Our drive to Jaisalmer was very similar to our drive from Udaipur to Jodhpur: a simple two lane road with lots of trucks, rickshaws, and the occasional cow or herd of goats. As we got farther west, we noticed that the grass thinned out, the ponds and lakes disappeared, and the trees were replaced by scrub bush. Jaisalmer is in the midst of the Thar Desert on the west side of India, close to the border between India and Pakistan.
About halfway through our trip, we stopped at the Manvar Desert Resort for lunch, which was recommended by our guidebooks. When we first walked into the outer courtyard/dining area, we noticed a strong manure odor and then saw two women shaping patties out of an enormous pile of cow dung. We decided to eat in the inner dining room, which was very nice and smelled a lot better!
Rob ordered curry and rice, which was pretty good. Shana ordered chicken pakoras, which were excellent – like Chicken McNuggets with a spicy batter. She also tried to order eggs with no milk or butter, but they came filled with thick cheese! It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to avoid dairy in India. Dairy products are used in virtually every dish. Also, it doesn’t seem like there are any lactose intolerant Indians at all, so it’s hard to explain. Luckily the main cooking oil is ghee (clarified butter), which usually doesn’t contain any lactose. India is definitely a difficult place for vegans.
Anyway, our lunch was good enough and we were soon back on the road. Along the drive we stopped to take pictures of a herd of camels on the side of the road. We saw a lot of camels on our road trip, although this was the largest group we saw accompanied by a camel-herder.
After another few hours of driving, we arrived in Jaisalmer. We went straight to the hotel (Jasmin Haveli), and then realized that we had nothing to do for the next few hours before dinner. Our hotel was pretty far away from the main part of town, and we thought we were stranded until we found out that the hotel has a rickshaw on call. The hotel’s location wasn’t ideal, but our room was well-decorated and spacious.
For dinner, we decided to take a trip into town to eat at Saffron restaurant (at Nachana Haveli). The town had a fair amount of traffic, but it was relatively calm in the market area compared to the other cities we had visited. There were a lot of cows, though.
We were too early for dinner, so we had a beer at the Mandir Palace next door. We had the rooftop to ourselves, and we enjoyed excellent views of the Jaisalmer Fort. The Jaisalmer Fort is the only “living” fort in India, and approximately 2000 people live and work there. It’s also one of the largest forts in the world.
We spent a while on the roof at Mandir Haveli, taking pictures of the rooftops and buildings nearby.
When it started to get dark, we headed to Saffron, which turned out to be on a rooftop too (rooftop restaurants are quite popular in India). The candlelit tables were very romantic, but it was pretty difficult to see in the dark. We decided to just order two vegetarian thali dinners so we could try a few different dishes.
The food was ok, but it didn’t live up to the hype in the guidebook. Still, the atmosphere was nice and we had a good view of the fort. After dinner, we went back to our hotel and tried to get a good night’s sleep since we had a full day of sightseeing ahead.
The next morning we had breakfast at our hotel’s rooftop restaurant, which also had great views of the fort (if you’re on a rooftop in Jaisalmer, you probably have a great view of the fort).
We took the hotel’s rickshaw into town, and then up, up, up a narrow winding street through the markets… almost all the way to the fort’s gate.
We didn’t stop to take too many pictures on the walk into the fort, because we were accosted by several beggars (and it was very hot).