|Our first bus ride in India (between Jaisalmer and Jodhpur) was an interesting one.They sell the tickets to foreigners and then they they fill up the rest of the bus with locals. I swear when we finally got off the bus in Jodhpur about 100 people got off with us. I am not quite sure where they all fitted in but Shaun had someones bum in his face the whole time so it was a bit of a squash.
We stayed in Jodhpur for 3 nights. The city is famous for its blue buildings which are found in the old city. They were originally painted blue to keep the mosquitos away and to keep the houses cool. It makes the old city quite picturesque and we spent one afternoon wandering round the narrow lanes until a pack of dogs kept on barking at us - they appear not to like foreigners here!
The other thing the city is famous for is the Meherangarh Fort. We thought that Jaisalmer Fort was impressive but this one is literally built up from the steep cliffs of a high hill, with a palace perched on top - quite a feat of engineering. Unlike Jaisalmer, the fort is not lived in and only contains the former palace which is now effectively a museum. The palace is quite something with its terracotta coloured latticed network of courtyards. Some of the rooms are still done up in all their former glory - these people certainly were wealthy and lived like kings - literally.
The Fort complex is still owned by the current Maharaja of Jodhpur - who happens to be a close buddy of Prince Charlie and who is also well into polo. He now lives in a huge palace (Umaid Bhawan) on another hill in the city, overlooking the fort and old city. This palace is quite recent (construction began in 1929) and it is massive. Part of it is also now a rather posh hotel where rooms are at least $400 US a night. Shaun decided not to treat me to a night there needless to say! However we did walk up there to visit the museum which is in a tiny part of the complex.
Jodhpur also has its own version of the Taj Mahal called Jaswant Thada. It is a cenotaph to one of the former Maharajas and was built in 1899 in milky white marble. Even though it is no where near as big as the Taj, it was still quite impressive to visit.
Other than these sites, we spent the rest of our time wandering through the very busy markets around the clock-tower where they sold not only souvineers but also things for the locals - bangles are a huge market here and there are so many stalls selling them. Shaun wants to get some for me as when you wear them on the upper arm it means that you are a kept women! We only managed to part with our money in an Indian spice shop where we got some curry spices - whether we can get them into NZ is another matter however!
Another thing very popular here are large moustaches. In fact we have noticed that Indian men are really into their facial hair - the more elaborate consist of the very long twirly variety - a throw back from the colonial years I suppose. Talking of the colonial years another thing we have noticed is that the well-off Indians seem to think well of the colonial times and really like the British (I suppose they gained a lot of wealth and power in those vibrant years).
We also decided to go out and celebrate our engagement by going to a posh hotel for dinner. Well...we finally found where all the rich people stay on their package tours. This place was immense with a huge garden, swimming pool, candles everywhere and turbaned waiters in rather fetching jodhpurs (yes it is where they originate) - we found out later that the Maharaja owned the place! The bonus was that they sold alcohol (the cheaper restaurants we have been frequenting do not have licences to sell alcohol and will only sell clandestine beers). So we made the most of it and celebrated with a few gin fizzes along with a very rich curry - quite tasty although swimming in oil like most of them are here.
Next stop is Ajmer on another bus journey tomorrow......