A Hyper-Inspirational Shade of the Color Blue

The Blue City, Jodhpur, India
The Blue City, Jodhpur, India

It’s not often that travel and sci-fi are mentioned in the same sentence. But if you bear with me, I have an unusual mash-up of one of my favorite sci-fi excerpts and my favorite city in India.

 

It’s weird. I know. Just bear with me.

 

In Douglas Adams’ classic novel The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, I’ve always felt that Adams’ comic genius was best encapsulated in the scene where President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox steals the cleverly-imagined starship The Heart of Gold (equipped with the also cleverly-imagined Improbability Drive). What I found so amusing wasn’t the act of grand larceny or even the name Zaphod Beeblebrox. It was the description of the reception committee, which included humanoids, some reptiloids, and a Hooloovoo—described as a super-intelligent shade of the color blue. I don’t know why the concept of a super-intelligent color struck me as so hysterical. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never met a shade of blue that could even be considered of average intelligence. Whatever the reason, that’s the thought that sprang into my mind when—and here’s the connection—I first laid eyes on the historic center of the Indian city of Jodhpur.

 

It is at this point that any similarity to science fiction goes out the window. Despite the rapid modernization going on in other parts of the country, Jodhpur is still pleasantly ancient. Situated at the edge of a desert in western Rajasthan, with little else around, it wasn’t hard to figure out why.

 

The main attraction is the enormous Mehrangarh Fort, perched like a giant on a sandstone bluff dominating the skyline. This fortress-turned-museum houses relics of Jodhpur’s royalty along with the fascinatingly ornate architecture so prevalent throughout India. It is also here that one is treated with mesmerizing views of the heart of the ‘Blue City’—a sprawling yet densely-packed warren of flat-roofed houses nearly all painted in a lovely shade of blue.

 

Into the Blue
Into the Blue

I have no idea of what a Hooloovoo’s preference of living quarters might be, but if one did exist, I imagine this is where you’d find it. From the lofty vantage point of the fort, you can witness the locals going about their business much as they have for hundreds of years—drying clothes on their rooftops, sipping tea, or just chatting—all with that bluish backdrop that may or may not be intelligent, but is most certainly inspirational.

 

When I enquired as to the reasoning behind the blue palette stretching out as far as the eye can see, my guide explained that in the days of the caste system, a blue home was an indication that the occupants were of an upper-level caste. Eventually, someone noticed that this color apparently has the pleasant side-effect of repelling mosquitoes, and that’s a cause that appeals to ALL levels of society. Regardless of the origin, the visual effect it has produced—changing in hue with the angle of the sun—was sufficient to inspire me to travel halfway around the world.

 

Zip Lining Mehrangarh Fort
Zip Lining Mehrangarh Fort

And if witnessing this otherworldly scene isn’t cool enough, a company called Flying Fox Asia offers zip lining tours from off the ramparts of the fort, out along the shores of an artificial lake, and in full view of a portion of the Blue City. I’m a big fan of zip lining. I’m an even bigger fan of zip lining with interesting things to look at as I dangle precariously from a cable. Solely based on that criteria alone, Jodhpur was my favorite locale for this exhilarating yet safe sport.

 

There’s plenty more to say about this fascinating city but I’ll leave that for another time. Suffice to say, the Mehrengarh Fort and the Blue City are an inspiring sight to see. And as you walk the stony ramparts and gaze out at the maze-like city awash in blue, be sure to drink in the moment, drink in the ambiance, and, while you’re at it, you might as well drink up a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster*. Zaphod would want it that way.

 

*According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is defined as the “Best Drink In Existence” with its effects described as being similar to “having your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick.” Furthermore, it advises that you should never drink more than two unless you are a ‘30-ton mega elephant with bronchial pneumonia.’ For some more laughs, I recommend you Google the recipe and also pick up a copy of the book in its five-part trilogy version.

Film Location Fun & Folly

I still remember the first time I saw a film location site in person. I was young—preteens for sure. My dad had a business trip in L.A. and was able to have me come along. After the event was over we stayed another few days, and being the wonderful dad that he is, he worked it out so that we could stay at the Bonaventure Hotel with its famous outdoor elevators that also played a pivotal role in what was at that time one of my favorite movies: Midnight Madness. I don’t imagine many will recall that kitschy film of 1980 starring a very young Michael J. Fox, but for me, riding that elevator and peering down to see if the pool chairs were still arranged to spell out the location of the finish line (they weren’t) was a moment of cinematic glory and high point in my life to that point. Too bad we can’t stay 12 forever.

 

Aging aside, I know that I still enjoy being in famous film locales regardless if I’ve ever seen them or not. Somehow the fact that a motion picture studio would choose to work their magic in a given place sort of gives weight to a location, as if an appearance on the big screen makes that site a celebrity in and of itself. While I’ve never been star-struck by celebrities in the human form, there have been a few locales that I would have asked for their autograph if only they could hold a pen. Below I’ve included some of my favorites. And for those of you who DO remember Midnight Madness, I challenge you to read on without the cheesy theme song running in your head.

 

Mehrangarh Fort, Johdpur, India

 

My wife Susie posing in front of Batman's "prison"
My wife Susie posing in front of Batman’s “prison”

It was during my visit in December 2011 that I learned that only a few months before, filming had wrapped up for the upcoming Batman installment The Dark Knight Rises. I had to wait until the following summer to see what they filmed, but sitting in the theater I felt a thrill of excitement when I saw Bruce Wayne climb out of a hole with this massive landmark behind him. I also got a charge of seeing Ra’s Al Ghul walking the same embattlements that I did with the ethereal blue city in the background. The urge to jump up and shout “I was there!” was strong, but I thought jumping up and shouting in a crowded theater might cause more trouble than it’s worth, so I savored my connection silently.

 

Deer Park Heights, Queenstown, New Zealand

 

In Front of the Remarkables Range, a.k.a. Rohan, Deer Park Heights, NZ
In Front of the Remarkables Range, a.k.a. Rohan, Deer Park Heights, NZ

It is impossible to visit New Zealand and not stumble across one or more locations used in Peter Jackson’s adaptations of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. In a game park across from the activity-packed town of Queenstown in the southwestern corner of the South Island, these sloping mountainsides of grassy tussock, rocky outcroppings and small tarns with the snow-covered Remarkables Range in the background, doubled for the land of Rohan and featured prominently in the film The Two Towers. It’s a fun place to spend an afternoon with some gorgeous scenery. These days it is also decidedly orc-free, which makes traveling a lot easier.

 

The Lagoon of Bora Bora, French Polynesia

 

Lagoon of Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Lagoon of Bora Bora, French Polynesia

While I wasn’t crazy about the movie Couples Retreat, I was absolutely bonkers over the magnificent setting on Bora Bora. In a time of CGI and special effects, none are needed for the lagoon, which is arguably the most appealing body of water in the world. The movie was made long after I had been there, but I enjoyed seeing it again if only to validate my previously formed opinions.

 

There are many more places I can list but I think I’ve made my point. Having something from the silver screen on your camera’s viewfinder is one of the joys of travel. And sometimes it is that one scene in a movie you love that will send you on a trip many thousands of miles away. Is it silly? Yes. Is it fun? Sure it is, and it’s just another reason to get out into the big wide world.

 

Is there a location made famous in a movie that gave you a thrill to visit in person? Share it here! And if you remember Midnight Madness please share it here as well!