Jodhpur taken from the Mehrangar Fort (Photos by jpatokal of wikitravel)
It had been a long day. I took a non-AC train from Agra Fort Station. A schedule that had me wake up at 4AM for my 6AM departure, only to learn that Marudhar Express no. 4853 would be delayed by 2 1/2 hours! To make things worse, it turns out that the ticket I paid for was under a waitlist (how the heck do I know that unless someone tells me? i bought my ticket from the foreigner's booth). When finally the train arrived, I was instructed to just jump on the train and wait for the ticket checkers who will settle my dilemma eventually. Now THAT took HOURS! I sat on my backpack beside the lavatories (which stink like hell). It wasn't until 6 hours that I was finally able to locate my seat - Coach 5, seat no. 10! We were supposed to arrive in Jodhpur at 5:30PM - an 11-hour travel - but due to the delays, it we'd park the trains at around 7:30PM. Guess what? We reached the station at 9PM, but unlike most India stations, the concrete platforms were immaculately clean and organized. Gone were the people just sleeping on the floor! I am liking what I see!
BY THE DESERT
Jodhpur is a major city in the state of Rajasthan, which is located in North India. It is obvious that we were treading new territories, my local India SIM shut off for 7 hours; the terrain turned into a craggy, dusty landscape that thrived only with an endemic plant - the olive tree? There were camels feeding from the scanty leaves of their trees, and my hair was starting to mat from the unseen dust. Reality is, Jodhpur sits beside the Thar Desert, a desert that already borders Pakistan in the west! This though excites me, despite the long plodding, snail-paced hours!
Some 30 minutes from my check-in, I was at the rooftop of Shivan Guesthouse. There was a partial moonshine gleaming over an uneven cityscape of pastel blues and neon saris cloaking the women around. I found myself dining with a Korean who just came from Turkey, Iran, and Delhi who called himself "Ooo" - no kidding!
By 6AM, I was wide awake. It would be interesting to climb the hills and see the Meranghar Fort that sits on a 150 meter hill. Finished in 1458, this fort was never taken in its last 500 years of existence. What's more, calling it a "fort" doesn't suffice. It is a city in itself, a feat that took me 4 hours to roam - I was breathless!
THE LAST OF THE GREAT PALACES
My favorite spot in this "city" would be the Jaswant Thada, which is 1 kilometer downhill from the Mehrangar. I attempted to walk, but finally decided against it. The sun was up and I still had places to go. I didn't wanna get beaten by heat and exhaustion so early in the day. There was still a palace to visit - the Umaid Bhawan Palace - the very last of the greatest palaces ever built in India. And yes, it is a "living" palace. The descendant - the new Maharajah - still lives in a part of the palace that isn't open to tourists.
I have never thought I'd see so much grandeur in a single place in India that I haven't even heard of until 3 months ago! I am almost overwhelmed - but not quite.
And oh yes, I have been mistaken once again as a Japanese! Just a few weeks ago, while I was travelling the city of Sonargaon in Bangladesh (the ancient and very first capital of Bangladesh), the lovely locals would stare at me - and I would hear them say "japones...japones." Today alone, I heard that from several people: the restaurant server, the guy who sold Pepsi from the Jaswant Thada store, and the rickshaw driver who doesn't have "no" in his vocabulary, "Hindi" included.
It was weird how the Pepsi vendor detoured into a conversation that finally concluded with him saying, "I collect ballpens". I smiled and told him, "I do have a pen, but I need it." I got mine from Dhaka so I'm not gonna start giving it away to complete strangers who couldn't even give my Pepsi's change back! Tit for tat!