India Travel Journal: Rajasthan West

This travel journal is part of a series of journals, which are all written during a long trip between november 2007 and may 2009.

> Jodhpur

29-12-2008 After a few difficult days, with lots of trouble finding a good place to sleep, we had a nice and quiet night in the backside of a guesthouse. We still feel tired as a result of the lack of sleep earlier this week, but we decide to go out anyway. We finally want to see the fort with its impressive high walls up close.
Our tuktuk is swaying uphill through a bare rocky landscape. Down below us we see Jodhpur, the Blue City. Even though the Jodhpur Fortreal blue area is only visible when we're up in the castle. In earlier times only the Brahmins were allowed to paint their houses blue and all of them used to live in the same neighbourhood of the city.
The castle walls are even more impressive from up close and we accomplish the steep climb so we can enter the fort itself. The facades are really detailed and richly decorated, just like the collection of weapons displayed in the first part of the museum. We enjoy ourselves with the rest of the exhibition for the entire afternoon and afterwards we stroll over the huge wall outside. The panoramas of Jodhpur are amazing.

30-12-2008 Since we finally found some rest and because accommodation in Jaisalmer has been fully booked around New year's eve we decide to stay here until the 1st of January. We've seen the sights of Jodhpur now, so we catch a bus to Osiyan, a desert village about ninety minutes further on. The ancient temples, constructed where desert and cultivation meet, are definately worth checking out, but the town itself is a bit of a letdown. The big temple on the hill in the center of the place is just a similar circus like most other Hindu temples we've seen. We have to watch out to get ni tikkas pressed on our foreheads or to being lumbered with a handfull of white "stuff to eat". We flee into the town itself, but there are beggars everywhere and the kids are mostly very annoying. Soon we've had enough and we catch the next bus back to Jodhpur. En route we see how the people are living here, in clay huts with thatch roofs, like time stood still for many years.
While people back home in Holland are trying to decide which comedian they will watch this year, we'll have someone arrange tickets for the movies for New Year's eve. For ages we've been wondering Samosa Shophow things go with one of those Bollywood movies on the big screen and a cinema full of Indians and now is our chance. We ask Arjun, one of the helpers in the kitchen of our guesthouse, to reserve three tickets, so we can go to the movies together tomorrow night.

31-12-2008 We don't do much on this New Year's Eve and our four hundredths travel day, but we do wander around the busy market area around the main square.
That night we have an early diner and when Arjun finished his work the three of us can go to the cinema. According to Asian tradition the reserved tickets have not been reserved at all and when we get to the brand new cinema all the movies we'd potentially like to see have been sold out. Like usually it's "no problem" of course, and like usually we accept the alternative solution and quickly hop into a tuktuk to get to an older cinema nearby. There are still tickets available here and they're even 20 Rupees cheaper as well.
In the waiting lounge, where popcorn, samosas and some less hygenic snacks are on sale, we're a true sight on our own. Fortunately we don't have to wait long and as soon as we found our seats in the cinema we find out that Indian people don't like to waste their time on commercials or other ads. The film starts right away. Since there's also no message your cellphone has to be switched off, everyone's chatting out loud, but because the soundlevel of the movie is deafening no one even bothers. They also don't use age limits here, and while the hero from the movie just beats the hell out of some poor fellow, a few parents just enter, carrying toddlers and even babies. Probably didn't find a sitter for tonight.
New Year's Eve at the cinemaThe movie is in Hindi only, but the story is not all that hard to understand and thanks to the regular dances and music for which Bollywood is so famous, it's not boring at all. We enjoy ourselves with the cheering, clapping and hissing of the audience, every time the hero shows up. Exactly at midnight the film stops for the third time. Now there's no powercut, but a slide is projected on the screen, to let us know it's 2009. Everybody starts looking around and wondering when the film will continue. Ah, now... what about New Year's wishes? Even when the film ends at twelve thirty no one even seems to bother about the new year that just started. In the streets outside it's all quiet. No fire crackers, champagne or other festivities. We don't mind, now we can at least catch a few hours of sleep, before we take the bus to Jaisalmer tomorrow morning.

