It was mid-August 2016 when I was scheduled to visit Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh with friends. The weather report said it was raining cats & dogs at our selected travel destination. And NO I am not embarrassed to tell you that we actually did make up our mind to visit some place else. I started to check for other weekend destinations near Delhi and the first name that struck me was Jodhpur. I checked bus tickets as I was unsure that we could get seats in any of the trains. Rupees 600 it showed as the bus fare between Delhi and Jodhpur and it made me quite happy…
…So did I go on a Jodhpur trip? AH, No. Why? Because it wasn’t meant to happen this way, I guess (pssst…some of the friends [you know I love you guys, right!] were adamant that they wanted to visit Jabalpur). So, yes Jabalpur happened with friends and to let you know it was an amazing trip, we got completely drenched but it was good fun.
August was about to end but the thought of Jodhpur still haunted my thoughts. I know it would sound too dramatic but I have to say it, it was like a ‘Calling’, I had to go or else I would never be able to sleep in peace. I daydreamed about witnessing the panoramic view of the ‘Blue City’ from the majestic Mehrangarh Fort and walking on the cold marble floor of Jaswant Thada. I even pictured myself relaxing in a heritage hotel and visiting the grand Umaid Bhawan Palace in my new clothes that I had brought for some get together that unfortunately could not take place. Oh, I was so excited about Jodhpur that if I had wings I would have immediately flown to it.
It is true that in my circle of friends, I am the one who come up with maximum number of travel plans. Since Jodhpur was ‘Calling’ me, I had to invite my friends for this trip. I began to pursue them, turned out everyone had some or the other issue and weren’t available for this trip.
‘So, I have to put off this trip for another time,’ I said to myself with a heavy heart.
‘OR, I could go alone,’ I said to myself and my heart started to pound.
With the heart racing like that I thought I had enrolled for some adventure… I had never travelled anywhere alone (apart from the trips to and from hometown), I had only read about them and everyone who wrote said that it is a gateway to find your real self. I don’t know, if I was ready to find myself but something just felt so right yet nerve-racking about this venture.
I said to myself, it was time to take up something like this! So, I finalized the dates and booked ‘Single’ train tickets from Delhi to Jodhpur and vice versa. It felt nice! I got this bizarre idea of announcing my trip on a social media site (pssst… I am not encouraging you to do the same but it has to be mentioned because it is part of the story, so let’s just keep this between you and me, ok?). My inbox was flooded with people who would be happy to host and show me around. However, I was not sure if I should try something so out of the box on my first solo trip until I happened to get a text in the inbox from a gentleman (not sure, if he wants to be named in the blog, so we will call him AKSHAY KUMAR, why? Duhh, because it is my blog and I can’t write anything I want AND of course because he resembled him as well :p).
Ok, so Akshay Kumar texted saying that he would be glad to show me around and that he had his own car as well. I scrutinized his profile and found him harmless (aha, that’s the word that came into my head!). Texted him back, asked for his number and the next I knew we were discussing Jodhpur’s itinerary. He even booked a hotel for me for a night and honestly I suddenly started to feel secure.
My train to Jodhpur was from Sarai Rohilla but the station is a bit far from where I live, so I chose to board from Delhi Cantt Station which is comparatively closer. The train was scheduled to arrive at the station at 10.45Pm and when I checked my watch after reaching the Ladies Waiting Room, it was only 8.45Pm. I had almost two hours to spend on those hard benches, there were few people including a foreigner in the room. I took a corner bench near the window and said to myself, ‘this is it, I am finally doing it!.’
There was a girl sitting next to me, I initiated conversation with her, found out her train was scheduled at 11.30Pm, felt little relieved and then chatted to her some more. The train was 15 minutes late, there was only 2 minutes halt at the station, so I positioned myself where the Coolie said my coach would be. Let me tell you this, when I had booked the ticket, I was given RAC (Reservation Against Cancellation) ticket which got confirmed only on the day of boarding. However, when I reached by compartment, there was no one around! I was like, Hello, did everyone cancel their ticket at the same time? I mean even if there was a family of 7 people who were supposed to be travelling on this day and had to cancel the ticket, then also it was a unique case. Anyway, it was already late, I was tired, so as soon as I showed my ticket to the TC, I drew the curtains (it really felt like sleeping in a hotel/hostel room, and I liked it!), made my bed and was fast asleep. Jodhpur is where I will be tomorrow!
