Our lovely little hotel room at Pal Haveli in Jodhpur - look at how high the bed pedestal is
Well after breakfast with our funny waiter from last night, we prepared for the drive from Mount Abu to Jodhpur, about five hours or so of fairly boring driving through the plains. We got to Jodhpur and wound through the traffic, not as bad as Delhi or Jaipur but a bit hectic eventually getting to the old part of town. With a little bit of trepidation, we pulled into the Pal Haveli hotel based on the recommendation from Nandu and Kalu. Stephen and Bill whom we met in Agra had stayed there and said it was good, but under re-construction.
A Haveli is historically a wealthy merchant’s home, often broken into two courtyards, one male and one female, and usually fairly nice with ornate carvings, large doors, etc. We looked at a couple of rooms and selected one with a raised bed (see the picture) and a view of the lake. Cindy was very impressed with the huge lock on the door in the pic below. Since it is low season, most of the help is gone and the restaurant is closed but the son of the owner is a nice kid who I talked to for a bit.
Cindy at Happy Hour at Pal Haveli
We ended up walking through the old part of town, just as a thunderstorm and showers broke out. The market was very busy and we wandered through narrow streets teeming with beeping horns from tuk-tuks and motorcycles, people shouting, cows eating anything they could find and little kids asking for pens, chocolates and money. We wanted to buy some of the cool, pounded copper pots for serving dishes at home and ended up at a small shop buying several things, supposedly at “Indian Prices!” - they seemed like a nice enough family with a son who spoke some English and dad ended up giving me an extra 10 Rupees (25 cents…) back as a “discount” which has to make you smile.
Huge Door Locks everywhere
We wandered back to Pal Haveli and decided to have a beer or two up on the closed, rooftop restaurant with a fantastic view of the Meherangahr Fort. Jodhpur, built in 1459 by Rao Jodha of the Rathor Rajput clan was chosen for its very strategic location on the eastern end of the Thar desert which extends to Jaisalmer and beyond. The fort is situated way up on a hill totally dominating all of the surroundings and is an impressive and massive site. It is easy to imagine why the fort was never taken in it’s history with some walls rising 200 feet above the valley below. The houses in the area are mostly painted a sky blue, sometimes purplish color that most guide books attribute to the “Brahmin classes” neighborhoods but ours claiming that, while many Brahmin neighborhoods are indeed blue, the blue in these walls is mostly caused by adding copper sulfate to keep out some pesky ant termites that were destroying the old Haveli’s.
Tomorrow we will go up to the fort and look down on the city from above.
Meherangarh Fort Towers
We ended up going to dinner at a somewhat tourist oriented restaurant called “On the Rocks” which actually ended up being surprisingly good food, excellent service and actually fairly cheap. It is a bit of a drive out of the old part of the city but in a nice, garden setting with traditional dressed Rajasthani waiters, cold beer and huge portions. Can’t complain about that!
Nandu carted us up the hill (it would be a long walk in the heat) to Meherangarh Fort for a tour. At this fort, we only pay 12.5 times the local price, but get an excellent, included MP3 tour, complete with a very British-Raj era sounding Indian man telling you all about the fort and it’s history. As I mentioned, the fort is virtually impenetrable, towering high above the city below.
In addition, there are multiple massive gates leading into the fort, some with huge spike at about 10 feet high (right where a marauding elephant’s head might try to butt down the door) and others strategically positioned at a sharp right angle on a steep path so that the enemy’s elephants can’t rush the gate with any real velocity or force.
Along the way, we ended up running into Val and Arieh, the Canadian couple on a year-long trip from Toronto whom we met a few days back in Ranakpur. After India, they are off to Dubai to visit the Indian couple they met in Ranakpur who lives in Dubai now. The fort tour was really good with a mix of museum stuff such as the King’s Palaquin (the ornate, golden carriage in the picture) and weaponry as well as the fancy palace rooms with lots of colored glass and finery.
We walked the perimeter of the fort in the heat looking at the canons and the city below and finally made it back to a no-doubt bored Nandu who had been in the car parking for the last three hours.
City view of blue houses from Meherangarh Fort
We made a brief stop to Jaswant Thada, the cremation grounds of the former Rajput rulers (see the building in white) which was nice and quiet but hot. Then we went to the Mandore Gardens which was apparently a previous city center and small capital with some temples and a lot of “violin” players and beggars, all in all, hot, dusty and not so special. We asked Nandu to take us somewhere for lunch and, hilariously, he dropped us off as Uncle Sams Pizza which was somewhat akin to the lousy pizza you get in the airports in the US, all vegetarian though. We had to laugh when we looked at the drink list and saw the “Monika Lewinsky Coke Fizz” described as “an icy coke with a dollop of cream on top”.
I swear I am not making that up - wonder if Monika is getting any royalties?
Rajasthani Man rolling hat
After lunch we went to the Umaid Bhawan Palace which is a bit outside the city and was built between 1929 and 1943 as part of a famine relief effort after several years of drought. It is a large, somewhat art deco building entirely built out of the red sandstone you see all over here. Inside is a bit of a museum and apparently a hotel (I say apparently because, when I tried to walk over that way to take a picture of the large, regal building, an Indian cop started furiously whistling at me. There were some interesting exhibits of old clocks, armor, china, etc. but mostly we liked the large reprint of a menu that showed the wines, cocktails and cigars served at a dinner there in the 30’s. The Indians just LOVED European things (and certainly had good taste - I saw a 34 Bordeaux from Chateau Lafite and a burgundy from 26 as well as excellent Cuban cigars mentioned.
) As mentioned before, “It’s great to be the King! (or so I imagine it must be)”
Royal Pallequin at Meherangarh Fort
When we got back to Pal Haveli, there was a note from Val and Arieh and they decided to stay in Jodhpur one more night before heading back to Jaipur and Delhi and suggested dinner. We ran out to an Internet Café for a quick check on email (Bhutan Update: All is well with supposedly confirmed seats and a recommendation to bring cash as credit cards are only accepted at some high end shops) and bought some Tonic Water and Indian desserts for cocktails on the roof overlooking the fort before dinner. Val and Arieh met us on the roof a bit later where we enjoyed our Vodka Tonics and watched the sun set behind the fort.
Sidenote for old Aspect Development Readers: OK well I could not possibly, nor hopefully could any of you, pass up buying a bottle of Indian Vodka called “Magic Moments” based on years of Magic Moment presentations from Dave Horne.
I know via the Yahoo ASDV board that he is writing a book now - if anyone wants to forward this link and pic, feel free and tell him “Larry/Daryl” of the infamous Daryl Pollino/Daryl Recht presale gang says hi…
The "Magic Moment" on the rooftop of Pal Haveli overlooking Meherangarh Fort at sunset
We ended up having dinner again at “On the Rocks” with Arieh and Val. At one point, Val correctly brought up the point that “You never see chickens roaming around here like you do in South East Asia” which makes you wander, where the hell do all these chickens come from? On the way back, as we approached the single and only traffic light in all of Jodhpur, I asked Nandu what a yellow light means in India (since noone seems to pay any attention to any traffic signals, cops, signs whatsoever) and he responded “Yellow light, everyone go!” Makes sense. Tomorrow we have a long drive to the desert city of Jaisalmer, aka “The Golden City” with a stop in Osian for some more Jain temples on the way.
Circular staircase at Meherangarh Fort