Monday, 27 February 2012

Monday 27th - Jodhpur

Woke at about 7.15 after a fitful night's sleep due to the cold. You've paid for AC so you are getting it. The unit on this coach could have been used as a blast chiller. We are now passing through very different, much more arid countryside - light brown in colour rather than green. From the train we spot our first camels of this trip as well as deer and peacocks. There is a sad lack of vendors on the Rajasthan Sampark Kranti - this is the sort of occasion when even we welcome a cup of hot, sweet chai. Arriving at Jodhpur twenty minutes late D lets a porter take one bag to the autorickshaw stand where all of our baggage and us are piled into one machine.

We are taken straight to our guest house, the Durag Niwas where our room is ready. R witholds the 5 star rating but it is only costing £11 per night. At first view the room is like something out of the Arabian Nights with drapes and floor cushions everywhere. We have arrived in time for breakfast so we enjoy an omelette with a pot of black tea before getting cleaned up after our journey. Top of the list of attractions in Jodhpur is the Mehrangarh Fort, a huge place which dominates the town and which is clearly visible from the roof of our hotel.

We take an auto up to the gate and then sign up for the highly informative audio guides. These take us through the history of the place as we progress upwards through various courtyards and stairways. They have fascinating collections of howdahs and palanquins on display. (Look them up on Wikipedia) The views from the top are spectacular and the "Blue City" as Jodhpur is known, is seen to great effect.

We are now quite used to people wanting to stand next to us while their friends take photos. We keep asking why but nobody has told us yet. R does her usual trick of schmoozing the natives. "Thank you sir. That will be Rs 20/-."

By now it is getting warm so we ride back down into the centre of town and take refuge in a cafe for samosas and Limca. The bazaar is the usual chaos of people and motorbikes but this one has the added bonus of a turban vendor who tries to flog one to D. They are tempting at a mere £4 each (£5 for the muticoloured ones) for 9 yards of material but how does one put them back together when they fall apart?

In the heat we are shopped out and head back to the Durag Niwas, getting a much better deal on the auto for this ride. The wifi network is malfunctioning so we spend a while trying to get online. We are asked if we would like anything to drink so we ask for a beer. The waiter is sent out to the off licence to get a few in. Most of the guests seem to be German women, not particularly chatty, but the staff are friendly enough. Closer examination of our room reveals some interesting artefacts inclusing an old wind up gramaphone and what looks like a 3" mortar round.

We decide to treat ourselves tonight. The Umaid Bhawan Hotel has a Rs 3000/- minimum charge in the bar to keep out rubberneckers like us (That's about £40) The Ajit Bhawan is suggested by LP as a satisfactory alternative so we head there. The auto driver wants 50/- so we tell him that we will walk and the price drops to 40/-. As he has to drive half a mile past the place to find a gap in the central barrier we get quite a long ride for our money.

It would have been quicker to walk. The hotel is in spacious grounds and set up as a mock tribal village with rooms in individual thatched "huts". The bar is at the far end of all this and is pretty splendid. One G+T and one beer come in at £11 but we do get some very nice nuts and crisps thrown in.

On the way out we spotted their garage full of rather smart classic cars, all immaculately maintained unlike most things in Jodhpur.

Further along the same road is the "On the Rocks" restaurant, recomended in the guides but with a caveat about slow service. We are in no hurry and are soon seated alfresco under the waxing moon in what is certainly the busiest restaurant we have yet been in. The waiters were all rigged out as Frank Spencer with very silly berets and some of them seemed to be about as much use. After five attempts we managed to place an order. When the food comes it is in tureens with a bed of glowing charcoal beneath and is absolutely delicious. We send out a clear messagbe to the auto drivers that we are not to be messed with by walking home.

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