The fact that what transpired on a lazy Thursday morning in Shanghai would get realized into staunch reality was something that I had not probably realized then. Strange but true; the last fortnight has been just that and probably more! Jaisalmer seemed like a place that existed only in fiction, like Jim Hawkins’ Treasure Island or Lizzy’s encounter with Darcy in the Pemberly grounds – a land of fairy tales; a land of adventure, mystery and childhood thrills! And it definitely lived up to it! Would love to go back. Everything after coming out of the Golden Fortress seemed very mundane and unexciting. It was exactly like Mukul (of Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella fame) might have felt once he stood among the ruins of his old house inside the fort.
The excursion commenced on the 9th of February, 2011, Thursday when we left in the evening for the Old Delhi Railway Station to catch the 9:30 PM Mandor Express to Jodhpur. The next morning, I woke up to a completely transformed landscape outside the speeding train. It was sand, thorny bushes and the sun rising in the far east. The sight of the sun and sand creates magic and it has to be beheld to be believed. There I sat with a smile on my face knowing that the next one week was gonna be anything but boring.
We reached Jodhpur by 8 in the morning and were mobbed by the rickshaw walas. We finally bargained with one of them to drop us at RTDC Ghoomer where we had a couple of rooms booked. Ghoomer turned out to be a nice cozy place; located in the very centre of the city. Since we had our bookings from 12 in the noon, we had to wait for more than an hour in the lobby till we could be given even one room. We didn’t waste any time; had breakfast, got refreshed and were ready to go sight-seeing by 11. The hotel guy arranged for a cab which agreed to take us around the major places to visit in Jodhpur for 550 bucks.
We completely entrusted ourselves to our driver, Sajjan Singhji. The first stop was the Umaid Bhavan Palace which happens to be a relatively recently constructed Palace where the royal family resides. A part of the building has been turned into a museum which gives a glimpse into how the royals live: King Size. The most fascinating display was of around 10 vintage cars parked in the palace campus. The building reminded me of the Vidhan Soudha in Bangalore. Coming downhill, we saw a colony of villas being built which were modelled after the palace to give a feeling of royalty to the owners.
Our next stop was the imposing Mehrangarh fort. This was the first fort I visited which had an elevator to take the tourists to the top. They can then make their way down on foot. The view from the top of the fort is what gives the title of blue city to Jodhpur and it looks beautiful with the sun beating down on the blue and white houses making it look like a watercolour painting.
Just a few metres away from the fort are the cenotaphs of the royal family named Jaswant Thada. The walk upto the Thada was strangely melancholic with a natural lake on one side of it and lush green trees on the other. The mood was lifted by a local playing a very popular folklore on his string instrument –“padharo mhare des…” The music, the dark blue waters, the cool breeze, the white Thada and the city of Jodhpur stretching below the hillock was quite a sight. You have to be there to experience it! The man who played could have held a concert; he played so well.
Day one was definitely showing signs why people from all over the world flock to Rajasthan. Its got that feel 🙂
We had Rajasthani Thali for lunch complete with Gatte ki sabzi, Kadi Pakora and Bajre ki roti. The rest of the day was spent in visiting the not so impressive Mandore Gardens and the hustling-bustling Nayi Sadak bazaar where we shopped for some exquisite bandhej saris and dresses. We retired early for the day since we had an early morning train to Jaisalmer the next day.