The only thing you are sure about when you make a roundtrip in India is that you simply cannot skip Rajasthan. Why? Because the state is described as the land where all the tales of the Arabian Nights are set. Because the tradition of real princes is nowhere as obvious as it is here. And because you can ride camels in the desert.
Well, I didn’t get to go on a camel tour myself unfortunately. Good thing I got the opportunity to ride a camel before in Puri, right? Udaipur is typically the place where these tours take place, but in March and April it is way too hot. This and the fact that our schedule was already super tight made us decide to skip this activity. But if you go during winter season, you should definitely go. Apparently, every angle in Udaipur is a photo genetic one!
After a long train ride from Delhi, we arrived in Jodhpur. Dad and I had to travel in different classes. To make the story short, what happened was: we booked our beds too late and were on a waiting list. Apparently, this journey is particularly popular. The moment we had to board the train, we officially had only one ticket (in first class). In our compartment (which had four beds instead of the usual eight), one of our fellow passengers had an extra ticket for third class that was not being used. He just gave it to us. How generous can someone be?!
Seeing as I had traveled several times already in third class and my dad wasn’t as comfortable with his first time taking a train in India, I offered to take the third-class ticket. But in the end, I stayed in the first class because for a second I had forgotten that, of course, this is India and probably it wouldn’t be appropriate if I were to stay alone in third class… And since the men in our compartment seemed really nice, and kind, and helpful, it seemed like the best solution. (And honestly, I slept much better in first class!)
In Jodhpur, we had to arrange everything ourselves. At the train station, I booked an Ola and ordered chai while we waited. I keep thinking it’s so funny when the chaiwalla (a guy serving tea) makes a face when I go order with them. Actually, this tea, when it is served in the street, is a poor people’s drink (or at least that’s what I’ve been told). But I can’t help it I like it so much!
Our Ola driver took us to the hotel. Balsamand Lake Palace used to be a real palace. Even in the hotel itself you can easily spend half a day discovering the grounds. While we were waiting until the room was ready, we got some more masala chai. Then another guy appeared with a giant golf cart to take us and our luggage to the room.
Let me take a moment to describe our room, because it was quite spectacular. After walking into the building’s marble hall, we climbed up the marble stairs and arrived at a double door which looked like it could be the entrance to a dungeon. The doors opened into a giant room. Our room. More marble. The ceiling reached several meters above us. There were two super soft beds, a living room area, two desks, a swing bed and the windows were completely made of colored glass art. On each side of the room there was a bathroom also… completely made of marble. In any other western country, this could be the presidential suite. But still, we didn’t pay that much more than a junior suite in London for example.
As it was more than 40° Celsius in Jodhpur (+100°F), the first thing we did was go for a refreshing dive in “the royal pool”, where we stayed until the highest temperature peak had passed. Then we made our way into the old city. Being alone at this pool at this time of the day, it really felt like we were enjoying our own private oasis. sigh
Jodhpur is also known as the Blue City, and you can see why as soon as you go to higher places. We discovered the Old Town and braved the busy market where bracelets, bangles, saree fabric, spices and more were being sold. But from here, you can’t really tell the city is “blue”.
I also had my dad taste his first pani puri, but since he was already not feeling too good while adjusting to the Indian food – which is totally normal obviously – he only tasted one. Pani puri is a typical street food from Rajasthan. It is a kind of crunchy rice ball. With your thumb you push a hole into it and fill it with spiced water (pani means water by the way). It’s a bit hot.
But beware! Standard rule in India: if you try street food, always go where the Indians go. This way, chances are already a bit higher that the food is prepared (relatively) more hygienically. Trying pani puri is actually taking an unnecessary risk of getting sick: you don’t know if the water that is used was filtered for starters. Lucky me that I choose a good stall!
I booked a new Ola to take us to On The Rocks, which was recommended to us by one of the passengers in my compartment in the train. The best way I can describe it is as a cave complex filled with restaurants, shops and bars. That night we decided to sit outside on the patio underneath the starry sky.
The next morning the Ola cab took us to the 600 year-old Mehrangarh Fort, also known as “the Petra of Rajasthan”, because it looks like the fort is made out of the rock itself. It is a very exhausting place to visit in this heat. You have to climb up and down a few steep hills. But once you reach the top you will experience why Jodhpur is known as the Blue City! Inside the fort you also have a few museums, which will let you cool down a bit. A short tuktuk ride out of the fort you can also visit a beautiful temple called Jaswant Thada. A famous maharaja (i.e. Indian king) is buried here.
At noon, we had the idea of having lunch in the most impressive (and expensive) hotel in the city: Umaid Palace. But just to get inside, you’ll need to come up with Rs. 10,000 (or €140). So we turned around and went back to On The Rocks. As the heat wasn’t doing my dad any good on top of how he was already feeling, we decided to spend the afternoon at the hotel pool again.
The last evening, we had dinner at another restaurant that was recommended to us by the same guy from the train. Hawant Mahal is located on the top of a mountain and comes with a spectacular view of the city lights and Umaid Palace. The food was also amazing and plentiful.
The next morning, we prepared to leave quite early. We were going on another train ride to continue our journey in Rajasthan. On the way to Jaipur!