Thursday, March 15, 2012

The trip to Rajasthan

So we had 4 days off and decided to head out to Rajasthan. There were a couple of options:
1. To head to Barmer, which is near the border and return via Jaisalmer or Jodhpur
2. To head to Jaisalmer and finish with Jodhopur

I would like to believe that we chose the latter simply because of the convenience in terms of train timings , but I think it was also because I had no clue how to pronounce Barmer.

The train to Jaisalmer
The trip from Gurgaon to Jaisalmer was an experience in itself.

Having planned the trip quite late and it being festival season(Holi), we only managed to get reservations in the sleeper coach (2nd class) and thus got our first taste of sleeper in North India.
When we entered there were 20people in our compartment(meant for 8 people), there were 10 people sitting on the seats meant for the 4 of us and there was a group high on Bhang throwing colours at people in the compartment next to ours.

Things got a lot better once Alwar arrived and most people got off. Leaving the 8 of us who had actually reserved tickets.
We had enough space to start a game of Taboo before we turned in to sleep. I slept well (as usual) but the other 3 had a bad time getting sleep, since it was super cold.
In the morning I thought I would mention that I had had a bad night as well, (you know, so as to show the rest of the gang that I was also suffering with them).
However my friend gave me a dirty look and said "Dude, I got up, removed my suitcase, took out 3 pair of shirts and wore them, everyone in the compartment was awake thanks to the ruckus I made, but not you! YOU SLEPT THROUGH IT ALL ".

At Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer arrived at 11:30am. We were accosted by a guy who promised to take us to the nearest market for 20bucks in his jeep. So we got in, only to be taken to his hotel, called Hotel Samrat.

We did get some decent breakfast there, but he was trying to sell the camel safari and stay in Thar all the time.
"Sir you will see the REAL desert. If you don't like it. I will give return to you, 8000 rupees plus 1000 rupees tip" :-|

We already had bookings in Sam(pronounced as "some/sum"), which is at the edge of the desert, so we refused to take his safari, which left him quite depressed.

However, we needed a ride to Sam so we asked him to drop us at our resort and pick us up from there the next day. Which was a good choice, since this turned out to be a lot cheaper(1000bucks one way), than what the resort guys had quoted.
The desert was quite nice and the dunes were good too with a lovely sunset and a lovelier moon rising. Some friends tell us that we missed out on camping in the desert, others tell us that if we would have camped in the desert there was a high chance of freezing off various parts of our body.

Next day we were ready to head back to Jaisalmer and make our biggest mistake of the trip.
We signed up with Salim bhai from Hotel Samrat, to give us a vehicle to take us around Jaisalmer. We struck a deal for 1000 bucks that included sightseeing in a car, a room to keep our luggage (since our train to Jodhpur was at 11:30pm in the night) and a drop to the station.

Jaisalmer has an awesome fort, that is in a bad condition, thanks to the 5000 people living inside it.
The other bits are the Haveli of some rich business men who made their money selling Marijuana and inlaying gold onto sarees.
We usually hire a guide to help us understand the place better, we did the same this time. This guy was super excited about there being flowers and leaves carved on the doors and the windows. He also kept telling us "Yeh sab haath ka kaam hai", since haath = hand and kaam = job, you do the math.
He was also a disciple of Captain Obvious "Sir this is a door, people used to enter from here", "Sir this a window, the ladies used to look out from here to see the world outside" :-|

By the time half our sightseeing tour was done, we realised that we had been conned by Salim the great. Most of the places of interest are walking distance and the car never had to travel for more than 5 kilometeres in total. The dirty room that he gave us was worth about 200rupees and the train station was 4 kilometers away.
We ended up having a heated argument Salim and his cronies. Okay, that was an understatement - what happened was this: The girls went beserk and let all hell break loose on a shell shocked Salim, I think one of them even threatened to slap Salim. The boys tried to restrain the girls and Salim and company did not know what hit them.
However, we had been conned and we had a deal to pay him the money, so we paid up the money and bid good riddance to the gang of thugs. We told ourselves that it would have been worse if we had signed up for the camel safari he promised.

Some tips:
-Jaisalmer is about the desert, so spend most time in and around the desert. Camping out in the night, or sitting by a bonfire in your resort. Ignore the sightseeing in the town, its not worth the time.

-If you do decide that you want to see Jaisalmer town, do so by walking about. Take auto's to places that are a bit away from the main fort area.

- Make your bookings upfront and spend that bit extra for quality. There are a lot of touts in the area who need to be avoided.

At Jodhpur

The travel from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur was very nice, since we had 3AC tickets. Never were we so happy to see a 3AC coach.
In Jodhpur we had army accommodation, so we stayed in style. We had an army jeep come pick us up and take us to the camp, where the guest rooms were very neat, clean and cheap. Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by Jodhpur - The Umed bhavan palace, the Meharangarh fort were fantastic and very well maintained, more so because they are privately owned.
We also headed out to Osian which is a village full of temples. The beauty and charm of the temples has been taken away by the shelters built all around them. So give Osian a skip.
Mandore gardens were still alright, since it has some lovely looking cenotaphs.

So in this trip Jodhpur > Jaisalmer for sure. Maybe staying the desert next time will turn things around.

The return was back via sleeper coach, but this time we were in for a pleasant surprise, since it was a new coach and the berths were very comfortable. We managed to get in a very funny game of pictionary.

The four days were great fun, thanks to the awesome company we had.

Let me know if you need help planning a trip :)

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The summer's coming

I glanced at the television the other day, saw the advertisement for an airconditioner and realised that the famed Delhi summer is right round baby right round.
The winter was awesome. I thought it would be overrated (like the non-existent rains), but fortunately it wasn't. It was as cold as it promised to be and felt much more cooler :)

Now for the summer. I am not quite sure, how long I am going to be sticking around in Delhi, but I am not returning home this side of summer for sure. Given that the summers here begin mid-March and the heat lasts till about September, this seems like my last chance to travel a bit around Rajasthan. So that's what we're doing.
Four days in Rajasthan would never be sufficient, but that's what we have and that's what we'll do :)

Oh and summer? I would've said 'bring it on!', if I had the guts.