Jaisalmer is effortlessly beautiful. Though I rest my case here 🙂 but am gonna write more 😉
Jaisalmer, also called the “Golden city” of India, is an enchanting & exotic little fort-town of Rajasthan. It’s a city of culture, food, ancient sand castle forts, stunning Jain temples, pigeons, sand dunes, sun & camel.
What I especially loved was that it was so tiny that I could just walk around the whole city. Half of the city was actually inside the massive sandcastle fort of Jaisalmer!
We arrived in Jaisalmer late evening on 27th Dec, after a 5 hour long bus journey from Jodhpur (I will be talking on Jodhpur in the next blog). We reached quite tired after a rather rocking ‘n’ rolling bus ride & wished to retire in our hotel.
As soon as we de-boarded the bus, the auto wallahs literally jumped on us! We were suddenly surrounded by hundreds of them (don’t know where they came from … From inside the bus the bus junction looked quite deserted!). We were treated like celebrities & I felt grateful for that, only that I did not enjoy the attention so much! One of the auto wallah actually picked up our bag & rushed with it towards his auto! We ran after him, with the rest of the auto wallahs running behind us! It was bizarre! I may not have described the scene too well but it was a moment when I wanted to cry & also laugh ! So anyways … We were practically ‘forced’ to sit in his auto. The driver told us that out hotel was only about 5 minutes from the bus junction which made me very happy, only to realize later that everything in Jaisalmer was about 5 minutes away from wherever we were !
Our hotel – ‘Nirmal Haveli’ – was lovely! It actually looked like a haveli & our room was beautifully lit up in colorful lights & the sunrays coming from the curtains gave varied colors to the room & its sandstone walls. We loved it – highly recommended to all travelers. (I had booked this place through Oyo at a very reasonable price; it can also be booked through its website – http://hotelnirmalhaveli.com)
At this moment, I must mention our caretaker – Mahendra Bhaiya. He was the karta-dharta of the haveli & was an all-rounder. From being a welcoming host to a wonderful cook, he was also our free guide to the beautiful city. His love for the city was evident in the way he spoke about – its history, its food, its culture & its uniqueness. He ensured we felt completely at home.
Next day, after our complimentary delectable breakfast at the hotel we set out to explore the city & the first place we destined towards was the ever famous Golden fort of Jaisalmer – the living fort !
The beautiful yellow-golden colored Jaisalmer fort is a wonder in itself.
Its huge! Its a mini town in itself & even today at least 25% of the city’s population lives inside the walls of the fort. Its tangled lanes are swarmed with colorful shops selling beautiful souvenirs & traditional artifacts. Several Jain temples are lined up inside the fort and the architecture is laudable!
In the narrow lanes of the fort, one will find several women selling homemade refreshing lassi, for as low as 10 bucks.
After appreciating the fort’s splendor for almost half a day, we walked over to – Salim Singh-ki-Haveli & Patwa-ki-haveli. Salim Singh-ki-haveli is famous for its sophisticated etched architecture and Patwa-ki-haveli has this fascinating honey-colored lace stone work all over it.
Outside Patwa-ki-haveli there are several shops offering to dress up & click travelers in colorful traditional Rajasthani attire, for only 150 bucks.
This is a must for all. I sure felt like a Queen of one of those haveli’s!
We then visited the museum in the Patwa-ki-haveli in which history spoke for itself. The first floor of the palace was lined up with incredibly engaging paintings which we were told were painted using 1.5 KGS of gold!
India sure was a rich country – once upon a time !
After a lively day we went to the quiet of our own private haveli (hotel, I mean!) 😉 . We wrapped up the day with the most simple yet most amazing dinner, on the rooftop overlooking the alluring golden fort!
While the days sparkled with bright & warm sunlight, the evenings were cool & angelic glittering under the silver moonlight.
Our dinners were long and slow. Post dinner we would watch the pigeons doze off to sleep in the alcoves of the haveli – head down – neck pulled back – feet tucked under. On hearing our footfalls some of them would occasionally tremor and lift their heads, their soft feathery necks heaving up and down – breathing! However, lost in themselves, they would doze back again.
This was one of the best experiences I have ever had!
Next day, after yet another delightful breakfast, we walked over to Gadisar Lake – the scenic rainwater lake surrounded by the small temples & shrines of Amar Sagar. For a long time, we were told, this lake was the only source of water for the inhabitants of Jaisalmer.
