Posted in fort, india, Jaswant Thada, Jodhpur, north indian, palace, Rajasthan, Toorji ka jhalra, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Uncategorized

Simplicity at its best – Jodhpur!

Before the sun unleashes hell upon us North Indians and before the sweaty ambience of monsoon takes over us, it is always advisable to visit the many towns of Rajasthan and enjoy the Rajput culture there.

Jodhpur is one place which you can easily cover on a weekend with no extra holidays to think about. An evening bus from Delhi to Jodhpur with a 10 hour journey or an overnight train from Sarai Rohilla train station to Jodhpur city is comfortable enough.

Unfortunately for us, we had chosen an Amar Travels sleeper Volvo and the journey turned out to be disastrous for us. First they shifted us to a different bus after crossing Delhi. Then in the middle of the night after crossing Jaipur, the bus developed a technical issue due to which the bus operators decided to shift us to a different Amar Travels bus. The problem was that we girls were safely provided the same sleeper seat but the other passengers had to adjust and hence an ensuing ruckus that lasted two hours. I won’t go into more gory details but it is absolutely unsafe to travel by Amar Travels – the worst bus operator.

We reached Jodhpur at 9:30 a.m. and decided to travel by Ola to our hotel instead of the local autos because they charge double. Our stay was at Mapple Abhay and we were quite pleased with their hospitality.

Our morning breakfast was 3 egg omelette and Poori-Bhaajhi and the taste was satisfactory.

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Since we were sleep deprived and tired on the first day, we decided to visit Umaid Bhawan Palace. Now Umaid Bhawan Palace is situated on a small hillock and while returning, you will have to wait for atleast 10 minutes for your cab.

The museum at the palace is informative and well maintained. The courtyard, the parallel arches and the innovative table & wall clocks are beautiful and enchanting. The only disappointment is that the major portion of the palace has been closed off to the tourists, so we actually missed many beautiful facets of Rajput architecture.

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The Rajput royal family has been known to have a grand collection of vintage cars and they are displayed in a separate enclosure near the gardens. Do not miss to feast your eyes!

After an hour at the palace, we returned to our hotel for some rest and then went to Toorji ka Jhalra – the Instagram famous step well in the old Jodhpur area. It is in the market area behind the clock tower and locals will help you in finding it. But if you wish to take good photographs with least human interference or shall I call it diving experiences, then better to come in the wee hours of the day. Nonetheless, on the steps towards the main platform, we spotted many sparrows – a beautiful sight to look at considering they are almost extinct in the cities.

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The lunch was followed at 4pm at Sree Ram Bhojnalaya. We had Chakke ki sabzi with chappatis. The chakke ki sabzi is actually a curry based dish prepared out of fried bread squares. This is something which you will only get in Jodhpur.

After that, we went to the Emporiam where we bought Bandhej suits. The myriad assortment of colours will indeed baffle you.

The next day was reserved for the famed Mehrangarh fort. A short cab ride in the morning and voila, we were at the lofty gates of the fort. The fort is situated on a hillock so better to wear your sports shoes because the ascent does take a toll on your feet. A small passageway and you are greeted with a local lute player singing Rajasthani folk songs.

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The jharokhas, the rustic doors, the courtyards and the arches are the perfect places to click and get snapped as well. The sun was not that harsh in early April so we were able to traverse comfortably.

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The terrace area where the canons are placed is one area not to miss at the fort. The whole view of the Jodhpur city is visible from there and my my, what a site to feast your eyes with.

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There is also a temple in the fort complex and the passage towards that has miniature windows on the railing side. You can sit there for hours and keep marvelling at the site outside.

Our next stop was Jaswant Thada, a beautiful carved marble cenotaph in the memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh. The intricate marble gazebos, the flower gardens erected in neat geometrical rows and the water ponds with fresh lotus blooms will steal your heart away.

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There is a small lake behind Jaswant Thada with hillocks guarding it and the scenery is worth a thousand moments to glance into.

