Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer are the cities we have visited in Rajasthan and S and I were keen to complete our tour of the state by visiting Jodhpur. Sure, there are lots of other places worth visiting in Rajasthan - we haven't done Bikaner, Ranthambore, Sekhawati, Pushkar etc. But to be very honest, I'm kind of done with the state. There's only so much royalty and architecture and heritage that one can digest and I guess I've had my fill of it. Plus keeping the various royal families, clans and dates straight in my head was not happening! I always tell friends and relatives who are planing to visit Rajasthan to try to avoid going the whole nine yards and visiting all the cities in one go. It gets extremely overwhelming and at the end of the week or 10 days, one is exhausted to say the least.
In any case, we had Jodhpur to see and a nice ITC hotels free night voucher to be used! So we went ahead and booked ourselves into one of Jodhpur's swankiest properties. The only advantage of having a travelling husband :) Jodhpur is a convenient overnight journey from Delhi. We boarded the train at 6.30 pm from Gurgaon, and reached Jodhpur at the unearthly hours of 4.45 am! It was cold...brrrr.....and the hotel pickup failed to arrive. It was not a pleasant experience haggling with the taxi-wallahs who on hearing the name of the hotel, promptly charged us at triple rates! We reached our hotel around 5.30 am and were happy to warm ourselves with some warm cocoa (for the kids) and hot chai (for the adults).
Our room was actually a suite with 2 TVs, 2 bathrooms and so on. The restaurant on the same floor had a superb view of the Balsamand lake over which the palace-hotel had been built. Hurray for private lakes that don't have boating facilities, food vendors and trash - this was my only thought. The large lake was pristine and clean, enclosed by stony hillocks and really, it could have been anywhere in the world but India; it was that clean, calm and unspoilt.
Having failed to get the kids to make up for lost sleep, we decided to set off as early as we could to see what there was to see in Jodhpur. Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada (cenotaphs of the Jodha Marwars), Umaid Bhavan palace (the part that has not been turned into a Taj Hotel) and Mandore Gardens are part of the standard itinerary. Mehrangarh Fort was quite impressive, and not just because it made for a majestic sight on a cold crisp winter's day, the golden yellow sandstone looking even warmer by sunlight and countless flags of the princely state of Marwar fluttering in the brisk breeze. It was impressive because it had good signage everywhere for visitors, clean loos, audio guides and was generally extremely well-maintained by the Trust that runs it. In addition, there was a standard guide fee to be paid at the entrance kiosk itself which was a relief as one did not have to haggle over a guide's services.
The fort also was the first place in so many years that my kids were scolded in public by someone other than family! They had been behaving in a pretty pesky manner and I am afraid both S and I have to take the blame. They were tired, sleep-deprived and then we bring them to a boring old fort! I broke several of my own cardinal rules about travelling with kids! The minimum I could have done (and in our defence, this is something we would in the normal course have done - well, we were sleep-deprived and tired as well!) was for one of us to have taken them outside the museum and entertained them while the other person walked around and listened to the guide. Since we did not do so, they were mightily scolded by another guide who said "Main tumhe choohon ke kamre mein lock kar doonga!" The white lady next to him looked shocked - probably she was wondering how to reach Child Services!
We stopped for lunch at this place which served an awesome Rajasthani thali. While the kids stuck to boring and safe paneer and naan, S and I indulged in gastronomic delights like Gatte ki sabji, Ker-sangri, Kadhi and Bajre ki roti. Bliss!
Back at the hotel, we watched the sun setting over the lake and hillocks before turning in early. It had been a long day.
We didn't do much the next day except for a fruitless trip all the way to Guda Bishnoi Lake to see migratory birds. There were more birds back at our hotel grounds! Ads was quite disappointed, as was I. But the silver lining is that we are going to Bharatpur next weekend and hopefully that will make up for lost time! Ads is super-excited at the prospect of seeing the many birds of his dreams :)