Jaipur and Jaisalmer
Well, its been a total change of fortunes in the last few days, just as we thought that Rajasthan had little to offer, things have picked up. We did exactly as we said we would the following day in Jaipur, started out earlyin a rickshaw to the old city to see the sites. We were joined by Teri, from San Francisco, and with two girls shopping was now high on the agenda. After making our way through the bazaars for shoe purchasing we saw the Hawa Mahal and City Palace, with the former being a lot smaller than the guide books make it out to be. Speaking of guidebooks, never trust Lonely Planet's prices! We went to Nero's restaurant which was WAY more expensive than LP said it would be. I ended up ordering a cheese sandwich, just about the cheapest thing on the menu but still a staggering 90 rupees!
After this we went to the Raj Mandhir cinema, supposedly the best place in the world to see a Bollywood movie.It was madness, screaming, cheering, booing. Makes our cinemas look very mundane. The film was called Sunday, we had a basic grasp of what was going on but I think if it was in English we would have thought it was one of those trashy teen rom-coms, although only Bollywood could make a comedy about a girl who think's shes been raped!
The best was yet to come though, Choki Dhani!! We'd read about an evening at a mock Rajasthani village with a meal and attractions but nothing could have prepared us for the utter bizarreness. The three of us were joined by Matt and V from Belgium. We hired a big car to take us out of town to this unknown place seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We arrived to be met by hundreds of local families and good food. It was clear that this was a thoroughly middle class affair, a new experience for us in India but pretty refreshing aswell. After the food the madness began! Artificial caves that led to nowhere, big slides, elephant rides,snake charmers, traditional dancing (i hope to God the photos dont come out) and....A DINOSAUR. Crazy, this growling dinosaur could be heard across the park, totally out of place at a traditionally themed event but hilarious nonetheless. It makes you wonder why anyone takes drugs when Choki Dhani is just as intoxicating. We left around 10:30, thoroughly impressed with ourselves for making the effort and in time for the two of us to make our midnight train to Jaisalmer. We met a couple from London who gave us some great tips for South America (the tips book is bulging!) and 15hrs later we were in Jaisalmer.
We love it here, its everything Rajasthan claims to be, without the annoyances. We're staying in a 450year old haveli (the only bit of luxury whilst we're in India) and our room is INCREDIBLE. You'll have to look at the photos to see for yourselves. Its called Shreenath Palace and anyone that comes to Jaisalmer should stay here. The room is huge, pillared and with 4 balconies and numerous other windows. The town/city itself is small compared to everywhere else we've been but so much of it is timeless. The fort is beautiful, the architecture is second to none. The jain influence is evident with a stunning temple outside one of our balconies.
Today, our second day here we took a jeep ride into the desert to the Sam sand dunes, along with Jo and Naomi from Australia, a lovely girl from Israel (curse my name forgetfulness) and a honeymooning Indian couple. Nat took a camel ride for the final few kilometres to the dunes whilst I (not even liking donkey rides as a kid) stuck to the jeep. Turned out to be a good choice, her camel was a bit neurotic and was constantly trying to do a buckaroo. Concious that our insurance doesnt cover camel related injuries she dismounted and walked behind, taking in a whole load of camel methane in the process. Meanwhile I was ploughing my way across the dunes on foot in my first desert experience. It was nice to spend a couple of hours in relative wilderness, only 40km from the Pakistani border, even if there were a fair few people around. Our last day in Jaisalmer tomorrow and then we're off on another night train, this time to Jodhpur, our last stop in Rajasthan. We had a great time the last few days and hopefully things will only get better.
p.s. Thanks to everyone for the lovely messages on here, facebook and email. Sorry we can't really reply to them because of limited (and expensive!) internet time but their really appreciated. keep them coming :-)
more photos soon we promise, internet is rubbish here though!!