Sunday, 10 April 2011

India - The first blue city

April 4-5

Hello everyone!

I arrived in India just about one month ago. A lot has happened since we flew into Chennai, but the scale of this country has resulted in me backpacking around only the south thus far. Many people I’ve met travel for three months and only visit the north or the south, rather than racing around in a desperation to sample anything and everything. Of course, this last idea seems to be my motto when I go about proceedings, so it was time to head north.

My overnight train, weighing in at a fraction under twenty hours, was good fun. I met some college students who were very excited to have a week’s holiday before exam season. We chatted for a while and ate some home-cooked food, before they decided to teach me some Hindi. None of which can be repeated here. Think of the children!

I alighted a few hours after them in the west of Rajasthan – the Land of Kings. With time, it seems that you could travel for months in this state alone. Obviously time is not something which I possess much of, so I am heading to the places recommended to me thus far. First stop: Jodhpur.

Jodhpur is the original home of jodhpurs, the horse-riding trousers. Bizarrely, they are not called ‘jodhpurs’ here, but ‘bridges’ or ‘hunterpants’. Sounds like some sort of superhero that, albeit one with strange clothes. Thinking about it, they all have strange clothes. Anyway, jodhpurs/bridges are also strangely difficult to locate in Jodhpur. I feel that the sellers are missing a trick here.

It is not just equestrian clothing that draws visitors to the ‘Blue City’, though. I guess that nickname may be explain part of the allure. A scary percentage of buildings here are a bright, baby blue. Even my guesthouse. It’s a nice, interesting sight, but makes it even harder to move around a city that it is actually quite hard to navigate around – the narrow streets ensure that you will get lost at least once, but that gives you a chance to explore! Well, that and avoid the cows that seem to take up most of the room in each alley.

Other reasons to visit here? Well I had the best lassi I have ever had. ‘World-famous’, apparently. I don’t think the incense shop can say the same…on the grounds that they can’t spell it.

But back to the lassi. This should be world-famous. It was less yoghurt, more creamy, light custard with a lemon zest sprucing up the taste. The method is fascinating – the only reason people come to this shop is for this lassi, so they just make them in bulk, about eight at a time, and then give them out in the restaurant. You can savour them (first time) or, if you are in a rush for a bus, you can wolf it down too quickly and then feel a bit squeamish (second time). But still amazing.

The main draw, however, towers majestically over the narrow city streets below. The Mehrangarh fort.

Contrary to my mind-boggling, fantasy-driven, na├»ve mind, the Mehrangarh is not blue. Imagine how amazing that would be! It is, however, very imposing, and you can feel the weight of history as you drag your water-sapped body around. I don’t think it’s as hot here – maybe 30’C – but Rajasthan is mainly desert, so it’s a different, drier heat that I need to adjust to now.

The interior of the fort was nice enough. The audio guide is a friendly, informative companion as you move through one of the seven gates and into the spacious compound, where the royal Maharaja family used to live. This is probably the first of many forts that I will see in the next month or two, so I will reserve judgment for now.

Jodhpur is a decent place but, aside from the lassis, nothing is really persuading me to stay. So, one day earlier than anticipated, I was back on the road, trying my best to visualise the mighty Mehrangarh in bright blue. I don’t think it would strike as much fear into an invading army, somehow…

Love you all


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