Jaisalmer – the Golden City

Jaisalmer in a three tier sleeper

Sleeper train to Jaisalmer
Sleeper train to Jaisalmer
I caught the sleeper train from Jaipur to Jaisalmer at 16:45 to arrive at 04:50. We were a bit late in arriving. I had booked a stay with a couchsurfing host called Zarina. She had accepted me but told me that she wouldn’t be there as she too was travelling. However her friend Gaji would collect me from the station and put me up at his hotel.

My lift was late. But I got talking to a young friendly policeman while I waited. The tuk-tuk from the hotel arrived about 20 minutes late and we shot off into town in the dark.

Hotel Gaji, couchsurfing in Jaisalmer

Hotel Gaji - Jaisalmer
Hotel Gaji – Jaisalmer
Gaji hotel in Jaisalmer is a splendid place. My room was nice, clean and comfortable. I was a bit worried that there had been a mistake and contacted Zarina again who put my mind at rest and told me not to worry, there’d be no charge. It seems that a lot of hotels provide couchsurfing facilities. I’m guessing they want to sell desert safaris and desert parties to make up for it, but no one tried to get me involved in anything.

Jaisalmer breakfast
Jaisalmer breakfast
I dozed for a while. The train’s bunks hadn’t been that good although I did sleep a while. Breakfast… into the centre of town to find some grub. A good sized plate of chickpea curry with rice and bits and a fruit juice of banana and papaya and I felt better. I went for a quick wander and took some photos. Everyone is so friendly. The children want their photos taken and they want pens in exchange? I didn’t have any pens. It would have been so easy to have bought a few had I known. I found a beautiful structure on the outskirts of town that I found out was the Brahmin crematorium. It was all closed so I had to content myself with some photos from a distance. There was also the Maharajas palace, but that has been converted into a plush hotel.

On my return to the hotel I popped up to the rooftop restaurant to see what it was like and met Lee ( 이명노 ) and Park ( 박승민 ), two young lads from Korea, the same age as my kids. They spoke pretty good english and had been there a couple of days and had walked out to the desert (20+km each direction), eaten in a restaurant in the fort and that was about it. We decided to go explore the fort together, they were really great company.

Lee and Park in Jaisalmer
Lee and Park in Jaisalmer
We wandered around taking photos and getting to know each other. Both are university students, Park is studying biology and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten what Lee was reading. But he did tell me he wants to be the president of Korea one day and promised me a lifetime visa if he makes it. The whole area is made of golden sandstone, intricately carved. It used to be sculpted by hand but now it’s machine made, but no less beautiful for that. People don’t paint their walls here the stone is so nice to look at. We had drinks in a rooftop café where I had a glorious concoction of lemon and mint and chatted to the owner whose english was excellent. They speak far better english here than they do in Delhi. In fact, in hotel Gaji, a number of the staff spoke Korean, which surprised me.

Gadisar lake  Jaisalmer
Gadisar lake Jaisalmer
After the fort we walked down to the Gadisar Lake. Apparently the structures in the lake were where the dancing girls performed for the Maharaja’s benefit in times past. Shame there weren’t any now. Park wanted to know how the structures were built in the water. We asked a street vendor and he provided the information that they weren’t. They were originally built on dry land and that the lake was the result of monsoon rains. The lake is now maintained and as far as I could tell doesn’t dry up. Hindu people come here and perform their little ceremonies and go boating. In a way we were lucky that the Jaisalmer weather was unseasonably rainy, it provided dramatic clouds for photos but put a stop to a desert safari.

