Friday, September 14, 2012

Rangeelo Rajasthan - Jaisalmer

We were anticipating Jaisalmer to be the highlight during our voyage to Rajasthan and it indeed lived up to our expectations. We spent two nights at Chokhi Dhani located in the Sam village, at the outskirts of Jaisalmer city. 

                                                 At Chokhi Dhani

By the time we reached Sam, it was well past noon. Since we were camping out in the open, it was really cold and it appeared there was no stopping the wind which was blowing at great speed. The flags on the top of the tent (which I guess were put up for identification) flapped frantically. After lunch and a sweet nap later, it was time to go to the Thar Desert situated about a kilometer away and we had the ship of the desert for company. The temperature might have been 2 or 3 degrees and while on the way, I saw couple of never-seen-before birds. Since I was just making forays into bird watching, I promised myself to look up in to Salim Ali’s book titled the Birds of India for the identification of these lovely species. These birds, I later realized were Desert Wheatears.

A little later while still on the camel, we were going up and down on the sand dunes and really enjoying the time out. The care-taker was a local boy. We asked him to take us further down to avoid the noise clutter (Yes, there were indeed a lot of people). He said he would charge us INR 300/- and we agreed. The locals live on the tips from the tourists which normally is more than what the hotel wala would have paid them. As we kept moving from one dune to another, an idea stuck into the mind. My photographer instincts made me jump off the camel and take this snap. I wasn’t a DSLR possessor yet but the snap was satisfying.

We soaked the serene sunset for quite a long time till it was quite dark and the sky was brilliantly lit up with stars - a sight not to be seen in Mumbai anymore till it was time to go back.

Jaisalmer is known for the desert and the Rajasthani folk music for entertainment. At Chokhi Dhani, the music was good enough to pull people out of their cozy tents to enjoy the party even though the temperature had further nose-dived.  The dancing banjaran girls slowly started to pull the guests to have a jig and the atmosphere suddenly was charged up since the ones who weren’t dancing opted to cheer up the dancers by clapping instead. A short while later, puppets with the names of Amitabh Bacchan, Abhishek Bachhan and Aishwarya Rai too thoroughly entertained us. The top class Rajasthani vegetarian dinner at Chokhi Dhani was an icing on the cake.

Next day, we were off to the Jaisalmer city for some shopping and site-watching. The road from Sam to the city is quite aloof and you can drive the car at F1 speed if you really wish to. But the cabbies normally tend to not drive more than 80kmph to get a better average out of the car. There was hardly a soul on the way to Jaisalmer city for a few kilometers. We however enjoyed the company of a couple of long legged Buzzards flying just above the car, probably looking for their prey.

The Jaisalmer city has a mesmerizing charm. The moment we got down from the cab, an imposing Jaisalmer fort, also known as Sonar Qila was staring us in our face. This is one of the most culturally significant landmark of this place and has a bit of timelessness about it. From quite a distance, the fort looks like a huge golden cliff and like an illusion with the desert in the backdrop. And from inside the fort, you look anywhere outside at the city, you are sure to find a breathtaking view of the candy colored buildings around the fort. It was an amazing view and a sight to cherish.

                                        View from the fort - Jaisalmer city

About 1/4th of Jaisalmer’s population lives inside the fort. Unbelievable but true! They sell various things inside this magnificent fort, blame it on the number of tourists coming to Jaisalmer. The fort is huge and depicts the architectural grandeur and the rich heritage style of Rajasthan. There are many museums and decade old jain temples inside the fort. Shoppers can have a good time here since they can buy exquisite jewellery, shawls, textiles, kurtas, bags et al. The price however is very high for most items and the items which cost lesser are available in Mumbai at much cheaper rates. There are camel safaris available from Jaisalmer to various other parts of Rajasthan like Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur etc but they were mostly to attract foreigners and we therefore chose to stay away.

                                                   Inside the Jaisalmer fort

We would have perhaps walked a few kilometers to check out the entire fort and were tired and hungry. Later, we walked into a famous restaurant called – 8 July for lunch located inside the fort. The owner is an Indian-Australian and this restaurant was recommended on a Discovery Channel show – Highway on the plate. Wastage of food here is a strict no-no. The price of most of the items available here is too high, however it was heartening to know that the food is prepared specifically after the order is placed unlike other places where the food is ready and is served immediately once the customer places an order. The kulchas, naan, sabzi and kesar-lassi available were quite good.

Post lunch, we found it difficult to walk to the Patwon ki haveli located a kilometer and a half away from where we were. We thus returned to Chokhi Dhani. After having an amazing time with food and entertainment yet again, I hit the bed thinking about Jodhpur, which was our next stop.

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