Now the vacation begins! I feel pretty decent considering I got 2hrs of sleep, and poor sleep interrupted by a background level of stress I feel in these instances about missing our flight. We’re packed and down to the lobby in time, but I’m not sure what the car situation is, figuring the front desk knew, but they didn’t. And worse the guy on duty couldn’t understand me and honestly it was mutual. Vineet is still up and at work telecommuting with his job on the Eastern Seaboard. I ask if he knows and he thinks the car was taken already by one of the Sister Cousins going back to Mumbai. I call for a cab and its $10, and will be here in 15-30 min. Now I’m stressed. I go outside when Jenn comes down and our driver is there! I grab our stuff and knock on his window and ask if he can take us and he waves us in.
I feel like today is going to set the tone for the rest of the India leg. If we have a good day and set the mood right, things will go great. India though is a tough place to travel and will have its drawbacks, and if you fixate on the negative that could dominate everything else.
The drive takes less time than estimated, only 30 minutes and not an hour. I tip our driver 500rp and thank him for all these days and he seems over the moon. Lucknow airport is about the size of our local Burbank airport and we’re through to our gate about as quick, though security has several more steps. Your bags are screened at the entrance, you’re screened and your carry-on bags have tags. We get to our gate 30 minutes before boarding which is perfect and if we hadn’t had Maneesh’s driver, we would have been much more stressed. Jenn found a nice coffee shop with muffins for breakfast.
We napped on the plane.
When we get to Delhi airport we go through the annoying domestic transfer process and find ourselves a chaise near our gate. We have about an hour until our next flight and we nap again. I’m still feeling my standard anxiety about missing flights and don’t sleep well. I’ve literally had nightmares about it. I’ve lived it once in China and was stuck in Guangzhou airport for an entire day.
We napped on our next plane too. And now we’re landing in Jodhpur at this interesting colonial styled airport.
Now for the last bit of stress for a while, is our driver there. We get our bags and find our way outside. We see one sign “Mr. Colin Paging”. I believe it’s called a Paging Card and that’s where that mistake came from. I asked if he was sent by Narendra and he said yes and I asked if he knew our itinerary and he recited it. Guess he’s our guy.
We check in at our hotel Rattan Villas, and oh my was it amazing. The building used to be owned by a nobleman, and half of it has been converted to a hotel. The grounds are immaculate. The rooms are beautiful with a great bed and bathroom. We have a full day’s tour planned for half a day, so we’re off!
First up is Jaswant Thada, a white marble complex with an amazing view of the Mehrangarh fort that dominates the skyline. The grounds are pleasant and well kept. And we’re in a good mood. The weather is nice, mid 90s with low humidity, reminds me of home. Some music wafting through the air. Some tourist girls laughing and joking. It’s a small monument though, so we’re moving on.
Mehrangarh is next, a massive stone fortress perched high above the town on its own little mountain top. Today is one of two days a year when a shrine to a particular goddess is opened up to the public, so there are throngs of people, and lots of police. Everyone is in good spirits, and in their “Sunday Best”. It’s amazing the colors, all so bright. The style for the women is different here, with the sari being very thin, and worn over the top of the head, often covering the eyes. It might not even be called a sari, but it is wrapped somewhat similarly. The people here largely have a similar look to them, I think I could now pick out someone from Rajasthan if they have this look now.
Mehrangarh has the best audio tour I’ve ever heard. It’s written and voiced by the current Maharaja of Jodhpur, with clips from his wife and mother. There is a lot of detail and great stories without being too slow or fast.
The fort itself has incredible detail, and you could see the Mughal Islamic influences in the detail sculpturing on every surface. It reminds me a lot of the look for the Alhambra, or what I’ve seen of it, and some of the structures we saw in Turkey. Because art involving people was forbidden, the focus became on shape and pattern. However this fort was built and controlled by Hindus within a tolerant Muslim Empire. I’m guessing they absorbed a lot of influences and also had to not offend those in the empire.
We’re shown artwork and weapons, Rajasthani turban tying, weapons, and the occasional amazing view to the blue city below or the hills. We see a lot of horse related stuff and Jenn wonders if the type of pants worn in polo called Jodhpurs are somehow connected to Jodhpur. By the end of our tour we find that they in fact are, and that the game is native to India (I suddenly realize it’s similar to a game played in Afghanistan with a goat’s head instead of a ball…) and that when it had caught on in England Jodhpur sent a team to the UK and the pant style caught on in London.
We picked a restaurant out of our Lonely Planet called Indique that had been named one of the top things to do in Rajasthan. It was near a clock tower in the city center and so we were dropped outside the city center, and walked through the absurd chaos and vendors around the clock tower to our restaurant.
The food was excellent, though nothing extraordinary, it was no Top Deck, but so far nothing we’ve had since is Cappadocia is. The service is great though, and the view amazing. I’m sitting there staring at this massive fort all through dinner. We told our driver Sayam 2 hours (he seemed to be looking for that amount of time) so we had a bit to kill. We’re 1h30min in and decide to give up our table and sit at the bar as the place has sure filled up, but we decide to have a look over the wall and see if we can spot him, and sure enough just as we look we think we see his car drive past and park.
We use the restroom first though, and thank god we do, as I’m waiting for Jenn one of the servers comes running down and asks if this is our phone and holds out Jenn’s phone. I press the home button and sure enough there is a picture of our puppy looking at me. Lucky!
We greet Sayam and head back to our hotel to shower and go to bed. But first we ask about sending home the clothes we’ve accumulated for the wedding. I’m put in contact with the courier who I thought quoted me 600rp, but couldn’t do it as the office was closed until we’re already gone from the country. It looks like we’ll be carrying on the bags from here on out. So I head back to the room to jump in the shower only to get a call just before I jump in that the courier is on the way. When he arrives he packs everything into 2 soft mailers for DHL but only takes cash. I don’t have enough so I ask for an ATM and get shaky directions and head out. Sure enough I can’t find it and come back to find out its not 600rp but 6000rp! Half the cost of everything! I apologize for wasting his time and head back to shower and pass out.
I had wanted to download new drivers for my new camera and some movies from youtube but just fell asleep instead. I’m loving the new camera, I can get shots I never dreamed of getting before, and it can even see better in the dark than I can! However I seem to have some driver issues that prevent me from transferring certain pictures, and transfer speeds are slow. I want to get the updated ones and the wifi drivers so I can try that if it’s still not better.