Jodhpur was the second city we visited. After three days in Delhi, Jodhpur looked like heaven. We had a great time there, and great contact with the locals, as well as with fellow travellers. See our other posts on Jodhpur:
Here is a list of things we loved and we think you should try and do if you’re visiting the Blue City.
1. See the Mehrangarh fort – this is a magnificent structure that dominates the city from the top of a hill. The mahraja of Jodhpur still lives in this fort, even though mahrajas haven’t got any power left nowadays. Taking the audio tour or hiring a guide is highly recommended to make the most of this experience. Also you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city and you’ll understand why Jodhpur is called the blue city.
2. Visit the markets in the old city. The Sadar market, near the clock tower, with its mixes of spices, clothes and various crafts is a good place for a stroll. Enjoy the colours and the mixed smells. One thing has to be said, though. This market is mainly aimed at tourists so you may find higher prices and a higher number of touts than everywhere else, so you may want to explore the other adjacent other markets as well.
3. Try the omelette man near the clocktower. This guy makes delicious omelettes, and because it’s been recommended by Lonely Planet and many other international publications (including a Portuguese newspaper), it’s no surprise that many travellers end up giving the omelette man a go.
4. Try the pure vegetarian Brahmin cuisine at cosy guesthouse, in its wonderful rooftop scenery, while you chat with other friendly travellers visiting India.
5. Enjoy people’s curiosity and friendliness. Jodhpur is not a scam city – while it is advisable that you keep your eyes open within reasonable limits, being paranoid here is not good and if you do become paranoid you’ll miss out on connecting with the locals. Just have a walk with a camera on your shoulders and be everybody’s best friend. Allow curious children to hijack you into Hindu temples and markets. Take pictures of people and let people take pictures of you.
6. Take the Bishnoi village jeep safari. This safari can be arranged through your guesthouse or hotel, or through some tourist centres in town. Depending on the provider you choose this tour will set you back 500-600 rupees. The tour is very interesting and will give you plenty of photographic opportunities.
Has anyone been to Jodhpur? Any other things you want to recommend and add to the list? If so please leave us a comment.
As I said in another post, I love ethnic portraits, and now that I’m in India I have a lot of beautiful exotic people at hand to photograph. Taking street portraits on the go is not a problem anymore now that the ice is broken, but I had another wish (some people I spoke with before I left know this already) – to actually get to know a local family, connect with them and photograph them inside the most natural context: their home.
A few afternoons ago Romana and I were exploring the old town in Jodhpur, while yet another young girl asked if we could take a picture of her. I prepared my camera and took two or three shots, but the shooting conditions weren’t ideal. The sunlight was too strong and it was difficult to isolate the subject from the background with the ultra-wide angle lens I had on my camera. We took the shots, as I said, then smiled at the girl and started walking away ready to erase her picture, when unexpectedly she invited us into her family’s home. We didn’t let her repeat twice and with another big smile we followed her. My wish was coming true.
As we got in, I was struck by the emptiness and the simplicity of the home. The rooms were small and relatively naked but with a sort of elegance to them. We were invited to sit on a carpet on the floor and served some chai.
It wasn’t long before we came across some of the other members of the family. Two kids, Tanyia and Punit, a baby girl, Nohita, and the mum, Kiran. The girl’s name, we found out, is Hemlta and she is 12 years old.
After the chai I took more pictures. I kept the ultra-wide lens on my camera because I didn’t have much space and I raised the ISO to obtain a higher shutter speed, given that the light indoor wasn’t that intense. I started shooting the children, which were overexcited and were smiling and playing with each other like crazy.
Hemlta went to brush her hair and came back to us ready to be photographed. She really looked like she was playing a game. She started posing for us like a real model and Romana and I were amused by Hemlta’s attitude in front of the camera – after a while she also changed dresses and put some necklaces.
While I was shooting Hemlta I had to dodge Punit who was always trying to either come into the frame one millisecond before I pressed the shutter, or touching the lens with his fingers. On the other hand Tanyia kept saying “hello, un photo please” and pulling my t-shirt. They were so sweet!
At some stage I detached my ultra-wide lens and put my zoom lens on, because I wanted to do some close ups and change approach – this zoom lens is a 24-105mm and gives me a degree of flexibility, plus on the 105mm end I can have some control on the depth of field and isolate my subjects.
Kiran, Hemlta’s mum, wanted to be photographed too so I took a couple of shots of her, and then some family group shots including a few with Romana in them. Here is a selection of the shots:
We had to leave because it was getting late, but we promised to come back the day after, with some pictures printed. Once back at the guesthouse I started working on a selection of the pictures taken in the afternoon and the morning after I was ready to take the full resolution files to our host’s cousin’s photo studio in the old town. The studio wasn’t able to print the pictures by that afternoon, so we ended up going to Hemlta’s house with our hands kind of empty. We just stopped on the way to buy some sweets for the children and once in Hemlta’s place we were invited to drink some chai. We also met Hemant, another of Hemlta’s little brothers, who, probably disappointed for having known that he had missed out on the shooting session the day before, almost immediately after the introductions ran away in tears. Hemlta’s father, Amolak, was there also and we were introduced to him too. Amolak is a cook and has a street food stall right downstairs from the house. When he heard that we mentioned that we love indian food he suddenly disappeared, only to reappear a few minutes later, with two delicious Kachori for us. When the kachori was finished we left almost immediately.
