Travelled to : Jaisalmer in November 2015
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to live like people in history, say some 700 years ago? I have. Fortunately, I found a way to fulfill this fantasy. To add some more excitement , I got the opportunity to experience what it is to live in a fort that is more than 800 years old. This was the Jaisalmer fort, built by Raja Rawal Jaisal in the year 1156 A.D . In the modern context, Jaisalmer and the fort started getting a lot of tourism since the making of Satyajit Ray’s film Sonar Kella of international fame, which was partly short here.
How to reach – Take overnight bus/ train from Jaipur/Delhi. Alternatively, fly into Jodhpur ( nearest) and get a cab/ bus/ train to Jaipur.
Where to stay – There are many hotels and guesthouses of various budgets inside and outside the fort. I recommend staying inside the fort for the full ‘stepping back in history’ history. I stayed at Hotel Royal Stay inside fort with sweeping city views ( phn: 087694 14708 ) with room prices of Rs.500-800 / night in November 2015. It was very comfortable and adequate.
Special mention – There are government approved bhang shops on the right hand side of the main fort entrance, pretty good stuff. You can also try catching an evening show that you can watch while having dinner at Dhani boys restaurant.
Eating joints – I generally don’t make a separate section for this , but a few inside the fort are worth mentioning. There a good German bakery on the left hand side when you enter the fort,at the main entrance( inside)that that relatively inexpensive pies, sandwiches and shakes, all under Rs.100.
There is a very good quality , authentic ( read less cheese, more flavors ) Italian restaurant near a shop called Belissimo, not far from the Jain temple and the hotel Royal Stay
Since centuries this fort and the town including shops have been inhabited by the people of the region. Locals said that in the past only Brahmins and Kshatriyas were allowed to live inside the fort. The rest of the castes lives outside, in the rest of the town. Today, some of the homes in the fort have been converted into guest houses, hotels and cater to all ranges of budgets. We stayed in such a hotel called the Royal Jaisalmer. Boy, was it nice! We got a spacious, tastefully decorated room with a swing huge bay windows overlooking the city for a mere Rs.800/ day in November 2015. If you want to stay here, ask the owner to reserve the room with the big swing, well in advance.
Our favorite past times were waking up to the filtered sunlight through the windows and looking at the city below, relaxing on the swing, eating on the rooftop restaurant that served decent food. Rahul the manager and caretaker of our hotel ( inside the fort was great
In spite of the numerous sights in Jaisalmer town, the part we enjoyed the most was walking around town through the meandering streets, people watching at some corner in the fort and eating great food inside the fort. There is a beautiful Jain temple ( pic above) inside the fort with intricate carvings, definitely worth a visit. There are other attractions like Patwon ki Haveli, Nathmal ji ki Haveli, Gadisar lake etc.
The streets inside the fort are often lined with shops selling collectibles, paintings ( with in-house painters), textile & clothing and such. Lot of the shop keeps and guides speak multiple languages here like English, French, German, Italian etc. and Jaisalmer is very popular with foreign tourists who come to India. There are lots of big cows and dogs who roam the streets. I made friends with our hotel’s dog Happy and a cow that roamed in the area. Walking through the lanes of the fort feels like a time warp, a step back in time. The Fort still has huge entry gates through which elephants used to carry kings, queens and general on their backs.
Another experience worth mentioning was having dinner while catching a traditional dance and music show at Dhaani boys, commercial but still has some authentic vibe left.