Zooming past the colourful stalls, vegetable and fruit carts and swaying camels, the driver regaled me with stories of Rajasthan. We were on our way to the Jaisalmer Marriott Resort & Spa from the Jodhpur airport. Through the five-hour journey, the driver kept me engrossed with tales of Mandore fort, Osian temples, the revered Ramdevra temple and the famous small town of Pokhran where the nuclear tests had been conducted in 1974 and 1998. Flames of curiosity had risen full force but the sun was going down. There was no time for diversions for the road wasn’t smooth. The conversation turned to snakes and superstitions until I spotted a peacock.
A short stop at a small teashop and we reached our destination in the darkness of night. The welcoming sound of drums and the shower of petals brought me out of my reverie. A colourful Rajasthani stole around my neck, a glass of lemonade to quench my thirst and a short chat with my hosts in the bright lobby were just the refreshments I needed. It was a two-day stay and the suite lavish. There was a large sitting area with a comfortable sofa, a dining table and a coffee machine. A coffee table book on Rajasthan and colourful cushions invited me to sleep there. But the king-sized bed in the bedroom looked more comfortable. A bay window overlooked the courtyard, called Oasis, and a switch near the bed controlled the blinds, which went up in seconds.
Warm soup and a small meal and I crashed out without putting on the alarm. I was told to take it easy in the morning, for “this was Jaisalmer, not Delhi”. The buffet breakfast at the all-day dining Jaisalmer Kitchen had a variety of dishes. The restaurant has regional, Indian and global cuisine. Chef Ashish Deva guided me until I found the traditional bajra roti, aloo sabzi and khichdi. There were some pickle jars at a counter too, all made in-house. Of course, there were the regular continental and egg dishes, fruits, teas and other beverages. Sitting by the glass doors, I watched the woman clothed in a traditional Rajasthani dress, ghoonghat covering her face, sitting outside in the courtyard on a raised platform, a folk singer who comes every morning. Evenings see a group singing some folk songs in the same area. Pigeons sat near the waterbody.
The sprawling 135-key property is designed along the lines of a palace, built in yellow sandstone as is the norm in the golden city. The décor is modern with elements of Rajasthan—an ancient carved wooden window was displayed on one wall. There was a dedicated play area for children. Therapies at the Quan Spa work wonders . I enjoyed a relaxing hot sand massage. Long strokes, poultices with hot sand over the aching parts and in 60 minutes I was in heaven. A herb garden is where private parties have been held. The Grand Ballroom works for weddings, conferences and other meetings.
While I was there, a rooftop restaurant and lounge Wyra and the salon were under construction. But my most enjoyable moments were in the Dunes Bar where I made my very first cocktail called Pink Mahal. The bar has designed a cocktail train, which goes like this—the Pink Mahal (Jaipur), Jodhpuri Blues (Jodhpur), Jaisalmeri Thandai (Jaisalmer), the White Pichola (Udaipur) and Smoking Tadka (Ranthambhore). I didn’t get time to take a bite of the traditional sweets of Rajasthan at the Mithai Company.
The resort organised short trips to the city’s old havelis, the famous Jaisalmer Fort and dune bashing. The Jaisalmer Fort is a World Heritage Site. Built in 1156 by the Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, this fortified city has multiple infrastructure issues as it is overpopulated. Inside lie architectural treasures like the amazing stonework on the Jain temples. Everyone heads to the dunes in Jaisalmer and for bashing it’s safer to take a closed vehicle. We went in a Toyota Fortuner with Lama Tours. Sunrise and sunset are the best times for the colours simply take your breath away.
Too soon, I was back on the road to Jodhpur. This time, I started early, stopping on the way to take photographs of the windmills and the dancing peacocks.
Location: Jaisalmer-Sam-Dhanana Road, Police Line, Jaisalmer. Nearest airport is Jodhpur (291km). The railway station is 2 km away.
Accommodation: 44 deluxe rooms, 48 oasis-view rooms, 35 fort-view rooms, 9 suites.
Tariff: From ₹9,000, varies according to the season.
Contact: +91-2992-266688, marriott.com