Tag Archives: Uzbekistan

Jaisalmer: revisiting the Silk Road

Jaisalmer is magical and outstanding, not least because it was built by yellow sandstone that has given it its nickname The Golden City. Even if Jaisalmer did not make it to my India: Top 10 places to visit, it is one of my favorite places in India.Jaisalmer The Golden CityJaisalmerSoon after its creation in the 12th century, Jaisalmer became an important trade center along the Silk Road. Tons of silk, opium and spices passed through Jaisalmer throughout the centuries. Today, it attracts visitors mainly for three reasons: 1) the location (in the middle of the stunning Thar Desert; great for desert and camel safaris) 2) Jaisalmer fort (India’s last remaining living fort) and 3) architecture (exquisite havelis and elaborate Jain temples). JaisalmerThe Jain temples, constructed between 12th and the 16th centuries, were indeed very impressive. Some 11th century manuscripts written on palm leaves are kept in the temple complex, too. Tip: be aware of the odd opening hours if you are interested in visiting the temples!Jaisalmer Jain temples Jaisalmer Jain templeWe spent two nights in Jaisalmer and loved the fort as well as the city outside the fort. Most of our time was used in walking along the ramparts and tiny streets inside the fort. It felt quite magical and amazing to witness locals, tourists and cows mixing so peacefully. The fort of Jaisalmer reminded me of another fortified city called Bukhara in Uzbekistan, also located along the old Silk Road.JaisalmerJaisalmerEven if we spent most of the time inside the fort, we did walk to the city outside the fort to visit the famous havelis. These 19th century mansions are true pearls and so elaborately carved. Some were open for visits, some weren’t. Haveli in JaisalmerWe also made some great purchases: a bag made of camel skin (we regret of not buying more of those wonderfully handmade bags!!) and silver jewelry. Indeed, shops and bazaars were very well-equipped, making Jaisalmer a great place to buy souvenirs. After all, who wouldn’t be fascinated to revisit the Silk Road trading experience…!?Jaisalmer

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: We slept at Suraj Haveli, which is a 500-year old haveli run by a friendly family. We had the Maharaja room, the biggest, and well, what can I say. It was an extraordinarily beautiful room but there were no amenities. It felt like sleeping in an abandoned house. At night we could hear haunted dogs barking. It was a full moon, the sounds were weird, and had a camel caravan arrived in front of our door, we would not have been surprised. Nothing was spooky, but it felt sort of mystical. Well, I guess authentic places feel that way for one reason: they have an old soul! (http://hotelsurajjaisalmer.webs.com/)

Secondly, the first night we ate at a random restaurant inside the fort and it was so disgusting that we left after taking the first bite. The second night we ate at Trio, outside the fort, and it was amazing. Definitely one of the best meals we had in Rajasthan! We ate at the terrace, the musicians were playing and the dinner came to less than 10€ for both of us. Wish I could relive that moment.


Note: This is the 18th post about our trip in Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan and Bombay in March-April 2008. Previous posts are:

Part 1. Arrival in Delhi: first impressions
Part 2. Eight cities of Delhi
Part 3. Road from Delhi to Agra
Part 4. Visiting Agra and Taj Mahal
Part 5. Fatehpur Sikri: what a pearl!
Part 6. Neemrana Fort-Palace: the magnificent 15th century palace
Part 7. Breathtaking Amber Fort
Part 8. Chaotic but charming Jaipur (part 1.)
Part 9. Chaotic but charming Jaipur (part 2.)
Part 10. Hotel Pearl Palace in Jaipur
Part 11. Samode Palace: live like a Maharaja
Part 12. Shekhawati: the Haveli Hub
Part 13. Enchanting Hotel Mandawa Haveli
Part 14. Karni Mata Temple (WARNING: includes images of rats)
Part 15. Subtle charm of Bikaner
Part 16. Bhairon Vilas: sleep like a Prime Minister
Part 17. Fort Pokaran: ideal oasis in the Thar Desert

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Eight cities of Delhi

Most tourists use Delhi only as an entry point to travel toward the Himalayas or Agra. Many say Delhi is a disgustingly dirty city with nothing to see, but this is not true. This may come as a surprise, but I believe everyone should spend at least two days exploring this historic city. Read more and see why!

