From the makeshift bus station on the outskirts of Udaipur, I was told that my bus would be 30 minutes late—leaving at 11, instead of 10:30pm. I watched the most chaotic system of bus departures I’ve ever seen, and I learned the following things about buses between cities in India:
-There’s no real “bus station” to speak of, where you would expect to find signs, departure times, information on where to stand, if your bus is delayed, etc.
-There are multiple buses running the same or similar routes; you need to find the one for your ticket, which might not be a match between the company listed on the ticket and the company name written on the bus, but someone will accept your ticket. The key is finding the match.
-It’s impossible to tell when your bus will come or how late it will be, if the unofficial station is not also the sales office for your bus company. For me, it was; for other people needing different bus companies, they just had to wait until an unknown time, whenever their buses showed up.
-The seat number listed on your ticket is 100% meaningless. Pretend it’s not there. I was assigned seat “M” on a bus that came with places numbered with digits. I wound up sleeping in bunk 7.
I had booked a sleeper bus, and I had a bottom bunk but (for some reason) wasn’t permitted to put my bag in the baggage hold under the bus, so it had to go in my bunk with me. That made sleeping a bit uncomfortable, but it worked out OK, in the end, because the bus was really cold, and I was glad that I could dig out my hiking pants and a pair of socks and a long-sleeve t-shirt.
I vaguely remember a bathroom stop, but I was barely awake enough to stumble out in my flip-flops, pee on a bush, and then stumble back into my bunk.
We arrived in Jodhpur at 5am. Normally, I wouldn’t like this setup, but the booking confirmation I’d gotten from the Amar Niwas guesthouse said that arriving any time is OK, because you can just crash on the floor or the rooftop. Seems simple enough.
I negotiated with a tuktuk driver and was off into the old city of Jodhpur, the famous “Blue City” area. The tuktuk driver had no idea where the guesthouse was, even though I’d told him the neighborhood name—even though the booking email swore everyone knows where they are, since they’ve been running for many years.
After several stops for directions, we found the guesthouse. I instantly doubted the “arriving any time is OK” motif, because the doors were locked tight. I rang the doorbell, answered a head that poked out a window, and was welcomed inside by a man in his 60s wearing an undershirt tucked into his underwear. Stylish.
He asked why I was arriving at this time, and I said, “This is when the bus came.” What other answer did he expect? I pointed out that the email said I could arrive any time, and then he commenced to grumble about needing to fill out the visa/lodging paperwork for the government at this time of night. Dude, we can fill it out later; let’s both go back to sleep. Not this guy, though. We filled out the paperwork, he showed me to my room, and then said that he’d charge me just 25% of the nightly rate to let me have the room now. I was too tired to argue, tempted by the bed vs floor, and settled in.
It’s also interesting to note that, in 2007, when filming for the movie “The Darjeeling Limited,” the main stars were being hounded by paparazzi at their hotel. I don’t know how, but Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody (two of the main stars), wound up staying at this guesthouse, because there’s only one entrance, it’s more secluded, and they could eat their meals there, without having to go anywhere where the paparazzi could hound them. Interesting! (the guy made sure to show me pictures and tell me about it on several occasions, plus telling me the house is over 500 years old)
I woke up around 9, showered, and set out for the day. I got some directions from the owner guy and set off to walk through the old city. After some circuitous wandering, I stumbled on a vegetarian restaurant only 2-3 blocks down the road and ate there for lunch. I really enjoyed this misspelling on the drinks menu.
From here, I walked to the city fort and stumbled onto this small Ganesh ceremony near the entrance.
Entering the fort, my heart skipped a beat. There were a bunch of monkeys up on the walls, and I’m not exactly a fan of being near them lately. I even turned a corner and saw one running down the path toward me, and I about fainted. I tried to blend into the wall to stay out of the way.
I paid my entrance fee, got the audio guide that’s included, and set off to explore the giant fort.
Near the entrance to the inner courtyard, there’s a spot where a guy was walled up in the fort as part of an effort to appease the gods over a curse put upon the king. Crazy.
