Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Golden City of Jaisalmer shines!

Nov 7th. After a good nights sleep on our 19 hour overnight train (I can sleep anywhere these days!), we arrived in the remote Rajasthani city of Jaisalmer around 2:30pm. A good 100km from anything, Jaisalmer is a desert town of such beauty it almost takes your breath away (I know, I know that sounds a bit over the top, but I'm telling you, the first time you walk out of the Old Town and look up at the fort, you are just speechless. Well, I was.. for at least 5 seconds!). It's called the Golden City because of the yellow sandstone that has been used for most buildings here; and it truly looks like something from Arabian Nights. So gorgeous; and the people here in Rajasthan are so exotic looking; the vibrant reds and oranges of the ladies saris; ornate gold jewellery; everyone is so beautiful here and it definitely felt like Old Arabia to me!

As there are so many girls, we decided to switch "roomies" in each city so we could all get to know each other a bit better! Ingrid, lovely girl from Oslo, and I were the lucky recipients of what looked like the honeymoon suite at the Hotel Deepak, in the heart of the Old Town. Gorgeous room, great view of the town, a giant double bed (hey, you make friends fast when traveling plus you could have fitted about ten people in this bed!).. yup, there were some envious stares from the others!!!Teehee.

Went out for a walk around to explore a little.. wow! Honestly this place is so gorgeous. From the intricate carvings of the stonework on the havelis (rich folks houses back in the day, now either museums or homes for Brahmin families who make up 70% of the residents of the old town!); cows absolutely everywhere, the old palace of the Maharawal in the town square; tons of cute tourist stores with everyone calling out "Hello Madam. You arrive today. Please check out my shop. I have everything and you only need to look. Looking is free!".....just so much to take in here! This is truly beyond beautiful!

The town is essentially divided into two parts; inside the Fort with its palaces, temples and houses, where just over 2,000 live; and outside the fort, with lots of busy stores, restaurants, and market places. Oh yes and the government approved "Bhang Lassi" shop where you can get your legal opium shake! Hmmnn there you go! We were staying inside the fort in the more quaint part of town, with tiny narrow alleyways, where of course you could get lost pretty easily, and I did!

Jaisalmer is famous for its textiles especially heavily embroidered or mirrored bedspreads and duvet covers that you can now see all over the world. And boy did we see alotta lotta these beautiful things when our local guide who gave us a quick overview of the town, took us to his cousin's shop to just "take a look". Seemed like 3 hours later, when Mahendra nudged me and said "Stef, I'm hungry. Can we hurry this up?". Not quite sure why he asked me (well, maybe because I'd been chatting away to the duvet man too much?) but we very politely said we would come back tomorrow if we wanted to buy anything... after all, it was dinner time!

Nov 8th. So as arranged, we decided to go to the bedspread guy (whose name escapes me!) this morning, early as he was "going out of town" AKA trying to make us panic buy! Hmmn realising Liv had the same buying strategy as myself (look around everywhere first then buy!), we decided to give this guy a chance. So off we set to his shop. No one to be seen. We got him out of bed (his neighbour woke him up! - so much for the mad rush out to the countryside on business that he had told us about!); then he faffed around for ever so eventually we decided we were going to check out some other places and left! Felt a bit rotten, although he did stalk us on his motorbike around town....but breakfast was calling and we had waited for nearly 2 hours so fair enough we felt!

Pottered around in the hot sun here.. visited the Jain temple (there's a ton of temples of all descriptions in this fair country!!), then checked out one of the gorgeous havelis in town. There are a number of these extravagant mansions in Jaisalmer, designed over three or four storeys with a central courtyard. The amazing and intricate stonework was the art of the silavats, a community of masons responsible for much of Jaisalmer's unique stone sculpture.

Met the fabulous peacock man here; asked him politely for a photo. He explained he was happy to abide but didn't want any money, just a promise that I would send him a copy! Of course, I replied. No problem at all! And doesn't he look just brillo!

Afterwards, the call of shopping sent us exploring again, and we found a lovely place where we all went a wee bit crazy, buying bedspreads and duvet covers galore! Celebrating our success (we were to pick our purchases up tomorrow and head off to the Post Office to send them home - dont want to make that backpack too heavy again!).. we decided dinner at Little Tibet (yes I know, talk about mixing up your cultures!) was in order, so we all sat at dinner on the rooftop, watching the sun set over this gorgeous town! Fab day!

Nov 9th. Up early to pick up our textiles and get them off to the PO .. of course they weren't quite finished so we had to chat away to the boys for a bit. Got talking to Kailash, one of the brothers who owned the business who asked me to help him write a love letter (he can't really write in English!) to his new beau who hailed from Taiwan...quite a strange request but nevertheless I was happy to oblige! At last - the packages were ready, sealed up in the old cotton and wax parceling, so off we headed to mail them home. Of course that only took about 2 hours but at last it was done, and we rushed back to the hotel to pack up and head out for our camel safari.. sooo excited. Stay tuned for that thrilling installment - coming soon to a blog near you!

PS Couldn't resist showing you this close up of Mr Peacock Man - isn't he lovely. But yes, I prefer to ignore rather than address the issue of where the peacock feather come from.. hope no birds were harmed in the making of those fans!!!


Anonymous Mariska said...

Hey Stef,
The pics again are lovely! You have an eye for composition and colours, that in combination with a good camera.... really cool. And don't say it is not true! I have not read the whole story yet, just scrolled through. But I will read your impressions soon. Hope you are all right and arrived safe home from traveling.
With love... Mariska

7:48 AM  

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