Before returning to 1st Gate Home Fusion Hotel, we dropped by Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli, another famous haveli in Jaisalmer. The haveli was built for Diwan Mohata Nathmal, the chief minister of Jaisalmer who served between 1885 – 1891. The haveli was supposedly built by two architects, Hathi and Lulu, who happened to be brothers. Each brother started building the mansion’s from a different facade, and thus the two sides are said to carry subtle differences if looked closely. Unlike Patwon Ki Haveli, Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli is not a museum, nor is it open to the public. Visitors like us can only reach as far as the entrance courtyard that was flanked by a few souvenir shops selling miniature paintings. After a brief stay, we took a leisure stroll back to the hotel. Wandering in the busy market streets of old Jaisalmer and seeing all the vibrant interactions of the locals was a delight. Such delight would left us pleasant memories of the Golden City before we moved on to our next destination by night train.
Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli is considered to be one of the grandest haveli in Jaisalmer.
The two yellow sandstone elephants of Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli are iconic representations of Jaisalmer’s splendid architectural carvings.
Visitors can only go as far as the entrance courtyard of Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli.
After stopping by at Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli, we wandered a bit in old Jaisalmer to find our way back to 1st Gate Home Fusion Hotel.
In the maze like network of small streets, we passed by two stone workers who were preparing stone blocks from a pile of local yellow sandstone.
At a street intersection, a group of men gathered for some sort of discussion at a beautiful veranda.
Shops lined on both sides of small market streets. Cows were free to roam around on the streets (and shops).
It was strange to see cows roaming freely on the streets while some ended up becoming leather goods in shops.
Despite the remote desert location, fresh vegetables were sold in abundance.
It was late in the afternoon and there were only two vendors left at this market square.
Most shops were completely open to the streets, including these tailor shops.
Just like other places in Rajasthan, garments of vivid colours were always the most popular among locals.
For snacks, sweet pastries seemed to be the way to go.
Cakes with sharp colours and sweet flavour: Indian style.
We passed by the popular Bhatia Sweets near the first gate of the fort. Both locals and foreign visitors gathered here for their regional sweets ghotua laddu, kalakand, etc.
We returned to 1st Gate Home Fusion Hotel near the fort, where we had dinner at the rooftop restaurant again. Despite we had already check out of our room, the manager let us stay at the massage room until it was time for us to leave for our midnight train.
DAY 4 (4/5): DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.27
From our guidebook we picked Saffron Restaurant for lunch. Situated on the leafy rooftop of Nachna Haveli Hotel, Saffron Restaurant offers an atmospheric venue away from the busy lanes of Jaisalmer. The building complex is owned by the Nachna family. They are direct descendants of Maharawal Jaisal, the founder of Jaisalmer. The Nachna Haveli was partially converted into a heritage hotel in 1996.
We entered the Nachna Haveli Hotel through a elegant gateway.
Beyond the gate, we arrived at a sleepy and lush green courtyard.
Comfortable seating adjacent to the courtyard offers visitors and guests a great place to escape from the afternoon heat.
We were told to go upstairs to the roof for the Saffron Restaurant.
Compared to the dusty and often busy street outside, the leafy and tranquil rooftop of Saffron Restaurant felt like a paradise to us.
At Saffron, it was a big surprise to find that film shooting was going on at part of the rooftop. It was a scene of causal talk between a mother and daughter while hanging the laundry.
After lunch, we went to check out the guidebook recommended handicraft shop Desert Handicrafts Emporium.
Desert Handicrafts Emporium is owned by LN Khatri, a knowledgeable historian and folklorist of the Thar region.
After purchasing two embroidered pieces, Mr. Khatri led us to his Thar Heritage Museum. With a decent collection of artefacts and antiques from various desert villages.
One of the most interesting display was a Gyan Chaupar (meaning ‘Game of Knowledge) game, which sometimes can be referred as the Snake and Ladder game. The game has been around in India since the 2nd century. It is a game that involves educating people about religious vice and virtue.
Displays at the Thar Heritage Museum are grouped in such a way that visitors can easily learn about the specific life and work of various kinds of people in the Thar Desert.
Opium was popular in Rajasthan in the old days. Khatri’s museum designates a corner to display the artefacts used for opium smoking.
Mr. Khatri’s father was actually a ghee collector in the Thar Desert. A number of old ghee containers are on display.
The displayed items in the museum reflect a bygone era of the Thar Desert.
Embroideries with gold and silver threads are popular in villages of the Thar Desert.