There were so many pigeons at the lake – & hence in the introduction I had called Jaisalmer also a city of pigeons! I have never seen so many pigeons together at one time! It was amazing & also a little scary!! Humans were suddenly in minority.
They would keep swirling around us as if trying to scare us away for having intruded in their space!
But it was also beautiful!
I have never felt closer to pigeons in my life before!
We watched the crimson sunset over the calm lake. It was peaceful.
Later in the evening we enjoyed a simple yet interesting puppet show.
Next day we bid a teary good-bye to our Mahendra Bhaiya and thanked him for his generous hospitality. It was time for some camping – or ‘glamping’ – in the Thar!
Whizzing past the Golden City, we rode in the cab that would take us to the desert for our camel rides & later to the camp sight. (Jamal Bhai can be contacted @ +91-9799490986 for booking a ride)
The almost 45-minute long ride was picturesque and peaceful. Sitting at the back of the cab, I could see the shiny black tar road, with windmill farms on both sides, cut through manifold stretches of sand.
I was seeing windmills ‘live’ for the first time & I remember being so excited about them! They were quite huge & looked beautiful to me in a weird way! 😉
The entire scene looked right out of a book!
On the way we stopped over at 2 places – The haunted village of Kuldhara and Bada Bagh – royal cenotaphs.
Kuldhara – the abandoned village – was established around the 13th century & was once a flourishing village inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins. It was abandoned by the early 19th century for unknown reasons. However locals claim several reasons for the abandonment like – dwindling water supply, hostility and ill-treatment by the Jaisalmer state’s minister Salim Singh, among others. Gradually it acquired the reputation of a haunted site.
However, to me, there was nothing haunted about that place – it was interesting though. Most of the houses were still half-made and gave a hint of the once prosperous clan that lived here!
Right outside the main entrance to the village, there was movable shop selling flavored soda water for only 10 bucks. It was a warm day & that drink was icy cold & tasted like heaven! I think we had like 10 glasses. That was the main attraction for me at the haunted village!! 😉
Our next stop was Bada Bagh – royal cenotaphs.
Bada Bagh, also called Barabagh (big garden) is a garden complex containing royal cenotaphs or ‘chhatris’ of Maharaja’s of Jaisalmer. Made of the famous golden stone of Jaisalmer these cenotaphs were built in memory of the city’s rulers.
This place was eerily calm and was a quiet retreat. I also thought it was a heaven for photographers. With the most intricate carvings on the golden glowing stones this place would be quite a background!
We finally reached the most awaited – Sam sand dunes of the Thar.
This was the city’s soul. Everything came to life when the rays of the sun danced in the sand hills giving it a sparkling golden glow.
While I had researched a lot about Jaisalmer & its dunes & looked at several pictures … apparently nothing prepared me for these dunes of the Thar! My jaw dropped as I soaked in the perfectly sculpted dunes that stretched on for miles before me. It was God’s work of art at its best.
We attempted walking barefoot on the sand & it was so cold inspite of it being a warm & sunny day. Not sure how long we sat there just staring at the sand & the sun & then back at the sand.
There were moments when it was just me & the desert! Several times I lost track of time & was shaken out of my reverie by the soft clinging of bells wrapped around the necks of the beautifully dressed camels.
I realized how gorgeous camels are! My husband says they are goofy – may be! But beautifully goofy!
Ours was called – Shahru’dk’ Khan! ❤ & when I clicked him he smiled at the camera. I mean look at the pic below, isn’t this the most wonderful smile ever! & notice the twinkle in his eyes 🙂 ❤
We looked at the setting sun over the soft, cold golden sand.
It’s the longest I have ever looked at anything, even though the sunset lasted only a few minutes. I guess it was the image of it that was so vivid in my mind for a long long time!
After bidding goodbye to the sun, we headed to our camps.
We were given a warm traditional welcome at the camp sight. (I had pre-booked the camp through – http://bikeridersjaisalmer.weebly.com/)
The tents were nicely decked up! & set beautifully amidst the golden stretch of the Thar which gave us a totally exotic feeling.
While sipping tea we enjoyed some wonderful folk performances from the golden land. Later we feasted to an elaborately prepared Rajasthani meal. The food, must say, everywhere in Jaisalmer was awesome! Full marks to the Rajasthani cuisine!
Next day morning we were served breakfast post which we departed for the city & later in the day boarded the train to Delhi, bidding a heavy hearted good bye to the laid-back, hassle-free and warm city of Jaisalmer.
I definitely felt richer!