Thursday, 16 February 2017

Road trip to Majestic land of Rajasthan (Part 2: Jodhpur-Khichan-Jaisalmer)

Every year, we plan a trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This year we decided to go for a long road trip and then we planned to explore Rajasthan. While return journey we took a halt in Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat.

Our road trip route was Pune - Udaipur - Haladighati - Kumbhalgarh - Jodhpur - Phalodi - Jaisalmer - India-Pakistan Border (Pillar No 609) - Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) - Vadodara - Daman - Pune

Without a doubt, travelers for this trip were me and my wife Renuka.

Smile, please....

To avoid length of Travel blog, I have divided it into 3 parts. In this part, will like to share my travel experience of Jodhpur, Khichan, Jaisalmer and India-Pakistan border

Travel Blog link for Majestic land of Rajasthan Part 1: Udaipur-Haldighati-Kumbhalgarh

About Jodhpur, Jaisalmer:
               Jodhpur is a second largest city after Jaipur from Rajasthan State. The city is also known as Sun City for the bright and sunny weather throughout the year OR Blue City because of the blue colors that decorate many of the houses in the old city. The city was built as the new capital of the state of Marwar to replace the capital Mandore.
               Jaisalmer city lies in the Thar dessert. It is also known as "Golden City" as yellow sand and the yellow sandstone used in every architecture of the city gives a yellowish-golden shade to the city. Jaisalmer is named after Maharawal Jaisal Singh, who founded the city in 1156 AD. Jaisalmer is famous for Tent Stay and Camel Safari in Sand Dunes.

Blue City: Jodhpur
Blue City: Jodhpur

Day 5: 12 Feb 2017 - Jodhpur:
               Our day began bit Late today. We had breakfast and left for day sightseen. We decided to visit Umaid Bhavan Palace first and Fort for sunset time. Palace was just 3-4 km from the hotel. Umaid Bhavan Palace is one of the Largest private living residences from India. Palace was built on the hill and foundation stone was laid in 1929. Palace was ready by 1943.Now Half of the palace is converted into 5-star hotel property. Royal Family of Jodhpur is also live in this palace. Very small section of Palace is open to the public as Museum.

Umaid Bhavan Palace
Umaid Bhavan Palace

Entry to Umaid Bhavan Palace
Entry to Umaid Bhavan Palace

              The museum is open from 9 AM to 5 PM. It consists of information of Umaid Bhavan Palace, Royal Family's belongs and Old Photographs of Royal Family. It also has a collection of Vintage cars used by Royal family. It takes around an hour to visit the museum.

Umaid Bhavan Palace

Corridor inside Umaid Bhavan Palace

Traveller

               Our next place was Jaswant Thada. It is a Royal monument built in marble. The place is beautifully built with garden and lake. It was built by Maharaja Sardar Singh of Jodhpur State in 1899 in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. It was lunch time so we went for Lunch. We had tasty Rajasthani food at Gypsy Dining Hall.

Jaswant Thada
Jaswant Thada

Beautiful flute played by local inside Jaswant Thada

              By 4 PM, we went to our last destination for the day, Jodhpur fort. Jodhpur fort is known as Mehrangarh Fort. Timing to visit Fort is from 9 AM to 5 PM. you can hire local guide or Audio tour devices to explore the fort. It was my second visit and first with Wife so I became a guide for Renuka. Quickly we took tickets and entered in the fort area. Fort was built in the year 1460 by Roa Jodha, Ruler of Mandore.

Palace from Jodhpur Fort

             The fort consists of important places to visit such as Palace, Zenana Deodi, Moti Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Phool Mahal, Weapon Gallary, Elephant's howdahs Gallary, Palanquins (Palakhi) Gallary, Daulat Khana, Turban Gallery, Paintings. Also, you can visit Upper bastion to visit the collection of Cannons and small walk on another end for Chamunda Mataji Temple.

Sheesh Mahal

               There are entrance gates to reach the main Palace. Jai Pol entrance was named to celebrate victory in a war with Jaipur and Bikaner. Fateh Pol entrance was built to celebrate a victory over the Mughals. Final gate named Loha Pol. Zenana Deodi is Palace's part which was built for Kings' wives. Moti Mahal means Perl Palace, is decorated with Perl colored and Glass decoration. It required around 2 hours to explore Palace and Galleries.

