Jodhpur – the Blue City

Jodhpur-header

The train to Jodhpur

The train from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur took 5 hours arriving at about 22:45. With the poor sleep that I’ve been getting the motion of the train almost immediately made me sleepy. Luckily i had the company of an American girl and a Dutch boy. When they weren’t there i resorted to loud blues on the iPod to keep me awake.

Indian trains are pretty much on time. Which is good because there is little to announce at which station you’ve arrived. At Jodhpur I had to ask an Indian guy who asked a local. The reply was “next station”. Well the train seemed to be waiting an undue length of time so I put on Google’s location device and found that this station, which ever it was, was only about 1. 5km from Stops Hostel, where I’d booked a couple of nights. I hopped off and got a tuk-tuk.

One thing about tuk-tuk drivers that you can count on is that they will quadruple the fare. They appear determined to put their client in the hands of Uber and Ola. Nevertheless I got a tuk-tuk who did overcharge me a bit and then tried for 50/- more at the hostel. I explained that we’d agreed a price and that’s what he was getting. His comment was “I give you Indian price, ok”. “Indian price would have been half” I said as I left.

Stops Hostel in Jodhpur

Stops Hostel Jodhpur
Stops Hostel Jodhpur
Stops Hostel in Jodhpur is well worth a visit. If you are a good sleeper, which I’m not. In none the hostelworld, booking.com type sites do they mention the Imam. Granted, the description does say “Address: Stops Hostel Jodhpur, Plot No. 1, Fort Road, Paota, Opposite Irani Masjid, Next to Balaji Temple, Near Ship Building, Jodhpur, Rajasthan 342001”. It doesn’t say that Irani Masjid is a mosque. 05:00 the faithful are called to prayers. Not my favourite part. But the hostel is super clean. Hot water is nice to have. On multi levels with a roof terrace and an attached restaurant , Stops was a nice place to meet other travellers. If you can get a back dorm, away from the speakers attached to the mosque, it would be pretty much a perfect hostel. The restaurant was a tad overpriced but the food that I ate, was good.

Jaswant Thada cenotaph – Jodhpur

Jaswant Singh II, founder of Jaipur
Jaswant Singh II, founder of Jodhpur
On the net I couldn’t find that much to do in Jodhpur. There is the Mehrangarh fort of course, and the text online pushed the Clock Tower over which I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm. Location Google showed me the way. The fort was only a couple of kilometers away, I’d walk. It was a very simple walk with lots of views over the city and some photos to be taken. I passed a huge bronze statue of a Maharajah which needed inspection. This turned out to be man credited with founding Jodhpur, Maharaja Jaswant Singhji II. Tripadvisor comments say it’s difficult to get there but I get the impression that’s in a car. Walk, if you can, you’ll see more.

 Cenotaph to Jaswant Singh II, Jaswant Thada
Cenotaph to Jaswant Singh II, Jaswant Thada
By the side of the Maharaja is a cenotaph. A cenotaph to Jaswant Singh II, Jaswant Thada. It costs 30/- to enter and they charge 20/- for a camera. Pretty reasonable. It’s also worth seeing. A beautiful hand carved marble cenotaph and gardens. I spent a long time there in its relative quiet and away from horns. There are good views over the city, a huge wall that straddles the mountain ridge.

Mehrangarh Fort – Jodhpur

Mehrangarh Fort - Jodhpur
Mehrangarh Fort – Jodhpur
On leaving the cenotaph I carried on up the hill to a Y shaped junction and took the left towards the Mehrangarh fort. It’s a colossal fort perched on top of a hill. Almost red in colour, it’s hard to photograph without lens distortion making the lines curved. Again I decided not to go in and spend too long looking around. Maybe I’ll leave that for the next time. This time I just wanted to get photos of Mehrangarh fort and also get down into the blue city to take more.

The Blue City – Jodhpur

The Blue City of Jodhpur
The Blue City of Jodhpur
Along side the south side of the fort is a footpath. If you follow that it takes you down into the blue city. Suddenly there are blue houses, then shops. The blue is intense. Keeping to the more main roads, if you can really call them roads, they deserve a word of their own, you come down off the hill and into a bustling part of town. I found another another stepwell. Children were throwing themselves into the water from silly heights. Then there was a Ganesh festival with paint throwing. Loads of tractor drawn floats with decorated trailers and Ganesh in prominent view. Many equipped with huge sound systems. Then the schools came out and a Muslim funeral parade started and there was chaos. People everywhere. And then I was silly.

