As I set foot out of the Jodhpur railway station on January 2nd, 2020, all I wanted to find was the much hyped “blue” in the Marwar region of Rajasthan, Jodhpur, also known as the Sun City of India.
Somehow, Umed Bhavan didn’t capture my interest. Instead, I decided to focus on the grand Mehrangadh Fort. After reaching the palace, and the usual drill of security check, long line for tickets, and audio guide, I joined the long line of tourists to see one of the 33 spots of historical importance at the fort.
The grandeur of structure on a sandstone mountain loomed over me like a beautiful Giant. I got me wondering what it would been like to travel back in time, when the Raus of Marawar ruled Jodhpur. What would it have been every time the kind marched on his horse or the elephant after triumphantly winning a battle? what would it have been like for Rapunzel to be an Indian Character trapped in of those high towers? The fort is an aesthetic marvel and gifted creation from the past.
My next stop was the the Canon Point, in the fort, gives you a good view of Jodhpur city as well.On my way there, I struck up a conversation with a young man, who, to my surprise, was a graduate in history and was working on documentation of the history and its evidence at Jodhpur. I also met a local musician, Nainuram, and got to know his life and music.
I was still mystified about the missing blue in the blue city.There has been so much branding about Jodhpur as the Blue City, that it was a disappointment to not see the town painted blue. It appeared the Sun City had bowled over the blue of the Blue City.
My curiosity got me talking to a local about it. He said, “If you want to see what is blue about Blue City, then walk to the farthest point of the fort ahead of the canon point.” You will reach a temple. Go behind the temple and there are some vantage points that will let you have a view of the Blue City. “
He also suggested that I immerse myself in the Blue City by walking through it and accessing the 2 water bodies at the back entrance of the fort from “Nav Chokia”.
It got me motivated to explore further. I reached the temple. The backside of the temple had a little window to peep through.
Finally there it was – The Blue City
The sun had set, and it was time for me to find my way back into the city.
Another pleasant surprise was my walk to the Clock Tower, or Ghantaghar, the market square in Jodhpur via the winding stone-paved path just beside the fort’s entrance. I caught the night-lit views of the fort and enough visuals of the local settings in the old part of Jodhpur City.
Stay and accommodation in Rajasthan is generally on the higher side, especially in season. The season in Rajasthan is from October to February. There are several hostels in Jodhpur, most of which are located close to the Ghantaghar (Clock Tower) Area. These are all the good names, like Zostel, Hostelavie, etc. Some very up-market hotel names like 360° Panorma at Pal Haveli are also there. Upmarket hotel accommodation is available inside the Mehrangarh Fort.
I stayed at a budget hotel very close to the Jodhpur railway station called Hotel Shiva. There were families as well as groups staying in the hotel. Room charges were Rs. 800 per night. No hot water was available, and the quality of the beds and facilities was just about average. We would have paid the same amount had we stayed at the hostel. I strongly recommend staying at a hostel. They are close to the tourist places and most of them offer a great view as well.
What to See
The top most touristy places to see are Umed Bhavan, Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada, Mandor Fort, Ghantaghar, and Osiyan Temple (about 60 km away from Jodhpur).
For Slow and Budget Travellers
My focus was primarily on the areas around Mehrangarh Fort. It took me a good 4 hours to explore this fort and its nooks and corners. The fort houses a museum of exhibits from the historical era as well. I walked down from the Mehrangarh fort to the Ghantaghar area. This walking trail is one of the best kept secrets in Jodhpur.
The next day, I walked from Ghantaghar to Nav Chokia. The way leads to the back entrance of the fort, which houses two beautiful and not-to-be-missed water bodies. Nav Chokia is the place to be if you want to experience the Blue Cityfor what it is. It is ancient. Some of the structures are a few hundred years old and seem to have stood the test of time. It is a must-do if you are a traveller by foot, bike, or any other budget format.
Local villagers recommended that I take the walking path to visit Jaswant Thada. This was another worthwhile trail. Jaswant Thada is a nice marble structure near a water body. From this place, you can get a mesmerising view of Jodhpur City and also of the fort.
The entrance fee at the fort was about Rs. 300 (entry and audio guide).
The entrance fee at Jaswant Thada was Rs. 30.
Since I didn’t visit the Umed Palace, I don’t know the entry fee, but I managed to see photographs of the clock collections and the car collections at the palace. As I understand it, the royal family stays at the palace, so a very small part of it was converted into a museum of sorts.
