Notes From Jodhpur, India

My guest-blogging friend Nobuko shares her travel experience with us. With love, from India
Jodhpur- The Blue City
It is called the Blue City, because many houses are painted blue. Reportedly, the blue color repels mosquitoes as well. I arrived by bus from Jaisalmer, a journey that supposedly takes four hours, but as always it took longer, more like 5.5 hours.
Along the route, a woman boarded. She had herself covered in a sari, but I could see her features occasionally when the sunlight shone on her. She was strikingly beautiful! I wanted to take her picture, but I could not find a way to be discreet about it, because she was also staring at me, too!  Maybe she did not know that I was looking at her since I had sunglasses on…

Once, dropped off outside the city proper of Jodhpur, I was in a dreadful anticipation of the inevitable rickshaw madness which awaited me. I think it is a kind of initiation or Right of Passage before I am allowed to enter a new city each time I arrive. I am getting better at haggling, or so I thought. I played a hard game by ignoring quotes of 80 to 100 rupees and sticking to my gun; 40 rupees.

And eventually, I found a guy willing to take me for 40 rupees.  In my mind I did this “Yes!” motion of making a fist and pulling the elbow back by bending my arm like seen during sports events when our team scores – you know what I am talking about?  But this prick dropped me off 3 km from my destination!  Since my hostel was located off the main road, I did not know that I was so far from the destination. Meandering around the street, I was helped by kind passerbys who not only got me another rickshaw, but also negotiated the rate on my behalf.
Cosy Guest House, tucked away by narrow winding lanes and leading up to a hill, became my temporary home in Jodhpur. It has a magnificent view of the Fort and its West Gate. At the hostel, I ran into Thomas and Adrian whom I had met in Jaisalmer. They were off to a three-day camel ride in Jaisalmer – which I thought was insane – but they returned one day early due to its intolerable heat. The tour companies should not sell safaris that lasts more than two days during the summer, unless they send along an emergency aid team.
The three of us went to the Fort via the West Gate. This Fort had never been taken over by any enemies and it is the pride of Jodhpur. The path to the entrance was dotted by musicians dressed in traditional attires and playing traditional folk music. I tell you, it is so captivating to hear the music at an old historic site – it can trance you back in time and make you want to twirl around and sway your head as well.
I particularly liked a guy playing a string instrument called Ravanhatta. He let me play it. It is like a violin, but you have to keep the bow taut by pressing the thumb on it while playing, which made it dificult to produce a pleasing sound. Check out if you want – doesn’t it just make you want to spin round and round?:
The museum inside was actually very nice with extensive information explaining each item on exhibit. It was 300 R for a foreigner, but the cost includes the audio guide as well, which usually can run 80 R. The most impressionable and a bit creepy sight was the handprints left on the wall by court women, who had to die in Sati (funeral practice in which widowed women immolated themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre) as they left the fort gate for the last time to make the procession before they were brought to the funeral site.
The theme of one of the exhibits was Origins of the Cosmic Oceans. It says:
Hindu philosophy understands the universe to be periodically destroyed and recreated. When the present world is not in existence, the Absolute (Sat Brahman) alone is present. The emergence of Consciousness (Purusha) and Matter (Prakriti) from the Absolute, creates the cosmic ocean and thus the Universe. According to Nath teachings, the mahasiddhas (great perfected beings) remain sentient during the intervals between creation, when the cosmos is covered with vast waters.
Thomas and Adrian knew all the good spots in town, one of which was a Lassi shop. They serve the thickest and tastiest Lassi!  It is so thick that they give you a spoon to scoop the last bit of what you paid for. If nobody had been watching me, I would have stuck my index finger in to swipe the cup clean, as  I believe the index finger was made for such function. But all smiley eyes were on us, so I controlled myself.
What I noticed about Jodhpur is that the locals leave tourists alone. I realized that I had been so much on guard when I arrived in Jodhpur. But people gave me friendly smiles, including women. I experienced no harrasement even when I walked alone, apart from Thomas and Adrian. Shop keepers just call out once or twice. The only persistent ones are those who work at the spice shops, I don’t know why…
I enjoyed my stay there, so I highly recommend Jodhpur.

Notes from Mt. Abu, Udaipur, Jaipur, and Pushkar in India

My globetrotting friend, Nobuko, is posting again from her current visit to India.

I have been only a tourist for the past several days, which has kept me away from cyber cafes, and once I was ready to write some updates, there was no cyber cafe or just unreliable electricity supplies. Today is 4 July, Independence day, in the U.S.A.

26 June 26  at Mt Abu

My experience sucked. The only good thing is the cool temperature we are having. Merchants are liars, and the manager of the hostel (Shri Ganesh Hotel – don’t stay there if you go) was very unwelcoming – in general just bad energy – and also lied to me and other guests about bus time – my guess is that he hoped that I would miss the bus so I would have to end up using their transport service.

He knew I had already gone to the bus station and inquired about the schedule. Yet he had a nerve to tell me that the schedule had changed, and I was informed of the old schedule. I ignored him and was able to get a bus to Udaipur as I planned. Anyway, six college students from Pune I met in Bhuj were there too, so I had  great company to dine and walk around the town with.

27 June 2012 from Mt Abu to Udaipur

The students and I shared our itinerary to Udaipur, so we spent some time together there. They found a great hostel called Hanuman Ghat, which is in a quiet area, but has a nice roof top terrace and an awesome view of the famed lake and palace!  The owner Baba is smiley and has a striking resemblance to the God Hanuman himself (I say this in a friendly way)!

28 June 2012  in Udaipur

The students and I visited the palace and hired a guide, which was a great decision, because he was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Some parts of the palace are still used as the residence of former royal family, so it was off-limit. One section of the palace is converted into a luxury hotel which costs a crazy amount of money to stay, of course. The Queen’s gGrden can also be rented for a wedding or other events, but it costs $40,000 per night to do so. I am waiting for one of those six students I met to get married there and be invited to the wedding!

The students were due to return home that night. Before we parted, they gave me a farewell gift – they called it a momento (leather bound notebook as a diary)!!  It was a very nice gesture and made me feel so special. Realistically speaking, I should be the one to give them gifts for taking good care of me. I was very moved by it. Thank you, to the students.

I met another wonderful Indian person at the hostel and he was going to Jaipur the same evening. So I decided to hitch along. At 9:30pm, the bus left Udaipur and we arrived i Jaipur at 6 a.m. the next morning. We had sleepers which are like capsules, but you have  privacy, because you can shut a sliding door to sleep while keeping windows open for much needed air.

But the ride was really, REALLY bumpy. The bounces were so big that my body lifted off of the sleeping surface countless time – I prefer going through a turbulence in an airplane.

29 June 2012 in Jaipur

It is called the Pink city. And it is really pink. My companion and I stayed inside the old city wall, which made it easy for us to go out into the heat for a few hours and retreat back to the hostel to rest, and repeat this multiple times throughout the day. We found a lassi stand that serves the best lassi I have ever known, and a stand that serves a food called Poha. This I want to make myself – it’s a mix of rise, tomatoes, onions, cirantro, masala powder, and finished off with lime juice. 10 rupees for this tasty snack.

The merchants and rickshaw drivers were lots more aggressive and persistent in Jaipur, and I was the magnet for them. So I purchased a tie dyed scarf. A nice woman showed me how to wrap it and conceal my face. After that, obscured also by my sunglasses, the approach decreased by 90%. Amazing!  And it kept me from getting sunburned and my nostrils clean at the end of the day.

We visited Hawa Mahal (the Wind Palace) where court women used to live (or were locked up, depends on your view). It was a small place, but it was beautiful and offered many spots that just make you want to snap a photo and stroke your ego by making you feel like you have the best eyes for selecting great views.

At night we ate at the Ganesh Restaurant. It is so hard to find as their sign is very tiny and hangs over the entrance to a very small stairway. We looped around and finally found it on the second try. Once we walked up the stairs, there was yet another sign saying Ganesh Restaurant with an arrow pointing to the left, directing us to a dark path on a rooftop.

At the end of the path, we finally  saw lights and there it was! We had a server who looked stern. But he smiled once we ordered Ganesh Special, the spicy Indian way. He smiled once again when he saw us cleaning up all plates. This made us feel like winners.

30 June 2012 in Jaipur

We visited Nahargar Fort at 10am. The rikshaw driver dropped us off 1/3 way up the zigzag path, so we walked up the remaining 1.5 km at a snail speed. Once we got there, we found out that a Bollywood film called Shera (due to be released in November) was being filmed!  There were lots of stuntmen and extras in period costumes, many of whom wanted to take pictures with me for some reason. I think they just were bored of waiting for their turns and also wanted to have an excuse to touch a woman. Now that I think about it, I should have charged them 100 rupees for each photo opportunity. There was a famous movie star name Sanjay Dutt also. It was so much fun hanging out with the crew members and the security guys that we stayed there for several hours.

About the stares – In Jaipur, a touristy city like Jaipur where I would assume they have seen enough Asian faces, men would come directly in front of me, face to face, to stare at me up and down (including my boobs), when I did not cover my face. No discretion here. Open and somewhat gross curiosity, their expressions annoyed me somewhat, so I stared back at them. Sort of a game to see which one would give up staring first. But they continued to stare for a long while.

1 July 2012 from Jaipur to Pushkar

We visited the observatory – Indians have been very keen on learning about  space since a long time ago. My companion Mansoor had to go home on this day, but he accompanied me to the bus station and made sure that I got on the right bus. He was such a gentleman. Thank you, Mansoor.

The ride to Pushkar was supposed to be only 2.5 hours. But it lasted four hours. The heat was almost unbearable – reminded me of the very dry and high heat of the Mojave Desert, it was almost suffocating. When I arrived in Pushkar, I was exhausted. Settled in a hostel with a swimming pool and plunged right in when I finished a registration. No wonder, the temperature here is 43 C = 107 F. If you have been to a Bikram Yoga (AKA Hot yoga), you know how hot it is.

2 and 3 July 2012 in Pushkar (only in my hostel room)

Not much to report on these days. I don’t know if it is the food I ate in Jaipur, or the first dinner I had in Pushkar at the hostel, I suffered from a (nicely put) stomach problem. I only left to get food at expensive, but reputable places, to buy water and toilet papers, and to briefly check email. The air is so hot that all a ceiling fan can do is to spread and push down the risen heat onto my bed. But turning it off was equally unbearable. I kept on drinking ginger/lemon tea which helped.

4 July 2012  in Pushkar (not in the bathroom anymore)

I changed the hostel since the first one was kind of unfriendly. I am now at Aroma Hotel which is close to the lake and bazaar, as well as to the desert stretch at the outskirt of this small town. I have not seen anything here yet. So to be continued!

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