The train was expected to reach at 8.35Am, I was up by 6Am and saw TC sleeping on the opposite lower berth. Checked my phone, had received a text from Akshay Kumar, asking me to give him a call when I am about to reach, he said he would pick me up. I felt so relieved as now I don’t have to go through the haggling drill with the auto drivers.
Train reached on time and Mr. Akshay Kumar was there as soon as I got down from the train. I was first dropped to my hotel for resting and freshening up. Chandra Inn is the hotel where my stay was booked, it is situated at a place called Panch Batti Circle. A decent hotel with sumptuous breakfast it was.
I was given 1.5 hours to rest and then get ready for my first day in Jodhpur. At 10.30Am, I was all set to leave with Akshay Kumar. He briefed me about our plan for the day, we were to first visit Umaid Bhawan Palace, then we would go to Mehrangarh Fort followed by Mandore Gardens and then to Masuriya Hills or Kaylana Lake.
I asked him, if we can stop at some place for breakfast as I did not eat anything nor did I have any tea. He informed me that the best tea in town is served at Bhaati. He suggested that we should get the pyaaz kachori packed and pick up tea from Bhaati and have it in the car itself, to which I agreed. Bhaati is a small tea stall at Ratanada and one can very well estimate its importance by the number of people that are present around it all through the day.
We bought two pieces of pyaaz kachori along with our special Bhaati tea. Kachori was undoubtedly delicious and since I was starving, I ate it up in no time and then I gulped down two glasses of tea AND I was sorted!
It must have taken 5-10mins to reach Umaid Bhawan from Ratanada. The nearer we went to the palace, the royal it became. The road to Umaid Palace still has that regal feel and visiting it is truly an amazing experience. The entry fee is Rs 30 in which you can visit a small section of the palace that includes, an exhibition hall, a royal courtyard and a clock collection museum.
Akshay Kumar said that he has already seen this place quite a few times, so he suggested that I should take this tour alone. I insisted him to come with me but he refused. At the gate I was greeted by the guide who offered a tour of the place. The main hall comprised of the paintings/photographs and model of royal family members and the palace respectively. There is also a TV that offers a virtual tour of the entire palace.
After that the guide took me to the royal corridor, where only two rooms are open for the visitors, the clock collection room and the place where daily use or domestic items once used by the royal family are preserved. By only visiting this part of the palace, one can estimate how lavish this entire mansion is. One can also see the Queen’s Suite situated on the first floor of the building from the courtyard. The clock collection is yet another attraction, here you can witness variety of clocks from around the world that comes from Umaid Singh’s personal collection. This is a must see in the palace. One can peep into the royal ballroom and a few other rooms through the net doors.
“ I am assuming if you took this exorbitant amount of time seeing this place, how long would it take you see the entire Mehrangarh, it is huge,” said Akshay Kumar, when I stepped out. I smiled and said nothing. We then proceeded to visit the Vintage Car Museum, situated in the premises of Umaid Bhawan. I had seen similar or may I say better vintage car museum in Udaipur, so this one didn’t excite me that much. However, if you have not seen a vintage car museum then this one is worth seeing in Jodhpur.
It had become a bit hot by the time we reached Mehrangarh Fort. I was prepared to get soaked in sweat because this place was something that has been haunting my memory for quite some time now. A stone cobbled path leads to the main gate of the fort where one can see the impressions of the cannon balls on the outer walls. The moment you see these, you start to walk back in time and it is amazing! It is slightly a steep climb inside the fort. There were also few Rajasthani folk musicians sitting near the entrance in their traditional attire with Sarangi in their hand, the sound of which I still cannot forget. The melodic sound somehow transported me to another place for sometime, beautiful it was.
