Friday, 28 February 2020

Travels in India, 2020 - The Golden City of Jaisalmer


Six hours after leaving Jodhpur a giant sandcastle appeared on the horizon, we'd reached Jaisalmer (pronounced Jay-sal-meer), the Golden City of Rajasthan, situated in the heart of the Thar Desert.


Although the journey took two hours longer than anticipated, long-distance Indian bus travel isn't bad at all. While there's precious little room for your luggage - we squeezed our bags into the footwell and wedged our feet on top - there's plenty of stops for chai and snacks. As seats only need to be booked 24 hours in advance, it's a great option if, like us, you don't like to plan too far in advance and, at less than £3 each, it's excellent value for money. 


Of course, we were the only foreigners aboard the bus and a cause of great interest to our fellow passengers, in equal parts both fascinated & horrified by our pale faces. One child even burst into tears when Jon waved at him. The female passengers completely covered their faces with their pallus (the loose side of the sari) whilst the men wore turbans tied in a variety of ways, denoting both their tribe and their rank. At one point we were joined by a group of bare-chested, lungi-clad pilgrims, carrying tridents with their faces painted with tiger stripes - but everyone found us far more interesting.


Jaisalmer was founded in 1156 by the Rajput leader, Jaisal, and the clan continued to rule the city until independence in 1947. The early years were tempestuous as the city leaders relied on looting as a source of income but by the 16th century, Jaisalmer was prospering from its strategic position on the camel-train routes between India and Central Asia. During British rule, the rise of the sea trade and railways saw Jaisalmer's importance and population decline. Happily, the city's fortunes have revived in recent years with the advent of tourism and Jaisalmer is now one of Rajasthan's biggest tourist destinations.


Jaisalmer's fort is a living urban centre, with around three thousand people residing within its walls.


We'd been advised not to stay in the fort as habitation, driven in no small part by tourism, is known to be causing irreparable damage to the monument. Instead, our base was the Toyko Palace, a modern, traveller-friendly hotel carved from the local sandstone and less than a ten-minute walk away. 

The Toyko Palace


Our deluxe room (£20 a night) had a lovely window seat, ideal for watching life unfold on the streets below. But there was no time for lounging around. As soon as we'd unpacked we headed off to explore.


Jaisalmer's narrow lanes are lined with houses and temples, handicraft shops, guesthouses, and restaurants. After the relative quiet of Jodhpur, the busy city was a shock to the system, with large Western tour groups, touts, hawkers, and shopkeepers plying their wares.





Within the honey-coloured city walls lie some of the grandest havelis ever built in India, the former residences of Jaisalmer's merchant barons.


Patwa-ki-haveli is the biggest in Jaisalmer. It towers over a narrow lane, with intricate stonework carved so finely that it resembles golden lace. Divided into five sections, it was built between 1800 and 1860 by five Jain brothers who made their fortune in brocade and jewellery.  




How beautiful are these handpainted walls?














Although there are several different entrances to the house, the privately-owned Kothari's Patwa-ki-Haveli Museum is the only one worth the 200 rupee admission fee (approx. £2).



Nathmai-ki-haveli was built by two architect brothers, who each worked independently on his own half. Although the interior is gorgeous, if you look closely you can see slight differences in the carving. The haveli served as the prime minister's residence in the late 19th Century.


The paintings on the first floor were created using 1.5kg of gold leaf.


Still inhabited, the lower floor of the haveli has been turned into a shop by the ancestors of the family and although entrance was free, a donation (or a purchase) is appreciated.





Curiosity sated, for the time being, we returned to the Toyko Palace for dinner. When we'd popped up to the rooftop restaurant earlier for a drink, we were disappointed that the only beer available was an extra-strong imported lager and commented to the manager that as we were in India we wanted to drink Indian beer. He promised he'd get some especially and, true to his word, there was an ice-cold Kingfisher (or three) waiting for us. We were going to enjoy our stay!
  

For more photos, see HERE.

Next stop, the Thar Desert.

