After driving for hours through the mostly barren Thar Desert of Rajasthan, the golden fortress walls of Jaisalmer are a stunningly romantic sight to see. Jaisalmer was founded in 1156 by Jaisal Singh, a Rajput king, and it is quite obvious why it is called “The Golden City.”
When we first walked toward the fort I was somewhat taken aback with the aggressiveness of some of the sellers lining the entrance, but I soon learned that in well-traveled Rajasthan almost everyone is trying to make a buck off of tourists. We soon became tired of everyone asking “What country?” and then as soon as we answered them trying to sell us something. Living in Mumbai and having traveled to less touristy places like Kolkata and Aurangabad we had somewhat avoided this side of India until now.
However, as long as you don’t let it get to you and sometimes make the effort to observe and have a real conversation with people it becomes manageable. Waking up early helps, as evidenced by Manor’s photos from his morning excursions.
Inside the fortress walls are of course many shops, but there are also lots of beautiful Jain temples and the architecture of most of the buildings is very beautiful and keeps to the ancient carved haveli (mansion) style that is popular here.
Everything is not inside the fortress, however. Aside from our lovely hotel (The Hotel Tokyo Palace), there are several ancient havelis, or mansions. These havelis mostly belonged to very wealthy families and have now been preserved and turned into museums. We went to the Patwon Haveli, which was indeed very beautiful, plus it provides a good way to learn a lot about how families kept their homes.
Also outside the fort is a lake across the road, which makes for a lovely sunset spot. There is a small hill from which you can see the fortress and there were a bunch of boys flying kites in the fading light.
Every night at 7:30 the Desert Cultural Centre & Museum puts on a traditional puppet show so we decided to check it out one night. The founder of the museum is the one who introduces each piece, and he pointed out (as did several signs) that the museum is the effort of a single man (himself). We chuckled at his introductions for each piece, which were quite long in Hindi and the English always included the phrase, “This is a very interesting program.” The puppet shows were accompanied by live traditional music and the puppets’ “moves” were actually quite impressive, like a young boy throwing a ball and a man riding a horse in many different positions.
Although getting to Jaisalmer takes some effort, its uniqueness is rewarding and it’s golden beauty can’t be topped.