Jain Temple Arches at Osian
New Video - scroll to the bottom photo section and the last entry should be a video I finally uploaded of two nomadic desert girls "entertaining" us with their ummm singing...pretty funny (you can't see much but you can hear it all)
Before heading out of Jodhpur in the morning, we strolled through the old city, past the Clock Tower to the place that Nandu recommended as having the best special lassi’s in all of Jodhpur, a tiny little place where the only English spoken was “Two Lassi?” when we sat down.
These were sweet lassi’s, thick and creamy with saffron and what appeared to be a big dollop of whipped cream, almost buttery. They were really tasty and very filling for breakfast.
Jain Girl at Osian
Kalu and Nandu had suggested that we stop on the way to Jaisalmer at the Jain temples in Osian, a desert town in the middle of nowhere. We made it there and walked up the long, arched steps to the temple and wandered around a bit. There was some sort of festival going on and there were some people singing into a microphone blaring over tinny speakers throughout the compound. A bunch of little kids started following us around asking for pens and chocolates (which would be a melted mess in this heat) and finally just asking to see photos of themselves (see the cute little girl in orange and green in the picture here).
As we drove through the village, there was a large procession of Jain people heading for another temple and we decided it would be best not to intrude and headed out for the long drive through the desert to Jaisalmer. The scenery is barren, sandy and dusty but nevertheless, kind of mesmerizing. Actually, the most exciting thing that happened en-route was stopping at a train crossing for 20 minutes waiting to watch the train whiz by.
Cindy at Nachana Haveli in our Medieval room in Jaisalmer
Nandu brought us to Nachana Haveli and, after scoping out the rooms and most importantly the bathroom and deciding to stay, he smilingly said “Tomorrow Five PM - no car needed in city“ and promptly disappeared. We are not sure if his "friend" with whom he is staying is male or female (but he is such a soft-spoken, conscientious guy, that we guessed it was innocent enough.)
A few words about our new Jaisalmer digs, Nachana Haveli.
This place is a riot! As you can see in the pics below, it looks somewhat like a medieval hunting lodge with large, coffered ceilings, stuffed deer and kitzchy decorations. It is off season and so the rates are good and we stayed in a comfy and large AC room (OK the bathroom wasn’t so special….) that had a little sitting table (perfect for afternoon beers purchased at the “English Wine and Chilled Beer Shop”). We actually ended up really liking the place. Haveli’s are old, fancy homes built by merchants out of the local golden sandstone and include nice courtyards (see the last picture in this entry), ornately carved windows for airflow and expansive and cool interiors. All in all, a highly recommended place with a really nice group of people working here including those in the rooftop restaurant.
After a bit of a rest, we decided to wander the streets a bit looking for another hotel that had been recommended just in case we were inclined to change and ended up getting totally lost.
We actually did find the other place but it was outside of the walled city and in a fairly dirty, cow poop ridden area and didn’t look so special so we decided to stay at Nachana. The shot of the fort on the hill with the greenery in front is taken from the road on that walk. Somehow, we managed to wind our way through the narrow, stone alleyways of the fort, past some of the older and nicer Havelis (see the picture of the Haveli Windows below) and then all around the perimeter of the walled city, hot, dusty and thirsty. The alley’s are so twisting and convoluted that you are easily and quickly lost. Cindy was ready to call it quits and break down and hire a tuk-tuk but I convinced her to persevere. Actually, she sneakily suggested that I purchase a couple large beers from the English Wine Shop mentioned above, knowing that I wouldn’t walk much further to find our Haveli at the risk of warming the beers.
Jaisalmer Fort Ramparts
Right after we bought them, I recognized a landmark and we found our way back to sit in the dim confines of our Haveli and sip beer with cookies J. We ended up having a nice Rooftop dinner at Nachana with an incredible view of the fort illuminated at night (see the picture below). Since it is the start of summer and the slow season here, we were the only people in the entire restaurant.
Haveli Windows in Jaisalmer
We ventured out for breakfast across the street at the “Tibetan Restaurant” which was not Tibetan at all but a funny place with a nice kid running it. He diligently tried to get us to order the "Special 24 hour Power Lassi" - we still aren’t sure exactly what this is and whether it contains hallucinogens (Lotus Root???), ecstasy or something else less toxic.
Needless to say, we declined (OK so I was somewhat intrigued…)
Our Nachana Haveli Bedroom
Afterwards we wandered the alleys making our way up to the fort to see the temples and other sights. It is an amazing place, littered with cows and everything they leave behind (abundant and smelly), beautiful carved sandstone windows and balconies, goats roaming around eating anything they can find, sari clad women selling trinkets, open sewers with little kids squatting in them as if they were in their bathroom (which I suppose they are). I think the picture of the Bull fiercely staring me down sums it all up, they own the fort and we are just visitors.
This is Cindy commenting….The fort was very frustrating to walk around because it was so beautiful with its golden cobblestone narrow streets and extravagantly detailed carvings, but I couldn’t enjoy it.
You had to watch where you walked so you didn’t step in all the cow shit or someone elses and then the smell of open sewers in 100 plus temperatures. Yeahhh.. I never imagined I would have to strategically think about how I was going to pass a cow/bull (and they were everywhere), trust me, you didn’t want to be at the wrong end at the wrong time (splattered on or gorged).
Jaisalmer Fort at Night
It is at the same time, enchanting and a little bit disgusting but not to be missed. Cindy swears her feet will never come clean again. After venturing around the fort for several hours, it was back to the AC room for snacks and fruit from the market and a couple of chilled Kingfishers, a bit of blog writing and a rest before our 5:00pm date with Nandu for destinations unknown (he is not a very talkative guy, even though his English is OK he is very shy).