Many sections of the fort are open to public, there are rooms that exhibits collections of palanquins, chariots, armours and paintings. The main highlights of Mehrangarh are the Sheesh Mahal, Phool Mahal and Takht Singh Palace. The beauty of each room is how they differ in terms of art, structures, patterns and idea. Unfortunately, the area known for providing best view of the ‘Blue City’ was closed as according to locals, recently a young man died by falling from there. But there are few points from where one can still enjoy a good view of the old Jodhpur city.
We stopped for some water at a spot in the fort where this really old lady offers water from earthen pot. Ah, how sweet and soul soothing is the water from this traditional water vessel. She doesn’t ask for any money from people but you are free to give her whatever suits you. After this, we walked further and it is then Akshay Kumar told me that we have covered everything.
“Not bad, we could see this place in 2 hours,” said he. It actually takes almost 2 hours to see this place even if you are not a history buff, the fort is massive and it does take time to go from one end to the other.
As we drove down from Mehrangarh Fort, the road signs showed two more attractions of Jodhpur in the area, Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park and Jaswant Thada. Since I was so excited about Jaswant Thada and also it was incredibly hot, we skipped the former. Jaswant Thada sits pretty at the bank of a lake. The very first site will make you fall in love with this place. And unlike Mehrangarh Fort, this place was peaceful. We took the tickets but instead of straightaway going to the main hall, we decided to sit in the garden in the shade. Did I tell you that Mr. Akshay Kumar is talented, he composes some of the most prettiest poems which I was able to hear while sitting right there under the tree. We even read about Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park, as he has also never visited the place. The park seemed to display rich flora of the state; I know we should have visited the place, we even thought of going back to it once we finished seeing Jaswant Thada.
We finally got up from the garden and made it to the main hall where, the cool surface of the marble touched the sole of my feet. I could actually feel the difference and this was the experience I was waiting for. This big hall is adorned with portraits and pictures of the royal family of Rathores and the centre has this royal couch on a raised platform around which one is supposed to perform circumambulation.
On our way back, a few foreign tourists asked if we can drop them to a place where the signal reception is better, they wanted to book a cab. We didn’t want to refuse their request, so we decided not to visit Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park that was situated in the opposite direction. We interacted with them and came to know that they had arrived from China and Taiwan and they really liked Jodhpur because it is quieter than other places like Jaipur and Agra, which we agreed to.
This place is located in a busy area and not to mention, it is little ill-maintained as well. Unlike other tourist attractions in Jodhpur, Mandore Garden has been given lesser attention and I still don’t understand the reason why. The place has a group of temples and memorials. There is also high rock terraces where the locals enjoy hiking. I have said it once and let me say it again, this place has great tourism potential and it is time that Jodhpur tourism department should put a bit more effort to make this place popular amongst foreign tourists as well. The temples here reminded me of those in Khajuraho (no erotic sculptures here though). They had similar architectural style and were no doubt pretty.
After seeing Mandore Garden, I went back to my hotel to rest for sometime. Akshay Kumar said in the evening we can visit Masuriya Hills and then enjoy special delicacies of Jodhpur.
In the evening, we first visited a community centre type of place where we savoured Marwari Kulfi, which was good. Then we left for Janta Sweets where we enjoyed the flavoursome thick Makhania Lassi with a dollop of white butter on top, it was something I had never tried elsewhere. Each bite (can’t be called a sip!) of it refreshed me. After finishing this ambrosial like Lassi, we went to a street vendor, where we enjoyed Golgappas with five types of mouthwatering flavours. It felt I was done for the evening but then I remembered of a place that I was suppose to visit in Jodhpur, On the Rocks.
I happened to interact with someone over Instagram, a couple of days before the visit. The person was a native of Jodhpur and shared some of the travel tips as where I should go and what I should not miss out on. Amongst his suggestion was On the Rocks, a modern and a recent lounge in Jodhpur situated in Ajit Colony near Circuit House.
The place is something! From outside it looks like a normal lounge but once you step in, there is so much going on inside. It is designed like a series of caves and has a separate lounge, bar, fine dining restaurant and an open-sky place to wine and dine. This place is need of the hour for Jodhpur. We were full but coming to a place like this and not ordering anything at all would be a crime (and also those people would not even let us sit idle here anyway!). So we ordered some drinks and enjoyed our time in their open-air dinning area. We called it night after finishing our drinks in On the Rocks.
