Trip Start Nov 02, 2009
Trip End Nov 25, 2009

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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

07 November - Jaisalmer

Our pimply-faced driver was waiting for us after we finished breakfast so we set off for Jaisalmer straight away. The drive took five hours in total, including a one hour lunch stop at a very greasy roadside diner.

The drive itself was rather stressful as we were dodging people, vehicles and above all animals all the way. We also spent a lot of our time passing the numerous military vehicles (tank transports, rocket launchers, troops, very large guns, etc.) that were moving towards bases near the Pakistani border.  Our driver's system for overtaking other vehicles was faith-based.  He often overtook on hills and blind curves, just assuming that no one was coming the other way.  This sytems works - for awhile - until an accident occurs.  Then the driver has to look for a new profession in his next life.  (Note to self:  Don't ever again hire drivers who think they are going to get another chance at life if they crash their cars and kill themselves - and their passengers - in THIS life.)

We arrived in Jaisalmer in the early afternoon and had our driver show us several hotels before we ended up in the nicest one, which was the one we had booked anyway - the Pleasant Haveli. In spite of the fact that we arrived a day earlier than planned/booked, this six room guest house had a couple of very nice rooms available for us.

After a brief rest, we walked around this charming town of beautiful architecture for a few hours before going to dinner at the rooftop Trio restaurant. By the time we finished eating, it seemed like every foreigner in town was there - mostly because of limited other options rather than due to any merits of its own. I had a tolerable fried chicken and french fries. Frankly, Tony and I are getting a bit sick of Indian food.

Tony finally was able to get a massage from a woman - in his hotel room, no less. This being India, though, the masseuse was accompanied by a chaperone to ensure that there was no hanky panky. Perhaps this is why massages are so expensive in India: it is necessary to pay a watcher as well.

08 November - Jaisalmer

After breakfast we walked up to Jaisalmer's famed fort. As we were a bit tired, Tony and I sat on some steps near the fort's entrance for about an hour and just watched the world go by. Sooner or later everybody passes through the gates of the fort, both Indian as well as foreign tourists alike, not to mention the various beggars, magicians, shoe-shine boys and others who make a living from the tourists.

A number of Indians in various types of military uniforms passed by and they wanted to be photographed with me while they were wearing my hat and I wore one of theirs.

We also had an interesting if a bit sad conversation with a woman selling cheap bracelets to tourists. I would have guessed this woman to be around 40 years old but she claimed to be only 21. Further, she was the mother of four (live) children (3 others had died). She got married when she was 15 to a husband 20 years her senior and now the husband drinks while she supports the family by selling cheap jewelry at the fort. And I thought I had a rough life . . .

All this people watching made us hungry so we found what looked to be a decent Italian "fusion" restaurant within the fort. The pizzas we had turned out to be our worst meal of the trip (so far - there's still time to beat this record yet). The chef must have confused our pizzas with a car because they each had about a quart of oil in them. After draining as much of the oil as possible, I only managed to down about half of my small pizza, leaving the restaurant hungrier than when I entered it. At least I was well lubricated.

After walking around a bit more, Tony and I went for not one but two dinners - to fill the void left by the horrible lunch pizzas. For my first dinner, I ate at the Trio, where we had had a tolerable dinner the night before. While there we got into a conversation with a few obviously gay Americans from San Francisco. (I know - how cliché!) I'm pretty sure they thought Tony and I are gay - Tony because he looks gay and me because I'm handsome. (I get to write this because this is my blog. In Tony's blog I look gay and he's handsome.)

Anyway, after our first dinner, Tony and I went next door to the Mandir Palace restaurant, recommended by a couple of nice American ladies we had met yesterday. The night time view of the fort from there was so spectacular and so romantic (we were in fact the only customers) that Tony and I were wishing that we had been there with anyone besides each other and for the only time in my life I regretted being heterosexual. Oh, well - maybe we'll make it here again someday with a couple of ladies.

09 November - Jaisalmer

Tony went to the fort museum while I walked around exploring the back alleys of the town. We had a tolerable lunch amid pleasant surroundings at the Saffron restaurant.

I had a nap and a shower in the afternoon before Tony and I went for one last walk in the fort. While sitting in the fort we got into a conversation with a couple of friendly souvenir vendors. They took the opportunity to complain about the guide books used by western tourists (mainly the Lonely Planet) that advise people to avoid the fort because their presence causes damage. From the perspective of the vendors, who live in the fort, it is only the money of tourists that allows them to remain living in the fort, thereby keeping it viable.

Tony and I then excused ourselves for dinner, at which point the vendor recommended an Italian restaurant that made good pizzas - using real olive oil. Given our disastrous pizza experience from the previous day, we were skeptical. However, the Krishna Boulangerie ended up serving us our best meal of the trip. And once again it was a case of a good place not being in the guidebook.

And speaking of that, I want to take a moment to praise our guesthouse in Jaisalmer, the Pleasant Haveli. It was pure comfort, and there was little that the owner/managers Narendra and Dilip would/could not do for us. They are a couple of great guys with the desire to build a successful hotel for the long term. As Narendra put it, he is satisfied if his chicken lays just one egg a day for him. He's not in it for the quick kill. I like his attitude and I wish them success.
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Lek on

Things look nice in the pictures especially for the architecture part for the building and town. I am doing ok, when you are back we should get some drink together.

steve on

This was the most interesting and funny blog I've read yet. Enjoyed reading about the oily pizza, Tony being gay (in your blog), the military info (hope India doesn't accuse you of passing along secret information), and the 5 hour scary car ride. Reminds me of when we traveled by car from Ho Chi Minh city to Dalat by car. We traveled on a two lane highway with wide shoulders on both sides. Also on the road (besides cars) were trucks, bikes, moto bikes, and pedestrians. Every 10 seconds or so our driver was beeping his horn to let the slow-pokes know we were coming around them. It didn't seem to matter that there was oncoming traffic. At one point we were passing multiple vehicles while traveling on the shoulder on the OTHER side of the road. All this, combined with the motion of the car constantly swerving back and forth from lane to lane made for a very unpleasant ride. I swore then that was the last time I'd ever make such a trip.

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