JODHPUR- Part V of INDIA travel series
- When: 28 December – 30 December, 2018
- Where (accommodations): Radisson Jodhpur
- Transportation: Flight from Delhi to Jodhpur round trip –Jet Airways.
- Sights/attractions: Mehrangarh Fort, Blue city guided tour, wholesale market, Maharani textiles store, Camel Safari at Osian dunes organized by Balaji Forex Tours and Travels
- Food/drinks: Try anywhere you can masala chai tea– best made on the street and dessert- gulab jamun balls.
When making a decision what city in the Indian state of Rajasthan to visit, we were torn between Jaipur (Pink city), Udaipur (White city) and Jodhpur (Blue city). Ideally we would’ve loved to see them all, but unless we quit our jobs and had unlimited time to travel, this was not going to happen. Important choice between the cities was made based on the color of the walls 🙂 . In my opinion blue seemed like the most unusual and was going to look better in the photos than white or pink. We have no regrets- two nights in Jodhpur was a time well spent.
There are several ways to reach the Blue City. We chose the fastest- 1 hour flight from Delhi. After sightseeing Agra, we had a driver take us to Delhi (smooth, comfortable 3.5hr drive) and spent a night there. Our flight to Jodhpur was in the morning and we did not want to risk missing it while stuck in traffic between the two busy cities. There are also trains that go daily, but we’ve heard stories of the long delays (especially in winter, when Delhi has a thick fog in the morning). You could also hire a driver, but that would be a lot longer and we did not have any time to waste. Nor did we want to endure another long car ride in India. We had one of those going from Khajuraho to Agra already.
Radisson Jodhpur driver picked us up from the airport and we were at the beautiful hotel in no time- it’s very close to the airport. We had no luck setting up a guide in advance- after a few emails with the hotel, they repeatedly told us that we have to do that upon the check in. Finally, we asked concierge in Delhi to call them the day before our arrival and they were able to find a guide for our half day tour in the Blue City.
Blue City tour
There are several versions as to why color blue was chosen to paint the walls. One of them is that it’s associated with Brahmins– the caste of the priests in India, who had blue houses in Jodhpur. Even during the tour, guide pointed out several “Brahmin houses” that were certainly blue. Another version is that this indigo color helped to keep the houses cool in the hot weather months. And then there is a version that now government encourages to paint the houses blue, because it attracts more tourists…Either way, the city looks very photogenic regardless of the reason why this color was selected.
I would recommend getting a guide if you want to find the best blue houses. They are scattered in the Old Town of Jodhpur, which was around 20 min drive from our hotel. I don’t think we would’ve found as many if we went to look for them on our own. We also had only a handful of hours before sunset and wanted to maximize the time, so the guide was a very good choice. After the driver dropped us off at the beginning of Old Town, we still needed to get a ride in a tuk tuk to reach the area where the bluest blue began.
On the way we stopped at the wholesale market, where I picked up a few colorful scarves for the upcoming photo session near the blue walls.
I’ve mentioned this before and I will say it again- wear bright, bold colors in India. And when in doubt- add a scarf!
A lot of the doors are open and as we were taking the photos, we saw curious smiles of the residents, especially the kids- they were so happy to use their English with “Hello, what’s your name?”
The guide asked if we can see one of the places from the inside and they were happily inviting us in and posing for a selfie.
We went to the are with the city spreading below us and the Mehrangarh Fort above – if the guide didn’t bring us here, we wouldn’t have known this viewpoint even existed.
There were a lot of photo opportunities in the blue city- I don’t think I’ve ever taken as many pictures of the doorways as I did in Jodhpur 🙂 .
We got hungry, so the guide brought us to the big guesthouse for a light lunch on a terrace.
We needed a dessert and I’d fallen in love with masala chai tea in Mumbai, so we asked if we could get some in Jodhpur. Not only did he bring us to a place- we watched the guy make it right in front of us and then I got a little container of spices to bring home!
Sadly none of my attempts to replicate it tastes as good as that chai from the street…If you have a sweet tooth- definitely try Indian dessert- gulab jamun– balls made out of milk solids/powdered milk and dipped in the rose water scented syrup. The BEST gulab jamun balls we had in India were in Jodhpur from one of the street vendors. No restaurant or store bought amounted to the freshness and deliciousness of those from the street. Below is the picture of the place- if you are in Jodhpur, ask the guide to take you there. And then ship me some please 🙂 !