Mandor Fort is about 9 kms from the city. This can be accessed by train and then an autorikshaw or by taking a rickshaw.
I took the train to Jodhpur from Jaisalmer. The sleeper class ticket fare was about Rs.575. On a budget trip and in the right weather, the AC train can be totally given a miss. People on the train were kind and accommodating. There were no incidents of thieving either.
Taxis, auto-rickshaws, and other local transport are easily available.
I moved around using the hitch hike, shared auto model, and foot.A lot of this can be covered on foot. You don’t have to pay more than Rs. 10 or Rs. 20 when you use a shared auto.
The Uber service is poor. Taking a regular autorickshaw or TukTuk would be better. Negotiate shamelessly. No one feels bad.
A Special Musical Performance
After enjoying Mehrangarh fort on foot for over 4 hours, the mood of the day was to devour some laal mans and garlic naan. The winding stone-paved road and my search for Rajasthan’s more revered dish led me to a corner building which hoarded a sign saying “Live Classical Music Performance.” There were some foreigners trying to make their way into the building.
I paused my search for laal mas and stepped into this little performance space. The tourists were beginning to lose patience waiting for the performers, and they were as brattish as 5-year-olds, trying their hand at the tabla, and, of course, endless side-eyed selfies with a pout. After a brief wait, two young men stepped in with instruments. They laid out the Santoor and the Saarangi. The men explained the instruments.
The Santoor is an instrument with 100 strings and lets out sounds that are meditative, pleasant, and set the mood of happiness for the listeners. With Arbaaz on the santoor, he managed to take us through an elating and enthralling experience. Soon, his multi-talented brother, who accompanied Arbaaz on the Tabla, unpacked a vintage Saarangi. The sarangi is a desert violin, which has 36 strings and is connected to four main strings bunched with horse hair. It lets out music, which is very much akin to intense vocal expressions.
I asked if he could play something in Raag Yaman (Kalyani in Classical), and he generously played an outstanding composition to mark the end of the evening. I set out to find my gastronomic muse, the legendary Laal Mans of Rajasthani Cuisine, after making my Rs. 300 contribution and thanking them.
Eatsin the Blue City
For breakfast, we ate a place called Janata, which is brand with over 400 shops. Kachori chaat was very nice. Price Rs.35
On the road towards Ghantaghar (Clock Tower) There is a Shahi Kachori, a corner shop just before the clock tower. Price is Rs.20 from what I remember for both Pyaz (Onion) Kachori and Samosa. While the place is usually over crowded, I felt the items were salty. The stock is always fresh though.
Bombay Tea shop on the same road has some amazing bun maska. Price Rs.15. They serve chai, but I didn’t enjoy what they served. Price of Chai is 10 for what they call as single chai and it is quite a size.
Past the Clock tower, as you enter the road towards Pal Haveli, there are crowded tea shops who serve Kulad Chai at Rs.30. I found the coffee to be better Justified. Price Rs.15
Just opposite to these tea shops there is a much talked about Omelette shop. You wont miss it. They open after 11.00 am and stay open until night. They have an excellent menu of omlettes. I tried the “Cheese Masala Omlette”. very good and filling indeed. It cost me Rs.60. It is well reviewed in tripadvisor and tripto, but it also seemed like a local favourite. It is usually crowded, you are unlikely to miss it.
Managed to find a place called “Curry’s”. This is the roof top cafe above Zostel, Jodhpur. The order was served without much too much wait. I judge the dish 2.5 on 5.0. It missed the dominance of garlic, which needed to cut through the red chilly powder and the fat in the dish. Nevertheless, the succulence of the meat (chevon) and their Rajasthani hospitality was worthy of mention. The bill was about Rs.400. With slight disappointment I set out to explore some dessert. Mishrilal’s Doodh Bhandar is a vintage milk and sweet shop near the Clock Tower and is known for a few dishes. The Makahni Lassi and Doodh Jilebi. I pursued the Makhani Lassi which is glass of sweet yogurt with a dollop of home made white butter in it. While I couldn’t finish it, I must mention is a wonderful treat that you shouldn’t miss. Price is Rs.40.
Ended both days in gratitude to the numerous people who made my exploration of Mehrangarh Fort, Rajathani music, It’s food and finally in being able to scout and spot the “Blue in the Blue City” and further “Immersing in the Blue” a very memorable travel.
If there are any other questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section. I will happy to answer and connect with you.