Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Jaisalmer- Sandcastle

After hectic Bikaner we were craving a bit of down time, which we definitely received in Jaisalmer, the golden city. Although getting there wasn't the best train ride we have had in India... The train left at 7.15am or so, and the guesthouse owner in Bikaner said we should leave at 6am, and as we arrived in Bikaner by bus we didn't know how far the train station was so we agreed on that time and he arranged a rickshaw to pick us up. Well it only took about 10 minutes to get there and it was very cold and still pitch black that early in the morning, even the man in the ticket booth was asleep along with several families who evidently live in the station, we had to wake him up to get our tickets. Luckily the train was already there, but it looked like something out of a horror film, it was so dark and foggy, as we walked along the platform to find our carriage we could only see as far as the next carriage. When we found it there was no electricity and it was empty other than one person who had the clever idea of brining a warm blanket with him (also meaning you couldn't see his face). This was also the first and only time we experienced the infamous 2nd class Indian carriage, this time not the crowded madness of usual but especially cold. We laid down on the benches, the best blanket we could muster was our sarongs wrapped round us and waited for the train to leave and hopefully get some sleep. Luckily we got some shut eye and it slowly warmed up when the sun came up but was still pretty chilly. Another common theme we have found in India is that Guesthouses always tell us to get to the station super early, even if everything always runs late.

Jaisalmer turned out to be an undisputed highlight of India, first of all there is the epic fort built on top of a hill with the town around it and very old Jain temples scattered in between. The buildings are made of sandstone hence the nickname the 'golden city' and the whole place is plonked right in the middle of the Thar desert. Needless to say there are some impressive views from the top of the fort.The city was named after the Rajput king that found it, Maharawal Jaisal Singh, and like all of Rajasthan was once it's own kingdom, this one epicly emerging as a sandcastle from the desert, and was one of the last to sign the treaty with the British to come under Indian government.

We stayed in the fort and our guesthouse had a great rooftop cafe, an ideal place to chill with a cup of chai, have a read and look at the views and it was also a sun trap which was good as those desert winds can actually get pretty chilly.

Jaisalmer had a lots of rooftops to relax on, with slouched beds to lounge on which gave it quite a laid back vibe. The laid back vibe could also be to do with the fact we tried our first bhang lassi there. Bhang is part of the marijuana plant but is not smoked but cooked with and put into food. Bhang is legal in India, and the infamous lassi shop that we went to is recommended in the lonely planet, so we weren't being bad mum and dad! We went into the shop and had a chat with 'Dr Bhang' he told us a bit about the bhang, the different strengths etc, mild, medium, strong or "super power twenty four hour, no toilet no shower" we decided to go for a happy medium. It gave us a nice funny buzz, mellow high. We met a nice dude called Nikolas who we hung out with, we were planning on going back to our room, but decided on a few more lassies. Conveniently the bhang shop also own an Italian restaurant, which I'm sure gets many guests from the bhang shop who have the munchies for pizza. Definitely a good business idea going on there. The pizzas were that bit more delicious followed with a bhang cookie and a banana Nutella pancake, all with a pristine night time view of the fort.

We went on a little pedalo ride around Gadisar Lake and saw some more beautiful sandstone structures such as the Amar Sagar.

We also went to the folklore museum, which it don't think was worth mentioning as it looked like a building site and was a few stone rooms with some measley artifacts in them.

The higgledy piggeldy maze of streets are quite narrow and you can tell they definitely weren't built for cars.

Ganesha adorned many walls in Jaisalmer

Having a bhang lassie also made meandering through the busy streets seem effortless and stress free, whereas usually I'm always concerned I'm going to step in poo or get run over. Jaisalmer also had some dramatic havelis, not the painted kind but made with the same yellow sandstone as the fort which are very beautiful.

We didn't just sit around and drink bhang lassies all the time we were there, however time does seem to pass by very easily there without doing much at all. We did another audio guide around the palace in the fort which was really interesting, the place has been restored really well and the views again are brilliant, even if shoddy drainage from the inundation of fort Guesthouses has put the foundations under pressure.

From the highest point at the top of the Palace you can really see the maze of rooftops that make up the Jaisalmer fort.

Another town, a whole other kingdom and maharajah with their own history. Truly fascinating. And another beautiful sunset.



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