Since times immemorial, the grandeur of the Thar Desert has mesmerised travellers from faraway lands and Jaisalmer, the beacon of the East, is a city you must visit before you start treating yourself as a traveller. Shining bright with its ‘Sonar Kila’, it opens up a magical world to the weary and this is precisely I packed my bags and headed to the rather exclusive destination.
Now with every tourist hot spot, Jaisalmer too boasts of a plethora of options when it comes to lodging and boarding but as is the case the world over, not all of them would leave you with a sweet aftertaste. How do you get a fair deal when there is always a danger of touts or wily hotel managers and guides who would fleece you at the drop of a hat? Well, worry no more as my extensive research of the city is underway and quite a lot was explored in my first trip to the sands of time.
If you are reaching by train, then chances are that touts posing as hotel staff will hand you visiting cards and brochures a few stations before your arrival, promising amazingly cheap rates and world class services including travel and sightseeing. DO NOT FALL FOR THAT! After talking to a number of hotel owners and travellers/victims of such deals, it was clear that these middlemen reach the hotel and take up a room with full fare while asking you to pay a fraction and fleecing you on your desert safari, camping or a number of other activities. You might even end up in a place with no proper furniture, electricity, water etc etc. So stay clear of those.
Online booking is an option but quite a few shady and not so good hotels, lodges have fancy websites with photo-shopped picture galleries and they would woo you instantly but the chances are that the real deal might be a bit lacklustre when you are there in person.
After spending a few weeks in the area, I came across a lot of places where one can crash depending on the needs, size of the group, budget and your preferences. Here are a few to start with:
Dev Hotels & Camps
This is the place for the typical Indian family which is big and travels in big packs. The hotel is cozy and has a ‘Ginger’ like feel. Run by a professional duo of brothers, the hotel will surely be your cup of tea if you are looking for the right value for money and decent accommodation.
The interiors are dominated by traditional paintings and the fable Jaisalmer stone. Even the walls are made of stone instead of the regular brick and paint job. The manager told me that the use of stones helps in the cooling of rooms faster during the scorching summers as the air conditioning is given a boost.
The food is simple yet tasty and it won’t burn a hole in your pocket. If you are a big group travelling that includes elders who are wary of the way kitchens work or have some religious inhibitions in eating from foreign hands, they can arrange to rent you a kitchen along with the equipment at quite a decent price.
Hotel Rang Mahal
The hotel can be spelled ‘Opulence’ and ‘Grandeur’ for its sheer majestic appeal and is the place to park yourself if you don’t mind shelling the extra buck for the special feel. Almost as grand as the Jaisalmer Fort itself, the place is fantastic and will entertain your senses.
Like an oasis in the desert, the property boasts of a swimming pool, gardens, long corridors of marble and stone. The bar is well stocked and you would definitely like it there.
A perfect getaway for affluent clientele and corporate bigwigs alike, there is something for everyone in the hotel and you would want to stay inside the hotel premises for its magnanimity.
The flip side is that the hotel’s hospitality can be as cold as the environs within it. The staff is well trained but not warm. Barring a Bong connection that served me in the later hours of the night, the service left me wanting.
Five stars to the property and one for the service for this one.
K. B. Lodge
Now this is the place that scores aces on my list! Fantastic location, fantastic people, awesome anecdotes, good food and a will to serve are what make them stand apart from a myriad of similar apes.
Run by a bunch of enthusiastic cousins, the property sits pretty in the heart of the golden city and offers cozy and tastefully decorated rooms that are within your budget. The view from the rooftop café is simply one to die for and the nick-knacks and coffee won’t disappoint you either. Chill out here if you are alone, with your buddies, spouse or family. You’ll love it in the end and would love to come back over and over again.
Check the venue online and call them in advance for some great deals as well!
These three were my picks for this edition. There are a few shady places to steer away from, I’ll give more on that on my next travelogue and also will take you to some more place for your budget and liking. Till then, Happy Travelling!