“Once Upon a Time….”
Not just a phrase but a time machine that can deport us to any time dimension it wants.
It’s a word elixir that can make us rest for a while in our busy lives ,as we slowly get lost in the land of stories.
Its an emotion to which we all can connect instantly from the core of our heart, as that is what we have all grown up ,listening to……isn’t it??
Now, if one phrase can do such magic, imagine landing up in a place where every turn you take, something holds your hand and says “Come ,sit, I have a story for you ” and it begins “Once , upon a time…..”
As mush as its a treat for your eyes, Jaisalmer is euphoric for your ears too.Regardless of it moving ahead commercially in the perspective of tourism , it has retained the rawness of its history in the air.There are stories of struggle, of love, of faith, of revolt, of dreams, of religions surviving together and of desire that will make you put all your prejudices behind and keep longing for more.
Jaisalmer can never be enough!
A road trip to Rajasthan had always been my conscious dream ,but never wanted to rush through it ,hence we chose just 5 halts for a 10 day trip, to THE RAJASTHAN -PART 1 and Jaisalmer topped that list for all the obvious reasons that any person who has been wanting to visit Rajasthan would definitely understand.
Struggling to optimise our route to find a balance between the time and the budget, as we were travelling from Odisha, we finalised Ahmedabad as the start point. It gave us the perfect flight timing after office such that we don’t loose on a day, cheapest flight rates, satisfactory travel time till Jaisalmer and plethora of options to chose the mode of transport for our road journey.
Of all the options we had ,zoom car appeared to be most reliable ,but just before making the payment we dialled a last travel agent number , to be sure we that have explored all options
And luck struck us. We found Imran Bhai ….He established a connection right in the first chat .Might have been his marketing strategy but then it did help us to take the leap of faith in a total void, and who knew he was going to be a companion more than a just car owner who was getting paid to take us places .
In times like today, when we can’t even trust our own shadow, people like him reinstates the faith in mankind.
The Roads …..
The drive from Ahmedabad to Jaisalmer (550 km and approx 10 hours) beautifully changes from the city life to a bright village and then to a gorgeous desert.Be it the colourful stretches of the fennel seeds being looked upon by the smiling people in turbans , or the huge wind mills towering upon us like a giant, the roads of Rajasthan are a surprise at every few yards.
Well, I can go on and on about my wonderful experiences with the roads of Rajasthan ,but yet it would not complete if i do not mention the famous Longewala-TanotMata Highway drive. Yes, I know it has been boastfully talked about in almost all blogs of Rajasthan, but after having been there in body and soul, I can vouch that each and every word of them are true.
Travel Tip :- If you are planning for Jaisalmer , just stay grounded with its roads as much as you can and you will be amazed at how beautiful a barren land can be .
While searching for an airbnb at Jaisalmer , i was startled to know that the very famous ,Golden fort or the Sonar Quilla, was not only one of oldest standing forts of India but also one of the only two “living forts” in India.(The other one is Chittorgarh). Excited to be a part of the history with so much of proximity , I could imagine myself lying on the bed, staring outside the window watching the moon and reincarnating all the wars that would have been fought there.But ……
I forgot that everything comes at a cost and may be this whole concept of living inside a fort was acting like a slow poison for this millennium year old fort.However, while having coffee at one of the famous points of the fort called as the “Sunset Point”, when we asked Yash Banna, a 15 year old lad and the owner of a coffee shop there, about this notion, he denied and asserted with an innocence, that the drainage system has been revived and everything is under control, in fact the fort is being properly maintained due to the people residing inside it!!
Ummmm…I smiled but my heart cursed me for choosing to stay inside the fort.
As the locals said ,when Government came, the king gave away portions of the Fort to his court-men, so that it does not go into the hands of the Government and since then approximately 5000 people, mainly the Brahmins and Rajputs, have been living inside it .From the morning till dusk its a crowded trade centre with hundreds of restaurants, hotels, spas, antiques/accessories/apparels shops calling out to tourists, while in the late evening after the shops close it turns into a housing complex where kids play and ride bicycles , women gossip and men chat about the various things of the outside world.
I stayed inside the Fort for 2 nights, and yet the irony is , I always kept wondering “Where is the Fort???” 😦
Travel Tip :- Drop the idea of staying inside the fort ,if you too are intrigued by it.The majestic “Sonar Quilla” can only be felt , staying outside it and watching it coupled with the Moon, from your window .