I so wanted to visit Nagaur but we had some problem figuring out a plan for it as it felt somewhat exhausting to visit and come back to the city. So, it was dropped and instead we mutually decided to visit Osian, which is 60-65kms from Jodhpur.
I was ready by 8.30Am and then went to the hotel’s restaurant for my complimentary breakfast. Buffet was already arranged and it looked nice. I chose some Vada and Sambhar along with Parantha and Potato Curry. The food was no doubt delicious. After finishing breakfast, I picked my bag up and checked out. Today, my stay was booked at Bijolai Palace, which is situated a bit away from the main city. Akshay Kumar picked me up and we first headed for Osian.
Let me confess, I had no clue why I was visit ing Osian. It was for the first time I had not read about the destination I visited, and I felt like an amateur travel and for the strangest of reasons I didn’t care! On the way Mr. Kumar also made me listen to some of his poem compositions which again were heartmelting. We reached Osian and after losing our track to the temple finally arrived at Jain Temple. Like other Jain complex this one was a big one as well. The architecture was no doubt beautiful and so was the ambiance. I liked the sculptures that were made on each pillar.
Some 10 mins walk from the Jain Temple in one of those meandering and narrow lanes was Mata Sachchiya Temple. A long flight of stairs led to this shrine which is considered quite sacred. It is a popular temple around Jodhpur, and thus was crowded. The temple has two wings and on its one wing there are a number of small shrines dedicated to different Hindu Gods. It was a good experience exploring this sacred place.
After finishing our exploration here, we drove back to Jodhpur to Bijolai Palace, for which I was quite excited. The place was as pretty as I expected. It is a heritage hotel and I had always dreamed of staying in one such place ever since I had planned this trip. I loved my room, and I never forget the Green Chair on its corner. I spent my day enjoying at this resort while Akshay Kumar returned to his place. The staff was quite nice and I enjoyed having little chit-chats with them. In the evening, there was a music show at the hotel which was just so unforgettable.
So, it was Monday and Akshay Kumar had office to attend. I was picked up from my hotel by him, he asked if he can book a movie ticket for me as I didn’t have any other plan. Since I had no better plan than this and it was really hot to go shopping, I agreed. This was also the first time to go for a movie alone but now I wasn’t nervous. There must have been some 12 people in the entire movie hall and most of them were students who must have bunked school.
After the movie, I stopped for a quick coffee and then was again picked up by Mr. Kumar who offered to take me to a really nice place for lunch. The restaurant was called Crossroads and it served some really nice food. I went with the traditional Laal Maas and Rice and Mojito along with it. The meal was sumptuous. All of a sudden I realized I had conversed with another person, Eesha from Jodhpur on the same app and had promised to meet her whenever I was in the city. So, I called her up, asked if she was free, which she was, so without any delay went and picked her up from her home.
We then went to Sardar Market in the Old City where the famous Clock Tower is situated as I had to buy Mojri (footwear of specific kind) which is popular in Jodhpur. Unfortunately I could not find any here and then was taken to Jodhpur Handloom Centre by the two, where I finally found what I was looking for.
We stopped for Marwari Kulfi where we had it the previous day and then headed to Masuriya Hills. Situated on a hillock, this garden is lovely, unfortunately not many people visit here, probably because of the location. However, the place is nice if you want to take a panoramic view of Jodhpur City. We spent sometime exploring this place and then drove to drop Eesha back. It was 7.00Pm already and I had a train to Delhi to catch at 8.00Pm.
I had a hard time bidding Jodhpur goodbye. In just 3 days I fell for this city and I don’t know how. In my opinion this is the ideal ‘First Solo Trip’ for any traveller, things couldn’t have fallen in place any better than this for me and I shall always cherish the memories of this trip. Although you may not technically count it as a solo trip as I was never alone but I believe, this is how a solo trip is and should be…alone yet not so alone!