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The return to Delhi was with a comfortable sleeper Volvo of Jain Travels. The bus operators were very helpful and even told us to come to a bus stop which was safe for ladies for boarding. A cue for my next trip to Rajasthan!

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Posted in amber, amber fort, city palace, fort, hawa mahal, jaigarh fort, jaipur, palace, the lalit, travel, travel diaries, traveller, travelogue, Uncategorized

Long Weekend Getaway – Jaipur Diaries

I am not the sort of traveller to keep a bucket list but Jaipur had been on my mind for a very long time. The pink city, with its rich history and grandeur, has never failed to entice anyone and who am I to not get seduced by those perfect picturesque forts and colourful palaces?

I am glad that I am currently residing in the national capital which is pretty near to Jaipur.  The X-mas weekend was the only opportunity for me to finally fulfil my dream of visiting this mesmerising city and learn about the Rajput culture. A 45 minute flight saved my time.

Day 1

Arrival time at Jaipur airport: 10:30am.

Place of stay: The Lalit, Jaipur. It is within 2km distance of the airport and a 10 minute Ola ride through wide and smooth roads took me there.

The Lalit is a four star premium hotel but the way the staff at the reception treated my check-in was third grade. I had booked a suite for three women and had talked to them previously that I want to do the check-in by 11am. The reception personnel said that I cannot check-in before 11:30am and I have to pay 9510 bucks for the special and compulsory Gala Dinner. I was short of money on that day and had to save for the trip as well, so it was not possible for me to pay the whole amount in one go. The reception staff refused the check me in without that payment and they did this with other travellers also, some of whom were students.

The room assigned to me was a normal deluxe room with two queen size beds with no space for a third bed. When I asked the service guy that where will he keep the third bed, he pointed to the only walking space in the room. A suite is supposed to have a king size bed, an extra table and sofas with enough space for a single bed, but here, I could not see any such amenities. When I called up the reception, they were clueless. After returning to the reception and having a conversation with the manager, I paid half the amount for the gala dinner on 24th and was assigned the suite that I had booked.

In ideal conditions, our suite should have had three sets of cutlery, toiletries and other provisions. But I think the staff here is too dumb to understand that and we were always provided just one set, even when we ordered for in room dining.

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Lunch in the suite: I had ordered Dal Tadka, Dal Baluchi and normal rotis for our lunch. We were provided complimentary mini desserts which were in the prettiest shapes – a lipstick, mascara, a pair of lips etc. Both the Dals were amazing in taste and full of flavours with the rotis reminding of the home made variety we have. The desserts were just sugar painted in different colours and we chose to leave them instead of harming our bellies.

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Hawa Mahal at 4pm:

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It was crowded as hell because of the long weekend but we were able to make through and relish the colourful interiors. The courtyard was soothing and the rooftop is a good place to observe the setting sun. There is World View Café just on the opposite side on the road from where you can climb upstairs and get your picture clicked with Hawa Mahal in the background.

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Virajosa/Night Tour bus at 6pm: We had expected a lot from the night tour bus but this proved to be a damper on our spirits. They started early and asked us to reach Amar Jawan Jyoti (the second stop) instead of the assembly point which was the World Trade Park. We pointlessly waited for 30 minutes – in that time, we would have reached the assembly point and boarded the bus.

We had chosen roof top seats and they assigned us a six seater with a couple. Not good.

We were greeted with vegetarian Manchurian which was average in taste. A cold sandwich with juice and biscuits followed. The rooftop should have been in glass as shown in the pictures but it was covered in a green mesh which marred the experience of beholding the Jaipur skyline in the night.

Usually, in night tours, they have stops at specific places where a guide describes the history of the place but no such thing happened at the various halts mentioned except Jal Mahal. No description was given and we were bundled into jeeps which took us to Nahargarh Fort.

The jeep ride was eventful and scary in the night. The fort is situated on the hills and the winding, dark and deserted roads, cool air and a bumpy ride ensure the adventure which was missing in the bus. The jeep riders also told us about the history of forts here which was a welcome change.

Nahargarh Fort used to be a retreat for the queens of Sawai Madho Singh and a hunting residence for the kings. The city of Jaipur, when alit in the night, presents a beautiful picture from the railings of the fort.