Shahi Palace

             After palace visit, we took a walk towards Chamunda Mataji Temple. You can view a collection of cannon on the top of the fort which includes famous Kilkila Cannon. Chamunda Mataji Temple was Rao Jodha's favorite goddess which was the kul devi of the Pratihara rulers of Mandore. we reached at the temple by 6 PM and decided to spend time till sunset.

Blue City, Jodhpur
Blue City, Jodhpur

            The back side of the temple has 2-3 small windows which offer you a breathtaking view of Blue City. Most of the house of old city was shaded with blue color. Old City area is known as Brahmpuri for the many Brahmins that live there. Sunset from this place was simply fabulous and perfect way to end the Jodhpur sightseen. There is a Pooja takes place in the temple at sunset time. After attending Pooja, we left the Fort.

Blue City

Blue city Sunset view
Blue City Sunset view 

             We went for Dinner at OTA Restaurant to celebrate our Anniversary. Food and service were good. It was a good place to end our day from Jodhpur.

Expenses:
  • Umaid Bhavan car parking: INR 40/-
  • Umaid Bhavan entry: INR 60/- for 2 people (Camera free)
  • Jaswant Thada entry: INR 30/- for 2 people
  • Jaswant Thada camera fee: INR 25/-
  • Lunch at Gypsy restaurant: INR 501/- for 2 people
  • Car Parking at Jodhpur Fort: INR 40/-
  • Jodhpur fort entry: INR 100/-
  • Jodhpur Fort entry for student: INR 50/- 
  • Jodhpur Fort camera fee: INR 100/-
  • Dinner at OTA restaurant: INR 1200/-

Day 6: 13 Feb 2017 - Jodhpur - Khichan - Jaisalmer:
               We left the hotel at 6 AM. Our first off beat destination of Khichan village near Phalodi. Home of Sevaram Malli Parihar from Khichan village is an attraction to visit the village. Every year, thousands of Demoiselle Cranes visit Khichan village in the Rajasthan desert during winter. These cranes are migratory birds from Mongolia. It has a long white neck stripe and the black on the foreneck extends down over the chest in a plume.It has a loud trumpeting call, higher-pitched. The demoiselle crane is known as the Koonj or Koorja.

Cranes at Khichan Village
Cranes at Khichan Village

Demoiselle Crane at Khichan Village
Demoiselle Crane at Khichan Village

            Sevaram is working from last 17-18 years to maintain their daily routine visit to Khichan village. He had large open plot converted into feeding center for Demoiselle Crane. They are not captive birds. Required food is spread in open plot for birds. Daily they visit this feeding center by 7 AM. Birds visit Khichan village from different forest/Rann locations (Around 30 to 60 km from village) for food. They spend around 4 hours in the village. They visit in the count of 12,000-15,000 every year.

Demoiselle Crane
Demoiselle Crane

             After feeding time, all birds fly to nearby Lake which is around 1 km from Village. All gather at Lake for drinking water and then they fly back to forest/Rann locations. Entire village help in this noble cause. The village achieved international recognition when it was featured in Birding World magazine in an article titled, “Khichan - the Demoiselle Crane Village"

Demoiselle Crane

              Sevaram takes care of this feeding center and also help in the rescue operation. He also keeps track of bird's daily activity and maintained daily bird visit count in Village. You can drive early morning to the village to witness the bird's activity. Sevaram offers to stay at his home without any cost. It was our pleasure to visit this incredible place.

In Flight

Demoiselle Crane

              After Khichan village, we went at Lake by 10 AM. Slowly groups of crane started gathering at Lake. Within an hour Lake and the entire surrounding ground was houseful by Cranes. It was amazing to see the change from empty Lake to full House Lake.

Demoiselle Crane at Lake

               We were about to leave Khichan village and the unexpected event happened. My Camera stopped working due to Error 20 and Error 30. Now further road trip journey is without my Camera. We decided to capture the moment on iPhone and on Handicam.

