Jodhpur's city landscape features two distinct features. Mehrangarh Fort sits atop a hill dominating the skyline from any vantage point below. The Fort's red sandstone walls blend with the hill's sheer faces making it indistinguishable where one ends and the other begins. A quick glance is all it takes to be convinced the fort was never taken by enemy forces since its construction over 500 years ago. Surrounding the Fort is Jodhpur's historical core known as The Blue City. Most of the homes are painted a light shade of sky blue - originally to identify Brahmin homes, however, once residents learned the color made homes cooler and repelled insects many followed suit. The result is that I couldn't walk more than a block without seeing a light blue home.
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The best way to see the city sites is hiring a tuk tuk for a half day and start with Jaswant Thada - the Taj Mahal of Jodhpur, in the sense it's an impressive, white marble tomb and monument, although it's certainly no Taj. The best part of the site is the early morning views of the sun shining on the east side of Mehrangarh Fort.
Mehrangarh Fort, the city's top attraction does not disappoint. The entrance is as imposing as Jaipur's Amber Fort, however, the interior exceeds its Rajasthani counterpart. While the Amber Fort palaces are nothing more than empty halls, Mehrangarh Fort demonstrates the intricate designs that Indian craftsmen incorporated into an otherwise monolithic site. The Fort not only meets defensive requirements, but also sets aesthetic standards. The outside window lattice work and roof finishes show the impressive skill of 15th Century laborers.
The palace area is subdivided with courtyards opening to different sections. The Phool Mahal was an entertainment and dancing area. The Moti Mahal was were the king held outside audiences. The Zenana Diodi was the woman's inner sanctum.
What also sets this fort apart from others is that other halls have been turned into museums showcasing howdahs (elephant mounted seats), palanquins (human carried seats), royal cribs, a fine art gallery, and an armory.
An audio tour (included in the 500 rupee entrance fee; you need to leave a form of ID as a security deposit) provides sufficient background and took me through a well defined course. The only downside was the rampart views are limited to the east - I couldn't walk completely around the fort.
From the Fort I could see The Maharaja of Jodhpur's current residency Umaid Bhawan Palace. Completed in 1944 this was the last great Indian palace. A small section of the palace is open as a museum containing a few dish ware artifacts and family portraits. It's not worth the 100 rupee entrance fee and it's debatable if the cross city drive for the up close view of the palace is an effective use of time.
The rest of the time Jaipur is spent getting lost (very easy to do) in the Blue City's narrow streets. The streets barely fit a tuk tuk let alone two, motorcycles, cows, fruit carts, and pedestrians. At various time during my walks I found myself pressed flat against a wall or jumping into a store to avoid oncoming traffic that showed no signs of stopping. The narrowness of the streets limits views of the Fort which hampered my sense of direction. I walked around in a circle before finding the right route to the clock tower area, a central hub in the Blue City. I drank a sunset beer at Indique, an upscale restaurant with a view…although I think the view from my guesthouse (which costs as much as the beer) was better. I ate two vegetable samosas then got lost again on the walk back.
For additional photos see FLICKR ALBUM.