Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan and is a great place to visit. Not only did we instantly fall in love with this vibrant, bustling place, we fell in love with our Haveli too! Bristow’s Haveli is a perfect place to stay for anyone visiting Jodhpur.
The Haveli is situated in the heart of the old city and is a peaceful retreat with a courtyard garden, lots of places to sit and relax and the most wonderful service anyone could ask for. I mean when a beer is there as soon as you step inside after a day’s sightseeing, what more could you ask for? This place is so good I’m going to write a separate blog about it. Meanwhile … let me tell you what we did the first couple of days in the old medieval city.
This is Sardar market. The top big picture was taken in the morning before everything had got going. The one on the bottom right gives a better idea of how manic it gets. We were surprise that no-one pestered us even when the market was really busy and glad to say, we also felt quite safe.
Mehrangarth Palace dominates the skyline of Jodhpur and is very impressive. We walked up by the steep steps a couple of times although you can take an auto rickshaw to the main entrance. On the first day I walked up onto one of the grassy mounds by the car park and was immediately shouted out by a guard. I pretended for a while not to hear him as I wanted to take some pictures of the old town to show the renowned blue houses and the hilltop palace you can see in the picture, top right. Once I climbed down I had to take this shot of the guy giving camel rides. It looks like he’s in the desert with the camel but it’s actually in the car park! We gave this one a miss and paid whatever it was to go into the fort and museum having left our passports some wouldn’t run off with the headsets!
The fort is impressive as is the museum. You can easily spend a day there and although there were loads of groups with their guides we managed to avoid them most of the time. The intricate acrchitecture is amazing as is the views from the ramparts and the museum is interesting too with beautiful wall hangings, palanquins and Indian art. I loved the shop though, the best I’d come across since leaving home so I did buy quite few presents as things were really top quality. Too good an opportunity to miss!
You couldn’t fail to be impressed with the intricate details everywhere.
As you walk round the city with a camera it’s not long before children ask you for a picture. Interestingly they’re not that bothered about seeing it, they just love to chat especially if you have sweets to hand out. I love this picture of this little girl who a few seconds before had been smiling away and playing with a little plastic box – maybe her only ‘toy’? She quickly grabbed the sweet but she definitely wasn’t going to smile for a picture. There’s a lot of sadness I feel in her eyes.
It was an interesting drive to Jodhpur. The views going over the hills were stunning and the monkeys at the side of the road were an added bonus. You might spot in this monkey picture that we almost had one in the taxi with us as his paw grabbed the top of the window …we quickly closed it. They only looked cute from a distance!
Our first stop was by a watering hole where the oxen were raising the water to irrigate the nearby field using a centuries-old system. We were equally fascinated by the farmer in the other field who was tilling his land using a wooden plough pulled by two very lean looking bullocks. Tough work eaking out a living in this terrain and climate and using what we would consider very primitive methods to work the land.
We arrived at the Jain Temple just a few minutes before it opened to the public. Enough time to read the board listing all the regulations of which there are many. Inside there are guards making sure visitors stay inside the designated areas and although photography is allowed even pointing your camera at the inner sanctum gets me a sharp rebuke from a guard.
This temple constructed entirely of marble is stunning. Each pillar is a work of art and apparently there are 1444 of them! The ceilings are intricately carved too. If you’re travelling between Jodhpur and Udaipur don’t miss visiting this Jain temple at Ranakpur, it’s well worth it.
Our last stop before arriving in Jodhpur was down to me asking the driver to pull in to see what this guy was doing. You can see in the black and white picture that he has a wooden structure attached to a pole going into the ground and the oxen walking round which turned the central pole. He was blindfolded, the animal that is, so I was more concerned about him than what the guy was producing. I was told the blindfold meant that the animal wouldn’t get dizzy and was assured that it had regular breaks. (I’m gullible enough to believe this!). I can’t tell you what the ‘sticky gooh’ was but there were plenty of people stopping to buy a bag of it. John and I both had a taste and yes, it was delicious, if a bit too sugary.
At last we arrived in Jodhpur, the city known for its many iconic blue buildings. As soon as we were met by our auto rickshaw driver, Nehru, who had the most wonderful warm, welcoming smile we knew that our five days here was going to be great!
