Shopping in the net

Jaisalmer – My favourite things in the Golden Fort

This was my second trip to Jaisalmer and to be honest, I didn’t expect much to come out of it. After all, the Golden city of Jaisalmer is one of the top tourist destinations in Rajasthan and it seemed illogical to expect a great experience. Fortunately, I was wrong. Here’s my list of what gave me joy in Jaisalmer!

  • Heritage Walk in the Sonar Qila – Rambling around the 14th century fort is a lovely experience by itself. But doing it with an insider is even better. The fort shines gloriously golden in the sunlight. The Jain temples are lovely examples of Solanki architecture and with our able guide, Lalit, we even got a glimpse of the temple’s bhandara collection of paintings and crystal idols hidden in subterranean chambers. The tiny streets of this living fort remind me of Mykonos – every corner has a surprise lined up. Intricate jharokhas which distinguished the rich from the poor and even determined the wedding dowry. Tiny houses with murals of ganeshji and wedding announcements that issue an open invitation to the whole town. Lip-smacking street food consumed over heated political discussions with the locals. Bargaining over rainbow coloured textiles and fossils. Meeting Jaislamer’s best looking man – Mr. Desert 2018. Yes, a lot can happen over a walk!!!
  • Breakfast with a view – Most of the hotels and guest houses in and around the Jaisalmer Fort have lovely rooftop terraces perfect for enjoying breakfast and sundowners with stunning views of the Fort. “Breakfast with a view” spells vacation like nothing else!

Fort views from restaurant terraces
  • Desert safari – Honestly, I had no expectations from the Desert Safari (with the Real Deal Camel Safari Rajasthan) and just booked it as a matter of ticking all boxes. My indifference extended to not even figuring out the destination – Sam Dunes or Khuri dunes! Turned out that we were on our way to Khuri dunes. However, I was in for a glorious surprise. While the customary bonfire folkdance and food, etc. was lacklustre, “Sleeping under the stars” in the middle of the gorgeous golden dunes was a superb experience. A solitary set of charpoys with clean bedsheets and pillows surprisingly elevated the experience to that of glamping. Loved the sand and stars so much that it turned me into an amateur-poet!!!

The Brightness of the full moon,
Sparkling little stars,
A silent wind caresses my face.
Dark outlines of the babool tree
break the vastness of the golden sand.
And the steady, soft breath of my love;
The best sound in a world of silence, 

  • Feeling patriotic at Longewala and Tanot Mata Mandir – Longewala and Tanot Mata Mandir are located at about 2 hours drive from Jaisalmer and are very close to the Indo-Pak border. These two places would have special appeal to Indians due to their war-time history. However, foreigners are not allowed here due to border sensitivities. This drive was amongst the best drives I have ever gone on. The sand dunes are just uneneding and habitation is negligible. Merely 15 kms away from the Indo-Pak border, the Longewala army post was the site of an intense battle during the 1971 Indo-Pak war which India won despite heavy odds against it. The Bollywood movie “Border” was based on this battle and it is hard to escape tears looking at the memorials to the shaheed Indian soldiers. It is even harder to stop from jumping with joy looking at the captured Pakistani tanks. The Tanot Mata mandir is a temple built in the 9th century and is revered by the locals and more so by the armed forces after the Temple escaped unharmed despite over 450 live bombs being dropped on it by the Pakistan army during the 1965 war!
  • Shopping and street food – For some reason, the drier regions of India like Kutch and Rajasthan seem to have the most colourful textiles. The Jaisalmer shops showcase all of these colours beautifully. From cutwork bedsheets in pastel shades to cotton dohars. From patchwork bedsheets to richly embroidered tribal tapestries. Jaisalmer has it all! Bargain hard and you could go back with some wonderful souvenirs. I also had a ball of time looking at fossil stones from Habur – it was hard to pick the sea creatures I really liked! And finally, the perfect way to end your shopping is to tuck into dal ki kachoris from fatehchand and Dal pakwans from street side vendors with masala chai. An enthusiastic shopkeeper will be happy to order it for you!

Bright textiles in the Jaisalmer fort
  • Pampering oneself at Suryagarh Hotel – After all the hectic sightseeing and roughing it out in the desert, entering the Suryagarh Hotel at Jaisalmer was akin to stepping into the proverbial oasis. The hotel is beautifully done up and has enough common areas to lounge around and unwind. Just wish I had extended my stay here.

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Quickly signing off with a quick checklist of “what not to do” in Jaisalmer!

  • Kuldhara village tour – Almost every desert tour will pack in the tour of the abandoned village of Kuldhara. The village is now so packed with tourists that its impossible to imagine this as abandoned. The government has extensively renovated the structures and killed all sense of history. AVOID!
  • Buying camel leather products – We had loads of conversations with locals about the leather industry. We learnt that pretty much all of the leather products sold today in markets in Jaisalmer are made with leather that comes from Chennai and other cities. No doubt the leather products available are of good quality, but be aware that there is a very small chance that you will get genuine camel leather.
  • Stays within the Fort – I am playing a contra card here going against all recommendations to stay in hotels or homestays inside the heritage fort. Why? Because they are all illegally operating and lack necessary permissions. They lack basic plumbing and have created temporary solutions which are harming the fort walls bit by bit. In short, the fort stays are unethical and unsustainable from a heritage standpoint.

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