A Travellerspoint blog

Jodhpur to Udaipur by "coach"

Udaipur (29/9/2007)

sunny 35 °C
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This morning we rose early and made our way to Mandore Park on the outskirts of Jodhpur. Peaceful though fairly dilapidated, it was a tranquil contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city. Upon entering we were serenaded by an infant playing Frère Jacques on some kind of makeshift violin. I handed him one rupee.

We spotted the monkeys almost immediately. Most were swinging through the trees as you'd expect though some were on the ground accepting fruit from the groundsman. I never realised that monkeys were fussy eaters until I noticed one particular furry fellow inspect at least 3 apples before deciding upon one that met his approval, carefully placing the rejects back into the box! Some of the monkeys would take apples back to their mates in the trees. At one point a scuffle broke out between two of them with Dean and his camera being caught in the crossfire!

Apart from the monkeys the park has an impressive set of 400 year old temples, though I suspect this will be surpassed by what's awaiting us at Khajuraho.

We headed back into town, settled our account at the hotel, and decided on one last look around Jodhpur before embarking on our voyage to Udaipur. As mentioned in the LP Guide to India we found the "Omelette Shop" right next to the Clock Tower, a local landmark, and decided to sample some of the specialties on offer. Two omelette sandwiches later, we're ready to roll. We take a pre-paid taxi to the bus station and board the coach.

This experience travelling by coach was not great. After six hours of driving on bumpy roads in the sweltering heat and dust, narrowly avoiding oncoming truckies, we arrive in Udaipur dirty and exhausted. The scenery was fairly unspectacular, although there was a stretch of about 20 kilometres that contained nothing but marble retailers. This was obviously the marble and granite heartland of India.

We pull into Udaipur at around 8:00 pm and hail a taxi directly to the hotel. After befriending a couple of fellow travellers (and solving their internet problems) we all decide to grab a bite to eat in the old town. Because the streets are almost
deserted (in contrast to Delhi and Jodhpur), we decide to return early.

Tomorrow we shall attack Udaipur!

Posted by scottness 01:58 Archived in India Tagged transportation Comments (0)

Mehrangarh - the fort in Jodpur

Jodhpur (28/9/2007)

sunny 30 °C
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At ~ 8:00 am we pull into Jodhpur train station, roughly two hours late. As promised, there's a man holding a sign with my name on it and pretty soon we're hurtling along the Jodhpuri streets in a motorised rickshaw with a 170 decibel Bollywood compilation tape blaring away as accompaniment. As opposed to their Delhi counterparts, Jodhpuri taxis have a yellowish hue.

Everything seems cleaner and more laid back here, although I guess that could be said about any city on earth after coming from Delhi. The fort dominates the skyline - the imposing red walls of Mehrangarh seems to grow out of the ridge rising above the old part of town.

Our hotel is the Krishna Prakash and it immediately becomes apparent that this is a quantum leap above the Star Paradise. Clean rooms, working toilet, whitewashed walls, a courtyard with fountain, restaurant...etc. Without much further ado, we dump our bags and head straight to the shaded, outside restaurant and order copious amount of coffee, orange juice, omellettes, baked beans, toast and jam.

The fort towers directly above us so pretty soon the cameras are pulled out of their holsters. It soon becomes apparent that the only way to fully capture Mehrangarh is to take separate shots, making a panorama by utilising Canon's "photo-stitch" function (the Canon instruction manual is getting pretty dog-eared by now).

jodhpur_mehrangarh_1.jpg

After breakfast and a nap, we're on our way, meandering through the narrow streets of the old town to the base of Mehrangarh. It's very hot and clear and I've already guzzled half the water in my bottle. We talk to locals along the way, none of whom try to sell us anything! But several want to show us their banknote collections. That's right - I've never met anyone in my life who collects banknotes and within ten minutes I've met two on the streets of Jodhpur! The first guy had no Aussie notes in his collection so Dean offered him his only tenner, the equivalent of roughly 330 rupees.

We opt for the 250 rupee audio guided tour of Mehrangarh and pretty soon we're two westerners wandering the fortifications with camera and headphones, attracting the bemused stares of the locals. Along with the obligatory tour of the fortifications and palaces, the tour gave a rundown of the fort's history - an interesting fact being that it was built by Rajput kings, the descendent of which is still alive today. Most impressive of all are the views over the city. It quickly becomes apparant why Jodhpur is known as the "blue" city - the honeycomb of apartments and "havelis" down below are a distinctive shade of blue.

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Dinner was at "Kalinga" near the station and it was superb - we sampled several Rajasthani specialties including a saffron flavoured lassi. A table of European couples next to us ordered spaghetti bolognese and cokes, and finished it off with a hand of cards!! It seemed it was up to us to give Europeans a good name in front of the Indian waiters!

Posted by scottness 01:54 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

The overnighter from Delhi to Jodhpur

Delhi - Jodhpur (27/9/2007)

30 °C

We made our way to the "Merrygo" Travel Agent where we dumped our bags, grabbed some food, and updated our blogs at a local Internet Cafe.

Back to the Agent at 15:00. Everything's ready + booked. We leave for Old Delhi train station. As usual, everything there is pandemonium - a gigantic jumble of rickshaw drivers, travellers, soldiers, beggars, hawkers...but we're almost the only European tourists! We inspect the departures board and there it is: the Delhi-Jodhpur express - leaving at 17:45 from platform 17.

Dean waits by the bags, while I wander. Platform 17 must be several miles long and after walking for several minutes I decide to head back. Getting closer to departure time now, we decide to grab a couple of vegie dhosas at the grimy station cafe before heading off. With 20 minutes to go and still no sign of the train (and no platform departure signs), we were starting to get worried, when the platform guard wanders up and casually informs us that the express is now leaving from platform 4.

Hot-legging it over to platform 4 we realise we're at the right platform on account of the general level of pandemonium. We find the sleeper carriage, barge our way in, and there it is: a whole family sitting in our seats! Luckily our self-appointed porter was able to translate and explain - the seating arrangements had been changed at the last minute! All seat allocations had been re-arranged and the results posted outside the carriage.

OK, now we're in the right seats. Half an hour later, the express rolls out of the station and we spend the next hour sitting at an open door, watching the suburbs of Delhi and its citizens roll by in the twilight - block after dilapidated block of people socialising on the streets, children playing on the tracks, groups huddled around hawkers selling food from wheelbarrows, small factories and sweatshops chugging away, beggars scouring rubbish heaps - everywhere the stench of cow dung, smoke, food, rotting garbage and fuel oil.

The trip was fairly uneventful, if uncomfortable (train sleepers aren't designed to accommodate both a backpacker PLUS their backpack). The meal was OK - after finishing I was at a loss as what to do with the container as there seemed to be no suitable garbage containers. I asked the carriage guard - he simply grabbed the tray and threw it out the door into the Delhi night!

Posted by scottness 01:50 Archived in India Tagged transportation Comments (0)

Exploring Delhi (2)

Delhi - 26/9/2007

sunny 30 °C
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After starting the day with "omplette", toast, jam, spuds and coffee (at the good 'ol Diamond Cafe in the 'ganj), we made our way to the Travel Agent's to check on our booking.

Not yet being ready, our agents offered us a complimentary tour of the sights of Delhi while we were waiting. So off we went with our allotted driver Rajeesh, with the understanding that we were bound for the Red Fort.

20 minutes later and still on the freeway, we were starting to get concerned until a large minaret appeared on the horizon. This was the Qutb Minar and after exiting the taxi our driver showed us around. Very impressive - the site consists of a monstrous minaret covered in intricate carvings (presumably passages from the Koran) and ruins of temples and palaces.

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Next stop was the obligatory shopping "emporium", followed by the Red Fort (Lal Qila). For this we were transferred to an open air rickshaw and after a hair-raising ride through the streets of Delhi (there is no concept of traffic lanes in this country! Nor of motorcycle helmets.) we were dumped at the front gate of the fort and our driver informed us that he would expect us back in about an hour.

