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June 25, 2006 – A journey to Jaisalmer, India in Asia

The Golden City

Reached, I think, one of the hottest places on earth. Jaisalmer was 47 degrees Celsius (close to 117 degrees Farenheit!!) when we drove in. A pure and true desert town and also on the caravan trade routes, Jaisalmer has a fort too, but with actual residents living in it. Surrounding the fort are buildings made of yellow sandstone, thus leading to the nickname, the Golden City.

The Golden City

another snapshot from within the fort

So far, I've enjoyed Jaisalmer the most of all the cities and towns I've been to in Rajasthan. I'd even have to say it's my favorite desert town. Wandering around in the narrow streets within the old fort really made me feel like I was living in a time of long ago. The architecture is amazing - admired quite a few intricately designed havelis. Needless to say, I feel very fortunate to witness all this.

beautifully detailed balconies

a cow wandering around in a local's house

Plus, I didn’t feel as harassed here as in previous places. Walking around town and in the fort turned out to be quite peaceful until a sandstorm hit. This was my first experience (Rick has been through these before in Arizona) and I thought it was one of the oddest in terms of personal weather experiences.

Within just a few moments, the whole sky darkens and gusts of wind blow through the city streets. Then big clouds of sand plow through and you can’t see anything (kind of like scuba diving in 5 to 10 feet of visibility). This also shuts off all electricity and satellite signals to the city.

the beginning of the sandstorm

So, Rick and I ducked into a local shop, which had a quirky and genuinely gracious owner in it. He offered us some drinks while we had a conversation with him until the storm blew out. Talked about general topics – how we liked India so far, politics, cultural differences, economy, and the sort. He clued us in that during high season, at least fifty touts would follow travelers around. He also added that tourism in India needs some major changes so more people would come. For example, he said that tipping is not part of Indian culture, but it’s now always expected (big ones too). Another is the different prices for Indians versus foreigners in terms of entrance fees, food, lodging, etc. The primary concern he said was that the aggressive touting needs to be curbed, which would make tourists be less rude and frustrated.

After the sandstorm ended, we thanked the shopkeeper and went off for a sunset camel ride. The ride took place in Sam Sand Dunes, which is only 60 km away from the Pakistan-India border (quite a bit of police presence when we were there, mainly due to Sonia Gandhi’s visit the next morning to Jaisalmer). Never rode a camel before. They’re not fast like horses and seem to ride smoother – on sand at least. Enjoyed the ride, but Rick kept on trying to make his camel run.

my cute camel

On the way back, another sandstorm hit mixed in with some rain, which lasted into the night.

sandstorm a-coming

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