We boarded our evening train from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur at 5:00 pm. We opted to go with sleeper class (one step above the dreaded general class) as it was only a 6 hour train ride. We booked the side lower and side upper bunks so we would be the only two people in our space, rather than having to share with four others. The Jaisalmer station was the originating station for the journey, meaning we were the first people to board. Several hours passed lazily reading books and occasionally watching the world go by. The train stopped numerous times and people got on and off. After a while I began to notice our berth filling up and when I began counting heads I came to a total of 15 people jumbled together in a space that should be occupied by 6. When I pointed this out to Chris he shrugged his shoulders and kept on reading. I imagined this happening in Canada, where every effort is made to avoid having to sit next to someone on public transport. If one absolutely must sit next to another person they sit on the edge of their seat furthest from said person, unrelenting in their quest to never, ever inadvertently touch their seatmate. An hour later even more people piled on and an older gentlemen (pun intended) plunked 3 kids on our top bunk that we had paid for and was one of our assigned seats! This caught Chris’s attention as he had intended to lay down on the top bunk, but he resigned himself to the fact that no longer would be an option. I stuck my head out from our bunk to observe what was going on in our neighboring berths and had to stifle a laugh. It was much the same as what was going on in ours except people had brought cardboard to lay across the floor and sleeping bodies were scattered over every inch of available space. So much for the “assigned” seats when you purchased your seat. As we sat mulling this over, serious insult to injury was added as a man leaned over Chris, hocked up a massive loogie, and spit it through the rails of his window. Chris and I both gave him a stern look and gestured to the other side of the berth for a place for him to spit any further secretions. I spent the remaining hours of the delightful ride pointedly trying to ignore the unblinking stares of a teenage boy and older man. I was wrapped in my african kikoy over my dress coupled with full length leggings, covering more of my body than the local women, but I felt naked the way the two men stared with such intent. They didn’t avert their gaze even if I did look up from my book in an uncomfortable way. As a western woman I am an anomaly no matter what I do to blend in. Generally this doesn’t phase me, but after several hours of being stared at at such close proximity, I just wanted off the train.
We finally arrived to the station and danced our way around sleeping bodies to exit the train. We found a rickshaw who we spent an exhausting number of minutes bartering with before finally agreeing on a price. He brought us to our accommodation and even walked us inside to ensure we were at the right place. Our room was clean, and most importantly cool enough to get some sleep. We fell into bed after such a mentally draining day of traveling.
The following day happened to be my birthday and we awoke feeling refreshed after a good nights sleep. We started the day by heading to a coffee shop for an iced coffee. I must take a moment before I continue to chronicle our journey from our room to the coffee shop. First we had to climb out of the basement of the guesthouse to the main floor, then descend from the main floor to street level. Upon exiting our guesthouse we entered the side street which connected our guesthouse to the main road which, after our initial repulsion, we lovingly nicknamed ‘poop alley.’ It seemed that one and all used this side street as their personal toilet, making it a minefield to navigate. After we [carefully] made our way out of the side street we reached the main street which was only marginally better than the side street. We had to barter with several rickshaw drivers for a reasonable price to head to the other side of town where most of the restaurants and attractions were. After bartering with 3 drivers we finally agreed on a price and boarded the rickshaw and promptly set off at a blistening speed through the narrow streets, dodging people, animals and other vehicles whilst being jostled around for the 20 minute ride. We arrived to our destination, navigated our way up the two flights of stairs, and entered the quiet haven of the cafe. I thought I would include this narrative as at home when you say you went to a cafe, it means just that. Here when you say you went somewhere, it usually is some derivative of the above situation.
We took our time savoring the taste of a cup made from freshly ground beans, rather than the instant coffee we have grown so accustomed to. I watched the world go by from my perch by the second story window. From my vantage point I could see a shoe repair man with his shop set up on the corner of the street. I watched him take a pair of sandals from a man, stare at them for a moment, and then use 3 different color paints to re-create the exact color of the mans shoe. It is so common in countries other than Canada for men such as this to find a piece of sidewalk, throw down a blanket and supplies and do business. Just as common are hawkers selling a bit of everything, proclaiming what they have to offer at the top of their lungs. (I have always found this curious as it is quite obvious what you are selling when it is the only thing you are holding). At home it would be exceptionally unsettling for someone to be yelling in the streets, it would be cause to avert your gaze and hurry your pace to get wherever it is you are going. In our part of Canada there are also no sidewalk shops, juice or food trollies, or small stores selling a little bit of everything. I mused how quiet and boring our streets must have seemed to Rohan when he first moved to Canada.
