Tuesday 13 November 2012

Rhapsody In Blue

6th-9th November

Having already visited the Pink City it seemed only fair that we also pay a visit to the Blue City – Jodhpur. Things were slightly different this time as we’d booked into a homestay in a small village about 30km south of the city (Chhotaram Prajapat's Homestay). We arrived late – at about 11pm – and were picked up from the station by the owner Chhotu and his father. Despite the late hour, when we arrived at the guesthouse his mother and wife greeted us with hot chai, friendship bracelets and bindis. The perfect welcome!

You know when you've been bindied
Our rooms looked like mud huts (although they were sturdily built) and had been hand-decorated by Chhotu’s mother. It was surprisingly cold in the countryside so we were glad of some extra blankets – good practice for coming home to the Scottish winter!

Mudhut-style rooms
Diwali decorations
The next day we spent relaxing around their house. Electricity is reserved for lights and the lone computer (which I had to clean of viruses before we used it – it was riddled!) but there’s none for cooking, nor any gas, so all our meals were cooked over a cow-dung fire. The food was delicious – simple vegetable curries, freshly prepared each day, served with millet chapattis and spicy pickle. I think it was some of the best food we’ve had in India.

The kitchen
Having lunch with Chhotu's family
Making millet-flour chapattis
That evening Chhotu’s younger brother took us on a walk around the village and up the local hill to watch the sunset.

Chhotu's brother Omprakash choosing ringtones
View across Rajahstan
The next day was similarly relaxing but in the afternoon we went on a ‘village safari’. It was…interesting.

First we met a woman who could magically remove parasites and dirt from people’s ears and teeth by gently sucking on a small metal tube. She demonstrated on a couple of her kids…Behold this empty metal tube! Watch as I place it against my son’s ear and gently suck! Marvel as I blow the extracted ‘dirt’ and ‘worms’ into this bowl…! It was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen - basically a grown woman gobbing into a bucket. I was asked if I would I like to try it .Er, no.

Our next stop was better - a visit to a Bishnoi village. The Bishnois are a sort of conservationist religion - the original tree-huggers. We got shown how to wrap a turban (and try one on) and then then took part in a traditional opium ceremony. Of course, we didn’t inhale.

Who said I've got a big head?
Preparing the drugs
Finally, after stopping by a lake to see some cranes, we came the highlight of the tour, a demonstration of how to make a clay pot.

On our last day, before we caught the sleeper train back to Delhi, we took a tour of the main tourist spots in Jodhpur city – Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jaswant Thada mausoleum, and Mehrangarh Fort. All three are very well presented on top of the hills surrounding the city.

The palace was only built in the early 20th century. It’s main claim to fame is that the internal furnishings, originally ordered from London, were sunk by a U-boat before they got to India. Instead, the Maharajah got a Polish chap (who knew a few things about interior design and Art Deco styling) to knock up some replacements! Unfortunately only a third of the palace is open to the public. One of the remaining thirds is still occupied by royals and the other third is a top-class hotel. Apparently Naomi Campbell was hosting a party there when we visited. Our invite must have got lost in the post.

Hi Naomi (third window from the right)
Much more interesting were the mausoleum – quite pretty in itself but also a good spot for the best views of the fort – and the fort itself. The fort was particularly well preserved and free audio guides were available which enhanced the tour somewhat. We also had spectacular vistas of the Blue City. The blue paint on the walls was originally a sign of wealth, but subsequently caught on with the general populace, no doubt helped by the claim that the blue colour helped repel mosquitoes – sounds like somebody knew a thing or two about marketing!

Jaswant Thada mausoleum
The majestic Mehrangarh Fort
Panorama of Jodhpur
The Blue City
More blueness viewed from the fort
Finally, we had a bit of spare time so we finished our afternoon off with a pleasant stroll in the 'Monkey Garden'. I don't know much about it other than Chhotu said it would be nice and full of monkeys - correct on both counts.

Just chillin'
Monkey Garden monuments
And then it was time to say goodbye to Jodhpur. We had a wonderful time there, in a large part because of the welcome we received from Chhotu and his family. They really made sure we had a special time.

Chhotu (second from right) and family
Next up, Delhi – the revenge!

Current location: Delhi until tomorrow
Next stop: home

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