Street food Jodhpur
Shouldn’t have drunk the water
I stopped for food. A samoosa and something whose name I’ve yet to find out made with a chilli in batter with spuds. The stall holder was a nice fellow who spoke good english. He explained some of what was going on while I ate. On finishing and without thinking I asked for pani, water, and drank the contents of the metal mug. Wrong move, as I was to find out some time later.

I woke the next day knowing something was wrong! Not a pleasant trip to the bathroom. Followed a while later by the same. Time for anti-diahorrea pills before the Udaipur bus at 13:35. The morning followed in the bathroom – pill game until I left for the bus station some 50/- distant. Warned not to engage a tuk-tuk driver in front of the hostel because they charge more, I mooched off down the road a way. The first tuk-tuk out of the area wanted 1000/-! I just looked at him with my mouth open and said “you’re out of your mind” and walked off. The second guy charged me 50/-.

The bus station in Jodhpur was one of the more organised that I’ve been to. I’d been told that the Volvo buses park off to one side, and there indeed was one. I was quite early so I bought bananas and a fairly dry potato breakfast dish called Poha. Something fairly inert and maybe binding. Still worried, I ate the Poha and a couple of bananas and one more pill. I approached a man possibly my age and asked if he spoke english? He did indeed and extremely well. He wasn’t sure but he’d ask the driver when he passed by. Well it was about 12:15 and I had more than an hour, so we did “world’s problems ” “asian and western differences” a bit of “religion” and along came the bus driver who told us there was no bus to Udaipur at 13:35.

Volvo office immediately. Nice man made a phone call whilst finding me on the computer. Had a chat and said “come”. I went.

In a different part of the bus station administration, my man was in deep discussion with a new man who had also found me on the computer. I showed him my ticket and compared its contents with his monitor’s contents, fired off some hindi and I was instructed to “come” again. Out into the main bus gladiatorial area again. I was marched to stands 3 and 4. “Here or here at 16:30 – computer error. Thanks 🙁 I returned to the company of the elderly man where we philosophised, and fantasised until he had to go. And I waited for the bus to Udaipur and thanked my lucky pills I was still in normal mode.

I was seated next to a young army sergeant, or “holder” as they seem to be called here. Now I’m not sure if that is how you spell it, I suspect not, but that was how it sounded to my ears. His english was pretty good and we chatted for a while until both of us started to nod off. This bus wasn’t going to arrive in Udaipur until 21:30 – 22:00. About two thirds of the way we stopped. Probably near Rajsamand, where I was told by the army that I could get of, go for a pee and have a chai. I got out and stretched my legs. My stomach was going to remain bathroomless on this voyage. The bus honked, we boarded and we set off on the last leg. Macey Gray helped.


Jaipur in the desert state of Rajistan

Jaipur-the palace of winds

Jaipur, the capital of Rajistan

Well the last few days have been hectic and I haven’t had a chance to write anything for a while. On the 28th of August I set off from Meerut to visit Jaipur in Rajistan, the desert state. There had been riots on the streets of Delhi on the 25th with people killed and buses set on fire at Anand Vihar. All of this was because of the conviction of a Baba, a holy man, the guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, religious leader of Dera Sacha Sauda, who was convicted of rape committed some years ago. I had left Anand Vihar for Meerut the day before, on the 24th, and there was some speculation that the 28th, day of sentencing, could produce the same rioting. Luckily I made it through to Sarai Rohilla Station for the train to Jaipur with no mishap.

Sarai Rohilla train station in Delhi

Delhi Sarai Rohilla stationThe Sarai Rohilla train station isn’t the easiest place to navigate. There is little help, no platform staff (that I could find) and not much by the way of indication where to go. A friendly young police woman put me straight. I had a few hours to wait so, in Indian style, I had a snooze sitting on one bag and using the backpack as a chair back.

Once the train arrived a member of the station staff arrived and began to glue paper to the doors of the train. On inspection I found my name and seat number printed on the paper and confirmed that my seat number was the same as that which my ticket said.

The journey to Jaipur is 4 ½ hours. The train was a double decker and I was on the top deck. The aircon nearly froze me but the ride was comfortable enough. We pulled out at 17:35 on the dot. Travelling through the outskirts of Delhi heading west was yet another eye-opener. People sitting on the tracks chatting. Kids playing on the tracks. One teenager throwing stones at the train trying to break windows. People peeing and crapping by the side of the tracks with no embarrassment. I was happy to leave it behind and watch the scenery change.

