street full of cows but encouraging painted arrows kept my faith in Yogi.  An arched gateway  led into a tranquil courtyard full of period memorabilia including a 1950s split screen Morris Minor Convertible.  Inside, another courtyard furnished in the same style – old trombones, gramophones, cushions, faded photos – just a fantastic little haven from the streets outside – and painted bright blue – the colour of most of Jodhpur’s buildings.

I checked in for a couple of nights and had breakfast on the roof terrace which is the most perfect location just beneath the imposing walls of the fort and with a view for miles and miles out into the flat plains of Rajasthan.  Altogether an absolutely excellent place.

Mid afternoon it was in the high 30s which takes some getting used to after the cool mountain airs.  Nevertheless I walked up the steep path to the Meherangarh Fort – one of the top ten tourist locations in India.  The climb wasn’t nearly as hard as I had thought, and I was soon paying my 300 rupees entrance fee, after a guard made sure I didn’t join the Indian residents’ queue which would have been 200 rupees cheaper!  The fee entitles you to borrow an audio guide which was actually quite good, but as always it focussed on detail of the exhibits in glass cases, and almost overlooked the most stunning location with views over tens of miles.

At the end of the audio tour I was almost forced into writing in the visitors book before my driving licence, which I had left as deposit for the audio guide, could be returned.  I think the girl finally thought I couldn’t write and so opened a plastic sleeved book holding dozens and dozens of ID cards, in no apparent order.  She thumbed through all the pages twice until finally mine turned up, right in the back page.

There is then no option but to walk all the way round the very nicely laid out souvenir shop. You are not allowed, by means of a security guard, to miss out any of the rooms and finally get accosted at the exit to make sure you had understood how good all the souvenirs were.  Finally let out into a further courtyard full of slippers, carpets, bangles and so forth before having a chance to look into the temple, and the temple souvenir shop.  I don’t know what came over me but I spent 15 pounds in the temple shop, somehow comforted that the profits were for the upkeep of the temple.

By the end of the day the maze of lanes was beginning to make sense and I was relieved to find Yogis again after several hours of wandering.  I wonder if anyone has ever counted the number of shops here!  Tens of thousands would be my guess.

I headed for a recommended eatery but couldn’t find it – a few millimetres on the Rough Guide map can be blocks and blocks on the ground, so I settled for the Fort View Restaurant in the Govinda Hotel near the startion.  Yes you can see the fort from the terrace but nothing compared to Yogis view!

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