Jaisalmer: The Golden City

November 20, 2015
Currently: Jamming out to some Indian dance wedding music. It’s loud and late, but it’s a good thing I have this blog as an excuse to stay up!

I love Jaisalmer! Big surprise, I know. It’s a whole different side of India. Driving in, the change was immediate. The landscape more desolate, the sunsets clear of pollution, the air drier. This desert town is known as the golden city and was once a stop along the Silk Road. It lies close to the Thar Desert and sits only 120 kilometers away from the Pakistan border. The city holds a mere 80,000 people (a blip compared to the rest of India) and only 2,500 of those live within the confines of the fort. We had the luck to be guided by a local who was born and raised inside the fort. As you’ll see, the yellow sandstone along with the bright sun and desert backdrop help Jaisalmer live up to its nickname as the golden city. It’s also a truly desert city. Our guide told us this summer the temperatures got up to 42.6°C (~108°F). You could make chapatis sans tandoor in that heat! I highly recommend a winter visit. It’s still plenty hot and you can easily avoid the midday heat with some shade and a chilled lassi. I love lassi. I will miss lassi.

We took advantage of the early morning light and went first to the lake, which was very full due to a lucky monsoon season this year.

 a smart woman built this gate next to the lake and saved it from destruction by order of the king by putting a Hindu temple in the top bit
Ganga Sagar on the Gadsisar lake
Our next stop was the fort – the only livable one in India. The architecture was beautiful, and you can easily see the history ingrained in the walls. The first stop was the main courtyard where you can see the king’s and queen’s old homes. Immaculate on the outside, decrepit on the inside.
 the view of the royal residences from outside the fort

Winding through the fort’s streets, it’s easy to see why Jaisalmer is the site for many a Bollywood movies. The artistic structures and impressive monuments sprinkled throughout the city transport you back to another time. Further enriching this time warp is the Jainism influence. Another Indian religion, Jainism’s hallmark feature is the principle of ahiṃsa, or non-violence/non-injury. The most devout Jains take on this principle to include all living things, refusing to eat root vegetables for the mere act of retrieving the vegetable injures the insects that live there. We were lucky enough to visit a stunning Jain temple with carvings reminiscent of the Khajuraho temples.

detailed carvings
 an idol

The rest of the day was spent meandering through the narrow streets and enjoying the daily life before heading out on our camel safari. Yeah, we did the camel safari thing. We are good tourists after all. All of 30 seconds on that thing brought me back to my last camel ride. Camels are not comfortable. I think I’ll opt for a horse ride next time around. The desert landscape itself was a bit different than what I was expecting (this expectation was definitely set by last year’s desert excursion in Morocco). There wasn’t just some giant sand dune that you got lost in.

There was a special couple of minutes where all of us meandered down to the sunset spot and simply sat in silence with our cups of tea. Complete silence. In India. I know… I didn’t believe it was possible here either. Those of us who have been here for two months truly appreciated that time and took it all in.

A striking sunset, a solid campfire dinner, a bit of alcohol, and some Lisa sand drawings entertained us for the rest of the evening. There’s nothing that can really beat stargazing in the desert for a night. The whole evening was exactly what I’d hoped it would be and more. Shout out again to the wonderful people with me on the trip!

And because a campfire is never complete without a ghost story. Welcome to Kuldhara, the now deserted village where a thousand people vanished overnight. All for one chief’s beautiful daughter.

Legend has it that a minister fell in love with a local chief’s daughter and demanded he wed her. With pressure from powerful sources, the chief was given two days to decide. Instead of responding, the minister came back to a deserted town. Thousands of people disappeared overnight. To this day, few dare to tread through its crumbling walls. Never at night. This story caught the attention of Delhi’s Ghost Busters (okay, their Paranormal Society. yes, really) who risked an overnight stay. The most terrifying night of their lives. Using their Ghost Box, they spoke to the spirits – even capturing the names of some. They witnessed instantaneous and baffling drops in temperatures, haunting voices, children’s handprints on the cars, and unexplained moving shadows. Would you dare spend a night?

In other news… the village made their huts out of cow shit. As we were told. Many times. Cow shit. Lots of it. I reckon they scared the cows shitless with their haunty ways and needed some use for it all.

A house of cow shit. Pretty though, right?

We’ve got one more colorful city left, and I’ll leave you guessing which color it could possibly be…. India is colorful for sure. In more ways than one!

Lots of love,


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