Madresh Mawar - Constable of Jaisalmer
Madresh Mawar – Constable of Jaisalmer
On duty in Jaisalmer
On duty in Jaisalmer
On the way back to the hotel I bumped into the world’s friendliest policeman again, Madresh Mawar. He greeted me like a long lost brother and insisted on a selfie with him. We exchanged Facebook and Whatsapp and I was told that if I’m in Jaisalmer again I have to promise to contact him. It’s nice to have a friend with a big gun 🙂

Park and Lee invited me to dine with them, their treat. They wanted me to try Korean food at Hotel Gaji. It was gorgeous. We all got a bit drunk, they more than me and we had a great night as it was their last night. Back to university for them. The following day I treated them to the breakfast you see above. They were mightily impressed. They had been eating in restaurants and paying through the nose, so street food was a last treat for them. We all had two rounds of fruit juices and moved off back to the hotel to pack, them for Korea, me for the next couchsurf at Hotel Shahi Palace with Devi Lal. (All these places are on the map.)

Hotel Shahi Palace Jaisalmer

Shahi Palace Hotel bedroom - Jaisalmer
Shahi Palace Hotel bedroom in Jaisalmer
Hotel Shahi Palace was just as lovely as the Gaji Hotel. I was given a wee room with en-suite bathroom and an internal window to let the air in through the floor vents. You’ll have to look at the pics for that. I hadn’t been sleeping well so I decided to eat in on their roof terrace with spectacular view of the fort, Jaisalmer and, had there been no clouds, the sunset. Having missed raw foods and salads I opted for a “garden salad” and a Jalfreji to follow. The price was about £5. Followed by a low strength beer – see I’m learning. That said, low strength is the same as normal strength in Europe. Devi came up as I was finishing my meal and we talked for a good while. His english is very good, he’s a really nice friendly, helpful man with lots of local knowledge and his company was most welcome. We both headed of to bed around 22:30 and I slept badly again 🙁 If I’m ever in Jaisalmer again I will surely stay with Devi again.

Hotel Shahi Palace photos

Hotel Sita Raas Haveli – Jaisalmer

Hotel Sita Raas Haveli - Jaipur
Hotel Sita Raas Haveli
Today, as I write this, I am in Hotel Sita Raas Haveli with another couchsurfing host called Babu Dan. He’s just starting his couchsurfing career and asked if I’d mind staying with him. These people are so friendly and helpful that I was more than happy to move here and when I get a chance I’ll write him his couchsurfing review to try and raise his profile a bit. We sat and talked all afternoon and were later joined by his young hotel manager, a Muslim lad, called Sadhu. Both speak good english and Sadhu has a fairly decent grasp of spanish. This business is new and they want to grow it. They will build their rooftop restaurant this October. It also has good views of the fort and the surrounding area but, in all honesty, still hasn’t attained the standard of the other two. However I’m sure in a couple of years it will be a lovely place to stay. Babu treated me to supper in the little restaurant on the corner. I had Shahi Paneer and chapatis. Shahi Paneer is a cheese dish in a spicy sauce that I discovered in Delhi. I’ve been vegetarian since being here, save for one day when I ate meat and it gave me Delhi belly. Better safe than sorry.

I’ve been sleeping so badly that I decided to take today as a day’s rest here in Jaisalmer. It’s such a lovely town and I feel comfortable here. At 17:00 I move on to Jodhpur where I’ll stay in a hostel for two nights. Yes I’m sorry I didn’t get into the desert, but hey ho, I can come back sometime.

Jaisalmer photos


MacBook Pro

Buying a MacBook Pro from Apple, online

This post is an aside about my new MacBook Pro. It is a warning to all of you that may choose to buy laptops and electronic equipment online.

MacBook-Pro
Details of damaged MacBook Pro
I took my MacBook Pro, less than 3 months old, to an authorised Apple Repair Centre here in Delhi to see about repairing it. (I wrote about it in this post.) They claim that the screen is cracked, and in all honesty, when pointed out, I can see it is.

They claim it is a pressure crack.

I had this older version MacBook Pro shipped by Apple. I didn’t feel the necessity to spend €400 more on the touchbar model. It arrived at my place where it was put on a desk until the day I left for India when it was placed in a good solid laptop case with reinforced sides.