In a smart military tactic, the entrance makes a sharp right turn to reach the gate, because this would prevent anyone with a battering ram, elephants, etc. from gaining speed to ram the gate.
Within the gate itself, the doorway has a bunch of preserved handprints from women whose husbands had died in battle. It marked their last time passing through the gate, because they were going out to throw themselves on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands.
This was a really impressive fort. There is still a king/ruler, but it’s purely a ceremonial title, now that Jodhpur and all of Rajasthan have been incorporated into India.
The display rooms show carts and shoulder-borne thrones for carrying around the royal family in the past, plus ancient weapons and coins.
The views from the top, out over the city, were really nice and showed the true expanse of the fort and its might.
Through more rooms in the fort to the end at the women’s courtyard.
Back at the guesthouse, I took a rest to escape the afternoon sun then checked out the views from the rooftop. They’re great.
That evening, I had dinner back at the same restaurant. I forgot my wallet, and didn’t realize until time to pay. The restaurant sent one of the employees with me back to the guesthouse to get my wallet and come back. This doesn’t sound difficult, but the parade for the last night of the Ganesh holiday had started and was going down the street running from the restaurant to the guesthouse. Passing through it, we got hit with a lot of those paint balls you see people covered with from festivals in India and Pakistan. There went the only clean shirt I had. It was also all over my arms, face, hair, and legs.
After paying, I went back to the guesthouse, talked to the Mrs. about laundry, and took a shower.
I was feeling really run-down and exhausted, so I went to bed early. The guy had tried to talk to me about doing some elaborate tours of the city/surrounding area the next day, since he’s a licensed tour guide, and I gave what I thought were some very vague, intentionally non-committal answers. The next day, I slept in and then set out to see the clock tower, after dropping off my laundry with the Mrs.
Just from walking to this, I was really worn-out. I’d been moving about too much and not getting good rest on the night buses/night trains, and it was catching up to me. When I got back to the guesthouse, the guy was upset that I hadn’t been ready to go on the tour, that he’d been waiting for me. We hadn’t specified a time or committed to anything, and I was kind of annoyed, because I just wanted to lay down at this point. I told him I wasn’t feeling well, just wanted to nap, and he kept responding that the tour wouldn’t take any effort, because I’d be riding on the back of his motorcycle. I finally got him to understand, “No, I’m too tired and just want to lay down,” and he seemed unhappy about it.
At this point, I’d resolved to just try to avoid interacting with the guy. He was overly nice, to the point where it was pushy. I didn’t feel like dealing with it, but it was not over. After I woke up and got some lunch, he started pointing out that this is a guesthouse, that they serve food, and that I haven’t tried any of it. I finally consented to have dinner there that night and attempted to just read a book on the rooftop and be left alone. I was now feeling uncomfortable in the place I was staying.
Wouldn’t you know that the guy came up and kept trying to talk to me, asking what time I want dinner, do I want to see the menu now, how’s my book, etc? When someone gives a one-word answer and goes back to reading a book, I thought that was a sign for “go away.” I finally wrote down my order, what time I wanted to eat, and then moved into my room to read.
The meal was good. Not outstanding, but good. I stayed out on the rooftop reading for a while, until the bugs attracted to the light forced me indoors.
I got up around 4am to pack and head to the train station. The guy gave me a ride on the back of his motorcycle (for a fee, of course—like the “free wifi” I had to pay for, because the info online was “wrong”) and asked me again, like several times previously, if I was going to give a 10/10 rating. At this point, I said, “It was good, but not perfect” and left him to fret over what score I would give. Honestly, if the guy had never talked to me, it would be 10/10. His wife is sweet, the house is great, the food is decent, and kid (Son? Nephew? Neighbor?) who sleeps on the floor in the entryway is nice, though a bit of “teenage awkward.” The guy is just too eager to make extra money/sell you stuff. I gave a 9/10. Minus 1 for the guy.
I liked Jodhpur for a short visit. It’s a cute little city, the blue buildings are cool (it started with the Brahman caste distinguishing themselves, then people discovered that it supposedly keeps away mosquitoes, so, now, everyone does it), and the fort was impressive. I’m not sure it’s a “must-see,” but it was good for 2 days.