> Jaisalmer in the Thar Desert

01-01-2009 It's really cold this early in the morning, on the first day of 2009 and we're freezing when we reach the bus station. We don't have to wait long and when we grabbed some breakfast and two tickets we can board. For six hours we're bumping through the desert. Every now and then men wearing big turbans and the most colourfully dressed women with their offspring hop on and off, at places of which we wonder what on earth you'd have to do there. Why are people living here, in clay Train in the Thar Deserthuts, without any facilities at all and in the middle of nowhere? Sometimes we see a large sand dune and here and there some trees show up, but that's all there is. We're surprised to find out there's even a train, all the way over here, to the end of the world in the Thar desrt.
We're glad to see that the room we reserved in Jaisalmer is pretty much okay and after calling around and using the internet for a while for all our New Year's wishes we get to bed early.

02-01-2009 The old city of Jaisalmer mainly consists of honey coloured, sandstone houses, of which many have wonderful ornaments and richly decorated windows. We have our breakfast right next to one of the most beautiful houses and on the other side we can also see the fort on top of the hill. Unfortunately we also see clearly that tourism with its many hotels and shops isn't doing much good to the walls of the wonderful monument up there. There are large holes at some places and the past few years as many as three watch towers have collapsed. Later we pass a place where we're glad to see India has woken up however: a short stretch of the wall has been restored and the next stretch has been numbered and is ready to be restored as well.
We enter the castle through a number of large gates and within the walls we're pleasantly surprised by the beauty of this maze of alleys and little houses on one side, but shocked by the tourist bustle on the other. It's extremely busy and everyone is trying to get a piece of this one, since there are so many Westerners and rich Indians spending their money en masse here. After strolling around for an hour we've seen enough. There are not many quiet corners left here, to enjoy the place in peace. Still we manage to find a nice spot sometimes and at one place we have an amazing view over the desert landscape outside the city walls.
Jaisalmer FortWith a sandwich in our hands we're on our way to the museum, a private collection of an old man who looks like he even saw the English come and go again. At some of the items he gives a little demonstration and he extensively tells us what they are, where they're used for and how one should use them. We cross the road to the other part of the museum and then we crawl under the barbed wire to check out the cemetery from up close. From here we can enjoy a panorama of the entire city and its fort.
We take a look at the lake, the former water supply of Jaisalmer, and can barely resist the urge to rent one of the pedalos. We go for lunch instead and next we climb the hill on the other side of town to enjoy another view of the fort and the city surrounding it. Tired but happy we get back to our room.

03-01-2009 Outside the walls of the fort there are enough pretty things to see as well and we stroll through the alleys of the old city in search of some nice Haveli's (mansions). At the first one we encounter, the Salim Singh-ki-haveli, we get a tour, which is really interesting, but unfortuntely it ends in the highest room with a sales trick. The room has been transformed into a souvenir shop.
one of Jaisalmer's HavelisThe second Haveli is even bigger and it has even more detailed decorations, while the third and last one we visit somewhat gives us the impression we are looking at just another version of the other two. The rest of the day we read a bit and at night we visit the puppet show in the museum where we were yesterday. The accompanying music is excellent, but the puppeteer is obviously less talented than the ones we've seen before.

04-01-2009 Today the sun is hiding behind a thick, grey fog and we forget about our plans to visit the desert. We prepare for the continuation of our trip and relax a bit in our room.

05-01-2009 Due to a change of plans we return to the central part of Rajasthan today, to Bikaner. The journey through the desert is boring and tiring and we're in the slowest bus of India too.

> Bikaner and Deshnok

06-01-2009 Somehow you always find a relaxing place to sleep in India when you're almost at the end of your rope, so we've had a great night of sleep last night. We only have one day to spend in Bikaner and so we go out right after breakfast. We walk to the fort, where we take a look at the museum. The items on display are all familiar to us now, so we have to confess that we don't mind that this is the last place in Rajasthan we're visiting as tourists. The tour through the castle itself also doesn't have much to offer for us anymore, so after a while we loose our guide and check out the rest at our own pace.

Snack-stall Camel cart

In the afternoon we take a bus out of the city to see what was thé reason to add Bikaner to our itinerary: the Rat temple of Deshnok. In every corner there are dozens of holy rats crwaling around and lazily nibbling from the food the faithful visitors put down for them. Sometimes one of them nibbles at Peters toenail and at a bin full of milk a whole bunch of rats are licking as though their lives depend on it. It's a bizarre sight.
In a bulging bus we get back to Bikaner and we decide to leave the old city out of our itinerary to relax a bit. After all we're facing another long bus ride tomorrow. We'll return to Pushkar... to get married!

Deshnok rat temple video

Deshnok rat temple video will show here

Click on the film up here to look around in Deshnok Rat Temple, almost live.

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