The day’s plans were simple. First, roam around the city in the morning, and later, attend the desert festival. After a hearty breakfast at hotel, we arrived in the Jaisalmer fort at around 10.00 a.m.
The Jaisalmer fort is a wonder in itself. One third population of the town still lives in the fort. There are even hotels in the fort, if someone wants to experience the living in a fort. It is not recommended though, as it is hurting the old infrastructure.
Roaming around the for on bike was a new experience. You can take the bike all the way till the major spots. The fort is a wonder to experience. There are two cannons on the fort, each facing different sides. One is city view, and other is lake view. None of the views are too great!
I was not expecting that I will have to share a 1-2 feet road not just with pedestrians and other vehicles, but also cows!
There are countless small shops selling this article or that. Most geared for the foreigners though, so you may as well ask the price in dollars!
We first saw the palace. In all the palaces that we saw, this was worst in condition. Not that it was falling off or anything, but it is certainly not as well kept as others. Smell is terrific, and though my hygine acceptance level is quite low as compared with Nandinee’s, it was uncomfortable even for me.
After seeing the palace, we initially planned to see the Jain temples. But surprisingly, they were closed at 12.00 noon! So we decided to click them from outside, and move on.
We had our lunch nearby, and headed for Salim Singh ki Haweli. These three havelis are now tourist spots in Jaisalmer, Salim Singh’s, Nathmal’s and Patwa’s.
Out of these three, Salim Singh’s was worst in condition, and it looked like it was actually falling apart at places. Felt a bit sad that the once prime minister’s grand mansion is now a tourist spot, and that too is getting hard to maintain for the present generations. It tells that real estate investment may not always be the best!
Then came the Patwa’s haveli. This is the grandest of all three, and is really well kept, and neatly presented. Some rooms have gold carving on the roof as well! Before any quick minded thief can think to scrap some and sell it outside, he should know that the particular roof and wall is under cover of a thick glass!
Last we visited Nathmal Ki Haveli, and had our brush with bit slave mentality. We were refused entry to the first floor, whereas foreigners were welcomed. It is a private mansion, so the owners can allow or refuse entry. We were told that they had some forex exchange bank on the first floor, which was as true a fact as was the smile on their faces. We had read in Lonely planet that first floor had some gold carved rooms, but this much affectionate welcome was enough for us to turn our back.
Roaming around in the old city is an experience to behold. Forget the three havelis, all the houses are carved! As if you are sent to 18th century Jaisalmer, where cows roam around freely, and narrow streets allow 2 camels to pass at a time! We roamed around aimlessly, just to take in this good feeling.
We had our snacks in Hotel Kalpana, where we spotted some bulleteers. I guess they were planning to ride all the way to Mumbai. But overall, didn’t feel like to go at the table and introduce myself as a biker. So I let them be, and we enjoyed our snacks. While paying the bill, I noticed some ground with carved gates behind. When I asked the manager what it was, he said:
“It’s the king’s palace.”
“How to go there? Where is the entry gate?”
“What will you do there?”
I wasn’t prepared for such sharp tongue and that too after paying the damn bill! But later noticed that almost every shop keeper has this bit of rudeness, and only when answered back in the same manner do they get normal!
Anyways we found the entry to the King’s palace. Staying true to the great tradition of kings, the next of the kin has given the palace as hotel, and had a small part converted into museum open for public.
Nothing much to see here, so if you are rushing on time, give this place a pass. Not much crowd here either.
View of the fort from Palace
The door keeper was not allowing this photo for reasons best known to him. Got into bit of a verbal fight too. And after looking at the photo, I don’t think the spot was too great either!
Later, when we returned to hotel for donning thermalwears for the evening, the manager informed us that Desert festival was postponed or maybe canceled because of death of a minister. That came as a shocker, and though the events were not in anyone’s hands, it surely disappointed many travelers. This is an event where you are at the receiving end, and nothing can be done.
But we were lucky we were accompanied by Vesta. We planned to ride to the border of India tomorrow, some 160 kms from Jaisalmer. Visited a cybercafe – which by the way had great speed internet only 20 rupees an hour! – and confirmed tomorrow’s route.
In the evening we went to Gadisar lake, which was very close to our hotel. It was dark already, with almost a full moon night. The lake was partly lit, mostly in dark. Still some people were boating in it. And not just couples hiding from prying eyes, elder (and HUGE) uncles and aunties too! We weren’t feeling too brave to enter the water even on boats, so clicked the lake from surrounding.
Vesta in the Lake Parking
Slept early today, because we were facing two continuous days of riding.
…to be continued.