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eirekay Jaisalmer - A travel report by Eire
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Jaisalmer,  India - flag India -  Råjasthån
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eirekay's travel reports

Jaisalmer - a Jewel in the Thar Desert

  23 votes
Page: 1 2
Jaisalmer sits alone in the desert near the Pakistani border, a five hour drive from Jodhpur, its nearest neighbor. Its remoteness lends it a unique flavor, as rich and spicy as the Rajasthani food it serves up in ample portions!


Solnar Kella, the Golden Fort, rises above the City
Solnar Kella, the Golden Fort, rises above the City
Jaisalmer, named by its founder, Rawal Jaisal, literally translates to the Hill Fort of Jaisal. Started in 1156 and completed over a 400 year period, Sonar Kella, the "Golden Fortress", spreads majestically across the hill overlooking the city. Like most Forts along the Silk Route, this one served the many camel caravans that traversed the desert. Standing on the upper ramparts and gazing out over this antique city, it is easy to go back in time and imagine watching for the next caravan to come into the city gates, traders bringing vast and mystical treasures from the East, headed for Persia or even Europe. Layers of ramparts provide additional protection against invaders. The outer ramparts still have remanants of housing for animals and large courtyards for the many carts. 10,000 people still live within the fort's walls, making it the worlds only living fortress. Built of local sandstone, its walls and turrets glow gold in the midday sun.

Tucked inside the many outer walls are the Raj Mahal, or Royal Palace, several ornately carved Jain Temples, the Hindu Laxminath Temple, and clusters of residences, hotels, markets and restaurants. Narrow streets wind through the fort, daring you to squeeze past oncoming cows, and giving glimpses of daily life as the milkman delivers from jugs mounted on his motorcycle. Delicately carved sandstone window screens, topped by Mogul arches, adorn the facades. Five sided turret balconies hang precipitously from the walls.

Rooms within the Raj Mahal show the Maharaja's love of Belgium glass and his patronage of the arts. Ceilings made completely of glass balls would shame the most elegantly decorated Christmas tree. Floral mosaics made of mirrors fill whole walls within several sitting rooms. In other rooms, finely detailed frescoes cover walls and ceilings with Riccoco ornateness. Velvet pillows and bolsters and rich carpets give evidence to the tremendous wealth that traveled through this part of the world.

Favourite spots:
Streets so narrow the Havelis almost touch- Patwon-ki-Haveli on the right.
Streets so narrow the Havelis almost touch- Patwon-ki-Haveli on the right.
Richly carved Havelis or Palaces, as tall as five stories, line street so narrow that they almost appear to touch. Traders competed for prestige by out doing each other and the result is a lacey froth of stone that trims nearly every inch of the exteriors. In one instance, brothers, who were rival carvers, completed each window in a different design in an attempt to out do, but with marvelous results. There are so many of these palaces that it is hard to choose, but my top three picks are:
Patwon-ki-Haveli: At five stories, this is the tallest, most detailed and just all out overdone of the Havelis. Go inside - there are still some frescoes visable.

Nathmalji Haveli: While others trimmed with lacey patterns and floral motifs, the Prime Minister who built this Haveli added warriors, elephants, birds and a bicycle to his exterior.

Salim Singh Haveli: Peacocks! Carved Peacocks line the arched roof, trimmed out by soft blue cupolas, making this the most unique of the Havelis.

What's really great:
Sunset at Bada Bagh Cenotaphs
Sunset at Bada Bagh Cenotaphs
Watching the sunset over the desert is a must. The Bada Bagh Centotaphs, which line a small man made lake, provide a magical backdrop. We were nearly alone in this collection of over 40 sandstone structures, each elaborately domed cenotaph housing the tombstone of a King or Royal family member. Look for the female figures to the right of the horse mounted king. The figures represent the number of wives he had. Peacocks roam the grounds while a herd of goats grazes near by. Just 8km north of Jaisalmer, it feels miles away from civilization. Only the nearby windmill farm breaks the mood.

Early morning invites a walk on the shore of Gadi Sagar, a small man made lake lined by several temples, shrines, cenotaphs and Tilon-Ki-Pol, a beautiful stone gate. The gate was built in 1658 by Tilon, a wealthy concubine. The Maharaja was pressured to tear it down - she quickly erected a shrine to Krishna on top, making destruction impossible. The lake swarms with gape mouthed catfish.

