Upon arrival to Jaiselmer, I exited the bus from my 10 hour overnight ride from Pushkar, the looming effects of Valium still claiming most of my sanity and ability to keep my eyes completely open and aware.
I looked around at the dry desert, people yelling at me to take me to their guest house for “Good price”, rickshaw drivers showing no sense of limitations within your own personal bubble haggling at you. After spending 2 weeks in Pushkar, a place that had become to me so comfortable, a home away from home, my surroundings just as quickly changed and I snapped back into ‘Backpacker’ mode. I could have screamed, I think even if I had tried the Valium would not have allowed for it. My senses were still numb.
All I could think was; Thank god we had decided to book our accomodation in advanced, walking around cities, towns and villages looking for the cheapest/value for money guesthouse is fine most of the time, but today, I was glad for the simplicity that would lead us to a bed.
We made our way to our guest house, only a 15 minute walk away. As we walked through the streets towards Jaiselmers equisite fort, the morning heat swimming into my lungs as I breathed heavy, all that was running through my head were the lyrics to “A Whole New World”. Safe to say my boyfriend who was deprived of Disney as a child was not thinking the same. As my whole time in Jaiselmer was revolved around quoting ‘Aladdin’, the only thing I got out of my partner were blank stares and a rolling of the eyes.
Once arriving and settling into our AMAZING guest house. We fell fast asleep, only to wake up 4 hours later at 2pm. Now I could really start to appreciate our incredible surroundings.
As I went to sit in the chill out areas day bed, that has a grand window overlooking Jaiselmers kingdom I couldn’t help but to think that Agrabah was perhaps created under this city’s influence.
“Well it’s not much… but it’s got a great view.” – Aladdin
Now I must stress this before continuing on any further; our guest house had such a huge part to do with why we loved Jaiselmer so much. It’s true that there are many guest houses inside the fort opposed to outside, so most guest houses inside the fort make you feel like you are staying in a palace. However our guest house, The Surya Paying Guest House, was a palace within itself. This place had beautiful, attentive staff, stunning rooms, and an incredible restaurant/chill out area for guests and the most fantastic rooftop I have come across since being in India. This place alone made me feel like a princess, that is something that does not happen often in a world of grubby toilets, beds filled with bed-bugs and wearing the same undies 2 or 3 days in a row (ah, the joys of backpacking).
And yes, it is just as cheap as any other guest house!
We also arrived in Jaiselmer in one of the hottest months of the year (April), when there’s not all that much to do in accordance with the heat. Most days from around 12-4pm had to be spent lazing around inside. It’s simply just to hot. Having a comfortable guest house is obviously preferred.
Traveling through India you also become used to seeing monkeys, quite close up. On the streets, on the rooftops of your guesthouses and walking right up to you in hopes of being fed the fruit they can smell from inside your bag. Monkeys are abundant. Well trained like Aladdins nifty side-kick Abu? No. But abundant. Jaiselmer is no exception for the black faced fellas that run across the rooftops at night. Their loyalty only goes as far as their own kind. But they are a friendly bunch as long as you don’t bare your white teeth to them, which is a sign they share between eachother when they are angry.
You may have also heard that Jaiselmer is a place where travelers come to take tours riding camels or jeeps into the desert, to then stay a night in a little camp where your hosts cook for you, and you sleep under the stars. I did not partake in any of these tours whilst being in Jaiselmer, I have no desire to support a system were animals are treated poorly. However I can see the appeal and I would have loved to ride out perhaps in a jeep to see the stars shining from the desert floor. It wasn’t high up on our to-do list, so we thought we would give it a miss and instead spent nights on our rooftop staring at the stars.
Jaiselmers fort is reason enough to visit. An architectural credibility is owed to the men who would have slaved away creating a base of safety. A land surrounded by desert with, well the most impressive fort I’ve seen in India (and they all really just look the same to me), bang smack in the middle of it all.
Perhaps it was the cobble stoned streets, narrow and un-even that reminded so much of streets in Spain’s Andalusia, or maybe it was the 30 rupee thali that we found on the street served to us by a humble man and his shy wife, it could have been the dry heat that filled my head with dizziness or the lightly shaded sunsets that when watching made you feel you could quite happily stay in that moment forever. Whatever it was, the small city left its mark on our time there. We left happy and hungry for more.
Rajasthan is a pretty incredible state, I have never seen anything quite like it. It’s dusty roads, darling ghats, dry deserts, and alarmingly beautiful locals, what an experience for anyone who dares to open up their senses and step into the world that is India. Mayham wherever you go. Enchantment wherever you turn.
I sit on a train now, as I exit Rajasthan I enter another province, no doubt as vibrant, soulful, deprived, diminishing and equally terrifying yet hopefully as serendipitous as every other destination a backpacker places their feet.
“Do not be fooled by its common place appearance. Like so many things it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts.” – Street Merchant, ‘Aladdin’