Man down this week (well, for 3 days)… During my first 4 weeks, I was very fortunate to maintain good health, even when my peers were becoming unwell. However, the start of week 5 was when disaster struck. Tuesday morning started off like any other morning, there was a touch of tummy cramps, but I didn’t think too much of it, so I went off to work. A few hours later, in a washroom at the Lallubhai worksite, I realsied that the early cramps had been a warning sign. Thus, I spent my Tuesday afternoon in and out of said washroom. By 4pm, fever had joined me, and I decided it was best to make the 1.5-hour commute home. The rickshaw to the station was a blur, and then I fell asleep on the train but was kindly woken by a stranger at the end of the line, which thankfully was my stop. Then after some fever-dazed walk, I was safe and sound in bed. The bed and washroom proceeded to be my place of refuge for the following two days with a diet of flat lemonade but, thankfully, a relatively quick recovery. Note to self: it ain’t all Instagram dreams all the time.
It may be too soon for a food review following my troubles this week, but I’m in Mumbai! Gulab jamun made a reappearance because, yes, they are just that good. I heard from some sources that we can get these tasty morsels at the sweet shop on Sandringham road in Auckland, so adventure is planned when I return home. Then, because it was Valentine’s this week, I took my colleagues some white peda to celebrate (a milk fudge-like biscuit with pistachios). And one must remember Kulfi, my roommate, and I hosted a Kulfi tasting party to check out mango, chocolate chip, pistachio, malai, and strawberry flavours this week. FYI: Swiggy is a fantastic delivery service that will bring you kulfi pretty much anytime, day or night – I have realised this is both good and bad.
A new week and a new adventure. This week’s main event was a weekend trip to Rajasthan, specifically Jaisalmer. Before coming to India, I had no idea India had deserts. Landing in the desert is something different; the land is so flat and consists of sand or sand coloured buildings, and the dry heat hits you quickly but warms your soul. We were lucky to stay at the Bordi desert camp the first night in luxurious tents. At Bordi, we rode camels up the dunes to watch the sunset, experience a cultural night, and learn how to dance the local dances. Then once it was dark enough, we jumped into jeeps and headed further into the desert to go dune riding and star gazing. FYI, the desert provides the best sleep of your life under a night sky full of stars.
Into the big city of Jaisalmer, time to explore palaces and meet princes. Our fantastic lead, Naveen, at GCC has a friend who is a Prince in Jaisalmer, and we were fortunate enough to stay at one of his palaces that has been converted into a hotel. The rooms were majestic, each with its own unique theme and decor. Furthermore, the palace’s location was so central to everything in the city. On one of our outings we popped down the road just a few hundred meters and were able to explore the Mandir palace. The architecture here is so beautiful and intricate that it made me think of a real-world Aladdin (Disney brought to life).
Sometimes one must ask the question: what do cows have for breakfast in India? Well, one fine morning in Jaisalmer city, I watched on as the local cows were fed chapati for breakfast (unleavened bread). Literally, cows came to see a wonderful man handing out chapatis for each and every cow. Now I can’t say that this occurs everywhere, but in my unqualified opinion, the cows seemed to love the chapati. In other news… Jaisalmer, also known as the Golden city, features a living Fort. It is a sight to behold from almost any angle around the city. I had the opportunity to explore the Fort on foot and also shop an afternoon away in its many fabulous stalls. Later that evening, the PMSA family came together to dine on the rooftop of our palatial accommodation and were blessed with the breathtaking view of the Fort lit up in the night sky.
Following an afternoon of tiring Fort exploration, one must ensure they rest themselves by taking to a leisurely rowboat tour around a local lake. At the cool Gadisar Lake, I jumped onto a rowboat with friends and set off to tour nearby temples and architecture. The atmosphere was tranquil and golden. Then I sat on the steps and watched the most glorious sunset whilst talking and making friends with some locals. The great thing about Jaisalmer being less populated compared to Mumbai is that everyone seems to have more time to talk to you and suggest the best parts about their city. Following sunset, we challenegd the capacity of a local rickshaw and somehow managed to get 10 of us on one vehicle (usual capacity is 4). The driver was awesome and drove us right into the palace grounds.
Early morning called for a journey out of the city to Bada Bagh. This was recommended to us by Khan, a local whom we had met at sunset the night before. Bada Bagh is home to cenotaphs of the Jaisalmer Royal family located within a vast garden that overlooks mango groves. The cenotaphs are a range of sizes and designs and have all been built from sandstone blocks which encase smaller marble slabs that have written and depicted stories about the respective royal member that the specific structure is attributed. Joelle and I were lucky to have an amazing driver who doubled as a photographer, ensuring we got good pictures to share with our families and friends. Note to future travellers: the city of Jaisalmer is not an early riser on the weekend, and thus, if you get in before 9 am to this beautiful site, you too could have the entire place to yourselves.