Road trip to Rajasthan (Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Sam Dunes and Jodhpur)

Yogesh Sarkar

Administrator
Nice pics and description.
old bikaner city and old udaipur city are worst places to take cars. Always good to hire auto rickshaw. streets here were designed for horses not cars.
For deshnok, you should have taken bikaner -- jaipur highway back and then take right turn from circle just before marudyan hotel (thar exotica now), jodhpur bypass.

waiting for complete travelogue.
Thank you. I guess we should have done that. But we didn't. Not even the next day, thanks to Google Navigation :D.

I made it a point long time back to always hire an auto/alto for local sightseeing. Be it hills/plains/spiritual place or any other damn place, for local sightseeing it is always best to hire a local vehicle.
For hills I prefer my own vehicle, unless it is in major tourist destination.

Further updates?
Just posted, will post more soon.

great pics..great narration....
Thank you.

Great pics and crisp narration. Waiting for next part with loads of pics. I think you should put a small tutorial about writing travelogues. It will certainly help new members to post best out of their trips.
Thank you. We do have a small FAQ on how to post a travelogue, How to start a travelogue.
 

Yogesh Sarkar

Administrator
Thank you. We do have a small FAQ on how to post a travelogue, How to start a travelogue.
Hi
My request was related to the information one need to mention while travelogue.Selection of pics to be posted taken during the journey or that of the destination.Not all travelogues make you travel with the pics and narration.Its a request if you could throw some light on these aspects.
Regards[/QUOTE]
I will see what I can do about it :).
 

Yogesh Sarkar

Administrator
Day 2, Bikaner to Jaisalmer

From the fort, we drove straight back to the hotel and by the time we checked out (we weren’t charged anything extra for checking out 2 hours late) and got on our way, it was 2:30 pm. And to make things worse, we hadn’t had anything since breakfast.

I was of the view we should eat something before heading out of the city, while Mansi wanted to leave first and then find a place on the highway to eat.

I had to try and satisfy my hunger pangs by eating chips we were carrying.

On the plus side, when we reached the highway, we were greeted by a fabulous 4 lane highway.

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However, just like my hunger, it wasn’t going to last. Soon my hunger died and the 4 lane highway became an under-construction highway, forcing us to travel in the direction of oncoming traffic.

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To add to the woes, the infrastructure along the route was pretty sparse and basic. In fact, I don’t think we saw a decent restaurant for at least 100 km. And by the time Mansi was thinking about stopping, I was no longer in the mood to stop. Because I was no longer hungry and I preferred covering as much distance as possible before the darkness fell. After all, we had to drive for 330 km and a late start was going to ensure we would have to drive at night.

Though on the plus side, the route was quite scenic, with even small hills in the distance!

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Sadly though, there were plenty of brick kilns, a few industries and mining taking place to ensure pollution (we had to keep the windows closed) and along with that, dusty detours to make the journey seem not as fun as it ought to have been.

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In fact the closer we got to Pokhran, the worse it became!

However, Mansi was driving quite well and since we hadn’t taken any breaks, we managed to cover a distance of around 220 km between Bikaner and Pokharan in just 3 hours i.e. with the average speed of around 73 kph.

We took the Pokhran bypass and drove towards Jaisalmer.

The sun was beginning to set and even though the road was good initially, we knew there were diversions ahead.

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The first time we properly stopped the car since starting from Bikaner, was when we encountered a herd of camels and the setting sun behind them. It was oh so beautiful and sort of the thing that first comes to mind when thinking about Rajasthan.

Though we still didn't get down from the car and after taking a few photographs, moved on.

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Now the dusty and under construction section around Lathi began to slow us down. To make matters worse, no one actually slowed down while coming head on, on narrow under construction sections.

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The sun was beginning to set and it was time to stop the car and do some photography. Afterall, night driving was inevitable now. And I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to photograph the beautiful sunset taking place in front of our eyes.

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Photography break lasted 15 minutes and during which a young lad from a nearby farm came over and first offered to show us antelopes and then decided to stick around literally on my back, while I was taking photographs. This made Mansi suspicious enough to pull out her pepper spray and keep it with her. I, on the other hand, was convinced by now that he didn’t mean any harm (in any case I always had my pepper spray with me) and just wanted a few bucks. Something he did ask for when I got in the car and we were about to drive off.

As the darkness fell, the real disadvantage of Alto came to the fore.

We were about the smallest and lowest car on the road and just about everyone was driving with high beam, making it difficult to see the road ahead, unless no one was ahead or behind us.

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We eventually found a Max which was driving towards Jaisalmer at a speed similar to ours and decided to tail it till the outskirts of Jaisalmer, where he went his way and we went inside the city.