Communicating was not easy as neither Hemlta nor any member of her family can speak proper English. One of the few things we managed to understand is that Hemlta loves Romana and called her “my best friend”.
The day after, we went back to Hemlta’s home with the pictures finally printed, as promised. Hemlta was very excited and when she saw us she ran downstairs to welcome us into her home again. Because we had been to some villages near Jodhpur in the morning and shot our ‘daily quota’ of pictures already, I left my camera in at the guesthouse. After all our third visit was supposed to be brief, and we were supposed to drop the prints and then leave. But we were invited in again.
Kiran, Hemlta’s mother, made some good chai. When the chai was finished she and Hemlta dragged Romana toward the cloakroom. After a while the three women reappeared wearing beautiful sarees, bangles and necklaces. Romana was so happy: she always loved sarees and wanted to try a real one. Kiran also dressed Punit and Hemant, the two little children and it didn’t take long before the Bollywood scene in front of my eyes made me understand that I’d made a big mistake leaving my camera locked in the room.
What did I do then? I used my iPhone’s camera. Perhaps not the same as a digital reflex, but still enough to capture some nice memories. I finally could make it up to Hemant, and to compensate I took a lot of pictures of him and let him play with my iPhone too. You should have seen how happy he was.
Finally my iPhone battery died and I couldn’t take any other picture. Amolak had just returned from work and he look tired, so we finally said goodbye and left. We exchanged contacts with Hemlta and her family and promised them to write to them some time.
Now, there may not be much to see in Jodhpur apart the magnificent fort and the markets in the old city. If you probably talked to a travel agency they’d tell you one day in Jodhpur is enough. But that’s definitely not the point. Stories like this make me understand that some of the most meaningful experiences you can do when you’re on a long term travel have little to do with the tourist sights (which are also important, by the way), but about the people you meet along the way and connect with. There is no one place where one day is enough if you’re not a tourist. And in this travel we’re not being tourists, so that’s one more reason why I’m happy Romana and I decided not to buy a tour of Rajasthan back in Delhi (see our Delhi, first stop high impact – part I post) – exploring Rajasthan on our own is proving way more rewarding. If we had been on a tour with a driver, probably we would not have had a chance to have a similar experience.
Because I am attracted to diversity and I’m very curious about world cultures, one of my favourite genres of photography is ethnic portraiture. I came across some good photographic opportunities back in the summer, when I was in Morocco on a two week vacation: intense colors, traditional outfits, huge markets with their busy environments litterally blew me away. However for some reasons, including my shy attittude at that particular time and the scarce tendency of locals to wanting to be photographed, I was left frustrated and came back home with very few photos of people, most of which kind of ‘stolen’.
When I was preparing psychologically for my trip to India, as part of the round the world trip, I fantasized a lot about photographing women in sarees against coloured walls, capturing the unique smile of Indian children and perhaps taking some good shots of men in turbans with picturesque moustache styles. Our first stop in India was Delhi and we didn’t do much in there, so we really just photographed the red fort and then left. With so many people trying to rip you off I just couldn’t see myself asking people if I could take a picture of them.
The story changed when we explored Jodhpur. On our first sightseeing walk we decided to visit the fort. This was in the morning. We arrived there and came across groups of local people going into a Hindu temple. It was the day after Diwali and many people were there. At first a little hesitant, we were invited to come into the temple by a child. We took our shoes off and once we got in, people started looking at us with curiosity. It wasn’t long before a few children, including the one who invited us in, approached us and asked us to take a picture of them. The ice was finally broken. We approached a woman in her coloured saree and she was happy to have her picture taken. When I prepared my camera to photograph her, other two women came close to her – they wanted to be photographed too.
Once we left the temple we were approached by other people, including children. What I couldn’t imagine is that we weren’t the only ones interested in ethinc portraits. A local guy approximately my age came to me and said, very politely: ‘my wife would like to take a picture with your wife. She is very excited at the idea”. So off we went. Once the ice was broken on the other side too, other people came to ask for a picture with us, making us feel like celebrities. We also spotted some people taking pictures of us sneakily with their mobile phones. It was funny to see how that sort of cross-cultural curiosity works on a two-step flow, here more than in other places I’ve been to.
In the afternoon we went out on another walk, planning to go to the clock tower, another popular sight in the city. However, on our way to the clock tower we came across another group of children who hijacked us into another temple and as if they knew we were looking for photographic opportunities, they showed us around and recommended potentially interesting subjects. In the temple we also met and got to chat with other very nice people.
Overall a very nice experience. The gallery I’m sharing here features some of the shots we took during what I can define our first real photography experience in India.
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