The rainy season certainly isn’t really the right time to visit Jaisalmer, especially if you wish to enjoy a camel safari and a night of camping under the starry sky. But that did not deter the curious rain chaser in me who desperately wanted to experience the monsoon magic in the ‘Golden City of India’. After living the Maharaja life at a 550-year-old haveli in Jodhpur, we decided to take off to Jaisalmer by road. I must say that our 300 km drive was quite rewarding. The highway was stark empty with open spaces on either side, and no visible economic activity for miles and miles; we almost felt like we privately owned the beautiful surroundings. To make the trip all the more pleasant, peacocks, camels and blackbucks occasionally made an appearance, gorging themselves on the fresh green grass, courtesy the random bursts of rain.
The city that is entirely constructed by yellow sandstone is much more laid-back and hassle-free as compared to cities like Jodhpur and Jaipur and untouched by globalisation. Retaining the rural Rajasthani aura and culture, the city has no fancy malls or popular food chains and is hugely dotted with ruins. We started our day with a walking tour of the city’s major heritage spots which are within the radius of 2 to 4 km. Even if you’ve hired a car or taxi, you’ll have to walk up to most of the places as the streets are quite narrow. When you look at the magnificent, carved havelis and the unique fort perforated with winding lanes and lined with houses and temples, you’ll be transformed to a bygone era and would never wish to return to reality.
After savoring a few local dishes like Ker Sangri and Daal Baati at one of the small joints near the fort, we proceeded to Sam Sand Dunes for a desert safari which was just the perfect way to end the evening on a delightful note. It wasn’t raining that evening and we just got lucky. When it rains, you can’t recognise the desert – heaps of sand are eroded, leaving behind bare nut-brown earth and a camel or jeep safari remains a distant dream. But we got to experience both and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, the ride is likely to take a toll on your back if you tend to become too stiff and don’t move in the same rhythm. Post the safari, you can either get back to your hotel or book an overnight stay at one of the desert camps to witness the breathtaking sunset and spend the night around a bonfire or simply appreciate the rustic performances by the folk dancers of Rajasthan.
My trip to Jaisalmer was indeed a memorable one as it felt like I was travelling back in time. Too hard to believe? Here’s a glimpse
that translates to ‘Welcome to our city’ exemplifies the spirit of Jodhpur which isn’t simply an architectural marvel but a canvas of Rajasthani culture, colours, music and more
Ever thought the colour locals painted their homes with only to ward off insects would become synonymous with the city? Earlier, Jodhpur used to suffer from a major termite problem and thus, the people there began adding copper sulphate to their whitewashes, which lent the city its pristine blue-indigo hue. Traditionally, blue signified the home of a Brahmin, but gradually non-Brahmins too fell in love with the tint and got in on the act. Yes, the Blue City is really blue! It has been chronicled in many a photographic anecdotes, written tales and beautiful canvases; but to see it come alive in front your very eyes is altogether a different experience.
Modern Jodhpur stretches well beyond the city walls, but it is the buzz of the old city and the larger-than-life fort that capture your imaginations. At the base of the mighty Mehrangarh Fort is a jumble of blue cubes that stretch out to the 10 km-long, 16th-century city wall. Inside are vibrant, entangled and bustling medieval streets – all of which look-alike and never seem to lead where you want them to – and shops selling everything from vintage home decor and temple decorations to skirts, saris, jootis and traditional embroidered jholas. With many of the alleyways now obstructed with unwanted scrap, forget exploring the city on foot, especially during muggy monsoons. The attractive-looking rickshaws here are made super slim to be able to squeeze through the narrow streets and make for a great travel option. Their sight makes you want to hop into them straight away!