After entering the city, we tried to look for deals online and once again, we were disappointed. So as a fall back measure, we decided to call RTDC Hotel Moomal and found that they had rooms. After getting directions from the hotel manager, we drove towards the hotel. However, we had to stop en route, thanks to the beautifully illuminated Jaisalmer Fort.

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At RTDC Moomal, located in Police Lines, we checked out their huts and AC rooms. However, in the end, the huts costing just Rs. 1100 a night with breakfast won, not just for being a VFM, but also for their beauty (you can read the full review of RTDC Hotel Moomal here.)

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We had managed to reach Jaisalmer by 7:30 pm, after driving for around 330 km in 5 hours with just a 15-minute break en route.

We were tired as hell. However, we were quite hungry as well and there was no way, we were going to eat at the hotel. I wanted to head to a rooftop restaurant with a view of the Fort.

After searching for various options online as well as in Lonely Planet, we drove off and check out a couple of options Mansi had found online. Then, we drove to the 1st Gate Fusion Restaurant, recommended on Lonely Planet.

From the location to the ambiance, everything was just perfect and just the thing we needed after a long tiring day. After all, few things can wash away your tiredness than views like these while having dinner at a rooftop restaurant.

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The food too was quite delicious for the most part, and to top it all, it was just Rs. 1,271 for Fresh Lime Soda, Pappa al Pomodoro Soup, Fusilli with Vegan Pesto, Siciliana Pizza and a bottle of water. (You can read the review of 1st Gate Home Fusion here)

After dinner, just as we were about to leave, a waiter struck a conversation with Mansi, asking how the food and experience was. She was in a good mood and she thought he was genuinely taking interest and being a nice helpful lad, even when he called his friend at 11:30 pm to check for the certain type of clothing she was planning to buy from Jaisalmer.

Of course, her expression told the story, when towards the end, he handed her his visiting card and told her, he works during the day as a guide.

The sad reality is, in a touristy place, 99% of the time, when someone is being nice to you, it is likely because they want to sell you something.

Thankfully, he knew well enough to not push his services aggressively as some do. And we parted ways in a good mood.

When we drove back to the RTDC Moomal, most of the people were asleep. Stars were out in their full glory and while Mansi went to her hut, I stood outside for a photograph of the huts and stars.

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Tomorrow was going to be another long day and I couldn't wait for it, for tomorrow were supposed to visit the beautiful Jaisalmer Fort and head to the Sam Sand Dunes.

Scroll down to read the next part.
 
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Yogesh Sarkar

Administrator
Day 3, Jaisalmer Fort, Salam Singh Ki Haveli and Patawon Ki Haveli

Today we were supposed to visit the Jaisalmer Fort, do some more sightseeing in the city and then head to the Sam Sand Dunes for the night. Even though I was more interested in doing Sam as a day trip and returning to Jaisalmer at night (I wanted to try out other restaurants here and I was in love with the Jaisalmer Fort from outside), Mansi was adamant about heading to Sam and staying there for the night.

So eventually we decided to pack up everything and put it in the car, before heading to the fort. Packing, showering etc. took a while and by the time we made it to the dining room of RTDC Moomal, it was already 9:30 am.

Unlike the breakfast spread at RTDC Dhola Maru, the breakfast buffet at Moomal was quite good with toasts, aloo ki subzi, puri, boiled eggs, omelets on offer. And it was all quite good.

After a heavy and delicious breakfast and loading up the car, we decided to head out on the road and look for an autorickshaw to the Fort. After walking for a few hundred meters, we found one. He offered to take us inside the fort for Rs. 80 (bargained down from Rs. 100.)

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The Sonar Qila (Golden Fort) for Jaisalmer is unlike any other. For it has a whole city inside its walls and people are not only still living here, but also running hotels, restaurants, shops etc. catering to both national and international tourists.

Maharawal Jaisal (Maharajas are called Maharawal in Jaisalmer and Jaisalmer is name after Maharawal Jaisal) built this fort in 1156 and since then, Maharawals, low ranking Rajputs, and Brahmins have been living in the fort.

Since those living in the fort are allowed to take their own vehicles inside and autos are also allowed to go inside, though supposedly one by one, we had to wait a bit in front of the first gate to gain entry.

While standing at the main gate, we were approached by a guide, who offered to show us around Rs. 100. Initially, I thought about foregoing his services, since I could smell alcohol on him and I rarely hire guides. However, seeing that he was only asking for Rs. 100 (we paid him Rs. 150 in the end, considering how much he actually worked) and we were short on time, we eventually decided to hire him.

After a while, our auto started climbing through the 3 gates of the fort to reach central square of the fort, where the Temple and the Palaces of King and Queen are located.