We at Khichan Village

              Our road journey to Jaisalmer was resume after Khichan Village visit. Distance from Khichan to Jaisalmer is around 170 KM. When we were around 40 km away from Jaisalmer, I saw one Egyptian Vulture flying low near the road. I took car aside and we started watching him. Soon Vulture settled down in the desert. When we were observing from Binocular, we release there are 2-3 types of Vultures. As we both are into bird watching, we decided to take a walk into dessert. Desert has some bushes so we took advantage of bushes as hiding place while approaching towards Vulture.


            Soon we released that, It was Vultures party on Dead Donkey. slowly we reduce the distance between us and settle down behind a small bush. There were 5 types Vultures in the party along with Egles and Crows. Vultures which we identified were Indian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Slender-billed Vulture and Eurasian black vulture. My Camera was not working so I enjoyed the movement and captured it in video Camera. The distance between is was hardly 20-25 feet and we can clearly able to listen to their movements. It was simply feasting to eyes. What a lovely welcome in the desert. I have posted few Videos on Blog.



              We left this place and resume our journey to Jaisalmer. We took a break at Jaisalmer War Museum which is just 12 km from Jaisalmer City. War Museum is a tribute to all soldiers who made the sacrifice. The museum is open on all days and No entry fee to visit the museum. They have 20-25 min video on Indian Army which makes you feel proud. There are nominal charges for a short film.

Jailsamer War Museum

              There are two halls, one Indian Army hall and Laungewala Hall. Indian Army hall has information and history of Indian Army. The Hall also displays arms and ammunition captured, as also equipment used during various wars by the Indian Army. Laungewala Hall showcases the information of famous Battle of Laungewala along with an actual picture and 1971 war events. The museum is small but must visit the place to respect the Indian Army.

Roll of Honour

              We reach Jaisalmer by evening time. We have planned 2 night in Jaisalmer and 1 night in Sam Sand dunes. We decided to take the experience of Jaisalmer Fort Stay. Fort has many guest house and Homestay available inside the fort. We choose Deep Mahal hotel. Room walls are sharing walls with Jain temple. We went on one of the restaurants on the top of Fort to witness Sunset. It was relaxation time to enjoy the Sip of coffee with cool breeze and sunset.

Sunset from Fort...Clicked from iPhone

We had our Dinner at Free Tibet restaurant. It was a good place from a location point of view but we didn't like the taste. The weather was freezing cold at night but city view tempts us to enjoy the night view from Fort Bastion.

Is anybody home? Clicked on street inside the fort

Expenses:

  • Car Petrol: INR 2300/-
  • State Highway Toll: INR 75/- (Paid for all 4 Toll at 1st toll else INR 25/- for each toll)
  • Khichan Lake entry: INR 30/- for 2 people
  • Lunch at highway Dhaba: INR 300/- (Masala papad, Paneer Veg dish, butter roti, cold drinks)
  • Jaisalmer war museum entry: INR 40/- for 2 people
  • Jaisalmer Stay at Deep Mahal: INR 900/- for 1 night
  • One Coffee on rooftop restaurant: INR 40/-
  • Dinner at free Tibet restaurant: INR 480/-

Day 7: 14 Feb 2017 - Jaisalmer and Sam Sand Dunes:
               We left the hotel to explore the fort by 9 AM. Fort was built in 1156 by the Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal. This is also known as Sonar Quila which means Golden Fort due to the color of yellow sand. Fort has a double line of defense due to two walls. Fort has 4 massive solid entrance to enter in the fort area. Around 5000 people stay inside Fort.

Jaisalmer Fort

               Fort has Raj Mahal which is now converted into Museum. Palace opens at 10 AM till 5 PM. The audio tour is also available to explore the fort area.  Palace has Darbar Hall, Queens Hall, multiple Gallery having a collection of weapons used by King, paintings etc. Fort can be seen in 1-2 hours. Apart from Palace, there are several Jain temples inside Fort area. Carving on the walls are the highlight of temples. Fort also has Market Street which is the oldest market from Jaisalmer.