Vintage black and white photographs in the museum convey a romantic sense of the bygone Rajasthan.
Mr. Khatri was kind to show us around and talked about the highlights of his collection. The visit offered us a thorough glimpse of what life was like back in old Rajasthan.
DAY 4 (3/5): ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.27
Over to the left below the archway, we paid the admission and stepped into the other haveli that was open to public. Known as Kothari’s Patwa Haveli, this beautiful mansion was restored and converted into a museum by the government. Despite all five havelis look similar, distinctive arches, gateways, mirror works, wall paintings, and architectural carvings differentiate each haveli from one another. To our surprise and slight disappointment, the restored interiors of Kothari’s Patwa Haveli actually looked quite new and polished. Much of the haveli had became a museum with artefact and antique furniture displays.
Kothari’s Patwa Haveli is located at the beginning of the lane where the building bridges across to form an archway.
Admission tickets were sold by a staff sitting across the lane from the entrance of Kothari’s Patwa Haveli.
After a flight of stair, we reached the level right above the lane archway. From there, we came close to see the ornate carvings of the balcony.
From the window above the archway, we gained a unique view of all five mansions of the Patwon Ki Haveli.
No matter how many times we had seen the splendid craftsmanship of sandstone carvings in Rajasthan, we were still overwhelmed by the sandstone carvings of Kothari’s Patwa Haveli.
The multi-level Kothari’s Patwa Haveli centers around a internal courtyard.
Today, the internal courtyard is occupied by a textile and embroidery shop.
The staff carefully laid out the blankets and textiles for their customers.
The museum displays occupy the upper levels of the haveli. We basically circled around the internal courtyard through a series of interconnected rooms.
One of the first room that we encountered was set up as a dining room.
The living room was one of the best restored spaces at Kothari’s Patwa Haveli, with colourful murals and fine pieces of furniture.
Antique furniture, music instruments, and clocks were on displayed in the living room.
Each important room in the haveli has a unique ceiling design.
The colourful and gold murals of Jivan Vilas was one of the highlights of the haveli. Again the restorations looked fresh and vivid that the sense of history was completely gone.
An antique Chaupar/ Chopat game was on display on a vintage rug. This game had been played in India since the 4th century.
From the roof terrace, we had some good views of the surrounding neighborhood.
As well as the lane that lined in front of the mansions of Patwon Ki Haveli.
After touring Patwon Ki Haveli, we exited the lane through the archway and found our way to the Saffron Restaurant for lunch.
DAY 4 (2/5): ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.27
Below the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer, the town flourished in the Medieval times as merchants and desert caravans brought considerable amount of activities and wealth into this remote city at the heart of the Thar Desert. Nowhere else is more convincing than Patwon Ki Haveli to see the legacy of these wealthy merchants. Built in the first half of the 19th century, Patwon Ki Haveli was the oldest and largest haveli (grand mansion) in Jaisalmer. Guman Chand Patwa, a renowned trader of his time, commissioned the construction of five multi-storey townhouses for his five sons. Splendid wall paintings, mirror mosaic, and most ostentatious of all, the amazing sandstone carving on the building facade, have made the haveli an icon for the city comparable to the Golden Fort. One operated by the government and the other privately owned, two out of five havelis are open for the public today. The first haveli we visited was the privately owned mansion located at the right side of the row.
The Patwon Ki Haveli occupies a narrow lane which can be entered at either end. We entered the lane through a beautiful archway.
Upon entering the archway, we were in awe of the intriguing stone carving on the haveli facade over our heads.
Above the archway, the Patwon Ki Haveli extends over to the opposite side of the pedestrian lane.
Along the lane, there were two open spaces across from the Patwon Ki Haveli for us to stand back and admire the beautiful sandstone facade.
Moving closer to the haveli, the balconies and facade details looked stunning.
If we looked closer, we could see the slight differences between each house.
We walked by a house with its doors opened for visitors. It turned out that this was the privately owned haveli opened to the public.
Once stepped into the entrance vestibule, we were immediately overwhelmed by the richly decorated interiors.
At the core, we could look up the lightwell to appreciate the height of the building.
Walking up the haveli, one of the first rooms we encountered was the fascinating private Hindu temple. Though small, the intriguing details of the temple interiors revealed the beautiful craftsmanship of the old Rajasthan.
Across from the small temple facing the street, another small chamber was ornately decorated with paintings and carvings.
Singing from a child musician mingled with laughter from tourists could be heard through the balcony windows.
