Saturday, March 29, 2008

Jaisalmer, Rajasthan : Sufferi - Day 5

Rajasthan Road Trip - Day 1.
Udaipur, Rajasthan : City of Lakes, Venice of the East - Day 2.
Jodhpur, Rajasthan : Blue City - Day 3.
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan : Sand Castles - Day 4.

Day 4 in Jaisalmer was like drinking from a hose, too much beauty pepperred with touristey cliches (bedsheet shopping?!, camel safari pushers, the pushy guide). Day 5 we decided, the pace had to be controlled and we'd try to look at Jaisalmer one more time at our own pace. Good intentions all around!

Morning dawns, we stroll out of Mandir Palace and head back to the fort, this time there is a sense of recognition or atleast we think so - we're steering clear of the tourist traps we've seen yesterday. We are armed with a map of the fort and begin our self-guided tour of the fort - its lovely to look at the lattice work one more time and really absorb the designs we see everywhere - but turns out that bus-loads of more tourists have arrived and we're also not having that much luck navigating the old fort bylanes by ourselves - we remember from our trek the previous day and manage to re-visit some areas that we wanted to check out again.

We had decided to take the camel safari, neither of us likes camels,nor were we thrilled at the prospect of a bumpy ride from our previous experiences with the camel - but after much deliberation we felt that since we had come out so far - it would be a shame to miss out on the camel safari's that are such a staple in Jaisalmer - so - we ended up with a compromise where we opted to take a camel cart - which we felt was not on the animal and might be slightly more comfortable. Safari booked.

Outside the fort there is a Govt. approved "Bhang" shop - found that very puzzling - a government approved shop that sold hallucinogens - very nice! :) We bought some for use later when we were back home - hey it was government approved after all! The rest of the afternoon was a little aimless, we went back to the old market and I guess we were looking to recapture the feel of Jodhpur, but Jaisalmer is waaay too touristey.

We made a beeline to "Sam National Sand Dunes Park", we had a liaison who drove with us in the car - which he then took onwards to the "camp" while we hopped onto our camel cart - much to the amusement of the ton of foreigners who were all hopped onto the camels. Now, the idea is - the camel drivers take you some distance into the park - to the sand dunes to see the sunset and then drive you to the "camps" for the evening entertainment under the stars - sounded good on paper!

Sam Sand Dunes, Jaisalmer, RajasthanCamel ride was super bumpy - add to that hordes of small kids / adults etc all trying to push you to buy cold drinks / snacks / water and what have you. You got to note that this area has no commerce other than tourism - so the locals are very pushy - our camel driver made it a point to let us know that he would *really* appreciate a tip - OK. Anyhow, we make our way to the supposed "serene" sand dunes and it starts with a low hum - then it grows louder and suddenly over the next sand dune are a zillion tourists and really, there were a zillion tourists - I felt like I was back at Juhu beach - we took pictures if you dont buy it! :)

Sunset, Sam Sand Dunes, Jaisalmer, RajasthanWe navigated to a dune which was mostly slightly away from the human beach - and decided to settle down for the sunset - to bide our time we tried to take atleast one picture without any human entering the frame - yes, it was very hard! It might sound kind of snobbish, but the intent is to sound amused that soooo many (we included) tourists had shown up. Oh well.

Sunset check. Hurried exit to entertainment camp - check. Tip to camel driver - check. So, the camel drive ordeal complete (yes, it was a bad idea and its overrated) - we make it to our camp - traditional greeting with drums and "tikka" - we head to our place around the campfire - and its a big one - for whatever reason we had managed to purchase the "VIP" tickets - it was about Rs. 200 / head, so we got to sit right up front.

In our session, we had a huge group of students from Goa I think so there was a buzz all around. It got dark and the campfire and the entertainment kicked off. There were the staple Rajasthani folk songs, followed by dances, in which the speciality dancer performed some gimmicky dance moves - picking blades with her eyelids etc. OK - was cool to see.

This thing went on for about 3 hours - about 1.5 hour too many - ultimately the session devoloved into Bhangra / popular Hindi movie songs - dinner was served and we were more than ready to get out of that place. On our way back we felt glad that we had taken in a more intimate folk experience in Udaipur which was timed just right and had the right blend of crowd and atmosphere.

Another long day - we were done with Jaisalmer and were ready to start our trek back home to Mumbai. Jaisalmer - check.

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