Yes we were tourists too but it just felt that we’d had Bundi all to ourselves, apart from the people who live there of course!
Arriving in Udaipur was a bit of a shock to the system as the streets were packed with tourists. Not surprising really as our hotel was in the old town near to The City Palace and the lake. I thought the hotel would have more character but the view from our room more than made up for that and the food in the restaurant was some of the best of our holiday.
After wandering round we did what all visitors do, we went on a boat trip on Lake Pichola at sunset. The golden light on all the buildings was fantastic and the sunset didn’t disappoint. Cups of chai for 5 rupees were being handed out as you got off the boat. I love chai but it’s far too sugary for John.
Our second day in Udaipur was spent visiting The City Palace and what a place it is. OK it was pretty busy with tourists so I had to be patient at times and wait for a clear shot of the architecture but it wasn’t a problem. The mosaic work on the walls is amazing and the paintings are impressive. This time we’d had to pay to go in but it was worth it.
That evening we went to another must-do when in Udaipur – a show featuring traditional dances and puppets with a jaw-dropping finale. It’s hard to explain this but one of the dancers, an elderly woman started with one water carrier pot balanced on her head, then she would add another and dance around the stage between placing another one on her head. She had this fixed grin on her face or perhaps it was a grimace but it was so funny. It was very clever but also very bizarre. The show ended abruptly after that with the compere announcing this was the end of the show but none of the performers came back on stage so we all just made our way to the exit. Bit of a let down in a way. Good meal though at our hotel and yes we were still talking about what we’d seen. No web site on Udaipur includes this in the must-see list but don’t let that put you off!
The next day we headed out by car to Jodhpur with a stop en route at a Jain temple. More about this in my next blog.
Travelling by train in India is great fun. There are about six ‘classes’ and for our trip from Delhi to Bundi we chose …First Class! If only British Rail was so cheap! We even treated ourselves to lunch which was a traditional Thali. Course after course was delivered to our apartment by a smiling waiter who after the sixth dish held out his hand for a tip despite wearing a badge which said ‘no tipping’!
Arriving at Bundi by car from the station was interesting. We knew the car could only go so far and that we would need to walk the rest of the way to our hotel. No wonder! The streets were very narrow and our hotel was up a very steep path. The climb up to the hotel plus two flights of stairs everytime was well worth it, our room was fantastic.
Bundi is not as popular with tourists as Jaipur or Udaipur and so we only saw a few other Europeans during our three days there. I think there were no more than six other visitors all the time we were going round Gahr Palace and it was only a few rupees to go in, plus a stamp on the hand with an ink marker. Nowhere else that we visited had as many wall paintings, they were fantastic and in wonderful condition. We also climbed up to the hill fort and had an impressive view of the town and the lake, all to ourselves.
Bundi is a lively town but then where isn’t in India? Just walking around you’re guaranteed an interesting experience especially when it’s the wedding season. If you’ve been to Rajasthan between October and February you’ll know this is the noisiest and busiest time of the year. Celebrations last around five days and there are many weddings going on. We came across quite a few but the most colourful one was in Bundi. I took loads of pictures of course which got me out of joining in with the dancing and we politely turned down an offer to follow the group to the family’s house for a drink. We’d be lucky to get away before midnight!
For our final evening we made sure we were down by Nawal Sagar lake at sunset. The glow on the palace from the setting sun is just magical and as for the reflection on the lake, well it’s a photographer’s dream. We really enjoyed our stay in Bundi and (dare I say this?) …I hope it doesn’t find itself on the tourists’ map as it might just lose its charm.
After settling into our hotel in Delhi we decided to walk to Purana Qila Fort which wasn’t far away. Interesting walk as on one of the roads were lots of people sleeping on the pavement. We found later that Delhi is moving rough sleepers from the many underpasses where they set up mini communities, as a result they’ve moved their makeshift tents onto the pavements.
Our visit to the fort in the late afternoons didn’t disappoint, it was beautiful there and the setting sun made the stonework looked golden.
Purana Qila Fort in the late afternoon.
After eventually finding an auto rickshaw to take us around the city, first to see India Gate, we didn’t keep it for very long. John and I hopped out, walked across the road so I could take a picture of the War Memorial and when we came back our auto rickshaw had gone. Obviously he had got a better offer. It wasn’t long before another rickshaw turned up having sniffed out two stranded tourists!
