Despite my policy of saying Yes, there is a time I tend to say No. Getting off a train and being confronted by auto drivers and various other touts and hasslers. I brush past them saying No, acting like I know what I am doing and where I am going even though I usually have absolutely no idea.
Similarly in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Out of the station and headed off in an arbitrary direction to find a hotel. I didn’t do very well and had walked for about half an hour when an auto driver approached me. Being away from the hustle of the station I asked if he knew a hotel and of course he did.
Perhaps it is owned by his uncle, who cares, if it is a decent place that is all that matters. We head off down the main road, turn down a smaller road, into a dusty laneway and into a smaller dustier laneway if that is possible. I am not optimistic that this will turn out well…but based on my past experiences you already have an idea of the outcome.
He leads me into the Discovery Hotel, a hole in the wall, the foyer is nothing special. Raj the manager is a good doppelganger for my friend Giri, a big smile, friendly, welcoming. He leads me 3 floors up a narrow, steep flight of stairs, 2 days after my Palitana climb this is torture.
But it is well worth the pain. The quaintest, cutest, best maintained hotel I have seen and just outside my room, a stunning view of Jodhpur Fort, just Rs500 ($10). I say I will take it.
Raj is a smart bastard. In a classic “would you like fries with that?” manoeuvre he says “let me show you another room”, we go up a couple more painful steps, around a corner and the room is more or less the same until he throws open a window and there, looming over the hotel is the fort. For an extra Rs300 I am a sucker and upgrade before I have even signed in.
To cap it, there is a roof top restaurant that has 360° views over the Blue City and all the major tourist points Jodhpur has to offer. Not that I have been doing it tough, but this is bliss.
There is something about Jodhpur that elevated it to Favourite City So Far status. The local bazaar is crazy busy, the city is relatively clean, the architecture visually compelling, incredible historical stuff. Bliss.
My first tourist indulgence I hire an auto for a few hours at 1/3 the price quoted on the street the previous day. He takes me to Meheganar Palace,
Maharajahs’ cremation place and tombs
and of course the Meheganar Fort where as usual, foreign tourists pay 10x the entry fee of locals.
But it does included an audio guide, exactly the sort of thing I usually resist and in another surprise, it turns out to be pretty good. Some great background and pointing out features that the average punter would have missed e.g. at the approach to the huge iron main gate there is a right angle turn so that attacking elephants couldn’t get a good run at it, they wouldn’t have wanted to anyway, at elephant head height it was studded with very nasty looking spikes.
On the way back to the hotel my attention was caught by an open space that I couldn’t see into because of a low wall. Open space is pretty unusual in india and I was a bit intrigued by whether it might be a baoli or stepwell. See this post for background. I still don’t understand what made me curious, some sort of intuition? There was nothing at all to indicate anything special. I kept track of the route the auto took and it was effectively one straight street and not far.
A 10 minute walk back, as I approached I noticed a couple of tourists and a guide leaving, now I was very curious. Up 2 or 3 steps and my breath was taken away by the first full on baoli I have seen.
Read the article linked to in the last post for more about these incredible structures. This was just awesome and now I am more determined to hunt them down, I have heard of one in Jaipur, where I am heading tomorrow.
Off to Pushkar on a 0700 train meant being vigilant about getting enough sleep and waking early enough. I had just dozed off when there was some thumping music in the street below and a peek out the window showed a crowd forming.
That’s enough for me, clothes on, grab camera and into the throng. I had no idea, but it wasn’t hard to work out that this rather wooden looking guy was getting married.
The procession continued, I tried to get back to sleep.
And the post title? A hat tip to HHGTTG (no spoilers in comments!)