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Long route home Our trip all the way home, trying to catch no planes and stay on the ground like civilised people. It's taking us via India all the way to Europe from Japan, the furthest of the Far East...


INDIA | Friday, 24 September 2010 | Views [518]

Welcome to the audio tour of Jodphur! Don't stop for chai or cheeky samosas, and ignore the taxis and rickshaw drivers offering lifts, for the Shahi Haveli have sent someone to pick you up.  Sit back and hold on tight as you enjoy your first glimpses of the city and make your way to point Number 1, the start of today's tour.

1 - Hotel entrance
Here at point number one, look ahead at the splendiferous stone hallway, upwards you will see slatted floors that let light in all the way from the ceiling. Take your time to talk to the lady of the house who is delighted to welcome you, sensibly no need to fill out the arrival forms until tomorrow.

Follow her up the labarynth of stairs in this unique haveli and enter point 2, your home for the next few nights.

2 - Room

And lo, what a room! Bigger than anywhere you will have stayed for a while, the yellow stone walls are refreshingly cool, aided by TWO ceiling fans. The mosaic floor is absolutely charming. The room is adorned by giant christmas baubles, with traditional embroidery hanging from the walls. The varoius wooden shutters open to views of the fort, the lights of the city, and skyline of boxed rooftops with silhoetted people going about ther business. Imagine for a second that you are from a bygone age, arriving after a long day on your camel.

3 - Roof top restaurant and view

Try to enjoy the slightly off-putting trio of restaurant staff, who may need you to repeat your order several times. While you wait for food, look out at Jodphur's astonishing fort. It will certainly be the best of the Rajasthan forts that you have seen - the enormous uninhabited Merangerah which towers menacingly over the city. You will hear more about the fort later in the tour.  For now, let's break and refresh ourselves before point number 4.

4 - Waking up - view, breakfast etc

Make the most of the tranquil atmosphere, and sleep in if you need to - no need to rush a Rajput royal! When you awake, you may enjoy the distant the call to prayer wafting over the city and barking of stray dogs. Peep out of your window for a first daylight view of the fort. Once you're ready to face the day, and repeat the earnest and amusingly haphazard service, make your way to the floor above for breakfast.  Here, you will see the true colour of the city. Where Jaipur was pink and Jaisalmer golden, so Jodphur is strikingly blue.  In days past, indigo was added to the lime washes on the buildings of Brahmanic families.  This serves to repel mosquitoes and cool the houses, though it's most important effect was to promulgate the odious caste sytem which continues to bedevil India, particularly the rural/traditional parts, to this day.  Press 319009 at any point on the tour to hear more about the caste system.  When you are ready to enjoy the next stage, please make your way to audio point number 5.

5 - Market street

The narrow streets of Jodphur, scattered with blue painted buildings will take you into a glorious story tale era, reminiscent of Victorian England. The fabric shops brim with every colour and style, whole shops are dedicated to ribbons, others to sequins and embroidery, stationers pile up notepads and pens, street stalls sell knives and razors. You must keep your wits about you, for these roads are narrow, and cars, motos and bicycles jossle amidst the pedestrians and stray dogs for space. From the market, you can take an auto rickshaw to point 7, or continue walking in the heat. Make sure to try to sample the local speciality of deep fried chilli or a cheeky samosa from any street vendors you pass - they're quite scrumptious.

6 - Train station

Should you need to change a rail ticket in Jodphur, you will need to return to the train station. Point number 6 is an important venue for testing patience. Some unwary travellers follow the advice of the station supervisor, queue for 30mins, only to be told they have to return to the station supervisor. Do not be surprised if the supervisor hands you a scrappy piece of A4 and asks you to put your request in writing, insisting it be written a certain way. If you can keep your head, you have earned a saffron lassi at point number 7.

7 - Fort View Restaurant

To reach point number 7, please kindly ignore the map in your guidebook, else you might find yourself walking for 45 minutes getting pestered and sun burned. Instead, read the signs on the line of shops opposite the booking office very carefully and you will find the Govind hotel next to two trees. The rooftop terrace may seem by now unremarkable, but it does offer another view of the striking fort, and the rare miracle of a WIFI connection.

8 - Curious shopping

A short auto rickshaw ride may take you to point number 8, Temple road, lined with stores selling antiques, curious, handicrafts and plain junk. In some shopes, the dusty collectables will be piled up, rusting and uncared for, but do not be deceived. Their lacklustre appearance is not reflected in the price. Two broken pocket watches in bad condition retail for about ten pounds. A few shops down, a functioning pocket watch comes in at a whopping 150 pounds because it is made of gold.  There is a wonderful view of the Maharajah's Palace on the skyline.

9 - Dinner
With the day not quite wasted on our audio tour, disappointing shopping and lots of walking around in the heat, you would be forgiven for feeling a little despondant. It's time to walk round some more looking for somewhere to eat. Once you've tried several guidebook options, why not settle for Hot Chilli - a Nandos style chain which serves nachos covered in warm processed squirty cheese, spicy fried potatoes stuffed with paneer and masala lemonade.  As you walk back to the hotel along the market, make sure not to have anything (eg water bottle or pens) in your hand, as the street kids (yes, they are just little children) will win them from you against your better judgement.

10 - The clock tower

The next segment of our walking tour could be done by rickshaw for those wishing to avoid hot, lost hours in the beating sun. Point 10 is a distinctive Jodphur landmark, marking the centre of the town. Roads run from here to the market, the train station and eventually, to the fort. It is surrounded by the now normal cacaphony of cows, assorted vehicles, street traders and hangers on. At night, the tower is carefully lit, a warm beacon in the chaotic streets.

11 - The Fort

Finally we reach the main attraction, Jodphur's fort. Try not to curse the narrow streets of the old city that hem one in and deny any views of the fort to navigate with.  Stomp up the main road in the dry heat if you must, which at least offers fine views of the fort.  The fort is a stunner, delivering the goods like no other in India.  It is glorious inside and out and you will have great fun listening to their stentorian and dry audio guide.  When you are finished with that tour, please return this guide to your left on the way out and enjoy the rest of your time at this blog...

If you're going:
- Shanti Haveli well worth staying in, though be aware that they have differently priced rooms, so make sure to agree the price when you book
- Visit the curious shops for fun, not shopping. It quickly became apparent that they were selling antiques and gold/silver (at least in their heads) and we were looking for cheap victoriana junk.
- Rough guide recommends Bollygood, don't bother with it - it's in a hotel, had a few film posters, no customers and importantly, no staff!


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