Have you ever met a deeply traditional Hindu man? A Hindu man who speaks English but has no idea about the cultures and practices of the western world? I have.
Somewhere between Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, I say somewhere it was probably quite near Jaisalmer as of the 7hour train journey he probably spoke for 5 of them.
He was disgusted at the idea of dating, repulsed by the thought of casual sex especially with multiple partners (not at the same time, think that may have killed him) and beyond belief at the fact I was 24 and not married. To this apparently unsatisfactory response he simply kept shaking his head and asking ‘but why?!?’, the idea of love before marriage an apparent catastrophe, the only answer I could offer was, ‘i have no idea… I’m fabulous’.
Seriously though after 5 hours of telling me England has no future, calling my forefathers murderers, ripping apart my culture, belief system and life choices, deeming me, it seemed, as somewhat of a hussy for my liberal unbetrothed lifestyle, 2 very forced conversations with various relatives who spoke little to no English, he told me he was “very happy man, speaking with you has made my week” and left the train. That was my welcome to Jodhpur. I was exhausted.
Finally the Blue City!
Turns out post monsoon blue city… not all that blue, it’s washed off by the rains and repainted ready for Diwali. Disappointing to the giddy traveller but what Jodhpur lacked in colour it made up for with food, street food to be precise.
Chipped China bowls of chickpeas and deliciously sweet sour broth over potato cakes and crisp noodles, and samosas crammed with tomato and potato spiced to near perfection served in squares of newspaper became quick staples in our increasingly varied diets.
Squatting between tuk tuks, behind food stalls and perched precariously on crumbling walls, Rajasthan welcomed us into the world of 60p meals and midday snacking as locals and street vendors looked on with curious hilarity as we judged their culinary skills. By night our indulgences took us to the rich gravies of stuffed tomato and Masala curries, eluding us with foreign terms and names that left us searching through Google or quizzing bewildered waiters.
Our trip around this sandy province has been varied and unforgettable. Jaipur, we thought from word of mouth, would hold nothing of interest but proving that ‘seeing is believing’ our tuk tuk driver, Lucky, showed us the popular sites and the hidden corners, I’m not one for tours but days riding around in the back of these rickety little vehicles has proven to be not only cheap but also an entertaining way to fill your day.
As night fell we climbed to the sun temple surrounded by monkeys and mutated cows with extra legs growing from places no legs should grow from, leg from anus anyone?!
Legend has it that feeding the monkeys here brings good karma, although all I could think of was being mauled or losing a finger due to over enthusiastic grabbing. Turns out these weird, hard pepper like vegetables are the best thing ever to monkeys and soon, scared or not I was covered in furry little mammals, feeling like the monkey whisperer.
I can’t of course miss out our trip to the cinema to watch the latest Indian romcom, the name I forget but the cinema. Wow.
The Raj Mandir cinema in Jaipur is the dream of Shri Methab Chandra Golka and if I’m honest the biggest shock to the system ever. I expected to walk into a slightly run down foyer and then into an average screen, but no.
The Raj Mandir commands your admiration from the second you walk in off the noisy streets, elaborately decorated in Art Deco style it’s nothing short of awe inspiring, transporting you to a time and place you can’t quite make sense of. Mood lighting in pinks and blues illuminate plush seating booths and the air is heavy with the dreamy smell of popcorn. The entire experience was only enhanced by the way everyone seems to get involved with the film, clapping, yelling, laughing along. If you’re in Jaipur add it to the list!
After all this excitement it turns out Jaipur was just another place we fell further in love with India and we left excited for what Jaisalmer had to offer.
Turn out that’s what Jaisalmer offers, and heat and some of the best chai in India.
The proclaimed Golden city stood up to its name as all around us loomed beautifully constructed sandstone buildings and the obvious draw of the main Fort, which is where we stayed. Tucked away in maze of alleys with views fit for royalty over to the sandy deserts beyond.
Of course with deserts come camels and Jaisalmer is known for its desert safaris, just hopefully not the one we went to. While the sun setting over picturesque dunes had me practically giddy I’d recommend staying away from Sam Dunes which are more over packed than Brighton beach on the first hot day of summer. Camel rides of course are the done thing but again poor treatment and sadistic looking steel nails through the camels noses was enough to make me decline.
My love for Rajasthan still remained in tact if not for the infamous ‘bhang lassi’ you can purchase at varying strengths just outside the fort, which sent us into giggles for hours as our guesthouse host sang to us and ‘flounced’ around the common area.
Or maybe it was the guy below who serenaded us with Maria Careyesque range in vocals while playing his accordion.
Safe to say our sand castle in the sky was our perfect spot!
Jodhpur marked the end of our rajasthan adventure, the last of the 3 j’s and the colourful cities, Jaipur the pink, Jaisalmer the gold and Jodhpur the Blue. It is not without a tinge of sadness that I board the sleeper train to Mumbai, knowing that the eccentric characters and sandswept winding streets will be quite beyond comparison in the more tropical south.