After our coffee we headed to a nearby restaurant to grab lunch. We opted to split a dish as we had plans to go out for a big supper that evening. We ate at a local restaurant that had a lovely shaded courtyard for us to escape the heat.
After lunch we wandered to the clocktower and market area. I had a bit of a headache at this point and wasn’t really in the mood for [haggling] shopping. We opted instead to checkout a spice shop located a bit further outside the market that is recommended by lonely planet. When we arrived we were welcomed warmly and promptly sat down and given bag after bag of spice, spice mixtures, and teas to smell. We were also given explanations about the different things for sale, and told we would be emailed a book of recipes with a purchase. We knew the spices were a bit expensive, but they were pre-mixed so you wouldn’t have to buy each component individually which is convenient. We ended up buying the masala tea spice, a winter wine spice for making mulled wine, assam tea, and a masala spice mixture. The guy threw in 2 free other spices for buying several things.
We then headed back to the hotel to have a rest before dinner that evening. Where we stay is of upmost importance to Chris and I since we have arrived in India. We experience such chaos during every moment of our day that at the end of it we need somewhere quiet, comfortable and clean to seek solace. We spend more time reading reviews from multiple sources before booking a place than we have ever before during any of our travels. Before heading to dinner I was able to skype with my best friend Monica, and my parents from our rooftop balcony. See the picture below taken before we headed to the restaurant.
We went to a restaurant called Indique for dinner that evening. It had a rooftop balcony that required scaling four flights of stairs, but the view and candlelight tables made up for it. We ordered paneer tikka masala and a local Rajasthan dish, along with two pieces of naan. The paneer tikka masala was exceptional, while the Rajasthan dish left much to desire. I think it was overpriced for what we received, but it was a beautiful setting to celebrate turning 27. The days leading up to and of my birthday are usually filled with a bit of dread mixed with anticipation, but this year I found I felt nothing but contentment. I suppose that comes with age, and the knowledge you are doing exactly what you want to and believe in your heart you should be doing. It is easy to lose sight of your journey when you are concentrating so intently on the path, but a milestone such as a birthday is a reason to take pause; you raise your head and look where you have come from and where you are going. I am filled with a sense of pride and amazement at what we have accomplished in the past year and better yet, what we have to come. Best of all, when I look beside me I have my best friend and partner in crime. We may not have much to our names, but we have each other and a lifetime of incredible memories which is worth more to me than anything else. Life is beautiful that way, and I am grateful I was somewhere in the world like India to foster this reflection on such a special day.
The following day we made our way up the massive hill to the fortress that resides over Jodhpur. On the walk up we had an ariel view of the city and it was clear why the city was nicknamed the ‘blue city.’ We explored the fortress, garnering much attention from locals in the process. People snapped pictures relentlessly, without asking permission, striking a particular cord with me. I preach endlessly in my blog and to fellow travelers about snapping pictures in locals faces without first seeking permission. I do not take photos of people, even if given permission, unless I have a personal connection or experience with them. I do these things to avoid making people feel exploited, or that the sanctity of their personal being has been invaded. Yet, here in India, the shoe is on the other foot and I am left feeling this way. If anything, it has solidified my stance as there is nothing more uncomfortable than having a camera jammed infront of your face and the owner snapping away. I refine my recommendation however, to anyone foreign or local, to ask permission before taking photos of another.
After the fort we sought out Kesar Heritage Restaurant that had excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. The food was miles better than that of Indique from the previous night, for a fraction of the cost. If in Jodhpur I recommend you eat there! We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, having done all we had hoped to do in Jodhpur. We were leaving on a very early morning bus the next day for Udaipur, so we turned in early for the evening. I will cover Udaipur in my next post!
My overall impression of Jodhpur? It was a rather dirty city that I wouldn’t have missed if we skipped it. It is very similar to many other cities found in the Rajasthan province, but not nearly as nice. If you are short on time I wouldn’t hesitate to cut it from your itinerary in lieu of some of the other cities such as Jaipur or Udaipur.