Jaisalmer Fort wall

Fort View

Market Street inside Fort

              After a visit to Fort, we returned to the hotel for check out Process. We left Jaisalmer city for Sam dunes. On the way to Sam Sand dunes, we decided to visit Bada Bagh and Kuldhara Village. Our first destination was Bada Bagh. Bada Bagh is a memorial place of all King's of Jaisalmer starting with Jai Singh II. There is entry fee but somehow not maintained even after charging to tourist. No proper parking space is available at Bada Bagh.

Bada Bagh
Bada Bagh

            Bada Bagh means Big Garden which was built in the year 1743. Some Chhatri is in ruined state whereas few are intact as it is. Be careful, as there are no proper walkways available in Bada Bagh and we saw a lot of broken liquor bottles. Wife had a small injury due to broken glass which penetrated through footwear. when we registered the complaint at security, person apologizes and ensure us to take action soon. Apart from this, It was average visit.

Bada Bagh
Bada Bagh

             Our next location was Kuldhara village. Kuldhara is an abandoned haunted village near Jaisalmer. Many years back, all villagers left this village as King's Diwan (Chief revenue officer) asked a girl to marry him else he will kill all the villagers. There are many version of stories available by local. The true reason is still unknown.

Kuldhara Village
Kuldhara Village

             Locals from nearby village don't allow to visit the village after sunset as they believe that village is haunted. The village doesn't have anything expect ruined houses and ruined Temple in the center. You can climb temple for an aerial view of the village. Lanes and brick homes, equidistant from each other, are neatly laid out. As per Locals, There is a curse by villagers while leaving this place that No one would be able to re-occupy the village and whoever tried faced paranormal activities. Now, the Government of Rajasthan decided to develop Kuldhara Village as a tourist spot.

Kuldhara Village
Kuldhara Village

             We moved towards our final destination Sam Sand Dunes. As peak season was over (Weather was still freezing cold), many people suggested us to search stay after reaching Sam. We reached Sam by 4 PM. All most every tent resort was empty and people were ready to sell night stay at low cost. Dhaba owner from Kanoi Village suggested us to do Desert and then search for Tent stay after sunset. Hotel owner will offer you lowest rates. We kept Bags in the car and decided to visit the Thar Desert for sunset.

Reaching Sam after Driving more than 1800 km

Thar Desert

            We booked Safari jeep which took us in Thar desert. The ride was bumpy (Purposely they take you on dunes with high speed for a bumpy ride) and not recommended for old people. We enjoyed the ride. After reaching Thar, we hire Camel for long safari. Camel rider took us deep inside as we wanted to rid of tourists and looking for peace.

Thar Desert
Thar Desert

Lonely but lovely Thar Desert
Lonely but the lovely Thar Desert

            After 30-40 min camel safari we were far away from people. Camel rider (Old aged person) settle down in dunes and we took a long walk. No one was around us and we witness one of the most beautiful Sunsets from Desert. This was only possible due to offseason. We gave time to each other in the lonely but lovely desert. All Desert photographs are taken by iPhone 6s.

Sunset at Thar Desert
Sunset at the Thar Desert

              We came back to a point on Camel where our jeep was parked in Dessert. Before it gets too Dark, we came back to Sam. We checked few Tent resort and choose Shiv Tara resort. Sam dunes stay package offers you Night stay in Tent, Culture program, Snacks/tea-coffee during the program, Bonfire in cold weather, Veg Dinner, Breakfast and Camel Ride or Jeep ride (It is optional as rate changes as per safari type). We skipped safari and breakfast as we planned to leave early morning for an International border visit.
               Culture program was average as it has a modern touch to engage tourist. They also play DJ songs to invite tourist to dance with a local performer from the group. Somehow I like Udaipur's culture program (Bagore ki Haveli) which was focused on only cultural program and its value. Overall it was a good experience to stay in tent and close to Desert.
               Few Resorts from Sam and travel agent from Jaisalmer arrange Tent Camping in Thar desert. Rates are high and one/Two local accompany you as security and for preparing Dinner/Breakfast.
              We were eagerly waiting for tomorrow as we are going to drive our vehicle till international border (India-Pakistan Border Pillar No 609). We had all required permission from BSF and Indian Defence office. I have seen Wagha Border which is commercial and open to tourist but Tomorrow's border location was raw border area.