We spent three nights in Delhi, and after our initial shock (see Arrival in Delhi: first impressions) it grew on us. We ate well, we visited well and the history of the world had never felt so fascinating. During our first day, which happened to be the Holi Festival, we had lunch at the historic Karim’s restaurant (ok food, nothing special) and visited the nearby 17th century Jama Masjid mosque. The view from the minaret was breathtaking.Jama Masjid, DelhiDuring our second day, we rented a car with a driver, and started the tour with the Red Fort, the fortified 17th century palace of the Mughal empire. Afterwards we visited the Jain temple across the street, which was our first-ever contact to Jainism, and Raj Ghat, the Gandhi memorial.

After a very pleasant lunch break at Chicken Inn (very good food), we continued toward the older sites in the southern part of Delhi. As many of you probably know, Delhi has been the capital of seven empires. Today, the ruins of these empires can be easily visited and it would be difficult for me to highlight just one, because each one of them was interesting in its own way. Firozabad, DelhiSome remaining cities reminded me of the Silk Road architecture I had seen in Uzbekistan, whereas some were pure examples of Muslim architecture. Afghan architecture was strongly present, too. To our delight, a lot had remained in a very good shape. Gutb MinarHowever, if I must mention one city to visit outside the city center, I would definitely say explore Mehrauli, the first city of Delhi, where the famous 12th century Qutb Minar is located (the one in the photo). In the same site, you can see the mysterious Iron Pillar from the 3rd or 4th century (http://wikimapia.org/7381299/Iron-pillar-of-Chandragupta-II-Vikramaditya-375%E2%80%93414-CE). Such a lovely, interesting site. We spent a lot of time here, because many Indians stopped us to be photographed with them. How cute. We felt like Bollywood stars…Mehrauli city, DelhiWe had such a fascinating day and I think Delhi completely outdid our expectations. Should I return to Delhi, I would definitely reserve one full day to revisiting all of these cities, and the ones I did not have time to see. As a tip I would suggest (like we did) renting a car especially for the visits in the southern part of the city. It can be a long way… Moreover, before you rent the car, make sure that the driver knows these cities. Everyone has probably at least heard about the Qutb Minar tower, but your driver doesn’t necessarily know the location of the other, less known cities. Ours didn’t, and he even kept insisting they don’t exist or that they aren’t worth visiting…. and to some extent he was right. At some sites we were the only people, which brings me to the last point. Visiting these southern cities can also be a nice way to get away from the hectic city center full of cars and people. Think about it and I bet you won’t be disappointed.

More information on the eight cities: http://www.delhitourism.gov.in/delhitourism/aboutus/eight_cities_delhi.jsp

PS So far, I have made three one-month long visits to India. I felt quite overwhelmed as to where to start (see e.g. India: Top 10 places to visit) but I have now made my decision. I will start unfolding my India experiences from the beginning, by posting about our first visit, which included Delhi, Agra (Taj Mahal), Rajasthan and Bombay. So, what you are reading now is the second post about this trip, and the previous one can be found here: Arrival in Delhi: first impressions. Stay tuned for more!! And don’t forget to join Pearlspotting on Facebook.

Catching the winter sunlight

Beautiful February sunlight in Paris! winter sunlight


Jewellery: Chaumet and Edouard Nahum, Paris

Wooden box: Traditional lacquer miniature painting, handpicked in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Silver box: Lancel, Paris


Travel fever

Since returning to Paris on Monday my “travel-advisory-services company” has received a bunch of inquiries from different people about traveling.  Some examples:

  • my brother has already been to Zanzibar, but asked me about Lamu in Kenya
  • someone else wanted to know about driving to Oman from Dubai
  • a blogger friend from Sydney is coming to Paris and asked for bistro recommendations
  • my husband asked me to check out “what to do around Colmar” in Alsace (his work trip just got confirmed there and I may join him)
  • and then before I noticed, I got caught up in a discussion about means of travel to reach the Aral Sea! (I have actually been there! out of all the places, yes!)

All of these discussions brought up memories, so I went to see some old photos and found this photo I took in 2003 in Mombasa, Kenya. It is one of my favorite photos ever.


PS Have you checked Pearlspotting’s Facebook page? It has a bit more updates on what is happening in Paris!