The day started very early for us as we had to catch an early morning flight from Bangalore to Jodhpur. It is a shame there is no direct flight, but thank heavens Air India has convenient connecting flights and they serve hot breakfast on both flights. After a short stop over at Mumbai, we reached Jodhpur by noon.
Jodhpur airport is small and quiet and we were out in no time. As expected, we had cab and auto drivers flocking us to take a ride with them. Our helpful host at Suraj Haveli had warned us about this and instructed us to take an auto since cars won’t reach the small alleys. After some haggling, our auto set off towards the Haveli. Auto stops at a couple of steps away and you need to walk the last few meters to reach the doors of Suraj Haveli. If you have lot of stuff to carry, give a call to the hosts and one of them will happily come to the chowk/square where you get off and escort you to the hotel.
Suraj Haveli is technically a home stay as the host’s family live on the ground floor. The above two floors have rooms and the topmost floor is turned into an open restaurant. The hosts were very courteous and we checked into our room to be mesmerized by the beauty of the entire structure and our room. Our room was newly renovated to have sandstone walls and the bed entirely made of sandstone. After a quick freshen-up, we headed to the restaurant to grab our first Rajasthani meal.
The open, rooftop restaurant is some place to be. This place has nice, cool breeze blowing even when it is sweltering hot outside and offers such an awesome, majestic view of the Mehrangarh fort. This is arguably the best view one can get of the fort. You get up to the restaurant and are dumbstruck by the magnificence of the fort and you just want to take it all in.
After a quick bite of the typical Rajasthani meal with paneer subji, gatte ki subji and a sweet, we headed out to visit the Mehrengarh fort. We were duly warned by the host that it will be hot and to carry hats and sunglasses and water.
Geared with the necessary sun protection, we took an auto to take us up the hill and to the Mehrengarh fort entrance. You have an option to either hire a guide or rely on audio guides. Audio guide is a small black box which can play recorded audio based on the number you input. You will see a board with the audio guide number all over the fort and when you come to one, just press the number on the board and the audio will explain what you are looking at or surrounded by. I recall English, Hindi, French, German being the language options, may be there were more. The lady issuing the audio guide very kindly gave us an extra pair of headphones so that we could share one audio guide. You need to submit your original ID proof which will be returned to you once you return the audio guide. So keep the receipt of the audio guide safe. Audio guide includes many anecdotes and also an interview with the current living queen.
The ideal flow would be to take the elevator up (one way elevator ticket has to be paid for extra at the time you purchase the entrance ticket), but unfortunately for us, the elevator was not working when we went. So, it was a long, arduous climb for us in the hot sun. We saw a couple of artists sitting at the fort entrance, belting out folk music which was a treat to listen to. And they are more than happy to oblige for a selfie with them if you pay them.
The fort itself is a thing of beauty. Majestic and commanding, it hides many things inside – beautiful, ornate halls, a vast courtyard with a marble throne, small “museums” for kings’ weaponry, queen’s palanquins, royal attire and what not. Some of the places are kept so dark (intentionally, I think) which made it so hard to capture the beauty on camera. I especially liked the place dedicated to textile – different techniques of weaving, embroidery and dyeing displayed and explained in detail.
Another thing to remember was the intricately carved and colored knives and swords. The weapons themselves commanded so much respect, I wonder how it would be when a royal king wields one.
There is a cafe near the entrance of the fort and many cold water dispensers inside the fort. We carried a bottle with us and refilled it many times during our 4-hour visit. The whole fort is so well maintained (including the rest rooms), except for the swift nests overhead. You will see this group of nests almost every where if you look up. They are all bunched together and look so disgusting. Be careful where you stop or sit down as it is quite likely a bird will take a dump right above you. Ask my camera!
There is a temple inside the fort which we skipped for lack of time. There is also a shop inside the fort, right near the exit. Most of the things were expensive, but it is good for window shopping. Right after you get out of the last door, you will see shops lined on both sides of the street. They sell jootis, bangles, wood blocks, fabric, carpets and what not. My sincere advice is not to buy from here.
Mehrengarh Fort (and most of the tourist places in Jodhpur) close at 5 PM, so we had to rush out even though we were not satisfied. If I visit Mehrengarh Fort again, I will give this an entire day because there is so much to see. Since there were no other touristy places open, we decided to visit an open-all-time place: Toorji ka Jhalra.
This is a step well near the Clock Tower, which is the heart of the city. Step well is an oft visited spot by the local boys and you will see a bunch of them taking a dip in it. The water itself was very dirty, but the steps on all four sides of the well and their structure was a good photography spot. This is not a must-visit place, but since this is open beyond 5 PM, one could visit it for lack of other options.
We then headed to Clock Tower, where the town comes alive. This place is buzzing with sellers and buyers with bangles being the most sought after commodity. You will see clothes, jewelry, vegetables and chaat being sold here. This is where you will find the famous Omelette guy and Shahi Samosa shop. We gorged on pani puri, phaphda chat and Agra petha. We saw shops selling Makhaniya lassi which we gave a miss.
After a long, tiring day, we went back to our hotel and called it a day. After a sumptuous roti-subji meal, we retired to bed early as we had an early start next day – paragliding early in the morning on the outskirts which promised us a magnificent view of Jodhpur.
Near Suttar khane ki gali, Manak chowk, Jodhpur
Contact: +91-9413621335 / 9214372143
Timings: 9 AM to 5 PM