Nandu picked us up promptly at 5:00 and we drove into the desert to visit the Khuri Sand Dunes, about an hour outside of Jaisalmer. When I asked him about the more well know Sam Dunes, he said “Crazy place. If we go, stop car and 15 or 20 camel men pounding on the window.” Cindy really wanted to go on a camel ride in the desert. Those of you who have known me since college times have probably heard my long-winded story of a several day camel trek here in the 80’s. Let me apologize in advance to Steph once more for having to put up with me for those three or four days. I ended up having an allergic reaction to some medicine that I have since forgotten about that made me insanely itchy, I didn’t sleep for like three nights in the desert, and it ended up that my POS camel was a cargo camel with a lame leg (which would explain the bruises on my ass from riding the damn beast).
It was so bad that I would bribe my camel driver, a 15 year old kid, with bidis (Indian “cigarettes” made from leaves and other junk) to NOT let my camel trot. Suffice it to say, I hate camels (as does my derriere). They are smelly, obnoxious and uncomfortable animals and if I never sit on another one in my life, I will die happy.
Cow in Jaisalmer Fort Alleys - they own the place
The things you do for love…We went on a two hour camel trek. I figured, “How bad can that be?” I don’t think we made it five minutes before I was praying that it would be over soon and I could climb off of my camel, “Disco“ and Cindy off of hers, “Lalu“ which probably means poops, farts and pees a lot in Hindi... And this time, it was expensive! We rode out through the desert spotting wildlife (which consisted of a couple peacocks, a few eagles, a few deer and some local kids…) with Cindy’s camel driver at least speaking a few words of English (mine didn’t speak any) and eventually made it to the dunes which are indeed pretty and impressive.
The sunset was not, Cindy’s camel man casually saying, “off-season. No good sunset - dusty”. Fan-friggin-tastic! The good thing was that we neglected to have “dinner and dancing” at the dunes with a large group of other tourists, instead opting to have dinner at the Camel owner’s guest house. The wind was swirling sand pretty hard at sunset and I can’t imagine they had much fun eating out there.
Larry on "Disco" the camel
The guy who owned the Camel trekking company and guest house was an interesting and nice enough guy and we talked with him a bit over a beer while they were preparing vegetarian food for us. He went and knocked on one of the guest huts and, after a bit, a woman and a young girl came out and started singing nasally, high-pitched, wailing “nomad” songs for “five minutes” which ended up being the rest of the night.
He explained that they roamed through the desert, stopping where they could to perform dances and singing and, since tonight he didn’t have any other guests, they would entertain us for free (tips accepted of course). Cindy did a video that you can’t see but sooner or later, I will extract the audio and put it here so you can marvel in the sounds ;-)
Lalu - Cindy's camel
Today is Tuesday so it is Malaria Pill Day and tonight should be weird dream night. Last week, mine were really strange (not surprising as they often are even without the malaria pills…) as were Cindy’s. Should be fun! After breakfast we had an all morning internet session trying to figure out the handoff from Bhutan to Sikkim, doing some banking, blogging, email, etc.
Boy do I wish they had real broadband out here! Sitting in the window box of a crumbling building with my laptop plugged into a hand-crimped Ethernet cable hanging from the ceiling while Cindy researches hotels in West Bengal - how exciting! Afterwards, we spent the afternoon Shopping in the labyrinthine streets and alleys of Jaisalmer and managed to purchase something nice.
Cindy on Lalu the Camel
Once again, Nandu picked us up at 5:00pm sharp and we were off to visit the Ludwara Jain Temple, actually a very pretty little Jain temple out in the desert. I like the statue of white marble in the picture below �" I think (but am not sure, so sorry if I am wrong!) it is Mahavindra, the original Jain prophet.
We aren’t sure why he has silver decorations on his chest but thought it looked cool. A second stop was at another Jain Temple called Amar Sagar that has some beautiful carvings and a large, currently somewhat barren reservoir. We really liked the little guys in the white marble carving (sorry, don’t know what they represent). As we were wandering around, a large group of French tourists showed up. Cindy, ever the botanist/gardener, spotted a basil plant which, of course, we tore a leave off of and proceeded to taste. We didn’t find out until later that we were “breaking the rules” by eating Holy Basil. Ooops! Well, I wonder if that is better or worse than being Jewish and entering a Jain temple? Or being female and accidentally entering the temple at the wrong time of the month (see the sign in the pic below).
Sunset in Khundi in the Thar Desert
Anyway, no bolts of lightning or anything (yet…)
Camels in Khundi
Our last stop this evening was at the Bada Bagh Cenotaphs for sunset, which are essentially burial grounds for rulers, etc. The buildings were very interesting but most interesting of all were the large numbers of newlyweds, decked out in Rajasthani finery snapping celebratory wedding pictures. This seems to be a very popular thing to do (a little weird to celebrate a wedding at a funerary..) and the clothing is especially fancy. Take a look at the clothes on the women in the burgundy sari. We met a French couple (actually from Montpellier, small world) who had a guide who had told them that two of the couples were brothers and the younger one (I think he was 25) was marrying a 14 year old.
Sheesh! The couple with the woman in the pinkish sari wanted to pose for a picture - a bunch of little kids that were with them begged me to take it and then I couldn’t get either one of them to crack a smile. This seemed to be the case with most of them, sternly looking into the camerman’s lens as if they were posing for a royal photo, no smiling allowed.
Dunes in Khundi
We ended up trying the Trio Restaurant, another good recommendation from Nandu, for dinner. It was a relaxing rooftop dinner on pillows overlooking a nice Haveli and the Jaisalmer Fort lit up at night. Tomorrow we leave the Thar Desert and head off to Bikaner to see their fort (is that A.F.F. and the infamous ‘Rat Temple”). Cindy is very excited!