Another level up were a series of vacant rooms. Small windows for communication and tiny wall niches for candles allowed us to imagine what the space would be like a century ago. Despite there were no furniture and paint restoration, we highly appreciated the vintage and authentic feel of the interiors.
Occasional wall paintings gave a touch of vivid colours to the generally yellowish sandstone building.
At the top level we reached what looked like to be the master bedroom with large windows facing the Jaisalmer Fort on one side.
And balconies looking down to the lightwell on the other side.
A door from the master bedroom led us to a small chamber with an attic and another small room.
We reached the roof terrace near the end of the visit. The view of Jaisalmer Fort was quite amazing.
After a fruitful tour of the old mansion, we walked downstairs and returned to the entrance vestibule, where a beautiful peacock feature guarded the house for decades, welcoming and bidding farewell to visitors.
Known as the Golden Fort due to its yellow sandstone, the Jaisalmer Fort is also famous as a living fort with its 2000 inhabitants still reside within its walls today. With 99 bastions along its fortress wall, a series of Jain temples and a splendid palace for the Rajput royal family, Jaisalmer Fort alone is already a worthy reason on its own for travelers to venture 776km west of Delhi into the Thar Desert. We had two full days in Jaisalmer, and planned to spend the entire first day at the fort. In the fort, there are attractions, restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, and a series of narrow lanes that would keep us busy for hours.
Some visitors would choose to stay the night at the fort. We decided not to do so due to the vulnerability of the ancient structure in coping with the negative impact caused by mass tourism. Studies in recent years discover that Jaisalmer Fort is in fact in danger of crumbling from inside. Many suggest the poor water supply and sewage systems hastily installed in the past 30 years and the water leakage from these systems into the fort foundation is the main threat for the fort, a sandstone structure that has withstood sandstorms and earthquakes for over 1000 years. Built as a desert structure in 1156 by King Rawal Jaisal, the structure of Jaisalmer Fort is particularly sensitive to water. The increase of regional rain in recent years and number of tourists staying inside the fort have made the matter worse.
It was only a 5 minute walk from our hotel to the main gate of the fort. From the parking lot, we could see part of the fort palace and the entry watch tower.
Beyond the watch tower we gradually moved uphill through a series of gates into the interior of the fort.
A series of four main gates: Akshya Pol, Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol, and Hawa Pol formed the entry procession and defense network for Jaisalmer Fort.
Tourism has given the fort a second life in the modern time.
Through the last gate Hawa Pol (Gate of Wind), we would soon arrive at Dussehra Chowk, the main square in the fort.
Cow at Hawa Pol Gate.
Dussehra Chowk, the main square of Jaisalmer Fort, is flanked by exquisite buildings. This square was also the main arrival point for camel caravans back in the medieval times.
The most imposing structure at Dussehra Chowk is undoubtedly the royal palace.
Passing by the entrance to the palace, we decided to first visit the Jain temples (with limited opening hours) in the morning and left the palace for the afternoon.
We spent the entire day at the fort. As the day went by, more and more visitors arrived at the Dussehra Chowk.
From Jain temples to the palace, we spent much of the day wandering around the narrow lanes in the fort.
Around 2000 inhabitants still reside in the fort today, despite some buildings have been converted into hotels, cafes and souvenir shops.
Further away from the main attractions, we encountered a more domestic side of the fort.
Hindu images and touristic ornaments appear here and there in the small lanes in the fort.
Henna is popular among tourists coming to Rajasthan.
Lakshminath Temple is a famous Hindu temple in the fort.
After visiting the Jain Temples and royal palace, we went up to one of the 99 bastions. One Western tourist was playing a guitar, while several others sat along the edge of the fortification to enjoy the view of Jaisalmer.
From the bastion, we could see our hotel First Gate Home Fusion, including the rooftop restaurant and the balcony of our room.
After a long day of touring, we walked back down the same route where we came up in the morning.
The imposing view of the palace from the parking lot would stayed long in our memories.
Standing on the Trikuta Hill, the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer has withstood the sandstorms and wind of the Thar Desert for 800 years. Bathed in a honey glow under the setting desert sun, visitors often describe the Golden City of Jaisalmer as the picture-perfect castle of A Thousand and One Night. The spectacular Jaisalmer was once a significant trading city frequented by camel caravans on the ancient Silk Road. Today it is an UNESCO World Heritage site and the westernmost destination for visitors coming to Rajasthan. Beyond the desert to the west is the Indian border with Pakistan. Many come to Jaisalmer by the 18-hour train service from Delhi to cover the 780km distance. We chose to take a flight from Delhi to Jodhpur, and then a hired car from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. After a brief stop at Osian, by the time we reached our hotel at Jaisalmer it was already after dark.
