Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Golden Mirage

Bikaner is a crimson world, with all the palaces and mansions of officials carved out of red granite.

It took a six to seven hour drive to reach the golden city of Jaisalmer. It is actually pretty near Pakistan (around 80km). The buildings along the journey mostly consisted of army camps and high-class residences.

Once we entered the city, there were ancient castles everywhere. We checked into a mock-castle cultural relic hotel (there were like more than ten such hotels here). My wife and I had a semi-detached bungalow to ourselves, which was a little ancient but well designed. There seemed to be quite a flow of tourists here.

Once we settled down, the driver arranged for us to have a camel ride to watch the sunset. He told us that the dazzling sunsets here were a prime tourist attraction. I found his words hard to believe, but followed him nevertheless out of curiousity.

After a one-hour car journey, we reached our destination. There were indeed swarms of people there. We had to walk a bit further to book our camels.

I found it unbelievable that my wife and I had a camel and a camel driver each, with the latter instructing the camel’s movement. The camel’s strides were uneven, and we felt like we were riding on a massage chair.

After a twenty odd minute ride we finally reached our destination, but we had to wait another hour to view the sunset owing to the crowds, so we gave up in the end. The driver kept on trying to persuade us, but we insisted on returning to the hotel. On the way back, the rolling yellow sands and the golden sunshine lit the desert, making us feel like we had entered a Golden Mirage.

Tonight is Christmas Eve, and the hotel specially hosted a Christmas party for the tourist groups from France, US etc. Including a few lone travelers like us, the headcount was around 50. There was no Christmas turkey for dinner and the ball started with a traditional Indian dance, followed by disco music. As the music was quite retro, the senior French friends enjoyed themselves tremendously, whereas the youthful American friends slipped into their rooms for an early night.

The party ended before ten. I thought to myself, Singapore must be having a hell of a time celebrating Christmas now!

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