There is a new Sheesh Mahal fashioned at the Nahargarh Fort and the entry fee is 200 bucks. Multi hued mirrors in medieval cuts and patterns greet you as you take a carefully treaded stroll wearing double layered carry bags as footwear. I was reminded of the “Sheesh Mahal special” song from Mughal-e-Azam.

We were offered a vegetarian Rajasthani thali on our way back in the bus and the taste was average.

Back at Lalit, we ordered Masala peanuts and grilled fish with vegetables and potato mash. The peanuts tasted stale and the fish was the only good aspect of the second dish. The vegetables were not sautéed but were boiled and instead of the potato mash, chopped potatoes were there. No class from a 4 star.

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Day2: Because of my stomach infection, we got late and could only venture out for Amber Fort at 8:30 am. Because of the long weekend rush, we reached by 9:45 am and hired an ASI approved local guide. He took us through a short cut passage towards the fort where we encountered the alluring Jagat Shiromani temple which is dedicated to Meera Bai and Lord Krishna and has a huge flight of stairs. The architecture is mesmerising but our dear guide was in a hurry to get more customers so he rushed us through.

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Jalebi chowk – This is the main courtyard which connects the Sun Gate with the rest of the palace. From here, the entrances to the Kali temple, Diwan –i-am and the Shahi Hamam proceed.

Diwan-i-am – A pillared hall on a raised platform with elephants adorning the pillars. You can stand near the railings and revel in the brilliant sunshine and comforting winds.

Diwan-i-khas – Diwan-i-khas of any fort is worth two or three visits. Be it the Agra fort, the Delhi Red fort or even the Mysore Palace, the “hall of the special” is an exquisite world in itself. Amber fort was no different. Sheesh Mahal is one of the main attractions here. Fashioned from marble and having inlaid colourful mirror work, this hall will definitely take your breathe away.

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Jaigarh Fort:

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From Amber, it takes half an hour to reach the Jaigarh Fort which is situated uphill. This fort holds the biggest cannon of the world which was only fired once and its target was 40km away.

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This used to be the stronghold of the royal battalion & defence and was constructed from security point of view. I found this one better than Amber, maybe because of lesser crowd and maybe because of its “fort like” qualities. Tough and imposing walls surround you as you enter this. It is not as ornate as Amber and no embellishments and decorations are there to allure you. But as you move along this one, you get to see Jaipur from the view point of the warriors who used to man the ramparts of Amber. Jal Mahal, Amber, Nahargarh, you name it, and you can view it.

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Because it is situated at a greater height than Amber, the flowing wind soothes your mind and cures you of tiredness as you walk on the hardened stone floor. Langurs, pigeons and parrots carefully move away as you tread towards the light house. What a travel state!

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The Gala dinner at The Lalit on 24th December was disappointing to say the least. The hotel made it compulsory for every traveller but did not make the necessary arrangements for it. We were asked to wait for 10-15 minutes and when we argued against it, the hotel staff mentioned that we are coming at a time of rush. The timings are from 7-10pm and people will come at their own convenience to which the hotel staff does not agree. After many arguments, we were assigned a table.

The cheapness of the hotel does not end here. They were serving the lowest grade of Sula red wine and the food was pathetic. The cold cuts and the cheese tasted stale. I was concerned about my stomach so did not eat much.

Day3: City Palace

Our plan was to explore the city palace for an hour and then rush back to the airport for our flight. But thanks to an ignorant cab driver who instead of listening to us and following our directions to the destination followed his own gut feeling and got us to Taj Mahal Palace hotel (imagine the frustration), we only got 15 minutes for the residential palace.

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I think I am getting exhausted of writing on and on that how clean the palaces and forts of Jaipur are. The frescoes and cravings are maintained till date and the colours and the beauty intact. There is a queue for getting snapped at the famed peacock door and you do require patience for that.

I wish to visit Jaipur again because there are so many places that I was unable to visit and so many dishes to hog on.

Jaipur, let us meet again!