The Himalaya Towers Hotel – Jaipur

We were a bit late in arriving in Jaipur. I was due in at 22:05 but we got in about 10 minutes late. I had taken the time to book a room at the Himalaya Towers Hotel using the Oyo app. On Google maps it looked like it would be a nice quiet place just outside the centre of Jaipur. It wasn’t. It was about 17km away and south of the airport. The Ola Cab didn’t know where it was and I was hassled and hustled by a taxi driver with excellent english. Eventually I did opt to go with him as he seemed to be the only person with any degree of knowledge. The cost was 500/-INR which here is exorbitant.

The hotel was, in all fairness, clean and tidy and not too expensive. About £7 a night. But what I hadn’t counted on was the expressway. I told you about the Indians love of the horn in this post. At about four thirty the trucks started going by. They have multiple horns. They play tunes like Woody Woodpecker and various other horrible “melodies”. So that was me awake with just over 4 hours sleep. I walked out at 8am and caught an Ola car to a hostel called Mai Thik Hoo that I found on the Hostelworld App.

Mai Thik Hoo Hostel in Jaipur

mai thik hoo hostel jaipurMai Thik Hoo was a brilliant place and it was quiet! The staff are super friendly, helpful, speak great english and young. I was the oldest person there and they insisted on calling me “sir” which I hated. We got over it. If you are backpacking in Jaipur go to Mai Thik Hoo, you won’t regret it. I arrived at about 08:30, checked in and met a lovely girl called Liliana from Mexico. Yay, a chance to speak spanish again. We talked for a good while and decided to team up to see some the famous Jaipur sites. The boys from Mai Thik Hoo called up a tuk-tuk driver that they trust (the kept stressing that they feel responsible for their guests) and for the princely sum of 500/-INR Liliana and I took off for out tour.

The Pink City

We were taken first to a part of the Pink City where we got out and took some photos (or clicked some photos as the Indians say) and then headed off to Gaitore Ki Chhatriya, the Royal Cremation Ground of the Kachhwaha Rajputs.

Gaitore Ki Chhatriya – Jaipur royal memorials

Gaitore Ki Chhatriya will cost you 30/-INR to get in and it’s a bargain! There are three “courtyards” and they are incredibly beautiful. Built of marble, all hand carved and following the Vedic rules for building a memorial. Vedic rules, they state that crematoriums should be in north of the village and sloping southwards. A body of water should be nearby. A lake or a river is perfect backdrop for these memorials. The crematoriums and memorials should be constructed in a concealed location in order that they cannot be seen easily. I won’t go into it any more here but here are two links for those that are interested. [ 1 ] and [ 2 ].

The Amber Fort

Next stop was the famous Amber Fort of Jaipur. This fort is a spectacular piece of architecture sitting on top of a ridge. The Fort is known for its artistic Hindu style decoration. It is truly huge. It is actually located in Amer, about 11km away from Jaipur. As we were on a limited whistle stop tour we decided that to go in to the Amber Fort would use up too much time so we contented ourselves with walking round the outside and seeing the views from some of the ramparts. We also walked down into Amer from the fort and saw the Shiva Temple there too. It would be easy to spend a day in the fort alone. For those that want to know more, I have linked the wikipedia entry here.

Panna Meena ka Kund

Panna Meena ka Kund - Jaipur
Panna Meena ka Kund
We were then taken to Panna Meena ka Kund. This is another stepwell like the one in Delhi mentioned in this post, but more beautiful. There really isn’t anything more to say about stepwells but this one is situated near Anokhi Museum on the Jaipur – Amer road, It is a beautiful place that was built during sixteenth century. The place was mainly used as a place for social meetings. People from nearby places would come here to get water, go swimming or just to pass time with friends and family. This beautiful well has a unique architecture and style.

The Water Palace – Jal Mahal

Heading back into Jaipur from the Amber Palace we stopped at the Water Palace. Our tuk-tuk driver told us that once one could visit it but these days the government has shut it off to visitors. So we took some pictures, (which you can see here) of this amazing piece of Rajput style of architecture, bought cucumber snacks and kulfi which is an incredible rich, dense, creamy non-whipped ice cream and headed off to the Monkey Temple.

The Monkey Temple

This temple is dedicated to Shiva. Upon our arrival a very slick young man with good english entered the tuk-tuk and started giving us his sales pitch. He lives in the area and has worked with the monkeys all his life. They can be viscous and carry rabies and apparently we really needed his help. Liliana and I took an immediate dislike to him. He wanted 200/-INR from each of us to walk us up a hill of about 800m to a temple. There are supposed to be loads of monkeys around. We were also hassled to buy peanuts for the monkeys, being told it was “good karma” to feed them. Anyone who has any knowledge of the laws of karma knows that that’s pure BS. The result was another young lad took us up for a quarter the cost. Maybe he only had a quarter the knowledge because he really didn’t seem to know what he was talking about and contradicted himself a few times. But there again there wasn’t really much to say. Hey ho. We saw not one monkey! However when we got back down we found them all asleep near where our tuk-tuk was parked. In all honesty this was the most uninteresting part of the trip and we were both happy to get back to the hostel.