Expenses:
  • Jaisalmer fort entry: INR 200/- for 2 people
  • Jaisalmer fFortcamera fee: INR 100/-
  • Bada Bagh entry: INR 200/- for 2 people
  • Kuldhara village car entry: INR 50/-
  • Kuldhara village entry: INR 20/- for 2 people
  • Soda at Kuldhara: INR 30/- for 3 glass
  • Lunch at Kanoi Village: INR 160/- for 2 people (Rajasthani veg dish and Rotis + Cold drinks)
  • Entry Toll for Sam Sand dunes: INR 50/-
  • Gypsy desert ride: INR 800/- (INR 900-1200/- during peak season)
  • Camel Ride inside desert: INR 400/- for 2 people on 1 Camel (Need to Bargain if not as part of hotel package. Owner started at INR 6000/- for 2 camel and final cost was INR 400/- . Camel ride was for 2-2.30 hr as offseason began in Sam due to exam time)
  • Tip to Camel Rider: INR 150/- (He took us in the deep desert & total ride time was 2-2.30 Hrs.)
  • Tent Stay at Shiv Tara: INR 1600/- for 2 people (got walk-in discount as peak season charges INR 3000/- per people and low season chargers INR 3000/- for 2 people)

Day 8: 15 Feb 2017 - Tanot, India-Pakistan Border, and Jaisalmer:
              We Left Sam sand dunes by 7 AM. Our first destination was Tanot Mata Temple and then International Border. Our Route was Sam - Kanoi - Left from Kanoi Village - Left at T junction after Serawa Village - Ramgarh - Tanot. There was hardly any vehicle and we loved the morning drive. We had quick breakfast at Ramgarh village. This is the last village where you can expect food and Mobile network. Ramgarh onwards, only BSNL network work with the average network.
Ramgarh to Tanot drive was memorable. Straight smooth road with very less traffic and lovely dunes. It is must visit place for a road trip. 

Reached Tanot

               Tanot Village is close to the border with Pakistan and famous for Tanot Mata Temple. Tanot village is known as the last village of India close to the border. Temple is maintained by BSF and Indian Army. During 1965 and 1971 war, Pak army launched bombs targeting Temple but none of the bomb able to hit Temple. In 1965 War, Pakistani Army dropped bombs targeting the temple but not even one exploded. After the war, the Pakistani General actually requested to visit the temple. This request was granted and the Pakistani General went to the temple and paid his respects.

Tanot Mata Temple

unexplored Bombs display

              The Same story was repeated by Pakistan in 1971 War but unable to touch the Temple. you can see unexplored bomb kept inside the temple. Temple is clean and very well maintained. After Temple visit, We visited BSF check post to complete the formalities for a border visit. We had all required permission from BSF and Indian Defence office. 
              We began our journey of 19 km towards the border. Civilians are not allowed to go beyond this temple towards border without permission and documentations. We were expecting someone from BSF will join our vehicle. At second checkpoint (which was 1 km from the temple) we got to know that we have to drive alone till Border fence. Looking at our faces, BSF gave us confidence that just follow the main road and we have solid fence throughout the border to avoid border crossing.

Road to International Border Pillar No 609

              Our 19 km Journey was our lifetime experience. Straight smooth road with huge sand dunes on both the sides is heading towards Border. Not a single vehicle crossed us during the journey. Our eyes were staring at the horizon as we were expecting Border post, Fence separating our neighboring country. 
              Soon we crossed one small sand hill and saw 2 check posts. We realized that one post belongs to us and the second one belongs to Pakistan. We drove the car slowly towards our check post. From that point, We were able to see Border fence. We stopped our car few meters before check post and BSF officer waves hand to drive the car till post. We parked our i20 at the check post. 
             It was a proud moment for us as we parked car few feet before Fence. Yes! Few feet from Border. We can clearly see the Pakistan's check post and border pillar No 609. We were standing on the Edge of our Nation and can see Pakistani land across the border. One of the BSF soldier from post welcome us as they were already informed about our visit. 

