October 22, 2011
Most blissful time of 2011 was one week holiday during Dharamsala in 2011. After powdery white beach and majestic Himalaya, it was time for sand dunes. Our gang was on seventh haven having the idea of road trip to Rajasthan. Map was brought on table and route was decided over steady flow of single malt. We observed that going to Jaisalmer and Bikaner is better to avoid because of its distance from other major tourist spots in Rajasthan. As time elapsed, few friends were having issues in getting off from office for full week. Out of epiphany, we started planning for booking train tickets for me and wiffy. Jaisalmer and Bikaner were tickling in my mind because these two would be left out in road trip. En-route we decided to stay in Jodhpur for one night. Our road trip was cancelled around 7 days before commencement of long-awaited journey. I booked hotels on 17th and 18th Oct. Train was from at 20:55.. We explored Andaman, visited Mukteshwar and
Train tickets were booked 2 months back. In my mind I imprinted train timing as 10:55 pm. Wiffy started preparing dinner at 7:00 pm and our packing was half-done. Suddenly I remembered that the guy from Jodhpur hotel told me to call him one day before arrival for arranging pick-up in the morning. I took out the spreadsheet which I prepare before my tours; detailing itinerary and hotel contact nos. Glancing at the first row where Jodhpur express timing was there, my hand started trembling. I counted again and again that 20:55 is 8:55 pm not 10:55. Because of pre-Diwali hustle bustle and our bags were still unpacked I knew we were already late to catch the train. Asked wiffy to stop preparing dinner and set a target to start for railway station anyhow by within half an hour. Both of us packed our own things, checked whether ticket, debit and credit cards are in wallet. Then started running… jumped into the first auto and requested him to be quick. It was a smooth ride till Chadni Chowk. Diwali market was in full throttle and vehicles were hardly moving. Like us other tourists including foreigners were peeping out their heads from vehicle and praying for the quirky jam to disperse. We were strangled there for half an hour and then started running amok as soon as our auto stopped near rail station. Asked coolies for the platform number of Jodhpur express; they waved us on. We had only two more minutes in hand. I reached upto last bogey of the train while wiffy was still 50m away. She had shown her mettle and reached the last door of last bogey while the signal was still yellow. She was almost out of breath. Suddenly I remembered that we were without food and the train didn’t have pantry car. Bought some snacks from nearest shop for dinner. Train came to life. With luggage, stumbling through compartments, finally we managed to reach our seats. After half an hour wiffy gleefully opened our meager dinner. On the other side of glass window moving portrait of spangling Diwali lights were becoming lesser. Train started moving faster; both sides of rail track sank into darkness.
October 23, 2011
Train reached Jodhpur at 7:30 in the morning. Fifteen minutes auto ride took us to Yogi’s guest house.
Yogi Guest House: The heart of Jodhpur is old city, a maze of higgledy-piggledy streets hugging the base of mighty Mehrangarh Fort. Yogi Guest house is situated here merely 200m from fort. I was a bit skeptical about this guest house reading Tripadvisor reviews; but reaching there and talking to the owner and staffs I felt comfortable. We booked the best room in top floor. Rate was Rs. 1200 but they charged us Rs. 1000 including taxes. We got an unobtrusive view of Mehrangarh fort from our room, which was decorated with various Rajasthani artifacts.
The mosaic-laid rooftop terrace had excellent views of the fort and sunrise. Lots of foreigners were staying there. Food was tasty and moderately priced. We checked out next day morning, visited Mandore and Osiyan Village, unnecessarily we didn’t want to carry the luggage. Yogi’s owner came to our rescue, gleefully kept our luggage in reception, we collected them at night.
Around 10 am we started from hotel for Umaid Bhavan Palace and Meuseum. Auto driver charged us Rs. 70. He relentlessly tried for full day booking. When we told him that we didn’t need that, he tried for return journey portraying a picture of scarcity of auto in Jodhpur and how we might have to wait for hours, again we declined. For returning from Umaid Bhavan Palace we found ample number of autos in waiting but this time we were charged Rs.100.