Pink City revisited (day two).

Liliana and I arranged to wake early and get back into the Pink City fairly early to try and maximise her last day. We caught the metro from Civil Lines, where Mai Thik Hoo is situated, and headed for Chadpole station. While India wakes early, not much starts before 09:00. We arrived at Chadpole and put on Google’s location service so that we could navigate. Both of us wanted to see more of the Pink City than we saw the first day (all the photos are above). We also wanted to go to Jantar Mantar, the Palace of Winds (Hawa Mahal) and the Albert Hall Museum. Unfortunately we ran out of time for the latter.

Temple Shri Maji Tawar - Jaipur
Temple Shri Maji Tawar
Drum machine in Jaipur
Drum machine

On exiting the metro station we happened upon a beautifully decorated temple. I haven’t been able to find anything online about this place so I asked Mickey from Satya Dhaam to translate the hindi in the photo. This is what he said it says. Maji Sahib Shri, Shri Tawar Ji. He also says that he thinks the temple is to a person called Maji Tawar and the Sahib, Shri and Ji are honourifics or marks of respect for the named person. I have searched google and can find nothing more. It seems a shame that no one has written anything because it was quite beautiful. It also contained a drum machine. The strangest drum machine I have ever seen as you can see in the photo.

The next few hours were spent with Liliana taking photos and shopping for presents and souvenirs. It was fun but tiring. The shop keepers always want you to buy more and more. You tell them you haven’t any money, they say “use a card”. You tell them that you are backpacking and don’t wan’t the weight, they say “we’ll send it to the hotel or your home”. It’s never ending, very tiring, stressful and irritating and a lot of time was wasted just trying to say NO. The people of Jaipur have a much better command of European languages. We were hassled by a young man speaking excellent spanish who wanted us to go to a particular café overlooking the Palace of Winds. Looking for his commission I suppose. By now I was hot, tired and my blood sugar levels were dropping fast and all the both of us wanted to do was sit down, have a bite to eat in relative quiet. I lost my temper with the guy and asked him, none to subtly, if there was any danger of us being able to do what we wanted to do without him hanging around hassling us. He left and so did we.

Palace of Winds – Hawa Mahal

The Palace of Winds (or Palace of the Breeze) is a super impressive structure built of red and pink sandstone. However it is really just a screen to allow the women of the palace to watch parades without being observed. It is attached to the women’s quarters of the palace. Built in 1799 and supposed to emulate the crown of the Lord Krishna. There are 953 small windows covered with a lattice work that allows the breeze to pass through and creates a form of “air conditioning”. The whole structure is only one room deep but the lower floors have small patios or terraces. There is a lot about Hawa Mahal on the web and this is the wikipedia entry.

Jantar Mantar – astronomical instruments

Salads finished we headed for Jantar Mantar. Jantar Mantar is is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments, built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, and completed in 1734 CE. It features the world’s largest stone sundial, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which, in my experience means higher entrance costs, longer queues and more tourist prices and rip-offs. The observatory comprises of nineteen instruments for measuring time, foreseeing eclipses, following the placement of significant stars as the earth circles the sun, finding out the declinations of planets, and deciding the heavenly elevations and altitudes. Most of this information is from wikipedia and I won’t repeat it here. It is enough to say that it is very technical and very impressive. The instruments are huge with a view to increasing their accuracy. The Giant Sundial, known as the Samrat Yantra is one of the world’s largest sundials, standing 27 metres tall. Its shadow moves at 1mm per second, or roughly 6 cm every minute. It rained when we were there so this phenomenon was lost on us.

And that was it – we were out of time. Liliana had to get back to the hostel to get her stuff together for the train at 17:00, so we grabbed a tuk-tuk and headed back. All in all a good day. Personally I have to say I was super to be speaking Spanish with Liliana and we both enjoyed the days and each other’s company.


Red Fort and Chandi Chowk

Today Virender and I met up to go the Red Fort and Chandi Chowk. But before that to get my Mac fixed. It didn’t happen. We also tried to sort out the problem with my SIM card. That didn’t happen either. I haven’t mentioned before, but Virender is/was a hardware technician, so, with whom better to go?

