Living Like A Maharajah

We were woken up at 5am by Nisha who had gotten up to make us pancakes for breakfast and to see us off. Bags packed we sat on the roof eating pancakes and listening, Jodhpur was silent. We heard the clock tower strike 6 and all of a sudden everyone seemed to wake up, it was like the clock tower was the cities alarm clock. Minutes later you could hear rickshaws firing up and the wailing began from the loud speakers at the various mosques across the city. We sat there for a while looking at the silhouette of the giant fort on the cliffs listening to a whole city waking up. It had made getting up at 5 am bearable.

The real reason we were up so early was because we were catching a bus to Jaisalmer which is 5 hours west of Jodhpur in the Great Thar Desert. Amazingly we arrived for this journey with plenty of time to spare, settled into our seats and drifted back off to sleep (in-between hearing the coaches ridiculously comical horn tunes). A few hours later I was woken up by a sudden feeling of certain death, a feeling which I was becoming disturbingly familiar with on this trip! Our coach had been rattling down the road overtaking everything in its path only to be almost caught our by a tractor! The driver hit the brakes hard and we came to a quick stop, so quick in fact, I hit the seat in front. Once I had peeled myself off the chair in front our driver decided it was a good idea to pull alongside the tractor tunefully playing his horn and gave the tractor driver a piece of his mind before shooting off again at light speed.

We rocked up at the bus station just after eleven and as we got off the bus we were instantly surrounded by 20-30 people all trying to get us to go to their guesthouse or to get in their rickshaw. We’d heard they were bad for hassling you here, but I’ve never experienced anything like that before. At first I was just standing in the centre of them all laughing and trying to explain that I had a hotel booked and wasn’t interested. They were all shouting over each other so much that no one seemed to hear so in the end I forced my way through them all to get my backpack from the bus. As we’ve mentioned before, the Indians have absolutely no idea of personal space and by this point they were all right in my face shouting about guesthouses and telling us ours was too expensive and to come with them. I can handle the hassle and I can handle the bargaining but when someone is right in my face shouting at me it really winds me up. It got worse when I turned around and couldn’t see Al. By now they were grabbing at me and pushing me towards their jeeps “come come friend”, I got pissed off with it all and warned them to stop touching me, they didn’t and so someone got an elbow in the jaw and another pushed out the way. I then spotted Alan ‘Rocky’ Hempton connecting with an open handed strike to a guys chest, it was all pretty intense. Thankfully two girls who were sat behind us on the coach had arranged pick up for their guesthouse and so they shouted over and asked if we needed rescuing! Not being afraid to swallow our pride, we were gladly saved by a couple of attractive girls. Ali their driver had offered to help us out and said he’d drop us off at our place once he’d dropped the girls off. Obviously Ali then tried to sell us a Camel Safari but we didn’t care as he’d helped us out and it turned out his safari sounded pretty good.

So finally, we had arrived at our accommodation. The word accommodation doesn’t really do the place justice though. We’re staying in a place called Jawahar Niwas Palace and it is exactly that, a palace! We drove up the long driveway and pulled up outside the front of the place. It is absolutely stunning and a haven in an otherwise pretty hectic place. It’s a 150 year old palace which used to be the residence of the Maharajah of Jaisalmer and is in fact, still owned by him. It has only a few rooms and in typical fashion, we blagged the best one, 1st floor suite with a fort view… nice! Sure, It’s more expensive than most rooms we’ve stayed in, but we couldn’t ignore the opportunity to stay in a palace for the price of a night in a travelodge. Our room is gigantic, we have a massive bed (which admittedly we are sharing, but we’re used to this by now) and in one turret there is a sofa swing and the other turret is the bathroom. We went up onto the roof to take in the views and then headed downstairs through the walled garden and to the huge swimming pool. They laid a table for us and brought over some ice cold beers and we sat in the soaring desert heat by the pool feeling like it was our very own palace. We spent most of the afternoon lounging around the pool enjoying the sunshine, still thawing out from our time in Manali! Finally, we decided we couldn’t sit around like a bunch of lazy Maharajah’s any longer, so we got our stuff together and walked the 1km to the fort.

The fort in Jaisalmer is completely different to the one we just visited the other day in Jodhpur. The fort here has hundreds of havellis, guesthouses, restaurants, shops etc in. It seems pretty cool but it is like a maze and although it’s not very big you could easily get lost for hours in there. We had a quick look around some of the shops before catching the sunset from the fort walls. Now that the sun had set, finding the way out was near impossible. Thankfully we made it out eventually, found the restaurant we were looking for and sat down for dinner. We sat on the floor eating dinner under a tent like canopy whilst listening to some lads playing traditional Rajasthan music which kinda added to the vibe. Dinner out the way we headed back to our palace and driving down the road to see the place lit up was as impressive as ever.

As I write this I’m chilling out whilst Al is sat in the sofa swing playing his Ukulele, life is good. Tomorrow will be completely different as we head out into the desert on a camel to spend the night camping on the dunes, but for now you can refer to us as Maharajah Dave and Maharajah Al.

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