I recently spent a month in India with my loving little 5 year old. It was wonderful to be amongst friends and family, not to mention have 30 fabulous sunny days with that perfect 75F temperature. The city I grew up in is now overpopulated with a lot of people moving in from other states, so the summers are a humid, hot mess for months, and the monsoon still wreaks havocs on the city due to floods and the resulting damage.
December, however, and even January, is just perfect. My son and I had a fabulous time jogging at the parks and having coconuts every morning. Mind you, if you have tried the Thai coconut and think Indian coconuts are the same, you couldn’t be more wrong! Indian coconuts have thin cream inside, which melts in the mouth (better than jello :)). My son has absolutely loved coconuts since he was less than 2 years old. And admittedly I beam with pride and joy that we share this love of coconuts. One time, we even chased a coconut cart in a rickshaw and pulled him to the side and bought a coconut. There are some things you can only do in India 🙂
While in India, we decided to embark on a 4-5 day trip to Rajasthan with my mom and my little guy. Jodhpur has a direct flight from where I live, so that seemed like a viable option. My favorite place in Rajasthan is most certainly Jaisalmer, also a World Heritage Site. To me, it is the most authentic city that bears the soul of Rajasthan – a majestic fort in the middle of the desert, rising from sand stone like a phoenix from the ashes, an astute reminder of a bygone era. Men with the longest mustaches you’ve ever seen, and one of the biggest deserts of the world, the Thar Dessert. Not to mention the food so delicious you will literally lick your fingers (or order more ;)). I had visited as a teenager with my family many years ago, and I remember Jaisalmer so vividly I could sketch a picture of it with my mind’s eye. Here are some photos of Jaisalmer, just so you can visualize what I am talking about (these two are not taken by me, the rest on this site/page are my own photos):
Jaisalmer, being a good 5+ hour drive from Jodhpur though, with a heavy heart we skipped it this time and went to Khimsar instead, which is a small town that offers an authentic desert experience but happens to be much closer to Jodhpur (less than 2 hours by car). I figured since it was my first time traveling within India with my son, might be wise to keep things less tiring so we could spend more time relaxing and taking it all in. Khimsar was just perfect for a short trip, and did not disappoint at the many wonders it offers inspite of being such a small town. More about Khimsar below.
Jodhpur – Day 1: We took a morning flight from Jodhpur, which got us there about 11 am. Here we are at the airport, passing the time listening to music and taking selfies:
We reached Jodhpur about 11 am and started to make our way out of the airport. As we were walking past, a security guard/military officer asked me to stop. My brother had warned me to not take photos at Jodhpur airport since it is an active military base and photos are strictly prohibited. I had been careful though and not exhibited my usual enthusiasm at photography. I turned back to my officer and asked if everything was ok, to which he replied “Itne sare balloon hai. Bacche ko nahi denge to kya fayada” (“There are so many balloons here, what’s the point if we can’t give one to the child”).
It was just a few days after New Years Eve, so the airport was decorated with yellow and pink balloons. And before I could say another word, the officer removed two balloons from the wall and handed them to my son, who was absolutely delighted. I felt so welcome, and thankful to get this opportunity to show Neil “my India”. I wanted him to see the beautiful landscapes, animals and natural beauty of India, but most importantly the warmth and hospitality of the people. I wanted him to love India, the way I love India, and see it with my eyes, rather than the eyes of a foreign tourist, which he will inevitably do when he’s all grown up.
Our taxi driver was old and reliable – my brother had shared his number from a previous trip and I was thankful to not have to go with a random one. Our first stop in Jodhpur was Umed Bhavan Palace. It is atop a hill which means it can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. My son is hiding under his hat since it started to get so hot and the sun was in his face :)!
We went in and looked at the palace turned museum, marveling at the beautiful, precious artifacts used by kings and queens in the years past. “Wow, look at that beautiful blue decanter”, I would say to my son. “Oh, that means you think all the king’s things here are so beautiful, but not me. You don’t think I’m beautiful anymore”. Oh, my, my. I had to constantly reassure him that he was way more beautiful than all the artifacts in that entire museum. This is what I love about writing – I didn’t realize I remembered this wonderful memory about my son saying this until I started to write this! Here are some photos – a model of the palace, a conch shell with carvings, and the colorful decanters 🙂
One of the palace rooms had an outstanding collection of clocks, my favorite ones – the ‘windmill clock’ and the ‘renaissance chariot’ clock are below:
After the palace it was time to see the King’s collection of classic cars, which was breathtaking, given how shiny and impeccable these very old cars had been maintained. There was a Rolls Royce, a Jaguar, a Bentley, a Mercedes and practically every luxury car brand you can imagine. I have photos of these beautiful cars in my SLR camera which I will add here later.
