I have to admit it, sitting in Jaipur waiting for our night train to Jaisalmer, I had all but lost hope in India. After the constant assault on the senses, the wallet and my lungs I was worn out. Plus it was going to be my birthday (29 again) and I just couldn’t bear to spend it being hassled. Well, one of the Hindi gods must have listened, let’s say it was Ganesha, the elephant God, remover of all obstacles …he’s my favorite, kinda cute and I love what he stands for.
In any case, we got on our train which was only one hour late and got rolling. We had bunks, it was the right train and everything went smoothly. After a 12 hour ride we pulled into Jaisalmer, a small desert town bordering on the Thar desert. Our guest house picked us up from the station so no hassle from the rickshaw drivers and we arrived to our hotel Shahi Palace, built in the traditional way out of sandstone with a beautiful roof deck covered with colorful sarongs and a gorgeous view of the fort. The air is clean, the honking is to a minimum, the cow patties are fewer and further between and the hassling is practically non-existent. We had arrived in heaven – thank the gods.
The Jaisalmer fort was built around 1156 by the Rajput ruler Jaisal and has been reinforced through the years and has been the focus of numerous battles – as to be expected with a fort I suppose. Today, it sits beautifully on a hilltop and is home to about 3000 people. You can walk through the peaceful labyrinth of shops and homes – many which have elaborate carvings on them that must have taken many, many hours to complete. Along the northern edge of the fort you can find many havelis (term for the traditional homes) with these carvings in the wall. I can only imagine that if this were America, this would be the exclusive area of town. Here, they are just the homes that families have lived in for generations and will most likely continue to do for generations to come.
While exploring the alleys we came across a school group of Indian boys and girls who thought we were the most exotic thing around. We had to take selfies with all of them and shake everyone’s as if we were Brad and Angie. Another (large) family seeing that we were game to have our photos taken also approached us and we proceeded with another round of photos – first with the kids, then the parents, then the boys, a couple, etc. After the photos were complete another round of hand shaking took place. It’s funny to think that with all the beautiful architecture, colors and scenery we were the ones that really intrigued them. Our own personal paparazzi moment – priceless.
There are numerous Jain temples inside, and according to one local lady, local Muslims are never allowed inside as it is a holy Hindu place. She explained to me that when Hindi women have a pierced nose and the dot on their forehead it shows they are married, Muslim women have a pierced nose with a chain towards their ear and that is how they can tell the difference. I have no proof as to whether this was a true statement or not but did not see any ladies within the fort with the nose to ear ring, I did only see them sitting directly outside the fort entrance….
We wandered around without a plan and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Incredible India (that’s the tourist slogan) I think we may have finally found you.