Firstly we had breakfast together in Nehru Place. It was superb. He ordered two rice dishes one called Shahi Paneer the other Matar Paneer. It seems that paneer is a cheese and the other part is the way it’s prepared. I liked both but I’d go for the shahi paneer the next time as it had a sweetness to it which I’m guessing is because of the cinnamon. One plate and a pepsi 105/-INR (£1.25 or €1,40) and as usual it was huge. I’m only eating a large breakfast and a medium sized snack these days. And mangos 🙂

We then went to the Authorised Mac Repair which I wrote about in this post. And on to an Airtel dealership to try and resolve the SIM issue. I’ve ended up buying a new phone so at least I’m back in contact with whatsapp.

Chandi Chowk – Old Delhi

Chandi Chowk in Old Delhi
Chandi Chowk in Old Delhi
Chandi Chowk electricity supply
Chandi Chowk electricity supply
All the chores taken care of we headed for Chandi Chowk. Chowk means square or place. Chandi Chowk reminds me of some of the street scenes from the film Bladerunner, with Harrison Ford. It’s madness. It is a heaving mass of humanity and quite overwhelming at first. It also reminded me of a Pink Floyd concert in 1974 at Knebworth Park where there were about 250,000 people. The noise is horrendous, it never stops. And you want to see the electricity supply! Chandi Chowk is actually in an area of Old Delhi where the traders have their shops and emporia. The streets a predominantly divided into types of goods. That’s to say one street will sell plumbing goods and another shoes and so on. The variety is endless. Cameras, spices, bangles, surgical instruments, wedding clothes etc. etc. You name it, and there’s and area for it.

Haveli of Mizra Ghalib - Chandi Chwok
Haveli of Mizra Ghalib
man and goats in Chandi Chowk
Old man and goats in Chandi Chowk
This is a place where you keep a firm grasp on your wallet, backpack and anything else. Not that I had any problems but the possibilities are there and I had been warned by at least two people that opportunistic crime, pick-pocketing and the like are quite common. It is very easy to get lost and I’m really glad I came with someone that spoke hindi. The area is predominantly a Muslim area and we passed a number of mosques. It is also the home to the haveli of Mizra Ghalib (1797-1869) one of the most famous Persian and Urdu poets of all time. A Haveli is a traditional townhouse or mansion in India, usually one with historical and architectural significance. Outside the haveli was a Muslim man sitting on his motor bike with two goats. In the middle of a city of 27 million people?

The traders’ market in Chandi Chowk

Chandi Chowk spice and dried food market
Chandi Chowk spice and dried food market
Chandi Chowk bangle seller
Chandi Chowk bangle seller
We took a spin down the dried fruit and spice market road. The scents that assail your nostrils are quite incredible. Plenty of people were sneezing from the pepper and other spice dust in the air, including Virender. The centre of the street is lined with barrows with sack upon sack of different spices and the traders have their little shops on each side of the road. We didn’t stop there too long as there is an almost unpleasant feeling in the upper nose and back of the throat. I had a desire to see the street of the bangle sellers. I had read about it in a guide book and I’ve always liked the Indian bangles and beads. After a few enquiries we found it. It’s almost beyond imagination that a whole area is dedicated to selling bangles but the colours are wonderful to see. The old man in the photo was kind enough to pose for a photo by his stall. He thought it was very amusing as you can see from the wry grin on his face.

Chandi Chowk slide show

If you want to see these pics a bit bigger, press the show thumbnails link and go through the photos manually. Alternatively, for the much bigger, go to my space in FLICKR


The Red Fort

The Red Fort from a rickshaw
The Red Fort from a rickshaw
Gurudwara Sisganj Sahib
Gurudwara Sisganj Sahib
A rickshaw ride later, that was more stationary than moving, we reached the Red Fort. On the way we passed a couple of temples, one Jain temple called Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir which houses a bird hospital and one Sikh temple called Gurudwara Sisganj Sahib which marks the site where the ninth Sikh Guru was beheaded on the orders of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb on 11 November 1675 for refusing to convert to Islam. They are spectacular in their colours and architecture.

Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir
Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir
The Red Fort
The Red Fort
Now I have seen the Red Fort in pictures and documentaries but nothing compares to the “red” in real life. The place is immense and I only had a chance to get a quick glimpse as a) it was getting late, b) the light was going and the photo opportunities were disappearing and c) the noise and bustle of this area of Delhi were quite overwhelming me and I was getting tired and longing for a bit of quiet. I mentioned in the post about India Gate that there has been a new president installed. His first address to the public will be from this fort some time in August, so the whole place was being prepared for this event. A bit of a shame as the police and military presence was huge, crash barriers installed and there was a lot of building, repair and electrical work going on. I will revisit it when I return to Delhi to take in the parts I didn’t get to see.

There is a little video on the video page but you can get there by clicking here