Hi-tech in the Blue City

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of India  ,
Sunday, February 4, 2007

He Said:

We were in the state of Rajasthan about two weeks ago when we visited Jaipur with our friend Kristen. Since her time in India was short and there was a lot to see, we didn't have time to get to some of the further out places in this fascinating state. Yesterday we arrived to the "Blue City" of Jodhpur. From the 1400's to the 1800's the city was on an important overland trade route and became very wealthy from the profits of trade in opium, sandalwood, dates, and copper. Like many of the other cities in Rajasthan, this was once a princely kingdom ruled by a maharaja. The big attraction is the Meherangarh, the palace and fortress of the Maharajas of the Rathore Kingdom. Actually the place is still owned and maintained by the current Maharaja (although like the British Royalty, he has no political power and instead runs several charitable trusts).

I found the city to be a really fascinating mix of old and new. A relatively modern new city borders the labyrinthine alleyways of the old city, which surrounds the mountain on which the Meherangarh is built. The fort itself was made up of delicately ornamented sandstone palaces in a stunning state of preservation crowning the huge towering walls. The views of the city below were impressive. Musicians placing traditional instruments positioned in key locations throughout the fortress enriched the atmosphere, and great audio guide came with our admission ticket. Most sites we've visited in India so far (except the Taj Mahal) were poorly signposted, in varying states of decay, scattered with litter, having putrid bathrooms, and seemed rather haphazardly managed. Meherangarh was a big exception and has certainly been the most polished operation of any site we've seen in India thus far!

This morning we are off by bus to Udaipur, which bills itself as "Rajasthans' most romantic city". Hmmm..."romantic India" is pretty much an oxymoron in my mind. We'll see!

She Said:

After a few overnight trains in the lowest of the upper class compartments, we decided to step up a level to a nicer compartment for our overnight train ride to Jodhpur. It was worth every rupee and felt so luxurious (its all relative, you know!). There were only four people in the space that held eight in our previous compartments. And only one was snoring, instead of six snorers! We both had the best night of train sleep so far, and the rest of our overnight trains are going to be in this class. Yipee!

Over the last two weeks, we have visited many tourist sites, most of which seem like they are missing a major opportunity to capitalize on all the foreign tourists walking through the doors each day. Most do not have stalls selling beverages, souvenirs, and even toilets.... let alone have signs with little descriptions of areas around the site. Until we visited the Meherangarh Fort in Jodhpur, that is.

Finally...a tourist site in India that is getting EVERYTHING right! It is in immaculate condition, very well sign posted, and there are 3 cafes scattered throughout the fort (one even has internet!). But, the most amazing thing was the very professional audio tour. When we purchased our tickets, the attendant handed us each a personal MP3 player and a very nice brochure with a map of the site (heavy paper, organized, with PERFECT English... which I have realized rarely happens in India). Each site of importance was marked with a number, and all you had to do was type the number on the keypad of the MP3 player, and an entertaining bit of audio told you everything you needed to know. I usually don't have the attention span for this type of thing, but the audio was so well done with music and different voices acting out scenes that it was a pleasure to listen to! Right at the end of the tour, there was a strategically placed gift shop that was so well decorated and laid out that I had to fight my urges to buy lots of trinkets I didn't need (or want to carry, that is).

We spent some time chatting with the owner of our guesthouse, who read an article in a magazine a few weeks ago about wireless Internet, and had never heard of it before. Let's just say that he caught wireless Internet fever, and is in the processes of turning the rooftop of his guesthouse into a wireless Internet café. As you can imagine, it is the first of its kind in Jodhpur. He is also thinking about serving fancy coffees so people will stay and hang out (an idea given to him by a European backpacker a few weeks ago). We told him all about Starbucks, and suggested that he charge a premium for the coffee and give the internet away for free, as long as you keep ordering beverages. He was so excited about the whole thing... it was really great to see his entrepreneurial enthusiasm! It almost made me want to stay a while and help him start an up market Indian coffee chain.
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