Weeks before the trip, my friends and I made Caring pharmacy very happy by buying all kinds of drugs for various scenarios. Mild, medium, severe food poisoning. Indigestion. The kind that repeats on you and one for repercussions caused by gluttony. Anti-histamines and Cataflam just in case. Panadol, yup. Water sterilisation tablets, check. "Do you need antibiotics too?", the pharmacist asked. No, I think I'm all set. Better safe than sorry I always say. Theres nothing worse than getting food poisoning when you are travelling. But you know what, apart from very mild diarrhea, none of us got to use any of our drugs. Apart from the water sterilisation pills. And even that we gave up on a few days into our trip. Who wants to keep drinking swimming pool water right? We never drank from the tap but we had plenty of chai from street vendors. Moral of the story, we are Malaysians and the mamak stalls here ain't any cleaner.
Jodhpur, left to right: Details of a tiny window at the marbled Jaswant Thada; posing by the doorway of Jaswant Thada - does his silhouette look familiar?; view of the blue houses from one of the many balconies at Mehrangarh Fort.
So after a very, very long train ride (12 hours), we arrived in Jodhpur. City of blue houses and jophurs. Ask someone where to buy jodphurs and they will look at you funny. Jodhpuri pants would be the correct term. Otherwise, point at the nearest tourist. Highly likely they would be wearing jodhpurs or the even more popular, cotton ali-baba pants. We have two pairs each! Outside the train station was a hub of activity. And strange smells. Mr Singh whisked us into his Toyota Qualis and off we went to our hotel, Ratan Vilas. Its a quiet oasis in the centre of the dusty city. It had the old charm of Lone Pine, minus the beach of course. We had a quick shower and went off to enjoy the sights. First stop, Jaswant Thada which is a beautiful marble cenotaph located near Mehrangarh Fort. Dween is convinced that this majestic memorial was featured in The Darjeeling Limited and I think he is right. Its a magnificent building and it was definitely one of our favourite monuments of the trip. Perhaps it helped that there were very few tourist then and the sky was a vivid blue.
At the Mehrangarh Fort, we got a great view of the entire city with its rows and rows of blue houses. I sat there, in the "vip lounge" which was a room with a fantastic view especially for people who had opted for an audio guide. That was me! My travelling companions were avid photographers who were preoccupied with their SLRs. My compact camera and I met many audio guides on the trip. It was incredibly hot and we were quite dehydrated without even realising it. You know your body is crying for water when we drink bottles and bottles and we don't need the toilet. After that peaceful tour we were taken to the first of many tourist traps organised by the tour. We were first brought to a three-story shop lot selling all kinds of soft furnishing. By KL standards, the prices were okay but we would learn later that we paid far to much for very mediocre merchandise. We then went to a spice shop and bought more things at inflated prices! That night we enjoyed a very mediocre meal at Ratan Vilas. I think they made some sweet and sour paneer especially for us. Yes, it was like eating bad Chinese food. However, we did get to try ker sangri which is can only be found in Rajasthan. Its a bean like vegetable that grows only in the desert. The beans and buds are dried. The texture is a little like enoki mushrooms but the taste is mildly earthy and sweet. After breakfast the following day, we journey West on a 6 hour car ride to Jaisalmer.