I carried the laptop onto the plane and stowed it under the seat thinking that it would be safer there than in the luggage bins above.

I then carried the Mac to the hotel where I put it on a table. It hasn’t moved since (except yesterday). It hasn’t been sat on, dropped, banged or thrown across the room.

I would like to point out that the pressure crack is NOT in the glass, it is underneath in the screen. The glass is undamaged as is the rest of the computer as you can see by the details in the photo.

My contention is that the screen was never seated properly at manufacture (as happens with many mobile telephone screens) and that the slight movement this computer has had has caused this pressure crack.

This computer is a laptop, it is designed to be portable. Indeed in spanish they are called PORTÁTIL.

The service centre claim that I will have to pay for a new screen. A whopping 70,000/- INR (or £830, €928, $1091).

MacBook Pro by Apple
Check your purchase thoroughly.
To my way of thinking this is Apple trying to weasel out of its contractual obligations by blaming me and not repairing a faulty, substandard machine.

One does not expect to have to minutely examine every square centimetre of a new product, but in the case of Apple Macintosh, I SUGGEST YOU DO! I have a feeling that legal advice will need to be sought.



Air India

Air India and Heathrow

air india logo

Leaving UK on Air India was a complete cockup. Firstly London Heathrow has changed so much that I barely recognised it. Only to be expected, I haven’t flown from there in more than 30 years. The information boards aren’t that informative. The instructions on them are ambiguous or plain confusing and there is little help. Good job I’m a native english speaker and God help foreigners. I eventually found a man with Heathrow Information on his T-shirt.

Tickets booked online have to be checked-in on a machine. I entered my Air India flight booking number and then scanned my passport. The machine spat out my baggage labels, which are just as confusing as the machines, and my boarding pass. Once that was done, I proceeded to the baggage drop to check my baggage. This is where my first problem arose.

Air India problems

I had had the forethought to phone the embassy before leaving about the possible necessity of needing a return flight booked. My visa is for one year and, naturally, I hadn’t a clue exactly when I’d return. Air India don’t do one year returns nor did they do an open ended return. The embassy told me that it would be OK. The Air India check in crew told me that it wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be allowed to board the flight without a ticket showing an exit date from India.

Result: an extremely apologetic Air India official took me to their office in Heathrow and got the women on the desk to find me a cheap exit flight. So £50.10 later I have a flight booked to Kathmandu, Nepal for the 29th August. Well I did want to go there anyway. But I kind of wanted to do it in my time not theirs.

On the Air India flight

B787

The flight was one of the most uncomfortable intercontinental flights I’ve ever had. The plane was an Air India Boeing 787. For those that understand it was like being on RyanAir for 8 hours. Ok the seats did recline… a bit, and all I can say is thank goodness I’m not a fatty. The onboard entertainment was impossible. I tried to watch a film but the volume levels, even when pumped to the max, were so low that I gave up with the in flight entertainment and tried for some shut-eye. The food was good though. I opted for a vegetarian meal but they had a choice of lamb or chicken too. Mine was a dal with rice. No idea what the others were like.

Indira Gandhi Airport International

Landing at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Airport was… interesting. We were half an hour early. At landing I thought the plane was going to roll. Touch-down was accompanied by a massive jolt/roll to the left before we straightened up and made it to the disembarkation ramps. Never had a landing like it and I’ve flown frequently and all over the place.

Immigration, baggage claim and customs were a doddle. The passport check did take a while though. But everything was clear and understandable and pretty quick. No complaints there.

I’ve arrived

I found arrivals gate 6 by KFC as instructed by my CouchSurfing friend Virender easily and ten minutes later he was there to collect me. The 9 or so kilometres from the airport to the hotel took about an hour. England readers think “M25”. But it gave us a chance to talk face to face and for that and the lift I’m very grateful. So now I’m ensconced in the FabHotel writing this and then I’m going to have a siesta.