On Tuesday, November 13th, Anja and I arrived with the nightbus at 4:30AM from Udaipur to Jodhpur. The bus ride had been quite all right, but we still hadn’t been able to sleep much (it’s always the same with these night buses…). There were some tuk tuks waiting at the bus stop and we didn’t hesitate to take one to our hostel, the Madpackers hostel. Arriving there, the tuk tuk driver told us that they don’t have 24h reception and, indeed, the front door was closed… We were very tired and not thinking clearly, so, instead of just checking and knocking on the door, we accepted the driver’s suggestion to drive us to the city center where it would be easier and safer to wait until morning. That turned out to be a mistake: 1) because the city center is ugly, dirty and not very safe during the night; 2) because, when we insisted on going back to the Madpackers, the nightguard opened the door and let us sleep on the couch until morning – so it had been an unnecessary detour…
After getting comfortable on the couch, we slept for another 2 hours or so before the day really started. The manager of the hostel, Ankur, was super nice and helpful; for example, he allowed us to have free breakfast, even though officially we shouldn’t have gotten it. After checking our booking, it turned out that our agent, Ahmed, had booked the hostel via Goibibo, an Indian scam-website where you can book hotels/hostels and buses or trains for much lower prices than what they should be and with options that don’t exist: he booked a female non-AC room for 2,45 rupies p.p. for us: a) the price is ridiciulous, 2) they don’t have non-AC rooms. For these reasons, Madpackers Jodhpur doesn’t work with this website and our booking was thus invalid… I told Ahmed this, but he tried to argue, saying that it isn’t true, that all people from Rajasthan are liars and idiots and that we should pay it ourselves and his collegue in Pushkar would give us back the money next week. I was absolutely furious! Anja was super tired and exhausted and, due to these bad news, at the end of her power… Ankur called Ahmed for us and tried to talk to him, but Ahmed was absolutely unfriendly and uncooperative. In the end, after 20 minutes of Whatsapp messages, calls and threats from my side, he finally agreed to send the money to the hostel via transfer so that we could finally get our room! Always such a hassle with this guy! He is the reason we have such a bad picture of the Indians, even though many Indians are nice and friendly. In our eyes, because of him (and tuk tuk drivers in general) most Indians are bastards that only try to scam you; they are unfriendly, and unhelpful. It might be a bit harsh, but that’s how we felt because of him… We are not the only people feeling like this about Indians, but maybe our opinion is even a bit worse than most people’s…
Anyway, finally we got our room. We went to a small supermarket close to the hostel to get some snacks and decided to spend the rest of the day in the hostel. The other people in the hostel told us that there is not much to see or to do in Jodhpur anyway and that one day would be enough, so we put it off until the next day.
For lunch, we went to a local restaurant near the hostel with Harry from the UK and with a guy from France. Then we stayed in the hostel, doing nothing much except for relaxing and recovering. In the evening, we went out again, this time only with Harry and with René, a girl in our dorm, because the French guy had already left. It was a fun evening, quiet but nice with good food.
The next day, we met Bryan from France at breakfast. Like us the day before, he had arrived during the night, but he wanted to visit the city right away and so he joined us in discovering Jodhpur. It was like the other people had told us: Jodhpur is a big city, but the old town and the “blue city” are quite small. The city is not actually blue when you walk through it; there is only one part of it that is blue and you can only see this from high up on the fort that overlooks the city. We did a lot of walking this day and had a very good time. Jodhpur may not be as nice as Udaipur, but it has its charms and we had good company was good. We didn’t visit the museum at the fort, because it was quite expensive and we were told that the fort in Jaisalmer is much better.
Around 2PM we had seen everything worth seeing in the city and we went back to the Madpackers to have lunch and relax. For the rest of the day, we stayed in the hostela, enjoying the sunset on the rooftop with a beer (the sun actually disappears behind a thick cloud of smog, scary!) and having dinner there with a girl from Canada and another one from Czech Republic. Afterwards we wanted to watch a Bollywood movie, but Netflix wasn’t working… So went went to bed early, which was good, considering our bus the next morning would leave at 7AM.
After a 5 hours bus ride, we arrived on Thursday, November 15th, at 12PM in Jaisalmer. We had requested to stay in the Abu Safari hostel and we got a very friendly welcome from the staff. Of course, we got more troubles concerning our booking: Ahmed had booked 2 beds in a 8-bed-dorm for us for only 100R p.p. and he had only paid a 25% advance. Very fast and without a bad conscience we changed to a private room (that also only cost 400R p.p.) and we told him to pay the full amount (what he did after 2 days and lots of hassling messages from my part).
In the afternoon, we left the hostel only at 4:30 to go see the sunset at the small lake in Jaisalmer, because a) it was way too hot to visit anything, b) the city was quite small and the next morning would be enough to visit it. The sunset was very beautiful, but it was a bit diminished by the trash, the streetdogs and all the tourists everywhere. Still, we enjoyed it once we found a nice, quiet place with a good view.
At some point, a young guy of 24 years sat down next to us and started talking to us. At first he was quite polite, but then he asked us questions about married life (of course we had told him that we’re married). He told us that he had never had sex and that here in India, parents still choose matches for their children and that he wished to get married to someone from another country. When he started asking about how sex is in married life, how many times married people (in Europe) have sex and how, it got too weird for us and we left. I honestly don’t know if he genuinely wanted to know because he was absolutely ignorant or if he had afterthoughts.
We spent the rest of the evening in our hostel, enjoying a good dinner (for once not spicy!) and the beautiful view of the illuminated fort looming above us.