We went inside the King's Palace to start our tour. We had to pay Rs. 50 per person as the palace entrance fee and Rs. 100 for the camera.

First thing we saw was the seat and gallery facing the temple, from where the Maharawal used to pray.

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Even though the fort itself is massive, the palaces themselves seemed a little cramped. Maybe they were built this way in order to make the palace more defendable, since there is no way for a normal sized person to go through a door, without bending down. Add to that, it seemed as if the real beauty was on the outside, rather than inside.

But then again, Jaisalmer Fort has seen plenty of bloodbaths during the course of its life, including an 8-year long siege by Alauddin Khalji, which began with Bhatis (Rajputs of Jaisalmer) raiding his treasure caravan and ending with the Jauhar of 24,000 women and 3,800 remaining men charging to their death against the army of Khalji.

Here just a few photographs of the Palace.

Deewan e Khaas

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View of the fort and the city from one of the sentry posts in the palace. Those round stones were rolled down to crush those trying to invade the fort, these days, they serve as a reminder of the past.

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Family tree of the Jaisalmer Royal Family, they are supposedly the descendants of Lord Krishna.

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The Jaisalmer Fort from the roof of the palace and the city beneath it. And yes, those are rooftop restaurants with a view of the city.

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This is where the giant king of Jaisalmer slept (he was 7ft tall.) Yes, those are his sandals and clothes. King's bed was always made low and small, so that no one could hide underneath it and if the king was tied to it, he could still get up on his feet and fight.

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The jharokhas for the queen, according to their stature. With a special one for ruthi rani i.e. queen who is upset with the king, so that king knows whom he needs to steer clear of :D. In case you're wondering, Mansi is sitting in place of the ruthi rani.

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The Queen's bedroom in Queen's Place. Both King's and Queen's Palace are interlinked, so you enter from King's Palace and exit from Queen's.

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After exploring the places, we came out and walked through shops lined streets to the Jain Temples.

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Mansi was interested in visiting the temple, so she went in and I decided to rest in the midst of the beautiful chaos that streets of Jaisalmer Fort are.

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Of course, Mansi just loved the Jaisalmer Fort. There were so many shops to shop and buy souvenirs from. Sadly for her, I was with her. And I always quoted a price the shopkeeper wouldn't agree on, thus saving her money :p.

After spending some time in the shops, we headed towards the Canon, which is supposedly the largest Cannon in Jaisalmer.

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After spending a few minutes there and eventually Mansi managing to buy something from the shop, we ran into Kheemraj Bhootra. He is a local and had been waiting to meet me!

It was almost 2 pm when we met, he advised us to hire a auto to take us to Salam Singh Ki Haveli, followed by a quick visit to Patwon Ki Haveli, before having lunch at Maharaja Restaurant for local food.

We hired an autorickshaw from inside the fort for Rs. 200 and he took us first to the Salam Singh Ki Haveli, right across the haveli is the shop of Kheemraj ji. So apart from seeing the haveli from the outside, we also chatted for a while, before bidding adieu and hopping into the auto to take us to Patwon Ki Haveli.

Salam Singh Ki Haveli, the cruel and powerful Prime Minster of Jaisalmer. He was so powerful, that for 5 generation, his descendants kept getting the post of maha mantri, even though at one point the king actually tore down a couple of storeys of the haveli since Salam Singh was aiming to build it as high as the fort! He was so feared that when he got interested in a girl belonging Kuldhara Village, the girl committed suicide than being taken away forcibly by him and the entire village (made of Paliwal Brahmins) left in the middle of the night, due to fear of Salam Singh and the village is haunted to this date!

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Patawon Ki Haveli isn’t actually one Haveli, rather 5! With almost each and every one of them being run by a different family and each having a museum inside and an entry fee. Since we were hard pressed for time, we didn’t go inside any of them, instead admired the intricate work from the outside.

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These Havelis once belonged to the Jain precious metal traders, who were known for their wealth.

Even though we were running short of time, there was no stopping Mansi from shopping. So after she picked up a dress and a neckless from here, we went to the Geeta Ashram Road, where Maharaja Restaurant was located.

A small AC restaurant serving only Rajasthani thalis! We ordered the Rs. 190 Maharaja Thali containing 4 types of subzi, daal-baati, churma, kadi, rice, wheat roti, bajra roti, lehsun chutney, green chilli pickle, salad, chach and papad.

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The food was not only amazing and finger licking good, it was also unlimited and boy did we eat a lot of it! So much so, that for the first time during the day, we weren't in a hurry and just wanted to gorge on the delicious food (you can find the full review of Maharaja Restaurant here.)

Click here to read the next part ->
 
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