Realities of Rajasthan

So, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Rajasthan? It has to be either a ride on the camels or the pretty lehariya dupattas and saris famous there. The Sam desert on the outskirts of Jaisalmer is recommended for those who want to take a tour on the sands. In fact with winter coming up, Rajasthan in India will be on the top of most tourists’ mind. So, charges for a camel ride, did you just ask? The rates differ vastly during the off season and season months, which are typically from October to February, with November, December and January being the peak months.
Frankly, how much you pay for a camel ride depends on how rich you look!

Price for a camel ride:

The camel handler will typically charge Rs 250 for a ride that begins from the road where the owners are waiting for their camels to be hired till a point in the dunes. The handler will walk ahead will you are perched on a cushioned seat on the hump. Once he leaves you in the dunes, he will ride the camel back to the road and wait for more customers. The price for the same routine escalates to Rs 1,000 or even Rs 2,000 during the peak tourist season, in the months of November till January. One camel keeper confided that the rates are not fixed and are generally decided on the spot, judging the customer’s capacity to pay. So it’s usually charge anywhere between Rs 800 to Rs 1,500 while the rates for foreign tourists are Rs 1,000 upwards only.
Also, the rates mentioned above are only to drop you till the desert, or a few steps into it. If you want a full tour, you have to cough up more. The options are a full desert tour, a camel race or a ride back to where you started from. There are a number of entertainment options once you reach the dunes too. Groups of men and women put up a show, with the women dancing to folk songs that men sing. The twirling of skirts adorned with local embroidery and mirror work, with beige dunes serving as a canvas makes for a pleasant sight and more imporantly, excellent pictures.

Beware of the lehariyas

Next stop: Shopping. The one most common item found on almost everyones shopping list is: Lehariya duppattas, suits or saris. You get the same thing for about the same price in every other metropolitan city in the country, but I guess there is a charm to wearing one that you can claim to have picked up in Rajasthan itself. But here’s a word of caution before you, like many other always-in-a-hurry travellers, just pile on lehariya sets at the cash counter. Always open the suit or the dupatta to check the length of the chunni. Most of them are quite short and those who like only lengthy chunnis will be disappointed. Some dupattas come in ‘bada panna’ (increased width). It’s no magic, the shopkeeper attaches an identical chunni piece to the existing one, for a wider breadth causing it to look clumsy, to say the least. My friends were in for a rude shock when they saw dupattas with a joint on them, but only once they were back in the city. Luckily for them, good sense prevailed and they separated the joint piece from the real chunni and made a stole out of the extra piece.
Moral of the story: Always open and check the dupattas and even sari length before buying them.

Use the extra bit of the dupatta as a stole

For Jewellery Junkies:
The city of Jaisalmer has several stores where you can scout for typical Rajasthani bags, outfits and mirrored jewellery. But silver jewellery aficionados will be pleased to learn that tucked away in the bylanes of Jaisalmer is a house that specialises in silver items. Shri Charbuja Jewellers is a family run business, the bunglow which they operate from is their residence as well. Guests are ushered into a room and one of the men will come with boxes filled with silver pendants, bracelets, necklaces and earrings and they are priced according to the weight, design and stones used in it. I found some really cool designs of a whistle pendant (which you can blow into), miniature crocodies, turtle (both with moving limbs and head), etc. They’re primarily into manufacturing and exporting silver, gold and ethnic jewellery but they welcome tourists who drop by occasionally too.
You can call them at 9414206089, 9782583101 or check out www.shricharbhuja.com.

Cool cat and other silver jewellery at Shri Charbhuja

 

 

Lanka Shopping:

Colombo has a lot to offer to shoppers, so keep at least one day aside for shopping. Peta, the street shopping haven, is at Colombo city. It’s a five minute walk from Colombo city railway station. Ask for directions along the way. In fact there are tones of street stalls (like the Colaba street market), selling belts, wallets, tops and the like on the way too, so ditch the auto and stroll along. The rates are dirt cheap but you may not find too much variety in terms of fashion. Cotton skirts and shirts for kids (aged 3-5 years) are available for as little as 50 Sri Lankan Rupees (SLR). That makes it 25 INR! No need to bargain, right? Again, the finish is not great, so no matter how hard you look, every piece will have strings of thread hanging loose or a stitch that was not right.  

Luckily, we chanced upon an export store, stacked with tones of dungarees for 250 SLR (125 INR). I bought a beige cotton pair. But there were variants in denim and corduroy as well. And high-waist multi-coloured shorts. Apart from this, we didn’t get lucky!

House of fashion: Must visit store. The best part is that there is a currency exchange counter at the store itself. Clothes for men, women and kids, kitchen items, show pieces, wallets, cuff links, bags, laptops bags, jewellery, toys, footwear, House of Fashion has it all. And you’ll probably get the most ‘original fakes’ here. I got a pair of LV cuff links for 600 SLR (approx). The labels of tops were holed through… just in case you’re looking to gift stuff from here.

Address: 28, R. A De Mel Mawatha, Colombo 5.

Odel: One of the first malls in Colombo. It’s pretty much like our Shoppers Stop outlets, with clothes, shoes and jewellery to offer.

CAUTION: I bought a stunning necklace, to gift to a friend. I paid around 500 INR for it and the chain, originally golden in colour, turned black, within 15 days. Sniff, sniff.

Lakmedura: Visit for masks, keychains, T-shirts and other souvenirs.