Hello and welcome to my last but not the least travel blog from Rajasthan. This trip has been nothing short of soul stirring and informative for us. If you haven’t checked out my other blogs from this trip, do check them out now. I will link them at the end of this blog, do hang around till the end because this is the longest blog of the series. I will be talking about a lot of my personal experiences in this blog which have not always been great but important to talk about nevertheless.
Leaving Udaipur, I felt a little melancholy tugging at my heart as this city was so beautiful. It definitely has been enlisted as one of my favourite cities in the entire world. No less than Ubud or Singapore. But all good things come to an end, so I bid my goodbye to this beautiful city with a promise to return. I even made a deal with the mister to come spend our 25th anniversary in “Oberoi Udaivilas”. Let’s see how that turns out.
We left Udaipur in the wee hours of the morning as we had a long road ahead of us till we reach Jaisalmer. It was still dark when we started and as we were leaving the city, the sky lit up in orange hues just before the sun rose bidding the final but beautiful farewell to us. We were to reach Jaisalmer in the evening and our driver informed us that we will be taking the road through the Aravali ranges and will be passing some deepest and most dense forests of Aravali. He even informed that this road is avoided by people after nightfall as there are dacoits spread over the forests. I don’t know about dacoits but I am all up for taking the scenic route any day. After being on the four lane highway that leads to Mount Abu for some time, we soon found ourselves on a narrower road making its way through some remote villages of Rajasthan. The scenery became more greener with every passing hour and I soon began to understand what our driver meant by dense forests.
As we left our hotel in Udaipur too early, none of us got time to even have a cup of tea. Our hunger pangs started bothering us soon. Our driver stopped at a place in the middle of dense forests which looked like some kind of resort. As it was too early in the morning, we were greeted by a sleepy security guard and thankfully he told us that they have food. I got out from the car, and it was so freaking cold. I was literally shivering and it felt like we have entered some hill station. We quickly ran indoors and ordered some poori alu sabzi with tea. That piping hot tea felt like heaven. This part of Rajasthan was a surprise for us. So green and so cold.
Out on the road again and the forests started getting too dense as we made our way through the mountains of Aravali. Wild langurs jumped from trees and different species of birds greeted us on our way. I put on my headphones as this beautiful scenery passed by me. You know the saying that how it’s more about the journey than the destination itself. Well, I can vouch for it now. A couple of hours later we were out of the mountains and into the plains. Our first stop of the day was “Ranakpur”. Ranakpur is known for one of the oldest and the most grand of Jain temples in the entire Rajasthan. To be honest, I wasn’t very keen on visiting any temple but I went for it anyway. And I am so glad that I did. This temple was so beautiful that you will have to see it to believe it. It has a thousand pillars inside it carved intricately in marble and each one different from the other. Ceilings that are so beautifully done that its impossible to believe they are really done by human hands. It’s a social media tragedy though, as they do not allow you to take any pictures inside it. But I guess some things are better off without our narcissism.
After being awestruck by this marvellous piece of architecture, it was time to hit the road again. Leaving “Mewar” behind, it was time to explore “Marwar”. And trust me, its not just the name that changes, everything changes with it. Soon we started seeing men in colourful turbans, so representative of popular Rajasthani culture. Abhishek informed that every place has a distinct style of tying the turban and one can tell where they are from by just looking at the turban.
Ten hours later, we reached Jodhpur. We were so tired that when the driver asked if we want to visit “Mehrangarh Fort” we refused with a heavy heart. Our hotel was booked in Jaisalmer and it was another four hours till we reach. There was no way we could manage climbing forts that day. If you wish to explore Jodhpur, I suggest you spend one night there before heading on to Jaisalmer. Leaving Jodhpur behind, the landscape became more dry and arid as we moved towards Jaisalmer. After another couple of hours we reached Jaisalmer just before sunset. Jaisalmer is a desert city. The entire city is built of this golden sandstone native to the area. The city from a distance looks like it rose from the desert as it so beautifully camouflages with the golden sand that surrounds it. As the day ended, it was an end to our strenuous yet beautiful road trip across Rajasthan as we were flying out from Jaisalmer after two days.
Our first day in Jaisalmer was a tour of the city attractions and we were going to spend the night in the sand dunes. With the day’s plan ahead of us, we got ready to explore. The first place we visited was “Gadisar Lake” which is a man made lake built by the royal family and was used as the main water source for the city. It has a beautiful entry gate and an old shiv temple inside it which is still used by the royal family of Jaisalmer for offering prayers. Its not a very big area, but you can take some beautiful photographs there.