Border Pillar 609 is just 4 km way

             We spend some time at border check post. BSF Soldier explained us geographical importance, How and Why Fence was built by (Only) Indian Government and Indian Amry. They shared us few challenges which BSF team faced due to our neighboring country. They answered our queries on valid questions as well. Our experience and feeling were next to impossible to express in the Blog. Photography at check post was not allowed and border landscape photographs were not allowed to post.
            We left International Border with the proud feeling that we touched the border. We are living safely because BSF (First Line of Defence of Indian Territories) and Indian Army performing their duties by sacrificing family. Salute to BSF and Indian Army. We Drive car slowly till Tanot as we wanted to capture every bit of Journey close to the border.



             We completed check out formalities at Tanot and took snacks break. There is small canteen at Temple run by BSF where you can get limited food Items. It was 12 in the clock and we decided to visit longewala for longewala War Museum. Longewala is war memorial which is 19 km before India-Pak international border. This was the same place where brave Indian Army fight against Pak largest army which was fully equipped with Tanks. Famous Bollywood movie "Border" was inspired and based on this war.

Way to Longewala

At Longewala

Memorial has war information, Tanks, and jeep which were captured by Indian during the war and a short movie on 1971 war. The Battle of Longewala (4–7 December 1971) was fought between 2000 Pakistani Soldiers with 45 tanks and Brave 120 Indian Soldiers commanded by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri with M40 gun Jeep. 4 Hawker Hunters help Amry on next day morning. 




Pakistani Tank captured in 1971 War

             We left Longewala by 3 PM and had lunch at Ramgarh. We came back to Jaisalmer for night stay. Our last place to visit from Jaisalmer was Ghadsisar Lake. It is Drinking water lake for City. Boating is available in Lake. We just had a walk around Lake. We did walk-in booking at Shahi Palace.

Ghadsisar Lake

We had tasty dinner at Shahi Palace Hotel's Rooftop restaurant. Our Rajasthan Road Trip comes to an end with beautiful memories. Tomorrow we will leave for LRK, Gujarat.

Expenses:
  • Car Petrol: INR 1800/-
  • Sweets for BSF team located at Border tower: priceless for us. The number doesn’t matter against happiness and their sacrifices for us.
  • Snacks as Lunch at Tanot canteen: INR 80/- (Samosa and Milk. Ramgad is the last village where you can get a Lunch)
  • Longewala Museum Movie entry: INR 50/- for 2 people
  • Juice at Longewala: INR 40/-
  • Lunch at Ramgarh village: INR 155/- (We had lunch at 4 PM)
  • Car parking at Gadisar Lake: INR 50/-
  • Stay at Jaisalmer: INR 600/- for 1 night (Basic hotel with beautiful fort view from Rooftop)
  • Dinner at Shahi Palace Hotel Rooftop restaurant: INR 435/- for 2 people
Contact numbers for your reference:
  • Shree Mohan Villas, Jodhpur: +919929006571, +919680583508
  • Sevaram Mali, Khichan: +919982372596.
  • Hotel Deep Mahal, Jaisalmer: 02992-250390, +919414365509.
  • Dylan Cafe & Guest House: +919828561818
  • Shiv Tara Desert Camp: +919636004062, +919413974062 (Budget Desert Camp Stay)
  • Rajputana Desert Camp: +919828878724, +919461008724 (Bit Costly but better arrangement and ambiance)
  • Gateway of Desert: +919950999777, +919928814283.
  • Soheb Desert Jeep Safari: +917727871989 (We took his service for Jeep Safari)
  • Uras Desert Safari: 09610366966.
  • Abu Desert Safari: +919983847476.
  • Khan Desert Jeep Safari: +919829830294.

Please click on Next blog to read about our further journey: Road trip to Little Rann of Kutch

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune

2 comments:

  1. Wow man ... What a lovely couple... I appreciate your work a lot..

    Thanks for Traveling tips

    ReplyDelete
  2. thanks for sharing such an informative blog! I love scrolling through it. I too had visited udaipur few months ago and discovered alot. the place is indeed a great place and it has amazing architecture. thanks for sharing again, It refreshed memories of the trip. I'm grateful to padharo udaipur App for bookings and recommendations.

    ReplyDelete