Rajasthan is a wealthy state and you could certainly feel it in Jodhpur. We saw very few beggars, streets were pretty clean, vendors at the market did not insist on us buying anything and there was not much bargaining- most prices are fixed here, which makes it easier for tourists- you know that you are not overpaying for something by 200%. The guide (as all guides typically do), brought us to Maharani Arts and Textiles store which sells their products to famous designer houses. We stocked up on soft and warm shawls and by now regretted that we only came with carry-on suitcases 🙂 .
One more stop to get some spices and we are ready to finish our first (half) day in Jodhpur.
One of the largest forts in India and certainly a symbol of Jodhpur, visit to Mehrangarh Fort is a must.
We opted out of a personal guide and took our driver’s advice- did a walking tour with an audio guide that came with the tickets. For foreigners the cost was 600 INR pp (around 8 USD) and credit card use is encouraged. It was very informative and you can go from point to point without rushing, slowly enjoying the surroundings. Pause the guide when you are asked to take another picture with Indian kids and continue sightseeing at your own pace. As for all India monuments, my best advice is to get there early. It opens at 9am and that’s the time we were arriving at the entrance.
There is a lot to see inside the fort, more than 30 stops on the audio guide, so being early helped to check them all out before the crowds of tourists started pouring in.
Make sure to go to the second floor for the views from above and a peak to the inside of the royal rooms.
We spent two good hours exploring the fort until it was time to head back to the hotel for our next adventure today. But before that, the driver, per my request, brought us to get some street food for lunch. He was VERY hesitant in letting me try it (Sean was not as adventurous), but I was really curious and gave it a shot. Food was a bit spicier than I normally take it (and I like spicy food), but not something unmanageable. And no, I did not get sick from it either.
Camel and Jeep Safari
Apart from the blue houses, the fact that we can ride a camel in Osian dunes in Thar Desert was another big deciding factor when choosing Jodhpur over the other cities in Rajasthan. I’ve never been on a camel before, neither has Sean, so we were VERY excited about this part of the trip. I’ve read good reviews about the safaris organized by Balaji Forex Tours and Travels, so I emailed them three weeks before the trip and set up a tour. It was very easy to arrange- in the email I was given a few options- jeep only or camel plus jeep. I chose jeep and camel option. The cost for two people, which included pick up and drop off at the hotel, private jeep ride, 2 camels and a meal was 6500 INR (around 90 USD). Half of the payment is collected upfront- the company sends a link to pay online. The other half you need to provide in cash to the driver after the tour.
We were picked up from Radisson Jodhpur at 1pm and it took about an hour to reach Osian. Part of the tour was going to be a stop at Sachiya Mata Temple, but we have seen so many temples already, that we opted to skip it. Later on, looking at the pictures online we regretted being so lazy- it seems like we’ve missed a beautiful temple and we were nearby. Well, can’t change the past, but if you do this tour, it’s a good lesson from our mistake 🙂 . We went straight to the jeep ride and it was a little bumpy at times, but also very nice and peaceful. Set your expectations right- this is not Sahara Desert, so it will not be rolling dunes of sand. Thar Desert has plants, we drove past the little villages, saw multiple wild animals- this area is mainly vegetarian, so nobody hunts the wildlife and a family of deer was not scared of us whatsoever. Jeep took us to the camel man’s house for a local Marwari food experience. We ate it on the blanket on the floor in one of the huts and I would describe it as simple, but delicious, very mild on spices and filling enough to hold us over until dinner. As the shadows were getting longer we got on our camels. Very different start than getting on a horse. The camel is kneeling, so when it’s getting up, the process is in two stages. First it throws you backwards and then forward. Hold on tight to the saddle for this initial part of the ride!
Once on top, the ride was VERY smooth and pleasant. Much easier than some of the horseback rides I’ve had. Sean shared his camel with a guide and I got my own. We slowly walked around the desert and it felt like we are the only people there. Camel rides are very popular in the other Rajasthan city- Jaisalmer, which was too far for us on this trip. However, we met people that have done the rides there and complained about how crowded it was and how many tourists were riding camels at the same time. We certainly had no such complains in Osian.
Travel tip: If you do this tour (or a similar one), I recommend the sunset/afternoon time. It was pretty hot during the day, but when we went in the late afternoon the temperature was perfect and the pictures in the golden light came out so pretty (if I say so myself 🙂 )!
Definitely a day for the books! We were tired, but happy and the drive back to hotel went by quick as we both fell asleep 🙂 . We were back before 8 pm just in time for dinner and rest- we are back to DELHI tomorrow to sight-see the capital of India and celebrate the New Year!