A 30 hour journey saw us from Shimla to Jaisalmer! Yet finally we arrived, safe and sound, albeit a little grumpy, dirty and tired.
The Golden City, as it is referred to by locals, is completely stunning and quickly became one of our favourite destinations. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, quickly causing us to feel at home – a feeling the locals seemed keen to fully press upon us. Every hotel we stayed in or entered told us to ‘treat this as your home, anything is possible’ and this genuinely seemed to be true. No request was too much to ask and their overwhelming amiable attitude towards us was exceptional. Upon arriving, we went straight to the Hotel Shahi Palace, a small hotel just outside the Fort. For £4 a night, this was a complete bargain and total find. Tastefully decorated with colourful fabrics and a boutique feel, the staff at Hotel Shahi Palace went above and beyond to help us. They offer camel safaris, an excellent breakfast and a great view over the Fort. Had Mum not booked Max and I into another hotel for the following three nights, we would definitely have stayed there for the duration of our time in Jaisalmer.
In the morning, after our banana and honey pancakes, we hopped in a tuk-tuk to our next hotel – The Hotel Killa Bhawan. A boutique hotel with only 8 rooms, Killa Bhawan is located within the Fort walls and has a phenomenal array of views out onto Jaisalmer and the Palace. The staff were exceptional, the breakfast was delicious and we were perfectly situated for restaurants, shopping and tours! Once settled in to our new room we wandered out for lunch at Free Tibet, a little budget restaurant with a rooftop terrace and fairly decent food. After, we hopped in a tuk-tuk who took us on a mini tour of the city so we could get our bearings. We zoomed around the Fort and then outside into the surrounding area, before heading back to meet Mum and Diane for dinner. A whirlwind initial experience of Jaisalmer!
Dinner was spent at The Trio, a highly popular restaurant for tourists just outside the fort walls, next door to one of the elaborately carved Haveli’s. The food at Trio was pleasant but nothing to write home about. I had tandoor chicken which was slightly dry, whilst everyone else had a selection of vegetarian dishes – tasty but again, nothing special. The pricing for this restaurant is mid-range and cost around £40 for the four of us, including wine.
On our third day we joined Mum and Diane on their tour of the Fort on foot. Afterwards, we agreed this hadn’t been completely necessary, as we could have visited or discovered most of the things we were shown independently and without the extra cost but it was interesting nonetheless. First, we arrived at the Jain Temple which was breathtakingly beautiful. Made from stone and marble, every inch is covered in hand carved engravings. The temple is dedicated to a branch of Hinduism, similar to Buddhism. Jainism does not worship one solitary God but 24 Prophets. Each temple is dedicated to a specific Prophet who is depicted very similarly to Buddha. However, to spot the difference, the Prophets have tight curly hair, wide eyes and only ever sit in one certain position. Around the Jain Temple there are 6,666 carvings of their various followers, a number which links directly back to 24 – 6 x 6 x 6 x 6 = 24! Then, it was a quick trip to the Palace (overpriced and mainly suggested for the view from the roof) and a tour down to see some of the Haveli’s within the city.
As for the rest of the tour, we predominantly went shopping! Some of the hotel staff informed us that this was due to the guides sharing in a cut of the price from the shops and historical sites they take you to. Therefore, we were taken to a textile and jewellery shop, both of which were pretty pricey! Nevertheless, we saw some beautiful things and shopping for Christmas presents and souvenirs truly began! By 1pm we were all exhausted from the heat (43 degrees) and so retreated back to our hotels for a sleep and a well needed shower.
For dinner, we had planned to go to a local restaurant called Milan Restaurant, which is known for doing excellent tandoori chicken – I love tandoori chicken! However, we were too early and it was still closed, so we decided to opt for First Gate instead. This restaurant is found just outside the fort and is a rooftop restaurant above a stylish and westernised hotel. The food was highly enjoyable, with some lovely paneer curry selections and they also serve alcohol – always a bonus! A slight downside was the lack of people eating there and the rather unfinished feel of the bar and eating area, which distracted somewhat from the atmosphere. Regardless, it provided us with a very agreeable evening and I am sure it will be significantly more filled and fitted once tourist season fully gets underway!
Our final day consisted of further shopping and a little more sightseeing. We headed over to Cafe the Kaku for lunch, which was the best curry we had during our time in Jaisalmer. Excellent flavours and spice, alongside delicious naan and friendly staff, resulted in a winning combination. The views were excellent and we slightly wished we had saved it for the evening instead but either way I would highly recommend visiting here at sunset for a cocktail and some tasty food. Feeling satisfied, we headed to Gadisar Lake, to look at the massive carp fish lurking within the waters and the eerie trees popping up in the distance. If you desire, you can rent a boat and get taken out into the still waters but most people seem to just wander around the periphery taking photos. That evening, we went to watch the sunset from a slightly strange vantage point – a graveyard. Within this dry and desolate space was a small cluster of sandy coloured graves, alongside a tin roof which was where the funeral pyres were burned. As you walked up the path, piles of wood were scattered alongside it; wood being gathered for future funeral pyres. Although this might seem like a strange location to watch the sunset and view the old Fort from – it was. However, it did also provide a stunning vantage point and the strange location managed to add to the solitary calm that often overcomes you when you watch the sun slowly disappear behind the distant horizon.