The Red fort is huge - several acres surrounded by a huge wall and (empty) moat. Within the Fort's walls are numerous white marble palaces, harem's, barracks and manicured gardens. Our guide (self-allocated, of course, at the entrance) explained to us that the emperer who built it (Shah Jahan - mid 1600's) made every effort to incorporate every style of architecture in the construction so as not to offend any of his multi-ethnic subjects. The fort is still heavily fortified, with (what looks like) an anti-aircraft gun mounted on a tripod pointing directly at the entrance queue.

delhi_red_fort.jpg

Next stop was the Old Delhi markets. Now, I thought the markets near our hotel were impressive, but the Old Delhi markets take the cake. Our rickshaw driver weaved his way miraculously through kilometres of winding alleyways stuffed to the brim with stalls, people, drivers carrying goods...etc. Whole alleyways seemed to be devoted to just one type of product eg: books, saris, wedding paraphenalia etc.

The rickshaw tour culminated with the Jama Masjid - the largest mosque in India. After checking in our shoes at the entrance, we wondered around the courtyard (large enough to hold 25000 worshippers), enjoying the feel of cool marble beneath our feet.

After some hectic haggling, we bade our rickshaw driver farewell and drove back to Connaught Place with our original driver. We made few side trips to emporiums on the way, but by this stage we were too tired to protest, and resigned ourselves to playing the shopping emporium "game" with Rajeesh.

That evening we found a bar called "DV8", and relaxed with a few Kingfishers (a local beer), and because it was happy hour, the odd Long Island Tea.

Posted by scottness 01:47 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Exploring Delhi

Delh - 25/9/2007

sunny 30 °C
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After a cold shower I ventured out into the hazy and humid Delhi morning. The market is packed with all manner of stalls, touts, tourists and cows. After taking breakfast at the Diamond Cafe (recommended by the Lonely Planet Guide) we decide to take a walk around.

Within minutes we're besieged by touts who seem to sense that we're India "newbies". Dean had his first run-in with the Delhi constabulary: we were acosted by a tout who proceeded to take us to the "Government Tourist Ofice". After receiving some hostile glances from the surrounding locals, a police car appeared out of nowhere and proceeded to drag our allotted tout away. This incensed Dean, who proceeded to voice his displeasure to the cop: "Jeez, can't you even simply talk to somebody in this country?". After having his name jotted down by the indifferent cop, Dean is now residing under the "undesirable aliens that give lip" file at the Indian Dept of Immigration.

Within nanoseconds our detained tout was replaced by a fresh tout who took us to the Tourist Office via auto-rickshaw. "Gulzar" explained that he would wait for us while we organized the Rajasthan leg of our grand subcontinent tour.

The agent's suggested itinerary turned out to be unsatisfactory as it seemed to include every 2-bit Indian village west of Delhi, with the sole means of transport between them being a "van" (he obviously had a lot of paying contacts out in the Rajasthani desert). Confused, we decided to "think about it" over a few beers at our hotel.

Lunch - This was at the Sagar Ratna, near Connaught Place, chosen on account of its sparkling write-up in the LP. Upon arrival, we were dubious as the menu contained only vegetarian dishes, but after a couple of dhosa's (a kind of South Indian pancake filed with vegies) we were won over.

We then asked our new tout to take us to a "Government Emporium", a state-run market mentioned in the LP. Big mistake. We were immediately driven to the tout's uncle's souvenir shop.

The one silver lining in this episode was that we were dropped off in front of the tourist office that proceeded to plan and book the Rajasthani leg of our trip. This was "MerryGo Travels" on Connaught Place. The itinerary includes Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Pushkar, Agra, Varanasi and Khajuraho.

The logistics involved with booking all the hotels and transport link-ups meant that we were offered a free sightseeing tour while we waited. The tour included the India Gate, Government House and various Government Departmental Buildings (I felt like I was on a tour of Canberra). Our guide made frequent photo stops and even allocated us a little shopping R&R. All he requested in return was that we write him a glowing review in his visitor's book, along with the obligatory tip.

Dinner that night was a lacklustre affair at the York Hotel in Connaught Place followed by a few overpriced beers at the "PiccaDelhi", a nearby bar.

Posted by scottness 01:42 Archived in India Tagged preparation Comments (0)

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