On Monday, Lisa checked out of the Imperial and transferred to Delhi airport for a short 95 minute flight to the city of Jodhpur and a 20 minute drive to her digs for the next two nights. Jodhpur is a fascinatingly frenetic city, dating back to the mid-1400s. It is variously called the Gateway to the Thar due to its location on the edge of the Great Thar desert. It is also called the Sun City because the sun shines hot and bright almost every day of the year. Others call Jodhpur the Blue City, due to the thousands of houses in the old city painted in myriad shades of blue; it’s also known as The Walled City because of the City Wall encompassing the old city.
Whatever you choose to call it, Jodhpur is a vibrant, bustling city of about 1.5 million that Lonely Planet recently rated The Most Extraordinary Place To Stay. Lisa agrees, and raves about her centrally located boutique hotel.
The RAAS Hotel
Accommodation comprises 39 rooms, 7 of which are suites with separate sitting rooms, larger balconies and bathrooms. 35 rooms have views of the Mehrangarh Fort and the remaining 4 rooms have private gardens overlooking the old, restored buildings. All rooms and suites have balconies and are decorated with great flair and care. They are contemporary, understated and make the most of Jodhpur’s pink sandstone, stunning black terrazzo and with splashes of ‘Jodhpur blue’. They are state of the art and furnished to an exceptionally high degree of modern comfort and sophistication. Light, space and clean lines are the bywords here.
All the rooms are air-conditioned (centrally heated in the winter) and are fitted with the latest eco friendly machines, overhead fans, hairdryers, electronic safes, TV and telephones. All rooms come with modern attached bathrooms which have separate showers and cast iron bath tubs. Bathrobes are placed in all bathrooms. Plenty of piping hot water is provided by central and solar water heating systems. Hot water bottles can be provided on particularly cold nights.
RAAS has two restaurants, a covered dining room and an al fresco café: both offer table d’hote and a al carte menus, serving international and indian food. Room service is also available.
The terrace of darikhana boasts magnificent views of the Mehrangarh Fort, which glows pink in the day and is gloriously illuminated at night, providing the perfect place for a romantic meal. It serves fragrant dishes which sizzle with the aromas of hand-ground old delhi spices, specially selected from a 200 year old shop hidden in the warren of old delhi. Seasonal vegetables, salads and herbs are homegrown in raas own organic garden.
Serving breakfast, Lunch and dinner daily, Baradari offers a selection of international dishes with a Thai and Mediterranean focus. You can enjoy organic, home-grown salads and herbs as you relax on the terrace and admire the view.
Other facilities include a 15 x 8 m heated swimming pool • free Wi Fi connectivity • Hotel shop • ‘Jodhpur blue’ Tuk Tuks for sightseeing • ila only Spa
Although located in the centre of the action, so to speak, Raas offers a perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. The hotel is a 20 minute drive from the Jodhpur airport and a 10 minute drive from the Jodhpur railway station.
After freshening up Lisa ventured into the heart of the old city, to explore the he city’s main shopping area Nai Sadak which is lined mostly with sari and shoe shops and the Sardar Market, a full-on bustling Indian market with a barely contained riot of sights, sounds and smells. She used the clocktower in the center as a useful orientation point. She spent a good hour or more in a shop chatting with the very friendly owners over a cup of masala chai. This is the true highlight of Rajasthani hospitality. You will find Rajasthan (and especially Jodhpur) to be full of amiable and kind people who will be quick to offer you chai as a symbol of genuine hospitality. It is not uncommon for them to turn their shop upside down to show you all of their goods, as many are quite proud of their business.
In the evening Lisa was ferried up to Mehrangarh Fort to enjoy a traditional Rajasthani dinner on the Chokhelao Terrace set in the fort’s historic gardens. In addition to the cuisine, the dramatically lit backdrop of the fort and the views of the twinkling city below made for a delightful dining experience.
Next morning, she returned to more fully explore the Fort which dominates the city and is the largest fort in all Rajasthan. Founded in 1458 as the site of Rao Jodha’s new capital — hence the name, Jodhpur — the city has grown around it, and in the 500 years that have passed the fort has never been taken by force. It’s easy to see why: it occupies the entire top of a 150m hill with commanding views all around, with some three kilometres of massive ramparts built around the edges.
Actually, the name “Fort” belies the size of the complex, which houses the Maharaja’s palace, several temples and, tucked away in the back, an extensive garden still farmed to this day. Highlights within the palace include:
- Moti Mahal (Pearl Hall). Pearl-colored inside and decorated with colored glass windows, this is where the Maharaja held his audiences, with the five alcoves on the far wall allowing his queens to listen in.
- Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Hall). Just what the name says.
- Phool Mahal (Flower Hall). The most extravagant of them all, this was the Maharaja’s pleasure chamber, for dancing girls and general revelry.
- Zenana Deodi. The inner sanctum of the palace once guarded by eunuchs, this is where the Maharaja’s wives whiled away their days. The delicate sandstone screens and carvings are exquisite.
- Chamunda Mataji Temple. Tucked away at the far end of the battlements, this temple is devoted to Rao Jodha’s favorite goddess and remains a local favorite to this day.
Lisa then caught a tuk tuk for the short ride to Jodhpur’s second most famous attraction, Jaswant Thada. This milky-white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, sitting above a small lake 1km northeast of Mehrangarh, is an array of whimsical domes. It’s a welcome, peaceful spot after the hubbub of the city, and the views across to the fort and over the city are superb. Built in 1899, the cenotaph has some beautiful jalis (carved marble lattice screens) and is hung with portraits of Rathore rulers going back to the 13th century.
She then took a fascinating guided walking tour called Brahmins and the Blue City which took her to a residential part of Jodhpur that few tourists visit. That night, tired after a long day exploring Jodhpur’s highlights Lisa dined in the hotel’s signature restaurant, Darikhana for an authentic banquet of spiced dishes on the terrace looking back on the stunningly-lit Mehrangarh Fort.