The long days seem to be adding up. This one, Bikaner to Jaisalmer on Saturday the 13th was about 369 km and took us close to 7 hours. We left Bikaner around 1:15 pm after catching some of the Camel Festival so didn’t arrive into Jaisalmer until just after 7:00 pm which essentially meant a two night stay in order to take everything in the next day and we certainly did have a full day.
The desert city of Jaisalmer literally means “the Hill Fort of Jaisal” and is also called the “Golden City” thanks to the colour it gets from the yellow sandstone used in the construction of its buildings. The city is one of the last big towns in Rajasthan closest to the Pakistan border (about 100 km away) and sits in the heart of the Thar Desert. There are several “must see” places to visit in and around the city and with just one full day we focused on the primary sites; Jaisalmer Fort, Fort Palace, Jain Temples and a short camel ride into the Thar Desert to catch the sunset.
Jaisalmer Fort is one of the largest fortifications on the planet and is the only living fort in Rajasthan with 3,000 people within it’s walls running businesses, cafe’s, markets and home stays making easy for the imagination to wander and see how life was many centuries ago. Within the fort and at its centre is the 11 story palace that served as the private residence of its rulers. Interestingly, all of the doors within the palace are quite small and were built this way for the express purpose to force the person entering to bow and stoop as they enter, not knowing if an important person was on the other side and thus saving their wrath because you didn’t bow upon entering their space. Also within the walls of the fort are a group of 7 intricately carved Jain temples built between the 12th and 15th centuries and connected together by corridors and walkways. We’re running out of words to describe the artistry and beauty of these and all the other places we’ve seen. I think I’ll have to start consulting a thesaurus since gorgeous, stunning, amazing, awe-inspiring, incredible etc no longer do justice to these and the many other historical monuments we’ve seen and will see in the future.
The fort and palace
We were supposed to meet back at our hotel at 2:45 to meet our jeep to take us out to the camel pick up site so after leaving the fort we stopped for a quick bite at a very good Italian restaurant just near the fort entrance. While patiently waiting for our order we were told there was going to be a very large Hindu procession happening within minutes just outside of the walls of the restaurant. Known as the couple who are always on time, we waited anxiously looking at our watch, looking for our pizza and procession and luckily enough we got both before making a b-line back to our hotel.
Sweating profusely as we got back to our hotel, it’s been a while since the temperature here is comfortable, around 25 deg. and very low humidity, we regrouped and headed out to the Thar Desert for a camel ride to the dunes to catch the sunset. Now this is India and no matter where you are, there will always be small children who will find you and want to entertain you for a few rupees. The middle of the desert was no exception. As we sat upon the sand contemplating the scenery and relative quiet, three young children, two boys, one girl slowly climbed the dune towards us. The boys had symbols for their instruments, the young girl was decked out in the latest Rajathani fashion and they proceeded to sing and shake and tap their symbols while the young girl danced, rather provocatively for her age, to, wait a minute, are they singing frere jacques? Yes they were and that is probably the first French song I learned back in grade 1. Needless to say they didn’t know anything in English so we shooed them away and pointed them toward what looked like a Chinese or Japanese couple and told them that they had lots of money. The sunset was beautiful, awe-inspiring, gorgeous, never mind.