We roamed around for a bit before heading on to our next destination “Patwon ki Haveli”.Patwon ki Haveli is one of the most notable havelis in India. It was constructed during the 19th century and was built over a period of almost fifty years. This haveli belonged to a rich jain merchant. It’s not one haveli but a cluster of five havelis as the owner had five sons. It is a beautiful and magnificient structure and now it’s been converted to a museum. This haveli is the best place to get a hang of how people (especially rich people) used to live in those times. Every door, every corner, every ceiling has been done up with intricate carvings and the entire house has beautiful paintings. Every place in Rajasthan is a marvellous example of human capabilities that almost feel unreal at times.
There are few other havelis in Jaisalmer which have now been converted into beautiful five star properties. You can have a look at them by either staying at one of them or visiting the restaurants for lunch or dinner. As for us, we were too broke to do any of that. So we moved on to our next destination “The Jaisalmer Fort”.
Jaisalmer fort is the only “living fort” in the world right now. It means that an entire civilisation lives and thrives inside the fort. As we entered the fort corridors, it didn’t feel real at all for some time. Autos and motorcycles wheezed past us as we started going in through some narrow lanes. Stores selling all kinds of things were laid out along the narrow lanes. It was strange to walk past people’s living rooms and kitchens in a centuries old fort. We went inside the main palace for which you need to pay entry fees. Inside the palace there are lot of interesting things to see as to how the royal family lived in their prime. The quarters of the kings and queens and some vintage photographs of all the Rajputana kings are on display. There is also the Armoury where different arms and ammunitions of the army are kept on display. It’s interesting and informative. After the palace tour we went to a beautiful restaurant which was inside the fort with incredible views of the city and the desert stretched far and beyond.
A quick change of clothes later, it was time to leave for the dunes. I was so excited. We drove out of the city and soon we could see sand dunes stretched in front of us. It was our first time seeing the desert and it was just like seeing the ocean for the first time. So beautiful that we were at a loss of words. As it was almost time for the sunset, the sand glistened in the golden rays of the sun. We parked our car and climbed atop the dunes to witness the most beautiful sunset. I know I say this a lot but it really was one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life. The horizon was just in front of us with nothing to block the view. It felt like I could touch the sun with my hands. It felt so close.
We went further inside the desert and found the tents we were staying in. They served some lip smacking snacks and tea which was a warm welcome as it gets chilly in the evening. There were arrangements made for a Rajasthani folk performance for the guests. We had a lot of fun watching the performance by local artists and I even tried my hands on ghoomar, learning from the very graceful local artists. Such fun. It started getting cold at night and the experience of being in the middle of a desert at night was surreal. We could see so many stars from horizon to horizon, like being under an oval canopy of stars. A must do in Jaisalmer.
At around 5 am, my husband woke me up to go and watch the sunrise. I was so sleepy and grumpy that I was having second thoughts about it but I gave in to his persuasions. Got up and wore warm clothes for the first time in this trip because deserts are cold in the morning too. Took a camel cart and made our way to the dunes again. As we settled down on the dunes with some tea, waiting for the sun to rise, we could see an orange hue at the horizon and suddenly without any warning, the sun popped out. Like a big orange bathing the desert in the most beautiful of colour. I am so thankful that I got up, it was so worth it.
It was our last day in Jaisalmer and by noon we reached the city. A quick lunch at Abhishek’s place and off we went exploring again. Our stop was “Bada Bagh” cenotaphs. On the outskirts of this fairly small city Jaisalmer was the most beautiful memorial ground of the royal family. A cluster of golden minarets stand like a beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert. Captivated by their beauty, we spent quite some time exploring this place.
As the evening drew in, I insisted that we visit the fort again as I wanted to take in the sights for one last time. We walked inside the fort aimlessly, buying souvenirs and talking to the locals. At times it felt as if we were in the sets of “Aladin”, very cryptic for comprehension. At that moment we were just two travellers walking through the streets of an unknown city where nobody knows who we are and that is the best thing about travelling. You can be whoever you want, but it pushes you to be more you. That evening, we walked through the entire fort and walked back to our hotel crossing the chaotic bazaars of Jaisalmer. It was one of the best evenings of our entire trip.
Next day, we woke up and packed our bags, bidding goodbye to Abhishek and his family. Aunty gifted me the most beautiful “Kota Doria” saree ever. Best things about travel are the people, local culture, local food and how it expands the horizons of our life and makes us more complaisant of other peoples culture. Rajasthan was very different from what I am used to. My feminist side was cringing at certain instances and I won’t lie about it. But when you are visiting someone else’s home, the least you can do is be tolerant and respectful if not in agreement. Travel teaches you that. I wish that we have more of it in our lives.
I will link down all my blogs from Rajasthan. I hope they help you plan your travels to this beautiful state and also inspire you to visit Rajasthan soon with a wish that we never run out of stories to tell from faraway lands.