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November 16-20. From the sublime to the ridiculous. We went from hotel heaven in Jaipur to hotel hell in Jodhpur, having chosen Kiran Vilas, which is still listed in Tripadvisor as the second best hotel in Jodhpur despite our scathing reviews. Oh it wasn’t that they didn’t know how to make toast, which they didn’t. So what. And the owner was very friendly, and even drove us in his jeep to the top of a hill one night so we could see the palace all lit up. It wasn’t that the room was small. It wasn’t even that we’d asked for twin beds and when we got there we had to push the beds apart ourselves, and after getting the needed extra bedding had the somewhat unusual experience of making our own beds in a hotel room.

It was that the room was dirty and I had to wipe every surface, including the bathroom sink, with an antiseptic wet-wipe before I felt I could put anything down, the carpet was filthy, the service was appalling to non-existent, Don asked for our room to be cleaned one day and it wasn’t done, we ordered room service and everything they brought was wrong, including bringing tea when we’d ordered coffee, and inedible, Julie was given an upgrade, and then later informed she had to pay for it, and that’s not even the whole list. The biggest insult? Eleven hundred rupees ($22) for a small bag of laundry! In our next hotel we paid 150 rupees for a bag the same size. I still can’t believe I didn’t protest the laundry bill. We felt poorly treated and royally ripped-off. It was such a shock after the luxury of the hotel in Jaipur. Umaid Bhawan Hotel in Jaipur is the best of the best of three star hotels. Kiran Vilas in Jodhpur is the worst.

Anyway enough of hotels. We were only there for four nights. If we’d been planning on staying any longer we’d have found another hotel. And whatever. All we did was sleep and shower there, especially after we’d tried the food.

Jodhpur – another fabulous Rajasthani city. We didn’t really know what to expect, but once again we had an amazing time. We knew we’d be going to the local fort (every Rajasthani town has one it seems), but we had no idea how fabulous it would be. We knew we’d be going on a day trip to some of the desert villages, and that turned out to be equally fabulous. Of course we found the local market, always the best place to see people going about their daily lives. We walked around the Blue City, and were lucky enough to be invited to lunch in a private home. And best of all I think was our discovery of the Mandore Gardens. Such an exotic and enriching surprise! Someone on Tripadvisor said it wasn’t worth going to. I’m glad we didn’t listen to that – it was extraordinary.

The markets are around the clock tower, on the edge of the Blue City. The walled Blue City grew up at the base of Mehrangarh Fort, built by Rao Jodha, ruler of Rathore, in 1459. The fort, like all forts, is high up on a hill. The markets swarm around the main entrance into the Blue City. Like all Indian markets and shopping streets it is a blaze of colour, a maze of streets, a hive of activity, a buzz energy, a crush of crowds. People, animals, vehicles of all types, and I mean all types, intermingle in chaotic industry and purpose. And we join in the fun; shooting everything in sight, smiling and talking with the people, and generally being captivated, again, at the carnival that is India. There’s nothing like an Indian market for sensory overload.

One of Don’s photos

The Chai Drinkers – time for a break.

This really is a photo of a woman feeding naan bread to a cow in the entrance to her store, after she had enticed it in. Only in India!

Shopping for saris. In India everyone goes into the store and sits on the floor, the sales clerks offer chai, and then spread their wares out before them. It’s a very relaxed process. I don’t think I ever went into an Indian store without being first offered a seat.

And if you don’t have a shop you spread your wares out on the street


Mehrangarh Fort

These next three photos were also taken at Mehrangarh Fort

A couple was carrying their tiny new baby in a home-made sling by simply each holding two corners of a piece of cloth

Shoe shop

We made a friend who took us on a walk through the maze of narrow streets and alleys that make up the Blue City, and were invited into his home there for a lunch prepared for us by his mother. It was so kind and gracious of her. Lunch was delicious, and I think just as wonderful for me was the chance to get to see inside one of these homes, to see beyond the exterior, and to meet some people who live there. Who knows why the buildings are painted blue. We were told it was to keep them cool, and the home we visited certainly was, but I think the practice is ancient, and maybe it’s because indigo was available as a dye. Either way it’s both unique and beautiful.

A glimpse inside one of the houses through an open doorway

Interior courtyard

Next post: Visiting the desert villages, and Mandore Gardens.

It’s Christmas! Merry Christmas everyone. And the world didn’t end, so happy new year! May 2013 be all you could hope for, may blessings rain down upon you and joy fill your heart. Life itself is the miracle. May you be filled with life overflowing.
Love from us.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.