Our train was super-early and we were a little worried about getting to our prebooked accommodation at Mystic Jaisalmer. As it turned out though, we needn’t have bothered worrying. Without arranging anything, we were greeted off the train by a man holding a sign with our names on it. Slightly dazed and confused still at this point, we allowed ourselves to be lead to this man’s jeep, which took us to Mystic Jaisalmer. We hadn’t notified the hotel about how we were getting to Jaisalmer (bus or train), so this welcoming was a total, pleasant surprise to us!
On arriving at the lovely hotel, we were immediately shown to our rooms and were told we should sleep for a while before we sign all the necessary paperwork. And that we did! Thankfully, this room was much cooler than the one in Jodhpur and we managed to get a few hours kip. When we woke, we enjoyed chai upstairs with the staff, signed the paperwork, and booked our camel trek. We umm’d and ahh’d over who to book it with, and read countless reviews of various companies. We chose to go with our hotel because of the good reviews, the helpful staff, and for convenience. (You can read more on the camel trek in the next blog).
Excited, the first thing we did was go to the fort, which we were told was pretty unique… and it was! Inside the fort are literally thousands (3,000 according to LP) people living within the narrow, hidden alleyways. As well as this there are countless restaurants, handicraft shops (some awesome textiles) and temples, mostly hidden away as though the fort were a maze. It’s best not to look for a ‘recommended’ restaurant, as there are so many great places that are hidden away in the corners. We walked around for hours, stopping at various places for iced coffee until we came to a nice little place for lunch (forgotten the name).
Stomachs full, we carried on walking around, stopping at certain viewpoints (incredible), until we found ourselves outside the Fort Palace. This is a must! Obviously! Though it cost us 30 Rupees for entry and an extortionate 250 for the camera!!!!!! Well, it’s not “extortionate”, but a little steep compared to the entry fee. Our audio guide took us around the Fort Palace for an hour and a half, though this admittedly includes ‘skipped’ channels as we had heard a lot of the history of Rajasthan’s forts previously. However, we stopped for long periods of time when we reached such points as the rooftop which gives mind-blowing views of the city.
On exiting the palace, we dodged the harassing rickshaw drivers and headed back to the hotel for a shower, change and cool down. (It’s HOT!!!) when we headed back out, we realised that we needed an ATM and so we walked away from the centre to where we were told there was one. Wallets bulging, we headed back towards the fort as we were, surprise surprise, hungry. While walking around the shelter-less wall of the fort, the heavens suddenly opened! And showed NO mercy! We ran… and finally reached someone’s ‘porch’ which was ‘sheltered’ by a bamboo roof. We ran under it, turning a few heads, and in fact received little protection from the rain as there were holes in the roof as big as my face. Fail. The fact that I was wearing a white, satin-ish, (now see-through) top meant that we were going to have to head back as I couldn’t sit in a restaurant, in India, looking like I was only wearing my bra on the top. With absolutely nowhere to shelter us from the rain as there is only one entrance at the fort – the east side – the side that we were not at (we were at the side which only has a huge steep smooth wall), we just started running… Wet isn’t the word. A sight for sore eyes we were indeed. We did finally make it though to a nice Italian restaurant, Jaisal Italy, which sits really close to the entrance of the fort.
It was a pretty early night for us as we knew we had to be up early (7.00) for the camel trek, though the locust population that we came home to, did delay the sleeping for a while. The noise was taunting and the active ones flying around the room did, I admit, terrify me. An unsympathetic Brendan had no troubles sleeping, though I found myself sleeping with my head stuffed inside my sleeping bag.
The next day we left for our camel trek for one and a half days, and returned the following afternoon. We checked into the same room, where the locusts had increased in numbers. Nevertheless, I still have to say that this hotel is awesome!! Despite a few rogue bugs, which HAS to be expected in the middle of summer in the middle of the desert, this place was seriously amazing. The staff just flocked to our feet, helping us with absolutely anything that we needed, the bathroom was huge, clean and with an awesomely powerful hot shower, the rooms were just beautiful, gorgeously decorated, nice an cool, free towels and TRULY clean sheets (not like most hotels’ false claims). The laundry service was quick, though a little pricey, and the rooftop is stunning. And all we paid was 350 Rupees per night ($7)!!!!!!!! You HAVE to stay there!
On the evening of our return, we ate at a restaurant, Free Tibet which served excellent momos and soup. There was a huge commotion of music we could hear, and when we had finished eating we followed the music. What we arrived at was a huge crowd of people, including men, women, children, and men in saris dancing behind a van that was playing booming loud music, there were colourful strobe lights shining everywhere, and at the back was a young boy, wearing a bright orange turban, sitting on a horse. Mesmerised, we followed the crowd which walked and danced behind the van all around the city, and after an hour, we arrived at a building, buzzing with people inside, and which the boy finally went into. Some people continued dancing behind the now-stationary van, still playing the music, and we headed back.
Our fourth and final day in Jaisalmer was spent visiting the ‘abandoned village’ (kuldhara) and Gadi Sagar lake. The abandoned village was pretty interesting. There are various rumours as to why people left the village, though noone really knows the true reason. There is a temple in the middle of the village which is in good condition, and offers a good view. The rest of the village, is now merely a pile of bricks scattered all over, with a few walls (made of cow pat) still standing. It’s worth going, but takes about 40 minutes in a rickshaw.
The lake was also really lovely. It’s surrounded by temples and shrines and is inhabited by a number of birds and buffalo. Also, it was fun to see the mass of catfish go crazy at the surface of the water when we threw bread to them.
When we returned back to the city centre, it was awesome to meet up with Luke and Winnie who had just arrived and were helping in a hostel for a free room. We went for lunch, but sadly had to run pretty quickly as our train was leaving in 45 minutes and we still needed to head back to the hotel, pick up our stuff and get to the station. Thankfully the train station is less than 5 minutes from the hotel and we made it with 5 minutes to spare.