Standing in stark contrast to the busy and bustling streets of New Delhi, Jodhpur offered us a slower change of pace, where we could relax and walk the streets without constantly feeling like we were avoiding a million different people. The second largest city in Rajasthan, Jodhpur had a population of just over a million people, and was nicknamed “The Blue City” based on the sky blue that the outside of many buildings were painted. Founded in 1459, the city rests in the shadow of a large cliff top fort called the Mehrangarh Fort, described by Rudyard Kipling as, “The work of angels, fairies and giants…built by titans and colored by the morning sun.” The rooftop cafes and hotels scattered throughout the city offered panorama views of the gorgeous city and sun bleached desert around, but most importantly they offered refuge and a comfortable difference between itself and the city we had just traveled from.
“The work of angels, fairies and giants…built by titans and colored by the morning sun.”
After Mollie finished becoming acquainted with the bathroom toilet, we set out to survey the town, and visit some of the markets. What had originally drawn us to visiting Jodhpur was simply the beauty of the city that we had seen in online photos. The contrast of the blue against the backdrop of endless desert looked beautiful, and I had read that the fort had been used as one of the scenes in the 2012 movie, The Dark Knight Rises. Don’t worry, I confirmed this, and you can see the scene here if you like.
Our hostel was centrally located in town, so making our way to the market and the city clock tower was just a 5 minute walk down the street. Along the way, we ran into a merchant who ran an antique shop and sold all types of wooden boxes and crafts, fabrics, and souvenirs. The friendly shopkeeper, slender and dressed in a denim button down and khaki pants and a faint mustache resting on his upper lip, invited us in for a private show of some of the fabrics that he sold. Little did I know, this little venture would turn into an hour-long display and presentation of all sorts of fabrics and designs that they made throughout the region.
Laid out before us were fine blankets of every color imaginable: scarlet and cobalt, mustard and salmon, peach and emerald, any color possible in any combination of patterns and beautiful displays of local Indian craftsmanship. They were made of Kashmir intertwined with bamboo silk, or just made of 100% Kashmir. Our shopkeeper went through descriptions of each piece of material, and showed us its durability and if it was water-resistant or not. It was really quite a show, and kind of felt a little bit too good to be true for a little bit. Like it was an elaborate display to try to con us into paying a higher price for fabrics that we might be able to get for much cheaper at a local market. Then, the shopkeeper brought out photos of him selling these fabrics to celebrities like Richard Gere and Bill Murray and well, I felt like it was less of a scam at this point.
While all of this was going on, I actually had forgotten Mollie was still feeling sick, until she leaned over and told me that she needed to get back to our room as soon as possible. Never trust a fart in India, that’s what I always say. I thanked the shopkeeper for his time and told him I really appreciated the display…and then I may or may not have bought a piece of fabric that I thought was really nice. I regret nothing!
While Mollie was soaking up the air conditioning, I decided to venture further into town and see what kind of trouble I could find. I explored the city market and the clock tower, which were spectacular, but were not what I really wanted to see, so I decided to go and try to find my way to the fort. A number of the tuk tuk drivers told me that walking to the fort was impossible, and that I would need to pay for a ride there which would cost about 250 rupees. Fortunately, I didn’t believe them, and instead decided to walk towards the fort and hope that some road or path would lead me there. Which, it did! After making my way through the town the cobble stoned road turned from blue to the burnt color of the fort and began steadily getting steeper.
Now, I’m not in the same shape I was in when I hiked the John Muir Trail last year, and by no means am I out of shape, but this was a steep climb. The path just keeps going further up and increasingly more vertical. At times, I thought the angle was probably steeper than any trail I have hiked, but regardless, after 25 minutes of walking and taking breaks from the sun wherever shade could be found, I was at the fort. Normally, it’s about 500 rupees to get in and see the museum, but seeing as no one was at the ticket stand, I decided it would be alright if I just walked around aimlessly and caught a glimpse of the view. And, let me tell you, the view was spectacular.
From the top of the fort you could see for miles in any direction. Here, was where you could really see where the city got its nickname of the Blue City, as the houses all stood out against the burnt bronze of the desert. Unfortunately, I don’t have too much history regarding the fort and the city to insert here, as I was more than anything just soaking in the sights and seeing how far they would let me walk around without a ticket, but overall it was a wonderful little day trip.
It was also on top of the fort that I began to really notice that people enjoyed taking selfies with me. I had heard from a couple of locals earlier that Indians really liked selfies, and that the front camera was the most important camera on their phone. This became apparent in a number of ads displayed on billboards, but also really became apparent as I walked around the fort. That first afternoon I had at least 10 people come up and ask if they could take a picture with me. Of course, I obliged, but asked that they take one with me for record keeping sake. It was just overall really interesting to see how interested the locals were in me as a lone traveler.
After a couple of hours walking around I decided it would be best to get back and check on Mollie and make sure she was still alive. I climbed back down the steep path back to our hostel and found Mollie perfectly content in the room and drinking water. I went out for dinner by myself that night and found a restaurant with a nice roof top view and had some nice paneer and rice. I took the leftover rice back for Mollie, just so she could have something in her stomach.
The following day we decided to again venture to the fort since Mollie didn’t have a chance the day prior. It still was scorching hot outside, so I was worried that the walking and heat would affect Mollie and her recovering, but after taking a number of water breaks and actually venturing into the museum we were doing okay. Inside the palace was gorgeous, and they had on display a number of weapons and pieces of clothing that the royalty wore on display. We found out that Jodhpur still has a King, but that he lives in a palace on the opposite side of town and serves more as a title than actually having any power, which we thought was interesting. Of course, more groups wanted photos with us and we obliged. At one point, an old lady walked up to Mollie and began speaking to her in Hindi and holding her hand. We had no idea what she was saying, but she just seemed so generally happy that it was wonderful to watch.
We ended up working out a system to beat the heat, which was once it reached noon we would retreat back to the hostel and relax for a couple of hours until the temperature started to die down. Afterwards, we would go out for lunch, and then come back to the room until the evening. It helped to take things slow, and Mollie remarked at one point that people would think we were crazy for being in India and just hanging out in our room. I told her that it was our trip and we can do whatever we want, but that when it’s this hot out we have to take a break. For lunch, we found a nice cool restaurant and had pizza while overlooking the local watering hole, where a number of local children were swimming and splashing around.
Overall, Jodhpur was a wonderful break from how busy and overwhelming Delhi was. In the end we spent two days exploring the city and really loved the locals that we met, the color of all of the buildings, and the fort that looked over all of it. The hostel we stayed at, Hostel LaVie, was really quite charming and our room was comfortable and air-conditioned. We booked a ticket for the following morning to Ajmer, where we would catch a local bus to Pushkar and spend the next couple of days. We had heard that Pushkar had a lovely lake in the center of it, and a market that we could find items at a lower price than anywhere else in India. We thought it would be a nice place to relax some more, but more importantly we had scheduled a camel safari while we were there and we were both excited for that, despite the heat.
I wish there were more fun stories to write about during our time in Jodhpur, but I think I have to remind myself that the fact that we were there and experiencing the city and the people is enough. Also, it’s not everyday that you get a number of people requesting selfies with you. In the end, we only had to turn down one group from taking our pictures. It was in the parking lot of the fort and a large group of teenagers started to surround us asking for a photo, which made us feel uncomfortable so we declined all requests and left. Now I know how Matt Damon feels.