Up bright and early to head by train to Jaisalmer! My mum had said this was one of her favourite places when she went so I’m excited. If you ever get a day train, in Indian winter up north, take layers! They are freezing cold. Plus most of the windows don’t shut properly so there’s a cool breeze. As luck would have it we had most of the 6 hours train journey in a carriage to ourselves. Therefore once over the worst of the cold ( huddling under the few sleeping bags we had between us) and having been at a standstill in the middle of nowhere for a while the standard India train photos began. Plus we also saw wild camels which was pretty cool. One of the girls exclaimed it was like being on safari!
We arrived in Jaisalmer just after lunch time, a bit stiff but all in good sorts. Unfortunately along the way we’d had some illness, I think by the end there’d been four hospital trips and a couple of doctors! I, touch wood, seemed to escape it.
Anyway, Jaisalmer! Staying in yet another lovely hotel in the Golden city. It’s called that, as when the sun shines on all the sandstone buildings in the desert region they shine gold. Hence, Golden city.
Grabbing tuk tuks, three a piece we headed to Gadisar lake at dusk and it was beautiful. Such a fantastic time to explore a city, with the light slowly going down over the buildings and lake. After a lot of photos and a boat ride on the lake we watched the sunset with the impressive Fort as the backdrop.
To our the surprise, the next day we found out we’d been papped and were on the front cover of the local newspaper. Something along the lines of ‘big tour group visits Jaisalmer’ – classic! That’s the second time I’ve made it into an Indian newspaper. Don’t think I’ve ever been in a newspaper at home!
Our guide Guri took us to a local private museum after sunset. I think it was a favourite of his and something he liked to support. It was run by an ex-teacher and the entire collection was his, all privately owned and collected and treasured over the years. His son gave us the guided tour and talked us through the cities history, topography, and the lives of the local people. Not just the maharaja’s lives as most of the museums in the forts/palaces explain. I really enjoyed the little museum. Worth a visit if in town.
Later that night we had dinner overlooking the fort. I had a good feeling about this place already and was excited to explore the fort tomorrow.
The fort is like something out of a film, it doesn’t feel real when standing and looking up at its vast walls. Like it’s a theatre backdrop that could be dismantled any second. And yet it’s actually been there since 1156, built by a Rajput ruler and seen many a battle in its long history. It actually still lives on today, with 3000 people still making their homes within the walls. It’s the only living fort left in India and is so unique. Looking back on the trip it was my favourite of the many forts we visited as it was like stepping back in time and so different from anywhere I’d ever been before. Walking around the small alleyways, tustling for space amongst the bikes, cows, and people whilst trying to look up and take everything in. I was quite in awe, it’s kind of magical in a way maybe that’s because it doesn’t feel real.
First stop within the fort were the Jain temples and they were stunning. Jain carpentry and architecture is so intricate and detailed. They date back to 12th and 15th century. It doesn’t cost a lot to go in and they are well worth a look.
After the Jain temples we had a wander around the fort, through the areas that people live in, mostly looking out for oncoming cows but also looking at the coloured houses, narrow lanes and marriage adverts on the houses. When a female in the family is getting married, a murial is painted on the side of the house to say the date and who’s getting married. They are left up until the next person gets married so some of them date back a while.
Much to my bank balances disgust we were then taken into a Government run silk shop by our guide and most of us, not so sure about the men in our group, were in heaven. We spent what felt like hours there, sifting through the fabrics and incredible colours. I spent a lot but I could have spent a fortune!!!
The last area of the fort we looked at was the old mansions. Beautifully carved old houses all on one road in the fort. They were so intricate and I don’t understand when made out of sandstone how they have survived all these years. Although I think they are quite well looked after.
All the shopping was hungry work so we set about eating a huge lunch before more shopping in the market. I liked Jaisalmer’s markets. So much so I bought a pair of leather shoes, and some other things I think. Again, could of spent a fortune but was trying to be restrained.
That night we had an evening off, or more to the point our guide had an evening off from us!!! A group of us went to see the fort at night and then out to a lovely restaurant called Saffron. The food was delicious and I’d highly recommend it. Perfect way to end Jaisalmer.
The next day we caught a local bus to Jodhpur. It was actually really spacious and I slept most of the way, with the rest of the time staring out at the world passing by. That’s one of my favourite things to do when travel is just watch the world go by out of a bus or train window. Getting to see the bits of a country you ordinarily wouldn’t stop to see.
Arriving in Jodhpur was a bit of a shock, back in the hustle and bustle of a big city but we were greeted with a lovely welcome at our new hotel for the night. We didn’t have long in Jodhpur, just the one afternoon and night so we headed straight to the Mehrangarh Fort on the hillside. Some of us explored the fort by foot whilst others preferred an aerial view from four zip lines around the perimeter. I preferred to stay on the ground on this occasion!
The fort is absolutely massive and as tourists you only get to see a tiny portion of it but that was enough and took us nearly 3 hours. It was built in 1459!!!
We had our audio guides on and followed the instructions implicitly; well for a while, I have to admit by stop 30 I was losing concentration so decided it best to just use my eyes instead. The fort had wonderful views over the blue city, although sadly there isn’t as much blue left anymore as less and less people are painting them. There are many reasons or theories about why the houses are blue; some say it’s because it’s the colour of Shiva and a lot of Brahmins used to live in the old city. Some say it’s blue to keep the houses cool. Either way, the blue is beautiful but don’t be fooled. A lot of photos I’ve seen of Jodhpur are very heavily Instagram filtered so I was slightly disappointed.
Our next stop was the spice shop in the old city and the clock tower market. I didn’t buy any spices as I’m pretty sure I still have some from last time I came 🙈and also I know my luck, they would explode in my bag, I just know it!! I did however buy a beautiful red scarf in the market, in return for a gentleman adding some new holes to my leather sandals! I kept sliding about in them which caused me to lose my shoe on the first sleeper train we got on!!!!! Oh I forgot to tell that story! When we got the sleeper train to Bikaner on the first night, it was so busy trying to get on that some guy stood on my sandal and it fell down between the train and the platform. As I’d been hustled onto the train and loads of Indians were behind me I just carried onto the train to my bed – shoeless, well one shoe down. When everyone was on, I went back to check to see if there was anyway to get said shoe and I found a group of 5 guys just looking down all discussing my shoe and trying to find a way to get it! I appeared and they all exclaimed they were trying to find someone with a pole to get it!! It was midnight at this point and I was a bit out of it, but it was such a funny scene – grown men so worried about my shoe!! They managed to find a guard with a pole and retrieve my shoe before the train left. I am so grateful to them for being worried about my shoe and saving it. It just shows you the kindness of strangers in this fascinating and beautiful country! I could not stop saying thank you, which they thought was hilarious. So whoever you were, thank you! 😊