Umaid Bhavan Palace: the last but one Umaid Singh, is commemorated by his immense Umaid Bhawan Palace built in 15 years starting from 1929 involving 3000 workers. The present incumbent, Maharaja Gaj Singh, occupies one-third of the palace; the rest is given over to a luxury hotel and a museum.before independence,
Our visit was confined to Museum only. Most interesting part was the gallery of crockery, glassware, clocks and barometers imported from different countries, mainly European. There were photos of Maharaja Umaid Singh and present Maharaja Gaj Singh; an array of stuffed leopards; an enormous banner presented by Queen Victoria to Maharaja Jaswant Singh Bahadur in 1877; nine or ten vintage cars displayed on the lawn in front of the museum. The security guards helped as guide inside the museum. Our guide spun out stories of Jodhpur and Umaid Bhavan Palace. Some snaps from Museum
Minimum time required for visiting the museum: 2 hours. Friday is off-day.
Mehrangarh Fort: From hotel at 3 pm we started for Mehrangarh fort. After 30 minutes walking through steep winding roads we reached at fort’s entrance. You can take personal guide or opt for audio tour. I recommend audio tour because the mix of history, information and royal reminiscing make it entertaining and engaging. This magnanimous and imposing edifice welcomes visitors through huge Jai Pol, first of seven defensive gates on the way upto fort’s living quarters. Jai Pol was constructed in 1806 to celebrate Meherangarh’s successful holdout against a siege mounted by the Jaipuri and Mewari armies. The walls at the entrance are still scarred by canon-ball hits of opposition army.
Taking a sharp right turn from Jai Pol, on the wall you can see 15 tiny handprints of Maharaja Man Singh’s widows, who committed sati on his funeral pyre in 1843. Sati was already ban in India by the East India Company, but company’s writ didn’t run in Marwar; this was the last sati of Jodhpur dynasty.
Exquisite Mahals are used as museum in which solid silver howdahs (elephant seats) palanquins, exquisitely worked in gold and silver, are on display, as well as assorted armaments including Akbar’s own sword. The armory is impressive – each weapon is a work of art.
Upstairs is the Phool Mahal with its 80 kg gold filigree ceiling and jewel-like stained glass-windows was a pleasure hall used by the maharajas for listen to music or poetry, or watch dance performance.
You can buy camel shoes, wall hangings, photo, t-shirt from the salon near exit gate of museum. Camel shoes (Rs.400 – Rs.700) were good enough and we didn’t find the same quality from clock-tower market.
Sunset from the fort is amazing. We got the great view of blue block from sunset point of the fort. As told to us, Blue colored houses in Jodhpur are of Brahmins.
From fort we could see sparkling Diwali lights all over the city.
Umaid Bhavan was looking a beautiful marvel in the vast dark landscape; it was like a big cruise in a dark sea. Keep atleast 2.5 hours in hand for visiting fort.
Market around Clock Tower: This is main market in Jodhpur. 300 m from Yogi’s Guest House, 100 m from Pal Haveli. Don’t miss lassi and rabri (Rs. 25 per plate) from Shri Mishrilal Hotel which is just beside Clock Tower. You can buy bangles, metal or wooden Hindu idols and displays. Compared to main market, rates are cheaper in small shops on the stretch of road between Pal Haveli and Yogi Guest House. You can go for 20-30% bargain.
Pal Haveli: I think best view of fort is available from rooftop restaurant, Indique, of this hotel. Food is excellent, non-veg Silver Thali was around Rs 700. We didn’t go there for food but to take photo of the fort from our 30mm lens. From this place we could get the full view of the fort. From Yogi’s guest house we got only part view through our lens; a 10mm may be required there.
From Pal Haveli we returned at Yogi Guest House by walking at 10 O’clock in the night and found the roads quite safe for tourists. We sat at roof top restaurant of Yogi’s upto midnight and watched bursting of Diwali crackers into umbrella of sparkling colorful embers.
Our next day trip was Mandore, the capital of Marwar prior to the founding of Jodhpur, and Osiyan village temples, which are over 2000 years old.