Jodhpur was the first stop in our whirlwind trip to India. Although we spent over three weeks in the country, we really only had a few days to travel around as the rest of our time was
demanded by spent with loving family.
I confess that I took a back seat in the planning and let my husband prep the full itinerary. Covering 3,300km (2,000mi), setting foot in six cities in approximately six days—the plan he put together challenged the very laws of time and space.
To kick the adventure off, we flew to Jodhpur.
All I knew of Jodhpur prior to our visit is that it’s India’s famed blue city. The lone item on my checklist is to take the quintessential photograph of the city showing the cobalt blue houses. Other than this, I had zero expectations. Upon arrival at the airport, I knew I was in for a world of wonder. Where there would typically be rows of souvenir stores or magnets, post cards, and trinkets, stood one small store that’s stock full of Rajasthani furniture—heavy wooden furniture intricately carved in traditional Indian design. I was sold in under a minute—I grabbed my husband’s sleeve and pointed at a jharokha that took up most of one of the shop’s walls; I wanted to take it home. My husband spoke with the shopkeeper in Hindi and began what I could only guess was negotiation. Granted a 1.5 x 1.5 m (5 x 5 ft) piece of wall décor isn’t exactly the most convenient souvenir to take home, so we walked out of the store with but a business card. But the spell has been cast. Later that day I will realized that this is in fact the city’s modus operandi: Cast a charm spell over unwitting travellers in no more than a heartbeat. I was in Jodhpur for no more than 24 hours—although that’s just enough time for three tourist attractions, six auto rides, two thalis, and one beautiful sunrise, it’s also plenty of time to be smitten for a lifetime.
6 Things to see & do in Jodhpur
1. Hire an auto for the day. Jodhpur is a small city that is easily navigable by auto—India’s version of Thailand’s tuktuk and The Philippines’ tricycle. We hired one through our hotel and negotiated a rate for the entire day. Apart from getting an authentic experience of local life, using an auto to move around the city instead of a car is also very practical. With the legendary Indian traffic jams, I have no doubt that it would have taken us twice as long to move from one point to another had we been in a car. Our driver took us to all the major attractions and it didn’t hurt that he was excited to share a commentary here and there about the sights.
Travel Tip: What really helped is the system that we worked out with our auto driver: Upon reaching an attraction, we estimated how much time we’d spend there. Then, we agreed at a meeting time and a meeting point—usually close to the attraction’s main gate. We also exchanged mobile numbers so texted or called him should the plans changed. It worked like a charm!
2. Visit Jaswant Thada. Completely carved out of white marble, Jaswant Thada is truly a sight to behold. Against the deep blue Rajasthani sky, the entire structure almost seemed to shimmer. By the amount of intricate details in the architecture, it’s easy to mistake it for a (petite) palace or a temple but it is in fact a mausoleum. If, like us, you get to visit Jaswant Thada free of crowds, do yourself a favour and take your time walking around the grounds. Inside, make sure to look through one of the windows and see views of the city of Jodhpur framed by the intricate latticework and prepared to be awed.
3. Visit Mehrangarh Fort. Just around the corner from Jaswant Thada is Mehrangarh Fort, known to be one of the largest forts in India and to hold the best-stocked museum in all of Rajasthan. If you ever wonder where Rajasthan gets its name—literally “Land of Great Kings”—the Mehrangarh Fort museum will give you definitive answers. We took our time walking through the opulent rooms (grandeur that deserves a separate blog post) and browsing the many galleries. At one point, we unknowingly stepped out into a small terrace that overlooked the cobalt blue old town of Jodhpur and it was hard not to take a moment and appreciate the breathtaking view. But even more beautiful, in my opinion, are the views from the inner halls; Mehrangarh Fort is criss-crossed by stone-latticed courtyards so finely and intricately carved that they often look more like woodwork than actual stone. Lattice windows are common fixtures in traditional Indian architecture to maintain privacy—especially for the women of the palace—whilst still allowing those inside to look out without being seen. By the end of our visit, as my husband and I sat in one of the courtyards surrounded by stunning latticework, I found myself thinking how wrong I was when I thought that Europe had the most beautiful palaces ever built.
4. Visit Sadar Market. Most tourists go to Sadar Market to see the Ghanta Ghar—the clock tower. Going up the clock tower will give you a great view of the market but the real attraction is, in my opinion, on the ground and in the many stalls lining the roads. My husband sampled the lassi at Shri Mishrilal just to the right of the market’s main entrance. It’s claimed to be one of the best in India, and I’m inclined to believe as my Indian husband, who also happens to be
insanely picky quite particular when it comes to his Indian sweets, gave it two thumbs up. My prized purchase is a special masala mix which I discovered after following a long cue of locals. It’s literally a hole in the (left) wall of the main entrance to the market. You’ll need to dodge the steady flow of traffic going into the market, but it will be worth it.
5. Eat at Priya. Recommended by our auto driver, we headed to Priya for dinner which was just down the street from Sadar Market. It’s as frills-free as a local joint can be—there are no doors because the restaurant’s tables and chairs start where the curb ends. The cutlery do not match and there is no air-conditioning. It’s completely open to all the noise and odours from the traffic on the street—which is but a few feet away. In short, it isn’t the ‘typical’ western restaurant. But none of these things will matter the moment you dig into your thali . Priya is by far the best Indian food we’ve had in all of India, and the world. (I cannot emphasize how big this statement is!) It is a must-visit when in Jodhpur.
6. Catch the sunrise. Do not leave Jodhpur without watching the sunrise from Mehrangarh Fort. If you’re a photographer, you’ll want to be in position before the light which means you’ll be making your way up the fort in the dark. So plan ahead on how you’ll get there—either book a car or an auto the day before ideally through your hotel’s concierge or a trusted person/company. It was still dark when we reached the fort the morning we watched the sunrise. We discovered that we’re not allowed to enter the actual fort but we found a good spot right outside by the parking lot. Together with a couple of stray dogs in deep slumber, we were the only tourists there. It was so serene and watching the sun slowly cast its golden light over the blue city of Jodhpur was simply beautiful—almost spiritual. Other tourists arrived when the sun was already significantly high up in the horizon—they were a little too late and the rich colours of the sky at dawn have already disappeared. Jodhpur is fairly small and easy to see but catching the sunrise is the one activity that will require some discipline in planning and execution—but trust me, you’ll be glad you set that alarm early.
After catching the sunrise and 24 hours in Jodhpur, we kicked off the second leg of our trip with an eight-hour drive to Udaipur. Coming next!