We reached Jodhpur in the afternoon, met our driver at the airport and checked into our hotel. After some relaxation, we left for the market. We spent about 2 hours in shopping and in spite of our protests, my mom and sister managed to buy some beautiful Bandhni Sarees. After reaching the hotel we had a relaxed time and cut a cake at 12 and welcomed 2011 in a fun family way.
The next morning we started for Jaisalmer which is a 5 hour drive away from Jodhpur. As we progressed towards Jaisalmer, we could see more sand in the surroundings. This being Decmber, we packed a lot of warm clothes. But it was so hot in Rajasthan that I even argued with my mum on why we bought so many woolens. I was excited to witness a real desert for the first time. We were staying at Choki Dhani Desert Camp. We reached there late in the afternoon and immediately after checking in, proceeded towards Sam Dunes to catch a glimpse of the setting desert sun. We hired a camel and a camel cart for the 6 of us. My brother enjoyed the camel ride and we relaxed on the camel cart, while enjoying the desert panoramas. We stopped at a spot and waited for the sun to set. My sister is a photographer and spent a lot of time with her DSLR clicking beautiful pics of the sunset while we enjoyed playing in the sand. The yellow-orange-red transformation of the sun in front of our eyes and its journey towards the desert horizon was breathtaking and no words would do justice to the beauty we witnessed that evening. As the sun set, the sand became more and more cold. And suddenly the temperature dropped. My mum looked at me and I lipped a quiet sorry for the previous argument. On the camel ride back to Choki Dhani, it became too cold and I was shivering without a sweater.
We reached Choki Dhani in the evening and were welcomed gracefully. This was a tented accommodation in a make-shift village environment. It was a huge tent equipped with a heater, television and a bathroom. After getting decked up with our thick furry jackets we headed out to explore our village. Everything was very beautiful and was well thought of. There were street dancers, musicians, magicians, astrologers, puppeteers, mehndi artists, jugglers, snake charmers and what not. We enjoyed dancing with the locals. This one was similar to the Jaipur Choki Dhani which I had visited a few years back but maybe a bit more 'desert-ish' and 'village-ish'. After a stroll through the entire village, we went for dinner. Dinner is served in Thali style on the floor. We really enjoyed the yummy food as well as their prompt and wonderful service. After our Rajasthani Thali meal we went to sleep in our tents. The next morning we woke up and lazed around our tent and our village for a while. We had breakfast at the dining hall and started our day.
Our next destination was Fort Rajwada, a luxury hotel on the outskirts of Jaisalmer. It was no less than a palace. The entire hotel including the rooms boasted of exquisite Rajasthan royalty. The buffet style dinner and breakfast consisted of Indian and Continental spreads and was out-of-this-world yummy. Before dinner there was a local song and dance performance arranged at the pool-side. We also enjoyed an evening on the hotel terrace. The staff was very cordial and we loved the royal hospitality extended to us.
This is a small rainwater lake which s surrounded by many temples and shrines and some temple-like structures submerged in the water. We spent an evening boating in this peaceful lake and enjoyed the beautiful sunset here.
Made of sand stone approximately 500 to 600 years ago and locally known as Sonar Quila, the Jaisalmer Fort is a dominating structure amidst sands. It is the second oldest fort in Rajasthan and one of the largest forts in the world. The massive sandstone walls of the fort stand several feet high. What amazed me most was that even today, nearly one fourth of the old city's population resides within the fort. You can find restaurants, temples, shops, etc inside the fort. It was strange to see people following their daily routine living inside the fort. We also shopped for a while and visited the various preserved palaces and rooms inside the fort. It was so massive and we got some beautiful views of the golden city from the top.
This cluster of 5 Havelis was the first one to be erected in Jaisalmer and was the official residence of the ministers and landlords of the royal times. It was a small street and the at some places the Havelis on both side of the road were so close that neighbours could even pass stuff from one home to another. The architecture was so fine and intricate. The street was crowded and cluttered and was bustling with everyday life.
Next we bid goodbye to Jaisalmer and proceeded to Jodhpur. Hotel Karni Bhawan was a wonderful old-style hotel and we had a comfortable 2-day stay here. The hotel lawn was beautiful and we enjoyed a cold December night bonfire there.
This fort is one of the oldest in India and is situated on a hill top in the middle of the blue city of Jodhpur. There are many beautiful palaces inside with well preserved clothes, furniture and artillery of the Rajput times. The palaces inside are very beautiful and the top of the fort gives beautiful panoramic views of the blue city.
This palace was constructed in the 1940s and houses the royal family today. A part of the palace is a luxury hotel managed by the Taj group. Unfortunately, we had to return from the gates of the palace as it was closed for all visitors for the Maharaja's birthday weekend. But I visited Jodhpur 2 years after this trip to attend a friend's wedding and did visit Umaid Bhawan Palace with friends. It is a sprawling property and one of the largest private residences in the world. There is a museum in which the royal family's belongings are kept on display.
On our last day in Rajasthan , we had an afternoon flight so had the morning free for sight seeing. We visited Mandore gardens and I guess in the early morning we were the only people there. The Mandore gardens have a charming collection of temples and memorials mostly all of which were in ruins or empty. there were many monkeys at this place. We spent a few hours here and enjoyed icecream in the scorching heat.