The next morning, Anja and I discovered Jaisalmer. First, we went up to the fort that represents the old town and that is the only fort in India in which people still live. It was wonderful to stroll through the beautiful narrow streets that make you feel like being in a labyrinth, full of restaurants, cafés and shops. We enjoyed this morning a lot, Jaisalmer’s fort really is gorgeous. We also visited the Jain temples there, a complex of 7 temples that have elaborately carved walls and pillars: breathtaking!
After visiting the old town Jaisalmer, we went into the “new” city, but there was not much to see, so we went back to our hostel for lunch and waited for our camel safari to start at 3PM. Unfortunately, we chose the only day when nobody except for us wanted to go on a safari tour… Not that I didn’t like spending time alone with Anja, but it’s always fun to meet new people and to be a nice group for such an activity.
Our driver picked us up at the hostel and drove us to a village about 45 minutes outside of Jaisalmer, in the desert. Our 2 guides were waiting for us and showed us our 2 camels: Safira (mine) and Lucky (Anja’s). They were actually dromedaries, camels with 1 hump. Here in India, we have only seen this type of camels, not the one with 2 humps, even at the camel fair in Pushkar a few days later. Safira was 6 years old and had her own head: sometimes she walked very slowly, sometimes she ran, never walking quite as peacefully as Lucky. I liked her and her spirit. The camel ride was a very cool experience, we definitely enjoyed this 1 1/2 hours ride!
Our camp was in the middle of the sand dunes in the desert. Most of the desert in India is actually just dry earth, only a very small part is sand. While we let our guides prepare dinner, we went up the dunes to enjoy a beautiful sunset. It had been a nice and warm day, but as soon as the sun went down, it got pretty cold and we were happy to be able to sit close to the fire. For dinner, we had rice, potatoes in a vegetable sauce and chapati bread. It was delicious and way too much! During dinner, we talked a bit about India with our guides and they told us that the caste system in India is still pretty strong, but that most people in the desert are muslims and that they don’t have any caste system. I was a bit surprised by that; if the muslims in India reject the caste system, why don’t poor people for the lower castes just change religion? Apparently it’s because they are too uneducated to know about this… We also learned that there are no school in the desert in India and that most people there are uneducated.
After dinner, Anja and I warmed ourselves at the bonfire and then fell asleep watching the stars from our bed beneath the stars (we slept outside). It was magical and I haven’t slept that good in a long time.
The next morning, we woke up long before the sun, but stayed in bed for a while, having even breakfast in bed, because it was just too cold to get up. As soon as the sun rose, it got warmer quickly and at 8AM we were on our way back to the car that was picking us up to take us back to the hostel. It was another 45 minutes camel ride and we enjoyed the nice sunny morning.
A camel safari is definitely something I can recommend: it’s pretty cool!
We spent the rest of the day in the hostel, doing some work in my case or some reading and relaxing before taking a nightbus at 8:45PM to Pushkar
We arrived to Puskar at 5:30AM. The tuk tuks there were way too expensive and so I ordered an Ola Cab (similar to Uber) which would only cost 100R instead of the 400R the tuk tuks asked. Now, believe it or not, when the driver arrived he played dumb and told us Ola Cab wasn’t working well and we had to pay him 400R. I was furious and told him this wasn’t legit and that we would just go out and order another cab. After debating with him for 5 minutes, he finally took the OTP (code for the app, so that it will show him the way to where we want to go) and brought us to our hostel. In the end, he apologized and asked me to give him a good recommendation on the app; can you imagine!? What an asshole! Obviously I gave him a bad one; what a moron…
In the hostel, we had to spend the next hours outside, waiting for the reception to open, but, fortunately, they had a corner with matrasses and they gave us some warm blankets because it was bloody cold. This way, we managed to get another 1 or 2 hours of sleep and in total we got each about 4 hours of sleep that night; enough to be not too tired and to still have a lot of force to visit Pushkar.
After checking in (for once the payment and the booking were okay; incredible!) Anja and I had breakfast in the rooftop restaurant of the hostel and then left to discover Pushkar.
A few days earlier had started the famous annual camel fair that always gets the city completely crowded. A few hundred thousand people come to visit the city during this week: traders, tourists and pilgrims. It always takes place during some hindu holiday that makes people from all over India come to bath in the “holy” (?!) lake of Pushkar. Fortunately, when we got there, most of the fair was already over and there were much less people, though it was still pretty busy. Like I said earlier, there is nothing worse than Indian tourists or, in this case, Indian pilgrims. They push and shove each other, not respecting anything or anyone. It was almost too much for us and even though Pushkar is a quite nice city, our visit was anything but enjoyable. Let’s say, it was very interesting to see this and to see how Indians behave, but I could not do this for a long time.
The main road in Pushkar is a big market street and there is one shop after the other. There are many temples as well, but some of them are only for Indians, not for foreigners. We took part in a ritual they apparently only do on this special Sunday during the camel fair: you have to throw flowers into the lake, say some prayers, you get a red dot on your face and you get the blessing of prosperity, luck and health for all of your family. It was a bit expensive (donations started at 300R!), but it was fun.
After visiting the main temples and sights in the old town (there was not much to see), we went to the camel fair: it’s a mixture of a big market, a fun fair and an animal fair and quite interesting. We walked around for some time, but most of it wasn’t that interesting for us and it was really really hot, so we didn’t stay long before we went back to the old town to get some cold drinks in a bar with a nice view over the busy streets of Pushkar. Later, we spent some time at the border of the lake, watching the beautiful, buzzing city and then we went for a late lunch to a restaurant close to our hostel with the best pizza I have had in India so far! What a delight!
And that’s it for our second week in India. Our opinion about Indian people has improved a bit, even though our relationship with our agent, Ahmed, was still pretty bad and tiresome. It was a rather quiet week with lots of time to relax and just enjoy the beauty of India.