Longewala – Tanot Mata
Our stay at Jaisalmer was for 3 days where , day 1 was to reach, day 2 was to scan the city and the last day was for the desert safari(However i would suggest a minimum stay of 4 days to have enough of Jaisalmer). Longewala, was not in the plan but as they say, the best are the ones which are unplanned and so was it. Not wanting to get lost in crowd of the tourists, as March was the time of our visit and it was clashing with the peak season of tourism, we decided to go for Longewala and Tanot Mata drive .The drive is an experience and Longewala is a feeling ,difficult to express in words.
The sequence is Jaisalmer city >> Longewala >> Tanot Mata>> Pakistan Border. But, excited to have a glimpse of the border, we went Tanot Mata first which is at 2.5 hours drive from Jaisalmer city and just 10 km away from the Pakistan border. However, its impossible to go to the border unless you have a special pass which you can get from Jaisalmer city or a reference of some VIP from the army. Unfortunately, we had neither of them so we could not see the actual border but Longewala filled up the vaccum, which we visited while returning to the city.
Travel Tip :- If you love the wind in your hair ,do not miss the Longewala and Tanot Mata dirve, and also do stop on the road to feel the sand as well. All the sunburns can be handled later on 😉
Rajasthan is all about Laal Maans and gatte ki sabzi ,a must try for the non-vegetarians and the vegetarians correspondingly.Pyaz ki kachodi is yet another delicacy which is famous all over Rajasthan and any restaurant in Rajasthan would do justice to these dishes.
However , one suggestion would be to avoid the restaurants inside the fort as they are going to burn a hole in your pocket. We ended up paying 650 bucks for just 2 dry cucumber sandwich ,1 plate poha and Amul lassi poured in a glass, for breakfast. So check the rate chart properly before ordering.If at all you want to eat inside the fort, go for the home stays that invite the guests to their kitchen and serve meal(mostly dinners) like a family member . Nevertheless, such services are little difficult to find, but if you want to taste real Jaisalmer then put some extra effort to find one. Wanting to experience one such home, I searched for Vyas meal ,by Chandra Naani, an old lady entrepreneur who serves food with her age old stories of Jaisalmer.But as I reached her doorstep where it said “Vyas Meal, first floor” the people staying in the ground floor informed that she passed away a year back .
Travel Tip : Avoid the restaurants inside the fort and walk down to (because a city is best explored by foot)Hanuman chowk which has many authentic Rajasthani food points.There is also a juice shop right outside the fort which serves delicious juices of all kinds.Also do not miss to indulge in the very famous Badam milk of Jaisalmer at the chowk.
The Desert safari – The main attraction of Jaisalmer!!
A camel ride to the untouched villages of Rajasthan, the camel man singing Rajasthani folks while taming his camel, silent nights, sleeping under the stars , watching the sun set and rise with nothing but solitude to get engulfed in the vastness of The Thar , was my idea of the desert Safari.But, while searching “The Best Desert Safaris” of Jaisalmer, I did get the best options but nothing caught my attension. Each one of them were rated either a 4 star or a 5 star and I wondered if a desert experience is worth getting commercialised with such rating.
Correspondingly, more than the tents with breakfast, dinner and traditional dances, I was looking for a real nomadic experience.I also called up few agents to get an idea of the whole safari concept and they were really nice ,genuine and concerned to explain me everything with patience.But, I wanted a tentless night under the stars because those are the ones that goes through the offbeat routes and villages.However, every agent who heard that I was travelling with a 7 year old kid recommended not to choose those , as it might be risky.Listening to such information, 1000s of kilometers away from the place, I had no other option , but to believe them.
I was disappointed , but then who knew that by just making few changes in the key words in the google search would make all the difference.I typed “Best eco-friendly stays in Jaisalmer” instead of “Best Desert Safaris” and there popped up GreenArts Farm and Cottages. It was just one night stay at that resort ,but it will be injustice if I try to fit those incredible 24 hours in few lines here.
Check my photo blog on Hanif Bhai, the owner of the resort and a man of the desert…He is a story in himself 🙂 :)…
Until Next time….KHAMMA GANI !!! 😊😊😊