Thursday, March 17: We wake up early to see what sights we can in Jodhpur before we leave at 1:30 this afternoon for a short flight to Udaipur. We didn’t really come here to see the sights; we came here because there was no flight from Jaisalmer to Udaipur. However, since we’re here, we figure we should see what we can see.
The morning casts a different light on the city. We eat breakfast in the lovely Indique restaurant and then we get a rickshaw driver to take us first to Jaswant Thada and then on to Mehrangarh.
On the way out of the madhouse city of Jodhpur, we see the usual hordes of dirt-covered and poverty-stricken Indians trying to eke out a living. Passing the clock tower and the Sardar Market, we are bombarded by vibrant sights and smells from the bazaars selling vegetables, spices, sweets, silver, textiles and handicrafts. We pass one man on the street; half of his face looks to be melted, like drooping rubber. We see the usual people suffering with what seems to be the very common skin disease of vitiligo; their faces are splotchy with browns, pinks and whites, as if they’ve been through an extreme chemical peel. Vitiligo is a skin condition in which there is a loss of brown color (pigment) from areas of skin, resulting in irregular white patches that feel like normal skin. It appears to occur when immune cells destroy the cells that produce brown pigment (melanocytes). This destruction is thought to be due to an autoimmune problem, but the cause is unknown.After reading White Tiger and the horrible state of health care in India, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see so much illness and deformity. However, the pervasiveness is shocking… and horribly sad.
We drive up a steep and winding road where we can see the walls of Mehrangarh fort towering overhead. First we stop at a lovely spot about halfway up. Jaswant Thada is a white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. It’s a lovely memorial with its plethora of exquisitely carved and whimsical domes and jalis, or carved marble lattice screens. Its setting is lovely, with flower gardens abloom, and the view to the imposing Mehrangarh is impressive. We wander around the grounds and through the memorial, soaking up the beautiful surroundings.
Our rickshaw driver takes us further up the steep hill to the Mehrangarh Fort. This fort with its sheer soaring walls is run by the descendents of the Maharaja of Jodhpur. It costs 300 rupees to get into the palace within the fort. On the walk up the steep hill to the entrance, we find an area with ramparts and canons. Looking out here over the walls of the fort, we can see the blue city of Jodhpur sprawling down below.
The terra-cotta colored latticed palace complex and courtyards are like a maze. Around every corner is a surprise. In the extensive museum, we see trappings of Indian royalty, including howdahs, the seats which transported royal family members on the backs of elephants. We come across sumptuously decorated rooms with plush carpets, gold-filigreed columns, painted walls and ceilings and stained glass windows. We spend quite a long time wandering through the museum and the palace. At one point, we sit and watch a turban-wrapping demonstration in a small courtyard. Later we climb to the very top of the palace, where our view of Jodhpur is amazing.
After we’ve seen most of the palace, we try to find another rickshaw driver to take us back to our hotel. We know what we paid to get up the hill and so expect to pay the same to go down. All the drivers want double the amount. I guess they figure we are trapped up here and must pay their price to get back down. We know it is a long way down, but we say, “Never mind! We’ll just walk down!” And we start the long walk down. One of the rickshaw drivers, deciding it’s better to have some business than none, comes after us and agrees to accept our offer.
Back at the hotel, we have lunch in the cool 18th Century Bar with saddle bar stools, chandeliers, dark wood furniture and leopard skins on the walls. It transports us back in time to British colonial days, with its dark and cool interior and its huntsman’s atmosphere.
We leave the hotel at 1:00 to head to the airport. When we get there, we find our 2:30 flight has been delayed until 3:30. Luckily, once we get on board, it’s only a half-hour flight to Udaipur. Our new driver, Sanjay, picks us up at the airport and takes us to our new and lovely hotel, Hotel Swaroop Vilas. This is probably our second favorite hotel in India.
After settling in and exploring the hotel, including the pool and the spa and the balcony bar overlooking a lake, we take a rickshaw into the old city and wander around looking in the shops. We go eventually to the Raj Palace Hotel to find the Whistling Teal restaurant. It is set back from the busy street in a garden courtyard and has a lovely atmosphere, despite the mosquitoes. There, we enjoy a Kingfisher beer, fish tikka, and the most delectable masala peanuts, which are peanuts mixed with tomato, onion, cilantro, saffron, and lime juice. The lovely setting only enhances the delectable treats we find in this place.