Sunday, August 3, 2008


Jaisalmer is in the desert - that's the first thing to know. It is not recommended to go until the end of August - that's the second thing to know. But what was I going to do? It was July, and I was in India, and the city sounded fascinating. Plus Lisa had done a camel safari there, and loved it.

True to it's reputation, Jaisalmer was hot. HOT. Hotter than hot. Fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot. No, roast-a-chicken-on-the-sidewalk hot. I had left New York in the middle of a heat wave, so everywhere else in India has seemed comparable, or even more tolerable than New York. But Jaisalmer was well beyond New-York-heat-wave hot. Maybe I've forgotten Arizona, but I think it was hotter than Tuscon in July.

I wanted to stay inside the fort (more on that later), and I knew that motorized vehicles are not allowed inside. So I got a cab to the entrance of the fort, then I loaded up my bags and walked up the steep entrance, through several gates. The hellish overnight bus ride and prolonged deliberate dehydration (to avoid further bladder traumatization) had left me somewhat weak, so I had to go slowly and pause occasionally. Which meant that the touts were able to follow me easily, approach and offer more tourist crap like jewelry and hotel cards and whatnot. Which just irritated me all the more. I was just pouring sweat, and I have never been so glad for my sweat rag.

I finally made it inside and allowed one tout to show me which direction to go for the hotel I wanted (there are no street signs outside of Bombay and Delhi, it seems, and if there were they would be in Hindi) and then I had to tell him 6 times that I already had a reservation (a lie) and I didn't want to go to his hotel (a truth). I found my hotel - inside the 450-year-old haveli, and thankfully they had a room.

There was no AC in Jaisalmer anywhere that I found (maybe outside the fort?). The very attentive staff at the family-run haveli helped me get settled, carting my bag up 3 exhausting flights of stairs, and then up carting an air-cooler and a fan and setting them both up in front of the bed. I don't know how an air-cooler differs from an air-conditioner, other than not working as well and leaking water all over the floor, but it looks the same - a heavy boxy structure with vents that cools the air and makes lots of noise.

Throughout my entire stay in Jaisalmer, the heat was an active struggle. The only time I was comfortable was after sunset in the desert, and in the first 10 seconds after waking up in the morning. The shower, surprisingly, had hot water, but who needs it? All one could possibly want in that heat is a cold, cold shower, but it was impossible, as even the cold water was warm. When I squeezed the conditioner and shower gel into my palm, they were hot just from sitting around. The second I turned off the shower, I was sweating. I think I might have even been sweating in the shower. I tried to check my email but I didn't want to be anywhere near computers emitting warm air, and finished after about 5 minutes.

So, sadly, even though I really liked Jaisalmer - I thought it was so pretty and interesting - the fact that I had to leave 24 hours after arriving wasn't entirely disappointed. I would have liked to have spent more time there - there is plenty to do, and I could have gone on an overnight camel safari or done more shopping, but I really looked forward to that air-conditioned train compartment.

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