Wednesday 09 November 2016 – Jodhpur, India – Part one of two.
I was up pretty early this morning and took a few photos from my room with its view over the city, it is quite smoggy again today and my throat is not getting any better. I am not sure if it just the poisonous air, a cold coming on, or both. I suspect both. This is the Red Palace and I will visit it tomorrow.
At breakfast time I was introduced to Natalie, an American travelling solo. We then had the sad discussion about the likely outcome of the US election and that Trump was looking like winning. (WTF America, did you not learn from the Brexit vote in the UK). One day people will be asking, ‘Where were you when the free and decent world ended ?’ I can say Jodhpur.
The restaurant is on the roof of the guest house, which sits some way up the hill between the flat of the city and the monstrous fort above. The view is spectacular, in all directions.
As Natalie and I were discussing our day we were joined by a German couple, Christina and Jorg and we all agreed to meet this afternoon and visit the fort together.
There was some interesting news today, apart from the US election results. In an effort to stamp out the grey and black economy that is pervasive in India the government have declared that the existing 500 and 1000 rupee notes will no longer be legal tender. Everyone has till the end of the year to change them. This is a major issue as so many Indians do not have bank accounts and literally have cash under the mattress. For instance, the home stay owner in Agra where I am writing this update says he has over a million rupees in cash. The wrinkle in the plan is that no-one can change more than 4000 rupees a day, so for those with vast amounts of cash this is a major issue. They could stick it all in the bank of course, but that means declaring the income. I really don’t sympathise too much about tax dodging, but this is creating an epic drama here.
In an effort to make the transition all banks are closed for the day and all ATMs are closed for two days. This is a problem. I do not have enough money to pay for my accommodation, and that is before I spend any money today. Which I am going to do as I am here on holiday. I will at least pay for entry to the fort, and I need to eat. To complicate this, irrationally, no-one is now accepting the 500 and 1000 notes, the notes we get from the ATM, all tourists have them, along with many many local people. So, even though they remain legal tender until the end of the year our guest house has informed us all they will not accept the only money we have. They also do not take cards. Frankly a complete and utter pain in the arse, more on that as the days unfold.
My plan this morning was to find the Blue City and take a walk around for an hour or so and then come back for lunch and then go up to the fort mid-afternoon and stay for sunset.
Natalie left with me and pointed me in the general direction of the Blue City, though I never did find it… Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan, and the old central part around the base of the fort is named the Blue City as so any of the houses there are painted blue. Unlike Jaipur and its Pink City, the Blue City is not really confined to one geographic space, so while I never really found the core of it, I did pass a lot of old blue buildings.
I walked for about an hour, it was warm but not overly so, and the streets, as such, are narrow and windy and ludicrously dangerous with speeding motorbikes. I cannot imagine the accident rate here. They are mostly too narrow for cars, though the odd tractor seems to make it through OK.
You might think from my photos that there were no people about, there were plenty, but I am not a fan of poverty porn, nor asking people to take their photo, so I avoided accidentally, or deliberately pointing my camera at people. This kid did walk through my shot, which is one of my favourites from the morning.
Except these guys who asked me to take their photo 🙂 I have no idea what they were making in those large wok looking things. I asked but had no idea what they said… [Edit] thanks to Arv, who commented below, I know now that these fine gentlemen are making an Indian sweet called halwai…. [end edit]
Even though I was pointed to and walked in the general direction of the Blue City, I never quite found it, I ducked up side streets and alleys, peered round corners, took a turn here and turn there, finally ending up not knowing where I was. Not quite lost, though at one point I did a complete loop and passed by the shops I had walked by 10 minutes before. I ended up getting a tuk tuk back, and it took a lot longer than I thought!
There was plenty to see nearby as well, perhaps I should have just stayed local, but where would be the adventure in that!
I arrived back at the guest house in time for lunch (I am eating way too much food, and it has all been great). I have stuck to eating local dishes, though all the places I have been to also serve pasta, pizza, something called ‘Maxican’ and quite often Chinese as well. I don’t see the point in coming to India to eat Italian food.
I met up with Natalie, Christina and Jorg mid-afternoon and we all headed up a small path near the guesthouse to the mighty edifice that dominates our skyline. More on that in the next post !!