The golden stretch of arid landscape of Thar desert in Jaisalmer has always lured and enticed travelers from around the world. But the most fascinating and compelling thing in this part of India is its culture and heritage which infuses life and color into this barren land of desert. The Sam sand dunes around 40 km from the main city of Jaisalmer has several desert camps set up in the midst of desert with safari tours and folk performances which make for an authentic desert life experience.
For our first day in Jaisalmer, we had our booking done in Chokhi Dhani one of the best hotels in Jaisalmer which made it easier for us to explore the golden city of Jaisalmer. Chokhi Dhani hotel offers its guest with luxury rooms and suites well equipped with services and facilities. Chokhi Dhani Desert camps of Jaisalmer provides its guests with an authentic desert experience in luxury and comfort of its tents.
We set off from Barmer after a quick visit to the intriguing haunted temples of Kiradu and reached the Chokhi Dhani hotel by evening. The edifice built of sandstone was bedecked with miniature cenotaphs and reliefs of elephants epitomizing the local art and architectural style. We had a warm welcome at the entrance with cool kokum drinks offered while the porter transported our luggage to our rooms.
The room was spacious decorated tastefully with an ethnic touch. A reading table, a coffee table with a tea kettle and large cupboards stood beside the bed. The attached bathrooms were spacious with shower cubicles and provided with the set of toiletries.
The breakfast next morning was complimentary. The breakfast menu included a choice of seasonal fruits and juices, bread and butter and a choice of Indian breakfasts. The chef made us fresh and tasty omelet as per our order.
Other amenities in the hotel included gym and spa, outdoor swimming pool, multi-cuisine restaurant-bar and a conference banqueting hall.
After breakfast, we checked-out from the hotel left our luggage with the reception and headed to complete our Jaisalmer city tour. Post lunch we collected our luggage and headed to the desert camps of Chokhi Dhani. This option was suggested by the Chokhi Dhani manager when we called up for booking. As the stay at the hotel and the Jaisalmer desert camps offer with a different experience altogether.
The Desert Camps of Chokhi Dhani were set up around a km from the famed Sam Sand dunes. Several camels decorated in brightly colored saddles waited along the road. We reached the Chokhi Dhani Desert Camp around 5 pm. The manager walked us through the camp while our luggage was being ported to our tents.
The grand entrance painted with frescoes and bedecked with lanterns created a rustic welcome aura. The campground had an impressive village fair setup. The activities and performances in the fair were scheduled to start only after dusk.
The Swiss tents are made of concrete walls covered with block printed cloth giving it a quaint look. These were much better than the ones we booked on our last trip to Rajasthan which were mere cloth tents and it turned terribly freezing at night. There was a small veranda at the entrance with easy chairs. The rooms were equipped with fans, television, coffee table and a cupboard.
We were surprised to find the bathrooms almost half the size of the living room with a large mirror, cabinet, sink and a necessary set of toiletries along with 24 hours running hot water.
The manager asked us to have evening snacks and proceed to desert safari. The safari started around 5.30 pm. Camels and Camel carts were waiting outside the camp to transport the visitors to the Sam sand dunes. We reached the dunes just in time to behold the mesmerizing sunset over the undulating dunes.
We spent some time watching the entrancing colors over the horizon. It was amazing to watch how the desert so barren and stark entices so many tourists of all age and origin. And how these colorfully decorated camels spill colors into these otherwise drab deserts. Every year a grand camel fair is held in the town of Pushkar which is some 150 km from Jaipur city. Visiting this fair and riding camels in Pushkar is one of the popular things to do in Rajasthan.
Our train of thoughts was broken by a small boy who requested to play a local musical instrument to entertain us. As the cool breeze blew on our face and the twilight permeated the sky a melody escaped the little boy as he played one of the enchanting tunes of the deserts. These are some the original performances which make for a wonderful experience.
The evening had just begun. We had a warm welcome back at the camp with Aarti & Tikka (a beautiful tradition in India to welcome guests). We were offered a glass of jaljeera, a tangy sour Indian drink which is very good for digestion. We had a couple of glasses and proceeded to check out the performances.
There was a game zone, where several games like shooting, archery, and other games were set up.
We stopped by a couple singing folk songs. The man wore a colorful turban asked for our favorite numbers and played a Rajasthani musical instrument while the lady in her traditional Rajasthani attire hid her face in the veil and played the tabla. Their kids danced to the tune and to our delight, Chhavi clambered up onto the stage and tried imitating the kids.
Next was the magic show where a man puzzled us with his tricks and fast hand movements to perform magic. We had our share our fun as Chhavi kept confusing the magician when she kept misplacing his props.
The most interesting show was the puppets dancing on the Bollywood folk songs. We also bought a couple of stuffed puppets made by the puppeteer. The man was elated and said that it would help his kids education. He had three kids who had starting going to a school which had recently opened in their village. He said all the performers come from far off villages and stay here for the time the camps are set up that is during the tourist season which helps them support their livelihood. The life in desert definitely was very hard and tourism is the major source of income. His decision that his kids would not continue the puppet show left us with a melancholy for the dying culture and heritage.
The final and the blockbuster performance of the evening was the folk dance performance where the women danced on metal plates and with pots on the head. We had seen a similar performance at Dharohar Folk Dance Program at Bagore ki Haveli in Udaipur though watching it in the midst of desert was a unique experience.
The cultural performances were followed by a delicious Rajasthani dinner. The food was served in thalis placed on low stools. We sat on the floor in a traditional Indian style and devoured as the delicious food was served to us one by one. Camping in Thar was one of the best things to do in the golden city of Jaisalmer.
After the wonderful evening and the scrumptious dinner, we had a nice comfy sleep through the night. We woke up early for we had to leave for Jodhpur exploring more of the Rajasthan culture and heritage on the way. The sun rising through the huts on the campground made for a perfect postcard picture.
After a hearty complimentary breakfast, we bid our bye to the golden city of Jaisalmer and headed to embrace the blue city of Jodhpur, our last destination on Rajasthan trip.
The desert camps are one of the top Jaisalmer tourist places and offer a remarkable experience. Have you stayed in the desert camps in Rajasthan? How has been your experience?