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Published: October 29th 2011
Looking back over the city.
We got into Jaipur in the early afternoon off the Rajasthani Express from Delhi and found our way to one of the hotels that was recommended in the Lonely Planet. They were full so we started phoning around and discovered that pretty much everything was booked up. What happened to traveling India in the off season? We did eventually find a nice place that would have been absolute luxury if the internet, TV and air conditioning worked reliably.
There really isn't much to see in Jaipur, it is primarily a travel hub and administrative centre for Rajasthan. I'm sure there was some cool palace or temple that we missed but regardless we were happy to move further into the desert and on to Jodhpur.
The train to Jodhpur was another interesting experience. The trip was only supposed to take 5 hours so we decided we would take Sleeper Class. This is how the Indian middle class travels and is a great venue for people watching. It turned out there was some issue with a bridge on the tracks and we were forced to stop for several long breaks with no explanation (at least no english explanation). We finally arrived
The Mehrangarh Fort looming above.
in Jodhpur in the middle of the night after 10 hours jammed in our little 2 person berth.
We had more difficulty finding a good place to rest our heads but eventually found our way to a great guesthouse run by a local family. This place was dressed up in all the classic British Raj kitsch including antique furniture, a proper snooker table and a stuffed tiger. Despite the mounted game (Jay wasn't a big fan), we really enjoyed our stay here and ended up hanging around for a few extra days.
The old town of Jodhpur is centered around the massive Mehrangarh Fort built overlooking the city. This is one of the better preserved forts in Rajasthan that gives you a glimpse of the ultimate luxury enjoyed by the various ruling emporers throughout this cities history. The view from the top of the fort is outstanding and you quickly realize why Jodhpur is known as the Blue City. Outside the fort, we discovered some great shopping at the local markets and a nice rooftop restaurant in the shadows of the Mehrangarh.
While in Jodhpur we signed up for a village tour. We hooked up with our
The stone work in the fort was amazing.
driver and jeep and took off from our hotel. It is so nice to get out of the hustle of the city every once in awhile. Our first stop was a village known for their pottery. We stopped in at one of the local potters where the guy put on a bit of a demonstration for us. They do it all by hand on a big spinning stone wheel. We bought a little candle cover thing off the guy and thanked him for his efforts.
The next stop was a traditional Bishnu villager homestead. The Bishnu are the local indigenous population and are known for their devotion to maintaining the health of their ecosystem. These guys take it seriously and have sacrificed many lives to preserve the scrub forests where they traditionally live oustide Jodhpur. The lady of the household showed us around the home while the old man prepared some opium tea. We politely declined but it was interesting to see how they brew it up. He seemed pretty happy with the results anyway.
Our next stop was a village known for their rug weaving. The weaver showed us the technique used and explained the different qualities
This is a howdah which is basically a seat you put on top of an elephant. The more prestigious the person, the fancier the howdah.
and so on. He talked about how they used to work for a middle man who sold their rugs in the big city and how most of the villagers had to leave to find work elsewhere. They started up a cooperative and began marketing their carpets independently and have found that cutting out the middle man has allowed them to create employment for their people. We took a good look at what they had on offer and ended up buying 2 rugs to pack home. I was pretty impressed at how they have been able to break the mould to create their own succesful business. He told us a story of how people used to ask if they could pay by credit card and how the family didn't understand what they meant. They finally asked for help and somebody hooked them up with a mobile unit for taking credit payments and their business exploded. It was weird to see this kind of technology in a part of India that has no electricity or running water.
After a quick look at a textile factory, our driver took us back to our hotel just in time for us spend the rest
One of the ornate sitting areas for a former Raj.
of the night ill from something we ate or drank along the way. Despite this, it was one of the best days we've had on the trip. We had planned on moving west on to Jaisalmer to check out the desert fort but the lack of time and train seat availability forced us to change gears and take the overnight train back to Delhi in order to fly to the holy Hindu city of Varanasi.
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