Jaisalmer, desert town

Trip Start Oct 10, 2007
Trip End Jun 26, 2008

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007


In the excitement of coming to Jaisalmer, i had quite forgotten that i don't actually like sand, and this being a desert town there's quite a bit of it around.  If any trainee doctors wish to specialise in ailments of the nose and throat, this is the place to come!  As someone once said on this travelpod site in fact, India is the 2nd largest exporter of dust in the world, but they have retained quite a bit here too, and even the cows and stray dogs have a good old hack and spit in the mornings in a bid to clear out the old passages.

That said, we've had a great few days here, and our energy and enjoyment has been fully restored, after a couple of days of travel fatigue and frustration.  Infact a lot of the fellow travellers we've met here have made this trip their annual holiday, as opposed to Ibiza or Crete, and we feel really lucky that we have so much longer than the annual fortnight to really see the country.  Ahhh, smug mode!  It has made us think though of all the alternatives out there to the 2 week package holiday that you kind of fall into, when for the same money and time you can have such a great experience, not to mention plunder the shops for countless goodies!
Jaisalamer has proved, much to Andy's dismay, to be something of a shopping mecca, which has done much to improve my spirits, if not finances.  It's a small town, with the main streets grouped around the base of ye anciente Forte, which makes it really easy to navigate.  The people here are probably the friendliest and most honest and open which we have yet encountered, and I have realized that my view of the society here thus far has been skewed by the number of out-and-out weirdos and morons we encounter during our hours of waiting on train platforms, of walking around less salubrious parts of large cities.  By design and necessity, being backpackers, we are easy target for some of the not so nice people here, and impressions can be easily warped.  Here the pace of life is as relaxed as it can be in India, and we have met some genuinely lovely people.  The Palin-meister in particular has made some firm friends with the local businessmen, and we now can't walk down a street without him stopping in his tracks, exclaiming along the lines of "Rajul, my friend!" and shaking hands vigorously.  Rajul has sold us a lovely bronze Ganesh (just needs a bit of Pledge and a dust, lovely!) but has also been really welcoming to us in his shop, sitting us down for chats and Chai and spicy treats which Andy has eaten with gusto and then regretted later, and has generally been charming and non-pushy; to the extent that we have probably spent more than we ever intended, and I have bought an ornamental bronze ashtray despite the fact that I don't even smoke.  Ho hum!  We have also been whisked off on the back of a motorbike by an unscrupulous shopkeeper, for a hairy ride through the narrow backstreets of the old town, ostensibly to look at traditional Rajasthani crafts being made by the local women of the village, but really so we could be persuaded to buy things for an inflated amount, and we even enjoyed the ill-thought-out deception of that; even down to the stoned t-shirt salesman trying to get us to pay a tenner for a bit of tat.  Andy thoroughly confused him by pretending his Topshop shirt was from Delhi and was a much better example of craftsmanship.
Friday was the first day proper of Diwali, and we were invited to our hotel rooftop restaurant for a free meal and celebration, which we thoroughly enjoyed.  We sat on moroccany cushions looking out over the Fort, enjoying the fireworks and chatting away to two girls from London who were to join us on the camel safari the next day.  The brothers who ran the hotel really entered into the spirit of things, whisky and 7UP being the booze of choice, but we stuck to cold Kingfishers due to the early start the next day.  Spirits here are virtually non-existant (am missing my Cosmos!) and are available only in the posher hotels, at a ridiculous price, so we've steered clear until we get somewhere where they brew their own stuff with rice and meths and toxins and we can have a proper session.
We've also eaten well here (quelle surprise!), and have realized how much we enjoy (or are addicted to!) meat; 2 days in the desert and we couldn't wait to get back and tuck into half a chicken.  We've also found a German Bakery, not German in the slightest of course but it does good strong coffee and a decent croissant so we're happy.
This evening we get the train back to Jodhpur where we'll hopefully get the chance to do a bit more exploring for a day or two, if I can keep Andy of the gut-destroying street snacks!  Our hotel has a TV which is a rare boon, I have developed something of a fixation for counting how many channels Shah Ruk Khan, the bouffanted Bollywood heartthrob, is on at any one time.
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