52 comments:

  1. You've certainly brightened up this grey old day with your wonderful travelogue.Everything is so colourful and the fort does indeed look like a giant sandcastle. The architecture is wonderful too. I wonder how cool it remains inside the rooms with their lack of windows? I'm really enjoying reading your posts. Keep 'em coming!!xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you've enjoyed the post! Those walls are so thick, the interiors always remain cold (not so much fun in the winter!) xxx

      Delete
  2. the haveli is marvelous! the carved sandstone facade and of cause this rich interior - thank you for your photos! we traveled by bus from agra to jaipur - the bus had a giant crack in the front window, my seat was hanging on one last screw.... but we arrived at the scheduled minute :-D
    cant wait to read about your desert adventure! xxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! We must have got lucky with our bus, we paid an extra 100 rupees for the "luxury" option!
      Aren't those havelis incredible? So much detail. xxx

      Delete
  3. The first view of Jaisalmer almost looks like a mirage and that mighty fort indeed looks like a giant sandcastle. Travelling that long-distance Indian bus sounds quite an adventure, both for you and your fellow passengers! Patwa-ki-haveli is stunning, and those handpainted walls are exquisite. That photo of you at Nathmai-ki-haveli is so dreamy! The interior is indeed gorgeous, but like some of the interiors we visited in Bruges, all that splendour can be a bit overwhelming indeed. You need more than one pair of eyes to take it all in. xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved those havelis but had to stop after two in one day, it's easy to be overwhelmed! xxx

      Delete
  4. The architecture has to be some of the worlds best for me. I had to laugh at the cost of the bus fare, you couldn’t go to the bottom of the road for that price here. Looking forward to the next episode xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The architecture blows my mind every time, I can't get enough of it!
      Those bus prices are utter madness. xxx

      Delete
  5. Wow, those painted walls are stunning. So glad the manager got you your Kingfisher, he was probably shocked that there were actual tourists who appreciated all India has to offer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had to restrain myself from touching those walls, they were so beautiful!
      Jaisalmer had loads of Italian restaurants, which I can't get my head around. Why travel to India and eat pasta? Weird! xxx

      Delete
  6. Omg the Kingfisher finale!!! I used to drink those ages ago when I was young and worked in a pub!!! That brought me back--- just gorgeous -- u, Jon, the painted walls, the carved buildings-- love love love
    And girl we're all worried about coronavirus-- gonna just ravage the economy for awhile -- everyone bracing for it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love Kingfisher, it's the best beer with curry! xxx

      Delete
  7. Jaisalmer looks bewitching. The golden fortress walls surrounded by a desert are quite a site. Seeing it in more detail with the help of your photographs, it is even more beautiful and fascinating. The fortress walls are quite impressive and I imagine it is just as interesting to be inside of them. It is good you decided to stay outside as staying inside the fort could damage the monument (didn't know about that but it makes sense). It is nice you found a nice place to stay too....and I imagine that sightseeing this town was a wonderful experience. The historical buildings are quite impressive. That one build by the two brothers both architects is quite something. The fine stone work is so gorgeous, it does look like lace. Absolutely magnificent! You look so lovely in that maxi dress.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jaisalmer, despite how busy it is with tourists, really is a sight to behold. The fort was like something from a fairytale and it was no hardship to stay outside the city walls, you could appreciate it from a distance. xxx

      Delete
  8. I love your travel stories! A quick question ... the photo of the inside of the bus (where you and Jon were the point of interest) what is above the seats? Are they storage compartments? Thanks! Jennifer. Who has never been to India!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jennifer! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Those boxes above the seats are sleeper compartments, which you can book instead of seats. Not a bad option if you're travelling through the night! xxx

      Delete
  9. Good grief....it cost Andy more than that to get the bus four miles into town the other day.

    What a beautiful place.
    So glad you got your Kingfisher beer :)
    Hugs-x-

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! Jaisalmer's 175 miles from Jodhpur, it works out at 2p a mile!
      After independence the Indian government decreed that all Indians should have the right to travel within their country and public transport costs are kept deliberately low to enable people, no matter how poor, can afford to see India. Wouldn't it be brilliant if the UK government adopted the same scheme? xxx

      Delete
  10. I do like a kingfisher!
    The carved stone and painted walls are enchanting, I love the warm stone colour and again such detail. It must be characteristic of Jain architecture? xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love a Kingfisher (or three!)
      We hadn't seen much Jain architecture until we visited Jodhpur, now I can spot it a mile away. There's some amazing Jain temples coming up in another post soon. xxx

