India Trip 2018 - Day 5, Wednesday August 8th, Jaisalmer

Cloudy, clearing, 36°C 

50R = NZ$1

We got up at 7am and headed upstairs for breakfast at 8am.  This morning we had to wake up the  kitchen staff who were asleep on the rooftop ( this is not an unusual thing ).

We left at 9am and walked to the main courtyard in the Fort where the road up from the town enters the Fort and where the Jaisalmer Palace is located.  The Palace was built on the city walls looking down over the gates up to the Fort, and was effectively divided into 2 parts; the main Palace and a separate but interlinked Queens Palace.

We went into the Palace, bought our tickets and camera passes ( this is quite common to charge a separate fee to take a camera in ) for 500R ea, including an audio guide.  We generally find the audio guides to be really interesting to get all the details of the experience, but like most of them this one did tend to go into far more detail than was necessary,

We walked all through the Palace complex, which was stunning with lots of internal courtyards and views out over the fort and city, and there were only a few other people there, and we went right up onto the roof top as well. The detail in the stone carving was pretty amazing given the tools at the time and how long it has stood out in the elements. Liz managed to get hit on by one of the security guards who was quite keen when she said she was from New Zealand, but then we he asked if she was married wasn't as happy with the response.

We came out of the Palace at 10:30am and we walked across the courtyard to the Paradise Hotel ( "Welcome to Paradise" the man said as we walked through the door ) and up to their roof for a drink ( and to use the wifi, as even though there is wifi at our Guest House the speed and coverage is almost useless )

After our break we walked through the streets of the Fort looking in the little shops for some souvenirs.  One of the problems with walking through shopping areas in India is that every shop keeper wants to engage in a conversation in a hope to get you into their shop to buy something.  Unfortunately this happens every time you walk past a shop, and after a while you start to just completely ignore them when they start talking to you, as once you start talking to them they will keep going, sometimes even standing in your way to stop you moving on.  More than once on this trip I have had to physically push past a shop keeper who would not move.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a big fan of shopping to start with, so this really doesn't help!

So Liz managed to buy 2 scarves for 2200R and I found a t shirt that I liked for 1000R and we headed back to the Guest House to unload, have some lunch on the roof and relax for a bit.

We had arranged to hire our driver from yesterday's Desert Safari, Hamad, to take us to a couple of places this afternoon, so he picked us up at 3:30pm and we walked down to his Jeep at the first gate and headed off.  We paid about 1000R for 3 hours of his time.

We had to make a stop at the ATM first and then we headed down to Gadisar Lake for a look around. This lake which was once the main water supply for the town has some nice buildings along the lake edge. We watched some men catching some enormous fish out of the lake then headed back to the Jeep.

And then off to one of the Haveli that Jaisalmer is famous for.  A Haveli is a large house built by the merchant families of Jaisalmer,  and they were designed to be open as much as possible to let the breezes through in the hot desert environment.  As an aside we learnt on our Palace tour earlier in the day that Jaisalmer has been known to go 7 years without any rain falling to wet the ground, so windows do not have much need for glass in them and houses can be open to the sky if needed.

The Haveli we went to was the Patwon ki Haveli, which is actually a collection of 5 Haveli, built by 5 brothers, with a single facade to link them together.  We got to tour the 1st and largest of the 5.  It was a bit of a whistle stop tour through, but it was really interesting how the house was designed to minimise direct sunlight, maximise airflow ( there are 3 large open courtyards in the house which are open through the 3 floors above ground ) and to conform to the requirements of the purdah system which required women to remain hidden from people ( or men ) outside of the house and from visitors in the house who were not family.  This did not mean that women could see the visitors, just that the visitors could not see them; so there are lots of little windows and hidden areas for women to sit and listen to the goings on without being seen.  We also went on the roof with a nice view out to the fort.

Again the detail in the work is pretty impressive, and a lot of the stone actually looks like carved timber.

Of course there was a gift shop to negotiate on the way out ( this one had camel hair fabric ), and then we were back to the jeep.

We headed north out of town to a place called Bada Bagh  This is the burial / internment place of the Jaisalmer Royal family since 1743, when the first 'chhatri' ( or pavilion ) was built on the shores of a newly formed lake.  It was interesting to hear that the lake itself is not really there for water supply purposes ( it is filled by rain water ) , although it is used for that, but it's main purpose is to soak and ferilise the soil at the bottom of the lake.  In winter ( the dry season ) the lake is drained and crops are grown on the lake bed in the good soil.

We walked up and through and around the chhatra's, and it was a very peaceful and untouristed spot.  

You will see in some of the photos that the area around Jaisalmer is dotted with large scale wind farms, which are largely used to supply power to this part of Rajasthan.

We headed back into the Fort to our Hotel at 6:45pm and walked across to Hotel Paradise to sit on their rooftop and have some dinner ( 940R for 2 curries and 2 beers ), and watch the sunset.  And of course watch the bats flying around the rooftops as well.  We wandered home at 9pm after another enjoyable day in Jaisalmer; our last sadly.

 

There are just a couple of other topics I thought I would touch on at the end of this blog, that may be of interest to people reading these episodes of our trip.

  • you will see many references in these blogs to us just resting, sometimes for hours at a time.  What we learnt last year in SE Asia is that because of the heat and the intensity of exploring, we found that shorter bursts of activity worked best for us.  Also at times we are trying to get photos at the start ( or end ) of the day which meant if we stayed out wandering around all day it would make for a very long and tiring day, and wouldn't be good in the long term.  For example a day we had recently ( in the future as you are reading about this day ) we were up at 5 to shoot a sunrise, grabbed breakfast and out to a fort and various other things, and we had done 8 hours of touristing by 1pm, so we took the rest of the afternoon off.

 

  • I thought I would also point out that despite all the negative experiences that we have had with scams and harassment etc ( which is all part of the travel experience here), the experience of exploring India is amazing, and it is an assault on the senses in all directions and for as many good things as bad.  90% of the people that you meet and deal with are very friendly and helpful ( sometimes embarrassingly so  ), especially hotel staff and people in the tourist trade, It is unfortunate that the ones who approach you for no reason and start a conversation are normally after something, usually money. As a final note I have recently realised that this is not just the case for foreign tourists but to all tourists ( most tourists in India are Indians ), and as a consequence it can be hard to get someones attention if you need to ask a random stranger a question as they are all so used to ignoring people who talk to them for no reason, just like we are.  I will do a wrap up post about our experience of India when I am caught up with these daily blog travel diaries.