November 22, 2005
Titanic Hotel, free
This is my second day in Jaisalmer, the golden city, a town in the middle of desert with all houses honey coloured. The hotel I am staying was recommended by Samkar, the owner of Sai Baba restaurant in Pushkar (what a splendid food). Polu, the hotel owner, speaks Korean very well. It seems that he is really used with Korean tourists and bets all Asians are Koreans. Not blaming him, as even the Korean tourists always think that I am also their countryman. Polu lets me stay in underground room of him, for free.
The fort of Jaisalmer is the most “lively” fort in India with people living inside. But the feeling is that almost every single bit of life inside the fort is for tourism. The houses of the people have been turned to be hotels, restaurants, shops, and internet cafes. Even an old lady in a very untouched corner of the labyrinth-like fort inside town asked money to be photographed. The town is pretty much like Khiva in Uzbekistan (see gallery Uzbekistan for photos) for the colour, the buildings, and the life inside (the tourism oriented life inside an open museum).
The view from the museum, which was maharaj house, was splendid. Tourists are charged for camera also, but the guard let me go with my camera without paying the ticket as I speak Hindi and made friends with him first
Yesterday evening I came into a group of construction workers doing the renovation of the old city. I was told that every morning they make ‘masala’ (cement). The masala making is in a traditional way, where a camel is tied into a large cylinder and the limestone is put under it, so the camel walks around the circle to grill the lime and water to produce smooth cement pourrige. I was told to come at 8, which I did today morning. But I forgot that Indian time means an hour later
The Jain temples inside the fort are really, really impressive. Just couldnt stop to admire it. The ticket is 10 rp for entry plus 50 rp for camera. The ticket seller thought I was an Indian so he only gave me camera ticket (entry ticket is free for Indians). But I was turned back by the gate checker, so had to buy the entry ticket for foreigner anyway.
In every altar there is a donation box, and every single one is inscripted : “Please don’t give donation to holy men. Instead put your donation in this box”. Some holy men are pushy in asking for donations, saying that donation is distributed to different part of the temples, so in each part one is supposed to give donation. Donation is donation, isnt it?
A holy man even said, “I am not holy man, I am a Brahmin” while showing the Brahmin tie accross his shoulders. He meant that he met the criterion to receive donation.
Just booked a night bus to go to Bikaner, and I will depart this evening for a 6 hour bus journey. I do really regret that I have so limited time in India now and cant explore this beautiful city. Being lost in Jaisalmer’s small alley, discover hidden havelis (beautifully decorated old houses) should be enjoyed leasurely without so much time pressure. But what I can do, have to move to Pakistan soon.