Jasisalmer - As close to Pakistan as I care to get.
Written by Becky Reining
Jaisalmer is magnificent. The entire city is built around a gigantic Fort - which is the world's oldest inhabited fort. It has even more of a desert/Arabian feel than Jodhpur, and it is so far West that from the top of the Fort you can actually see Pakistan a mere 60 Kilometers away.
Vicky dropped us off at our second hotel booked via Max - The Royal. It seemed like your standard hotel until we were taken to our rooms. They called them the "specialty" rooms and yes they were indeed special. They consist of six rooms alongside the pool. Each room is painted a vibrant color as a background to scenes of various emperors and princesses that lived in the region. There were random mirrors, bowels, and umbrellas also decorating the walls. I felt like I was sleeping in Frida Kahlo's interpretation of Lawrence of Arabia. It was pretty awesome, other than the fact the owners of the hotel decided to mask any funky smells with moth balls. Our entire room smelled like an old man's closet.
It was pretty late by the time we arrived, so we headed into the city to get our camel tour locked in for the next day and to find some dinner. Gina gets the credit for researching which camel tour to use - we went with Trotters. The owner, who told us he liked to go by the name "Bellboy" told us our tour would be to a much more remote "untouristy" area. We got a good enough vibe from him so we gave him our downpayment and agreed to be back there by 1:30 the next afternoon. He told us to do ourselves a favor before heading to dinner and to check out the "lassi shop" next door….
As we sat down at the "lassi shop" we realized it offered more than the standard milky beverage. This lassi shop had been around for generations. It prided itself on having the best recipe in Rajasthan for "special" lassis and cookies. None other than Anthony Bordein even visited the shop about a year ago to try out the secret Bhang Lassi - we were treated to watching the episode of him actually sitting in the same little shop as us getting high as a kite.
It was heading towards dinner time as we wandered into the street. However, it turns out Jaisalmer has some supreme shopping for us tourists. Us three girls had our eyes on what we call "dump pants". The crotch is cut just slightly above the ankles and it kind of looks like you are carrying a big poo in your pants when you walk - but they are SUPER comfortable. The more positive description is "aladdin pants". Whatever you want to call them, we bargained for three of them for our camel ride the next day. We also tried on a couple of rings and checked out some tapestries…getting some possible purchase ideas for later on. Our bellies finally had the final word and we ended up eating a nice restaurant called "Monicas" that overlooked the main square and the castle. Indian food in Rajasthan isn't as great as the other states we've been to, but it was still great. We called it a night after dinner only because everything in Jaisalmer closes at 10pm. There really aren't any such things as bars anywhere and even little mom and pop shops that sell beer close early. So to bed it was, nice and early.
The next morning we did a little Nike training camp followed by a rooftop breakfast overlooking the Fort. I was starting to feel more and more like I was a Khaleesi out on a hunt for a Dathraki. The scenery looked straight out of Game of Thrones.
We didn't have to be ready for our camel tour until 1pm, and it was still pretty early, so we decided to continue our shopping tour after breakfast. We found ourselves in a tapestry shop that had….how does one say….more than a little flourish. There was a sign outside reading "this quilt works better than viagra". I mean, how could one not be intrigued, right?
We entered with the mindset of just seeing what they had. Well, before long, we were knee deep in their sales pitch. Literally. What is the sales pitch exactly? They literally take out EVERY folded blanket and tapestry they have and lie them out on the floor for your to appreciate. There is no way one can't feel guilty about buying something after seeing these guys unfold over 500 pieces. But to be honest, the pieces were pretty incredible. The tribeswomen from the mountain use pieces of wedding dresses, baby blankets, war flags, ancient necklaces and jewels, etc to piece together these elaborate blankets that look amazing. None of us really understood what to do with the pieces, exactly, but we all found ourselves buying way more than our fair share.
After multiple cups of chai and a few swipes of the credit card we called it a day and headed off to meet up with our camel tour group. First things first, we purchased our Bhang Cookies. The tour group consisted of about 10 people. We piled into two open air jeeps and headed into the desert.
We drove for about two hours past camels, old castles…we stopped by what they called a "real life mirage" only it wasn't because the lake really was there. We finally ended up in what seemed like the middle of nowhere with 20 camels awaiting our arrival.
Our excitement about getting on these camels was pretty high at first. I mean how often can you say you got to ride a camel into the desert? This enthusiasm ended about 10 seconds after actually being on the camel. Riding a camel is NOT comfortable. Your legs are spread way further than what is a normal sitting stance, and it is rock hard with no back support. So off we went in this style for a two hour desert tour. Uncomfortableness turned to pain. Pain turned to agony. Let's just hope Adrian is able to bear children for Gina.
Finally, we arrived at actual dunes which would be our campground for the night. The dunes were rad - looked exactly like what you think something like the Sahara would look like. We did a big ole' jumping montage over them. We teased the beetles that roamed them. We bought the beer that was marked up 200%. We took silly photos with the sunset and with the camels and spent an incredible night camped on the dunes and under the desert stars. It was quite memorable.
We awoke in the morning having to ride those damn camels another hour. It was better this time as we armed ourselves with the speakers and ipod and jammed to some reggae the whole time. We made it back to the jeeps, all a little sore and bowl legged, and headed back to the city.
The sun was pretty epically hot and we were pretty epically dusty, so we spent the rest of the day chilling by the pool. It's always nice to treat yourself to a couple of relax days after all the action. We had a little bit more shopping in the evening, followed by a dinner in the fort.
The next morning was our last in Jaisalmer after our lovely stay. I spent it touring the fort and literally looking at Pakistan's border. I love the stories about these old forts and castles. You really do feel like you are in Game of Thrones! The girls and Adrian blogged while I was playing tour guide. Then as noon approached we met up with Vicky and embarked on our 6 hour car ride back to Jodhpur where we would be catching a train to Jaipur. We had Holi to look forward toooo……