After Umed Bhavan Palace, we headed over for lunch in a “Rajasthani Thali” place. It was a large meal ending with paan 🙂
After lunch, we headed to Mehranger Fort. This is the same fort where Christopher Nolan filmed the opening scene (and I believe some more) of the last movie of the Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises”. Bruce Wayne climbing up the tunnel of the fort and escaping out while the prisoner’s cheer on – well, that’s shot at the fort, and you can watch that scene here to jog your memory 🙂
Mom was a bit tired of the heat so she stayed downstairs, while my son and I got tickets and headed up to the upper floor of the fort on an elevator – and my I’m so glad we did!
Below you can find a pigeon flying off a tower of the majestic fort, and onto the beautiful “blue city” below. Note that the main city of Jodhpur lies on the other side of the fort, and this is perhaps the best spot in the city to get a bird’s eye view of the “old blue city”. If we had more time I would have definitely loved to explore the streets and get some more shots of the bright blue homes, but at least we got an amazing aerial view:
It was so sunny up there that my son was struggling to see, so I handed him my sunglasses which he carried quite well I must say! And then he was so interested in my SLR and begged me to let him take some shots, so here he is my little photographer:
I know blogs are supposed to be more about describing the place in words, but on this particular post I am including a lot of photos because words truly fall short of the beauty and scale of this place. If you imagine yourself standing atop this fort and close your eyes and imagine what it must have been like when the King had to decide to fight an enemy approaching this fort. Watch the movie Padmaavat if you want to really experience the grandeur and challenges of the olden days; ignore the political correctness and controversy, I am simply recommending the movie here so you can see what it was like to wage war from a fort, some 100 years ago :).
And of course, we couldn’t leave without seeing the guns and swords of the kings and queens (imagine the excitement of a 5 year old who is into power rangers and Ninja Turtles):
And last but not the least, notice the detailed carving work in each of the “jharokhas” of the fort in the back of our photo below. This one is my favorite because my little guy climbed on my back and it was just a playful, natural moment:
When we tried to take the elevator back down from the top of the fort, they asked us for tickets yet again. We realized we had forgotten to buy tickets to get back down. On a normal day, and if I was travelling alone, I would have walked down. But my son was tired so we hitched a ride on the elevator; only to be asked again by the security guys at the bottom if we had the ticket, or money to pay for it.
I fetched in my pocket and found nothing. Suddenly, my son handed me a note from his pocket. My mom had given him some money to keep just for fun, and who knew it would come in so handy! I told him he had “saved my life” but in reality saved me from a ton of hassle and embarrassment, but oh, well. He remembers this moment even now – “remember mom that time when I saved you by giving you money for the ticket?” 🙂
Finally we arrived at our hotel. It was a beautiful Haveli in the old city. It was amongst the hustle and bustle and yet once we reached our room it was so, so tranquil.
Our room was on the 3rd floor; luckily we had help with our bags. We had a beautiful room with a large window overlooking the fort and and old temple. It was twilight, the fort lit up, and the sky got darker. I could feel the happiness in my heart, it felt the universe had somehow fell into place; being there, in that moment. I longed to come back there alone sometime and write at the desk by the window. Perhaps I could write a whole small book in that one night, that’s how thought provoking and emotional that place was.
It was like sitting by a faraway lake alone, where you are still inside the forest but somehow far removed from the noises of the jungle. Where if you throw a pebble in the lake you will hear that as the only sound, and you will see the ripples in every widening circles. It is as if you have a piece of that tranquility all to yourself, to hold in the palms of your hands, yours to keep, forever. The photos I have below are not from my SLR and don’t quite do justice to the scene. That was the view from our window (below), notice the Mehrangar fort in the background and the old temple in the foreground:
Of course, my son found the real lock and key endlessly fascinating to play with:
Finally, before it got too dark, we headed up to the terrace which boasted among the best views of the Fort from the entire city; not to mention a small, cozy rooftop restaurant:
We ended the day as the smoke from ritual fires started coming in and the air didn’t seem as clean to be outside anymore; plus it got colder as this was the desert climate after all.
We retired to our beautiful room and the tranquil window, and had the most wonderful sleep in this jewel of a Haveli.
In the next post, let’s discover day 2 of the Rajasthan trip, where we head out from Jodhpur and onto Khimsar to another large, sprawling, majestic fort. And there, we will meet the beautiful Indian green parrots.
Until next time,