Jodhpur, India. There were still sights left to see in this busy city. We started off by taking a tuk-tuk to the public market, built at the base of the fort by the British in 1910 around a clock tower that has since become an iconic image of the city.
The Sardar market is a perfect composite of every one we have seen. It is built around a distinctive clock tower and there are well-defined areas for each mercantile specialty, tuk-tuks and motorcyles angling into impossible spaces, and people rushing everywhere to do their shopping.
Around the section of the market devoted to store after store selling what appears to be the same thousand wrist bangles is the one of India’s grandest examples of a step-well. These large excavations are actually wells dug down to ground water level but designed so that people could walk down via various staircases to get to the water.
They were used to collect water during rainy periods when the water level would rise and could get down to precious water deep in the ground during drought periods. This particular step-well was constructed in the early 18th century. But when more modern sources of water made this method obsolete, it was used as a rubbish dump and filled to the top. A recent renovation cleaned out the garbage and now it’s used as swimming hole for adventurous young men. The water is crystal-clear and even features fish. A concentration of high-end shops, restaurants and hotels now overlook this historic architectural marvel.
The next architectural marvel on the list was the Umaid Bhawan Palace. This palace today is partly occupied by a descendant of the maharajah who built it and partly used as a luxury hotel where the recent lavish wedding of singer Nick Jonas and actress Priyauha Chopra was held. It boasts some 347 rooms and was built over a period of 16 years, beginning in 1929. The current maharajah occupies about one-third of the palace; the rest was opened as a hotel in 1978.
Mere mortals can’t actually roam around the hotel. You have to be paying guest for that privilege. You can’t even go in for a meal unless you spend at least $500 a person. We decided to pass on that honor. They do let you into a small museum (for a fee) to look at a history of the family, the plans for building the palace and a few rooms from it recreated from the ’40s and ’50s. The interior, we are told, is all Art Deco, done by a British architect with a slight Indian-influence twist.
A large collection of unusual clocks were on display in the museum. The royal car collection was protected behind reflective glass, but, trust me, the maharajah is not using tuk-tuks to get around.
Only a very small portion of the 26-acre garden is accessible to non-residents. We got a photo of some guests arriving at the hotel, dressed in blue jeans and t-shirts, who, no doubt, were either hedge-fund managers or had created an app in a Silicon Valley garage a few years ago.
With such an opulent setting for a send off, how could the Jonas/Chopra marriage ever go wrong?
Tomorrow we have the joy of a 10-hour car trip to Udaipur, which should be hard on the camel seat blister that Johnny Walker left me in a very sensitive area of my nether region. I will be praying for a relatively smooth road.