Sights:
My Daughter Lila and I on Camels!
My Daughter Lila and I on Camels!
Camel Ride! Over the dunes! No better experience than a camel ride over the dunes. At Sunset? Even better! Sams Dunes are the most common location but Desert National Park is less crowded - we didn't see a single other traveler on the first 3 hours of our camel ride. The dunes are everything they are supposed to be: unending mounds of undulating sand, sweeping, make that flying, over the desert. We saw desert elk and hordes of dung beetles. A couple of rules for camel riding:
1) A little camel goes a long way - opt for the shorter one & half hour ride. It's long enough.
2) Don't apply sunscreen immediately before, or after, mounting your camel. The sand is flying. It sticks. I got a full skin exfoliation in the first hour.
3) Long Pants! Tucked into socks! Just trust me.
4) Bug Spray. Note: the bugs stay on the shady side of the camel. They switch sides when the camel changes direction.
5) Small Bills! Lots of them. To buy drinks, pay dancing Gypsies, tip the Camel Driver...

Accommodations:
Tilon-Ki-Pol, the Concumbine's Gate
Tilon-Ki-Pol, the Concumbine's Gate
You can opt to stay in one of several hotels located within the Fort walls, however the sewage system is failing because of age and overuse. Three of the Fort's turrets have collasped as a result and more damage will result as time goes on. If you want to help preserve the Fort, stay outside the walls.

Gorbandh Palace: Built as a succession of courtyarded homes for wives and then sons, the Gorband Palace is a Heritage Property made up of several delicately carved sandstone buildings. The rooms are air conditioned and furnished in fairly modern style. There are broad lawns and nice gardens, filled with the tinest frogs I have ever seen - be careful at night not to step on them. What makes the hotel wonderful is the pool - all deserts need a pool and this is a nice big, deep one! Also on sight is a great restaurant and wonderful roof top buffet. Finishing the whole thing off is the evening bonfire, complete with Rajasthani muscians.

Restaurants:
Marvelous Thali!
Marvelous Thali!
Kalpana Restaurant prepares a beautiful Thali, a presentation of several typical Rajasthani foods. Ours included Dum Aloo, Curried Mutton, Chicken Tikka, Vegetable Gobi, Pilau, several sauces and Naan.

July 8th, an Austrailian restaurant within the Fort Walls, offers a brief break from Indian Cuisine.

Other recommendations:
Aligator carving on exterior of Laxminath Temple
Aligator carving on exterior of Laxminath Temple
As you pass through the winding streets, you may be offered sweets as people leave small shrines or temples. The tradition is that sweets or fruit are brought as offerings to the Gods. Half are left in the temple and half are shared with passers by. Accept and enjoy them. We, in turn, brought packs of gum and small candies which we shared freely. It provided a wonderful way to make contact with people, bridging the language barrier.

Published on Monday October 2th, 2006


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Wed, Apr 18 2007 - 05:15 AM rating by davidx

How did I miss this one? Simply excellent.
David

Sun, Dec 17 2006 - 12:24 AM rating by rangutan

Truelly excellent. I wish more people will visit India, I will soon after reading so many beautiful reports at GLOBO.

Thu, Oct 19 2006 - 10:53 AM rating by frenchfrog

Eire, another great report, well done, I love your tips on how to ride a camel!
isabelle

Tue, Oct 10 2006 - 10:46 AM rating by marianne

Eire,
Beautifully written and very informative. I love the photo of the camel and also the thali, my favourite food.

Mon, Oct 09 2006 - 05:22 AM rating by mkrkiran

Eire,

Excellent report. As I said, I had been there some years ago, and your report brings freshness to my memories.

Kiran

Mon, Oct 09 2006 - 03:26 AM rating by downundergal

Great report. I chuckled over the camel trip tips and will remember them for my next camel sojourn(!!). Love the pics too.
Cheers,
Kerrie

Thu, Oct 05 2006 - 03:31 PM rating by mistybleu

Eire

I see you one camel ride in the sand dunes and raise you a quad bike ride (more power) - and with no pesky flies.

I liked your report especially comments 2 and 4 of your sights section. I had the same problem with the sand exfoliating my skin.

Nice work

Amanda

Thu, Oct 05 2006 - 06:27 AM rating by adisidh

Very good and useful report . You cover almost everything about Jaisalmer. 5***** report. Cheers

Wed, Oct 04 2006 - 09:28 AM rating by gloriajames

Eire your best report ever ! (though all your reports are v good). Btw... i never had the chance to explore further ! Hope to see more reports from you. 5****************

Wed, Oct 04 2006 - 01:54 AM rating by st.vincent

Very well written and a joy to read, you really transport us to the heart of the ciity. My 5* rating also reflects the great slideshow that accompanies the report

Tue, Oct 03 2006 - 02:48 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Eire,

Eire, Very beautiful and useful report about Rajastan!
5 *

Tue, Oct 03 2006 - 07:53 AM rating by terje

Very good report. Specially the rules for riding camel. How did you manage riding with shorts... ??? :-)

Mon, Oct 02 2006 - 02:35 PM rating by mrscanada

What a beautiful city. Your report was wonderful. I'd love to taste all the food at the Kalpana Restaurant!

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