Since Ania wrote to you all in Jodhpur we’ve travelled to another desert town, Jaisalmer. Like lots of the places we’ve visited, Jaisalmer has a fort. But this one is different in that it’s a lived-in fort, and it’s not some fancy politician or Maharaja that calls it home, but the ordinary people of Jaisalmer. Inside the walls there are dozens of cafes, shops and other businesses; and we’ve made the ‘Pink Floyd’ restaurant our second home. It was here that we met Deepak, whose family runs the place. Deepak is my age and has been our unofficial guide to the place. We’ve had dinner with him a couple of times and he also helped us post a package back home. This is not as easy as it sounds! In India your parcel is boxed up in cardboard, then you have to find a shop that will sell you some cloth. Oh – and you’ll need a tailor too. He sews it up and wax is then used to seal it, all to discourage people from opening it as it makes its way to its destination! God knows what happens if customs want to open it and then reseal it! Then there’s the small matter of negotiating the Indian postal system. As you can appreciate, doing all of that without Deepak’s help would have been a massive arse, so we are very grateful to him! It was hilarious watching him go behind the counter in the post office (bringing me with him at one point!) because his friend works there. You could see the people on the other side of the glass thinking ‘Why is that white guy behind the counter?!’. Deepak helped us buy the things we sent home (I’m not telling – there are presents in there for my family, so you guys will have to wait until September 2011!) and got us a good deal too. We did all these errands on his motorbike (no helmets of course!). Here’s a short clip to give you a taste, taken by Ania from the Pink Floyd rooftop:
Jaisalmer is really beautiful. The fort really does look like a giant sandcastle!
Here’s a 3D map of the fort inside the museum. This is what it would look like if Jaisalmer was attacked by Aniazilla!
We’ve also spent some time with Deepak’s sister, Bobby here in Jaisalmer. She runs a shop called Belissima, selling textiles made by local women. Profits go towards helping widows and other women in the desert who get a bit of a raw deal, to understate things somewhat. Bobby told us that widowed women are often not allowed to leave their own homes for a year or two after their husbands die. They can only eat simple food like rice and dhal during this time, not to mention that they are then forbidden from wearing nose piercings or happy colours like saffron and red for the rest of their lives! We happily spent some money in her shop, including getting some henna done.
I also feel compelled to mention an excellent meal we had last night in Jaisalmer at a place called Kabab Corner (or something like that). Meat dishes in India are often found under the sub-heading of ‘Non-Veg’, which is completely at odds with how things are at home! It’s because meat is often not on the menu and a huge number of people are vegetarian or vegan. So last night I had the Non-Veg Thali (a selection of dishes served with rice and bread), which included Butter Chicken and Mutton curry. Mutton here is goat, not sheep! It was delicious!
This is also a good time to mention some hilarious Indian signs we’ve seen – no photos, sorry! Last night we saw one inviting us to ‘Rant A Motorbike’, before we found another place that offered a duvet cover: ‘No Viagra Needed: Magic Bedspread!’ and the brilliant ‘Make Your Boyfriend Less Ugly!’. What a lukewarm boast! Several of our favourites have come from food menus, including ‘All Sandwiches Served With Chops’ (man, I wish that were true!) and our personal favourite, ‘Ice Crime’, which I think sounds like a street term for diamond smuggling. We also found a dessert called ‘Hello To The Queen’, although this may actually be a move from the Kama Sutra.
Finally, here’s a picture of me trying on some clothes in Jaisalmer: