ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Rajasthan, Agra and Delhi 2018

DAY 1 (2/5): PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.24

Haveli in India refers to a large historical mansion built by a wealthy merchant over a century ago.  Designed to impress both the residents and outside spectators, these buildings usually come with ornate carvings, beautiful frescoes, intricate window screens, and an airy courtyard or lightwell.  While many have been fallen into disrepair over the years, some havelis have survived into modern times and become valuable heritage buildings.  Rajasthan has some of the most famous and well preserved havelis in India, and some of which have been converted into museums or hotels.  Situated in the old city near the Gulab Sagar Reservoir and Clock Tower Market, the beautiful Pal Haveli was our hotel in Jodhpur.  Owned by the Pal Family, the two-hundred-year-old haveli was the place where we first experienced the historical sense and beauty of the Medieval Jodhpur.  Antique housewares, paintings, textiles and furniture offered a charming ambience.  From the rooftop restaurant, views of the busy Clock Tower Market and the majestic Mehrangart Fort were breathtaking.  Outside the hotel, the market streets and square near the Clock Tower dominated the street scenes.

Just a stone throw away stood a simple omelette shop that has been frequented by foreign tourists ever since Lonely Planet named the local eatery as the famous “Omelette Shop” in 1999.  Since then, this simple eatery has been elevated into legendary status among foreign tourists.  The life of Ramkishan Gawlani the owner has been completely transformed ever since.  According to an interview with Reuters, Ramkishan Gawlani was used to be poor and drank all day.   For 24 years he cooked meat, rice, lentils and sometimes omelette.  After Lonely Planet’s listing however, his business boomed dramatically with tourists all over the world come to him for omelettes.  He gave up the other options in his menu and became an omelette specialist.  Just a decade after the listing, he was cracking 1000 eggs a day and earned much respect in the city of Jodhpur.  Interestingly, the famous omelette man is in fact a vegan and has not eaten an egg for years.  His story reflects an interesting phenomenon about the tourist and guidebook industry.   According to Reuters, Lonely Planet has sold over a million guidebooks on India from 1981 to 2007, and has inevitably bringing tourists to the same hotels and restaurants throughout the years, and has created tension and jealousy among businesses, such as the hostile feelings of the other omelette shop owners towards Ramkishan Gawlani.  For us, we did visit the famous Omelette Shop for our first meal in Rajasthan because of its convenient location.  While not as legendary one might imagine, Ramkishan Gawlani ‘s omelettes were indeed delightful and convenient for us.

dsc_9991We arrived at Pal Haveli hotel straight from the airport in early afternoon.

dsc_9990Through the grand entrance, we entered into the main arrival courtyard of the hotel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the roof, Indique Restaurant is a well known establishment with good food and great views of the old Jodhpur.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hotel reception lobby is situated right at the courtyard.

dsc_9977Despite its modest size, the reception lobby of Pal Haveli is decently decorated with traditional furniture and antiques.

dsc_9978Even the light switches reflect the long history of the building.

dsc_9980Our room was located right by the courtyard.

dsc_9984Inside the room, walls were decorated with traditional miniature paintings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust a stone throw away, the legendary Omelette Shop was busy serving foreign tourists.

dsc_9994Stacks of eggs and signs of “Lonely Planet” and “Tripadvisor” suggested we had come to the “right” place, but not one of the imitated ones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARamkishan Gawlaniwas busy making omelettes at the stove.

img_8605Made with several eggs, mayo, cheese, spices and bread, we tried the tasty Alibaba Omelette.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear the Omelette Shop was the entrance into the Sardar Market or the Clock Tower Market.

dsc_9997_01Across the street from the Omelette Shop, we could see the side facade of our hotel Pal Haveli.

dsc_9998Dozens of tuk tuks or auto rickshaws await for tourists at the heart of the old city across the street from the Omelette Shop.

dsc_0003After a few rounds of bargaining, we hired one of the passing auto rickshaw for Mehrangarh Fort, the single most iconic sight of the city of Jodhpur.

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DAY 1 (1/5): IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN, India, 2018.11.24

Known as the “Land of Marahaja” where Princes and Raiputs once led extravagant lives in palaces and castles of One Thousand and One Nights, the desert state of Rajasthan in Northwestern India is the most popular tourist destination in India.  In this incredible land of rich heritage, aromatic cuisines, ornate havelis, and lavish palaces, we were never far away from the stories of Rajputs and Princes, tales of desert caravans, exotic landscapes of the Thar Desert, elegant monuments of Hinduism, Jainism and Islam, and bits and pieces of the bygone glory of the British Raj.  India is well known for its vivid colours.  With “blue city” Jodphur, “pink city” Jaipur, or “golden city” Jaisalmer, nowhere in the country is more elaborate in bright colours than Rajasthan.

In 2016 we made a trip to Ladakh, the mountainous region in Northern India dotted with Tibetan lamaseries along the Indus Valley.  It was a pleasant journey in early summer when most of the Indian Subcontinent was baked in scorching heat.  This time in late 2018, we opted to experience the Classic India in the mild and sunny winter.  In 11 fascinating days, we ventured out west from Delhi, the Indian capital into Rajasthan for an extended version of the Golden Triangle route.  Undoubtedly the most popular tourist circuit in India, the Golden Triangle connects Delhi with the Rajasthani capital Jaipur and Agra, the former Mughal capital where the iconic Taj Mahal has proudly stood for almost 400 years.  Our second Indian journey began with a 6-hour evening flight from Hong Kong to Delhi.

map india 2018_2

We began our Rajasthani journey from Jodhpur, then headed to Jaisalmer via Osian, the westernmost point of our journey.  From Jaisalmer, we hopped back eastwards first to Pushkar by night train, and then Jaipur the pink city.  A hired taxi brought us further eastwards to Agra via Bhangarh Fort, Chand Baori step well in Abhaneri, and the abandoned Mughal capital of Fatehpur Sakri.  After keeping our fingers crossed and seeing the magnificent Taj Mahal without any scaffolding, we returned to the Indian capital to take on what we had left two years ago, to explore the city’s Mughal attractions.

01Our evening flight brought us westwards from Hong Kong, passing by big and small cities along the way.  At one point, we came close to the Myanmarese city Mandalay.

02From the mouth of Meghna River in the Bay of Bengal, our plane turned northwest to follow what could be the famous Ganges River, and passed by a myriad of rural villages along the way.

04After about six hours on the plane, the first thing welcomed us in Delhi was its infamous smog.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter staying the night at a hotel in the Aerocity, we returned to the airport for our domestic flight going to Jodhpur. The elephant statues in the departure hall was a popular selfie spot in the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the departure concourse of Delhi Airport, we had a sandwich and coffee at Costa Coffee.

08A large sculpture with statues making yoga poses was another popular selfie spot at the gate concourse.

09From above, the Suburban Delhi looked greener than we thought.

10At this time of the year (early winter), it would hardly be a day without sunny weather in Northern India.

12As we headed west into the desert state of Rajasthan, arid landscape gradually came into sight.

14An hour’s flight took us to Jodhpur, the famous blue city of Rajasthan.

16The Jodhpur Airport has a simple passenger terminal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the exit gateway of the airport terminal, we met our driver prearranged with our hotel Pal Haveli.

img_8558Outside the car window, we had our first glimpse of the urban scenery in Rajasthan.

18Tuk tuks were everywhere in the busy streets of Jodphur.  We reached Pal Haveli Hotel in about 15 minutes.