We checked in at First Gate Home-Fusion, a historical haveli converted hotel, at around 19:30.
Our pleasant room was on the upper floor with a pleasant balcony.
After checking in, we went up to the rooftop restaurant at our hotel.
Situated near the first gate of the fort, the rooftop restaurant of our hotel offers gorgeous views of the iconic fort.
Specialized in Indian and Italian cuisine, we ordered a combination of both for our first dinner at Jaisalmer.
From the balcony of our hotel room, we patiently waited for the sunrise at the east horizon.
Below our balcony was a quiet side street of small guest houses.
On the street, dogs, cows and local residents passed by our balcony every so often.
From the balcony we enjoyed the spectacular sunrise for two days in a row.
For two days in a row we witnessed the same little girl fed the street dogs while on her way to school.
Soon after sunrise, locals in colourful dresses came out to clean the street.
At the other side of the balcony, we also enjoyed a splendid view of the fort.
Under the rising sun, the yellow sandstone of the fort was illuminated in a golden glow.
Sunlight penetrated into our room through a tiny window.
Outside our room, sunlight also spilled into the hallway through high windows.
After breakfast, it was time for us to step out and explore the magnificent Jaisalmer.
It was dark by the time we left Mehrangarh Fort. We turned our gaze from the fort to the cityscape below us. We saw countless festive lights flickering in different parts of the old city, as if a citywide party awaited for our return. At the centre of Old Jodhpur, the Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower was bathed in colourful lighting like a rainbow popsicle. We followed a winding footpath going downhill, hoping to get back to the old town in time for dinner at the rooftop restaurant at Pal Haveli. Before supper, we still had one more destination to go which was the vibrant Sadar Market at the Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower.
It was getting dark when we began to walk down from Mehrangarh Fort. From afar, the clock tower in colourful lights was highly visible and served as a destination landmark to guide us for the walk.
Mehrangarh Fort looked majestic under the evening flood lights.
The path soon led us into small streets at the foothills below the fort.
It was dinner time and most shops were about to close.
We walked by many homes with their doors kept opened. From time to time, we could hear laughter of families from inside their homes.
In Jodhpur, there was a common way in which the street vendors decorate their store with bags of chips and snacks in different colourful packaging hanging vertically around the front edge of the roof. It was very eye-catching.
We kept on walking downhill and hoped that we would soon reach the Sadar Market and Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower. Behind us, the massive Mehrangarh Fort provided a mysterious background.
Soon we reached the bottom of the hill in the streets of Gulab Sagar,
It was dinner time for many families, and even bedtime for this puppy on a motorbike.
Near Sadar Market or Clock Tower Market, we passed by a small Hindu shrine along the main commercial street.
A beautiful gateway welcomed us into the vibrant Sadar Market. The market was named after Maharaja Sardar Singh, who built the market and the clock tower during his reign from 1880 to 1911.
Built by Maharaja Sardar Singh in the late 19th century, the Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower is one the most iconic monuments of old Jodhpur.
Sadar Market is one of the busiest place in Jodhpur where locals and tourists come to shop for handicrafts, souvenirs, spices, fresh produce, textiles, jewellery and clothing.
At Sadar Market, our target was to check out MV Spices Shop.
Established by Mohan Lal Verhomal years ago, MV Spices is a renowned spices shop recommended by many guidebooks and foreign media. Today, the spices shop is managed by the friendly daughters of Mohan Lal Verhomal. After a cup of chai tea and a good chat with one of the daughters, we bought a pack of Maharaja curry, and also spices to make chai tea and chicken tikka masala.
After a quick visit of Sadar Market, we returned to our hotel Pal Haveli.
We climbed up to the hotel’s rooftop restaurant Indique for dinner.
Indique is a popular rooftop restaurant in Old Jodhpur, serving decent Indian food with magnificent views of the old city.
We enjoyed the distant view of Mehrangarh Fort at one side of the rooftop. During dinner, it was a surprise to see a small firework in front of the fort. It came in a split second. We couldn’t react quick enough to capture the moment with our camera. The scene could only live in our memory.
At the other side of the rooftop restaurant, we could look down to the vibrant Sadar Market and the colourful Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower.