Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Golden City Alive

Tourist season was at its peak. Jaisalmer was now packed with tourists crazy for forts, festivals, feasts and safaris. I headed towards the Sand Dunes to explore the captivating beauty and lifestyle of the interiors of Jaisalmer in a closer way. Infact, to be part of the Desert Festival was perhaps the major reason, which could not be fulfilled on my last trip. I could devote another one day for the purpose. All the hotels were already booked, but luckily I got a small room in a budget hotel. The hotel, its services and amenities were not up to the mark, but the tariff was hefty, probably because of the season. The food was undoubtedly delicious. The essence of Rajasthani food itself makes it out of the world. Extra-ordinarily flavoursome!

In the evening, I asked the manager to arrange a camel ride for me along with a guide. The guide took me to a small market area where several local people were shouting in high notes beckoning tourists to have a camel ride with them, quite similar to the rickshaw-walas in urban areas. One of them asked for Rs. 50 for a ride, which was quite affordable. But my guide, being a local person, immediately bargained and surprisingly fixed the same ride for me at just Rs. 20. It is quite surprising how those sand dunes were made just by the forceful winds, naturally! That camel safari was amongst the most adventurous things I have ever done.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Relish The Lifestyle Of The Kings While Boarding The Palace On Wheels

While I was exploring the sand dunes and enjoying the unique fairs at Jaisalmer, a friend of mine, who resides in Jodhpur, invited me to come to his place for a sightseeing trip over the weekend. I asked the manager of my hotel to book me a ticket for the royal train 'Palace On Wheels' to Jodhpur. It was Friday, 11:30 pm, when the royal train departured from Jaisalmer. I had already informed my friend to receive me at the Jodhpur Railway Station the next morning (Saturday) at 8 am.
Palace On Wheels is truly a journey worthy of Kings. The train offers a vibrant journey through the royal land of sand dunes and regal palaces. I was amazed by the intrinsic ambience in the train that goes perfectly well with the majestic charm and beauty spread so lavishly all over Rajasthan. Rated as one of the top ten luxury train journeys in the world, it offers you a fascinating trip to the splendid forts and palaces of Rajasthan in seven days, along with the royal history of Taj Mahal in Agra.
It was an eight hour night journey from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur. I, being very friendly, started a conversation with the lady, a local resident of Jodhpur, sitting next to me. She told me that the name “Palace On Wheels” was derived from the royal back-ground of the coaches. The train was first introduced in 1982 but was later replaced with a new meter gauge air conditioned one in 1990. That new Palace On Wheels had 13 Saloons, 2 Restaurant cum Kitchen cars, one Bar cum Lounge and 4 Service Cars. Today, it has been upgraded to 14 Saloons that are inter-connected, and the interiors are also refurbished to match the aesthetics of the royal states.
In the meantime, a waitor came round and took orders for dinner. After ordering our desired meals, the lady took me to the lounge, library, bar & dining cars. The compartments were extraordinarilly decorated like a seven star hotel. I also visited the 14 saloons, which are based on the princely states of Rajasthan - Alwar, Bharatpur, Bikaner, Bundi, Dholpur, Dungarpur, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jhalawar, Jodhpur, Kishangarh, Kota, Sirohi, and Udaipur. Even the interiors, furniture, handicrafts, paintings, furnishings, coupes and the separate pantries are decorated according to the cultural ethos of the respective state.
While having a few Chinese and North-Indian dishes, the lady also told me about the royal services on board. The train was all about luxury and comfort. It was 2:30 am in the morning and Sushmita, my new friend, was very sleepy. Our chat was over, but the excitement was soaring high inside me. I was actually carried away by the Palace on Wheels into the royal world of the Maharajas, grand palaces, and majestic forts. With unmatched luxury and comforts, the train also offers several Khidmatgars (personal attendants) for excellent personalized services. Wall to wall carpeting, lounge, well stocked bars and huge dining cars were simply an out-of-the-world experience. I was highly impressed by the efforts of the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation, Indian Railways, the State Government of Rajasthan, and the Government of India towards developing tourism in India. with these thoughts, I neared “Sun City”- Jodhpur, to hunt for a few more attractions.