Off next to this splendid Sikh temple with our new driver. Everyone who visits this most sacred place has to remove their shoes and have their head covered. I quite fancied my man in his yellow turban …It was surprisingly peaceful here despite the number of visitors and worshippers and a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of Delhi.
Fortunately our rickshaw driver was still waiting for us outside the temple so off we went to Delhi’s most famous attraction, The Red Fort. All was well until our driver decided he wanted to charge us twice what he’d quoted. The situation was sorted when a local chap stopped to find out what the problem was and told the rickshaw driver and us what would be a reasonable amount for our ride. We paid up and the rickshaw quickly sped away. Two ‘lost’ in the space of an hour, not very clever.
Obviously it just wasn’t our day. John is very careful when it comes to looking after his money but it didn’t stop someone from taking his wallet as we queued for tickets to go into the fort. My credit card gone and the equivalent of £70 lost. Fortunately John still had his cards. It was a big blow and although we reported it straightaway to the police at the gates, they weren’t interested. Needless to say we didn’t enjoy our visit to the Red Fort especially as there are signs everywhere reminding tourists that pickpockets are operating here.
Having perked up after a couple of beers and a decent curry we decided to visit just one more of Delhi’s famous monuments. We were glad we did, Humayan’s Tomb is a vast site with plenty to see and lots to photograph. I needed a bit of a lift and this place certainly did that.
Our stay in Delhi had been a mixed experience. We’re not keen on big cities at the best of times although it’s nowhere near as manic as Dhaka it’s still very hectic, humid and dusty. Losing some money and my card had given us a jolt but we had lots of things to look forward to including our next stop, the two of Bundi which is not on the usual tourist trail.
Behind Kawran Bazaar is Dhaka’s main railway station. As well as a bustling train line it’s also home to hundreds of families who live by the tracks in their shanty dwellings. This is life in the raw.
Often the only way a woman can feed her family is by selling her body for sex. The litter is collected by children and sold to the guys at the nearby rubbish dump. Walking in this area is not easy and I say that because for one thing it is filthy but for another it’s the sheer abject poverty that you see everywhere especially as there are so many babies and young chidden living in these conditions. I can only imagine how tough you have to be to survive here.
As we were walking along a women touched my arm and beckoned for me to stop. I asked our guide what she was saying and basically she was inviting me to sit with her and have a cup of tea. Honestly I felt very humbled. Here here was this woman who obviously had so little who was offering me a drink. I asked Obaidul to thank her for her hospitality. It was a while before I could take any more pictures in fact I was very aware of intruding into these people’s lives so I didn’t take very many.
After leaving the train station we headed back to our car and were dropped off at Dhaka’s famous Hindu street. By now we were used to the hustle and bustle of this vibrant city. Hindu Street is narrow, full of people and motorbikes and street sellers and a couple of tourists i.e. John and I trying not to get run over! I loved the guys at the end of the street who posed for my camera as they were filling up their water carriers.
Then it was an interesting rickshaw ride to the Sadarghat boat station for a trip across the river.
After our boat trip we took a rickshaw, joining the manic traffic that is everyday life here and went for lunch.
A delicious lunch of Bangladeshi cuisine, a look around the area and then it was time to head back to our hotel. We went via the National Parliament Building and then it was time to say goodbye to our excellent guide Obaidul. We wish him well in his new tour business.
7.00pm and the car with Obaidul our guide is just pulling up outside our hotel. It’s an early start but we were heading first to the bustling Kawran Bazaar which trades most of the night and finishes around 8.30pm. No time to lose if wanted to get pictures of all the activity.
From the time we got out of the car it was like a complete assault on our senses! Lorries piled high with the most cauliflowers I’ve ever seen all seeming to reverse into us! Porters everywhere with their baskets over-flowing with vegetables deftly manoeuvring through the stall holders and street sellers. This market is HUGE and bustling with life and not a tourist in sight apart from John and I.
Of course I kept stopping to take pictures which meant Obaildul had to backtrack to make sure I didn’t get lost. And how fantastic that so many people wanted me to take their picture! I was having a great time.
This market is teaming with life and what a privilege to see at first hand how hard these people work to scratch out a living.