The train to Jodhpur arrived on time from Mumbai. We were going to be picked up by the hotel where we were staying. It was raining lightly, early morning and dark outside. This was the first time we had traveled to Jodhpur. Being a local (Indian) does not help when you are in a new place and it creates the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing what to do.
The SIM card we got in Chennai was useless in Jodhpur. The small shop that activated the phone, apparently, did not submit the form and details for the SIM registration. Consequently the phone company canceled the service. India already has its regular woes, and then the useless government creates more senseless regulations impeding efficiencies. Enough of rant, lets move forward to the beauty of Rajasthan and Jodhpur.
Before we embarked on this semi-world tour, we had planned to stay at modern places and also some historical places. Lately, many places have sprung up to provide accommodation beyond bed and breakfast. This was one such place.
Ratan Vilas is an old mansion (sometimes referred to as Kothi in Hindi) and now converted into a B&B type hotel.
The accommodation is very clean and the owners have put their heart and soul to make it a very accommodating place. Read more about the place on Trip Advisory: RATAN VILAS.
The building is partially red sandstone and partially modern. Inside the building the design and architecture is that of a early 20th century design. Many of the big houses (Kothis for large Indian villas) had a inside courtyard safe for the family. It was also a place where women traditionally would gather with children, dry clothes, clean wheat, rice, prepare meals etc. A place to lounge without being seen from outside-in other words a safe haven.
The courtyard has a lower level and a upper level. There are rooms on both lower and upper level. In the evening the owners set up dining tables with candle light for dinner. there is an adjoining room where they have breakfast. The breakfast is laid out in the hallway with tables and chairs in the adjoining room. Recently I read that they were moving the dining to another area as it is noisy for the guests in the rooms.
Jodhpur is a smaller city, in terms of development. It is certainly a historic city and the Mehrangarh Fort is a must visit. It is run by a private trust and one of the best museums that we saw in India. The Mehrangarh Museum Trust has done a great job to preserve this beautiful monument. It is worthwhile reading the details on the trust site before going to the fort.
The fort authorities also allow to take photographs. near the entrance of the fort (inside) there is a quaint restaurant serving very good and reasonable food. I was surprised by the reasonable prices and it certainly was well worth it. The fort also houses a nice museum shop.
On top of the fort, there are some old cannons. The cannons are placed on a vantage point and the view is incredible of the whole city.
From top of the fort, we decided to walk to the bottom of the fort and to the city.
Unfortunately it had rained that day and the narrow streets were muddy. Still it was a enjoyable as we walked through the bazaar with shops, locals and cows and Auto Rickshaws (Tuk-Tuks) all in the narrow lanes. Something about the Auto-Rickshaw drivers- The Auto Rickshaw drivers are very clever-everywhere! In Jodhpur we were accosted by one such driver by the name of Rishi.
He took us to Merangarh Fort. For some reasons the Tuk-Tuks in Jodhpur are very antiquated and dilapidated. Anyhow, we liked his polite demeanor and asked him to take us around the next day. My partner wanted to buy some tribal jewellery so we asked him to take us to the shop that we had on our own selected. While we were at the shop we came to know that the driver called the shop owner from his mobile to ‘advise’ them that he had brought us to the shop. With this he gets a commission of upto 40%. Guess who is paying for the commission? Yes, you guessed it, it is the premium the buyer ends up paying. So if traveling to Asia, beware when you buy items. If you are with a taxi, make sure you deduct 25 to 40 % from the price and pay no more. We learned only after we had made the purchase.
Like many other Indian cities, Jodhpur is a dirty city. The colors, however, hide the dirt and the beauty of the place is in its people, the shops, the food (though it may not be advisable to eat out on the street).
It is a short stay place and besides few places, there is not much to do here. many of these places are also supported by Military presence, especially being a border state. We only visited the Mehrangarh Fort and the Umaid Bhavan. The Umaid Bhavan is a masterpiece.
The palace is a recent built and was completed in 1943 for Indian Rs.94,51,565. That will be approx 213,000 US dollars in todays terms. Today it is one of the finest Indian hotels run by Taj group.
The palace authorities allow the visitors a glimpse of the palace and there is a small museum to buy Rajasthani and Royal memorabilia. Outside the palace, the royal family along with developers are building expensive houses and apartments for sale. The design and structure is in keeping with the heritage building. After Jodhpur, we are off to Jaisalmer.