      Delete
  11. I have serious photography envy. Luckily, I can stop back and look at these images any time I want. Thanks for capturing all that beautiful detailing... and your description really adds to the whole!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, India really is a feast for the eyes and an assault on the senses. xxx

      Delete
  12. OOh, the bus is cheap! I remember being a source of fascination like that in Central Java! The carved stone and the beautiful walls are amazing and I like seeing the puppets!
    Excellent they found you the good beer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know - I love how cheap it is to get around India! It really is weird being such a source of fascination, I never know where to look when someone stares so openly at you. xxx

      Delete
  13. Wow, the sights to see are amazing. I love the hand-painted walls. They remind me of the hand-painted bangles that my mum collects. X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those walls aren't unlike the Kashmiri bangles your mum & me are fond of, are they? xxx

      Delete
  14. So much to look at! Those painted walls are breathtaking. Imagine living in a place like that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to live in one of those havelis but I'd want a few servants, I don't think I'd fancy the 10km round trip to the well every day! xxx

      Delete
  15. Thankyou for allowing us to feast our eyes on all this splendour. Jaisalmar looks like a beautiful city to explore. The fort certainly does look like a sandcastle. The Patwa-ki-haveli looks amazing. I imagine it would have taken ages to complete all those intricate details both inside and out. Does it not have glass windows?

    The photo of you looking out the window is beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure, so glad you enjoyed the post, Suzy!
      Like Jodhpur, none of the old building have glass in their windows, just wooden shutters. It's freezing at night! xxx

      Delete
  16. What an amazingly beautiful place. I keep scrolling through your photographs as there is so much to see.
    I'm glad you got your beer. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jules! Its easy to miss some of those details when you're there as there's so much to take in. When I look back at my photos I keep seeing more things I missed the first time around. xxx

      Delete
  17. 2p a mile! Well, price aside, if anywhere was worth the journey, Jaisalmer is certainly it. What a place! Loving these blogs, Vix xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Annie! The buses and trains are absurdly cheap, it's a real incentive to travel around. xxx

      Delete
  18. What an utterly fabulous place. The hand pàinted walls are so beautiful. I am enjoying reading your travelogue, the pics are brilliant. Looking forward to the next chapter! Carole.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Carole. I'm delighted that you're enjoying my travel posts. xxx

      Delete
  19. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  20. What astonishing buildings they are - so beautiful. And as for the wall paintings in the Haveli; just magnificent. Why don't we do that? Beats wallpaper, anytime! I have seen Sikhs in Bedford with differently tied turbans and wondered about them; thinking it might be stylistic, but now I know!

    I'm really enjoying your travelogue - thank you!
    xxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Vronni! I love those hand-painted walls. I wonder if the affluent Brits ever had anything similar in their grand homes? I've never come across any in the National Trust properties we've visited. xxx

      Delete
  21. I'm likely never going to India, so I'm happily living vicariously through you, Vix! I so appreciate all the pictures and your historical research. Wow, it's just so incredibly beautiful.

    Glad you got some Indian beer!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Good lord this place is absolutely stunning! The architecture, That museum! I went back over your pictures elephant spotting lol Just fabulous thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's hard to take it all in when you're there, it's so beautiful it almost feels unreal.
      xxx

      Delete
  23. wow it's a stunning place. You are right with the wish to drink indian beer.Import beer can we drink at home :)
    I Thailand I would like to drink one can of green Fanta. Its a special Thai taste, not avaivable in Germany.
    Thank you for this wonderful post. xxxx Tina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love Kingfisher beer, like you say I can drink Tuburg at home! xxx

      Delete
  24. The exterior architecture and the interior decorations are a feast for the eyes!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Totally mesmerized by these buildings and their decorations! So Fabulous!, it looks totally like a dream!
    besos

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It doesn't seem real now I look back at the photos. xxx

      Delete
  26. That Architecture is sublime and the hand-work on the Walls takes my breath away! I smiled that on the Bus you were the main attraction and that you opted for the transportation most of the locals use to get a more interesting experience while on vacation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aren't the hand painted walls a sight to behold? If we do end up being forced into isolation I might try and recreate the effect at home. I'll have the time (if not the talent!) xxx

      Delete

Thank you for leaving a comment. If you have a blog I'll pop over and return the favour.

Lots of love, Vix