Jaisalmer is right out there on the frontier with the Thar Desert. Go west from Jaisalmer for some 100km and you hit Pakistan, but by the time you get halfway there you'll be detained or possibly even shot; the India-Pakistan border is hardly what you would call a relaxed part of the subcontinent. It certainly makes for an interesting area.
Perhaps it was the effect of the desert heat on the population, but I found most of the Jaisalmer locals to be either plonkers of the highest degree, sex maniacs, or both. It didn't take me long, however, to develop a defence mechanism to this potentially infuriating attitude of a town tainted by western tourism but reeling under the off-season: I just laughed at everybody. It worked, too.
I laughed at the man in the bank who claimed the foreign exchange counter was closed until the end of September, despite the fact that I had met plenty of people who had managed to change money there in the previous few days. I laughed at the man sitting in the entrance to a beautiful haveli who demanded Rs2 entrance fee, while just round the corner stood a sign saying, 'Welcome to Patwon ki Haveli, no entry fee.' I laughed at the man in another haveli who tried to sell me his tourist junk with the sales pitch, 'Just buy something small, only Rs500 or Rs1000.' I laughed at the rickshaw man who wanted to buy my hat, so I offered it to him for Rs10,000 (over ten times its western price) and he said, 'OK, I go and get ten thousand rupees.' I laughed at the restaurant owner who, having produced a huge menu of vegetarian food, proclaimed that he had no vegetables, couldn't provide me with any type of Indian food, and could only manage fried rice. I laughed at the young man who threw me a peace sign from behind his mirrored shades and yelled from inside his cluster of idiot-dude friends, 'Hey man, if you want to talk to me, have a conversation man, come over here.' The big difference between Jaisalmer and a lot of other places was that here I was laughing at the people, not with them. Something wasn't quite right.
There also seemed to be a fixation with sex in town, and of course it's a well-known fact that all westerners have constant sex, so I came across some very strange comments. As I was walking into the fort one day, a little girl of maybe seven or eight came up to me and said, 'You are very beautiful man, hello.' Walking down the street with Veronique, a Belgian now living in New Zealand whom I had met on the train from Jodhpur, we were followed by a group of astoundingly ugly young men, one of whom went right up to her back and grinned to his idiot friends as he walked in sync with her, only a foot apart: I spotted it and acted the offended boyfriend, but to them it was just a game, not sexual harassment. On the bus out of Jaisalmer to Bikaner, the young conductor announced that the driver was married, slept in the same bed with his wife and had lots of sex with her, a factlet that I could have lived without knowing. And I met an American couple, Nick and Rebecca, who fuelled my theory with two stories of their own: they had been told by a local that it was important that they only had sex once a week ('Seven days, one fuck,' was how the locals put it, to which Nick rather swiftly replied, 'One day, seven fucks'); and one night they ended up with a local musician inside their hotel room, simulating sex on the bed with some rather embarrassing pelvic thrusts into a nearby pillow. It was getting rather worrisome.
But despite the procreational obsessions of what is hopefully a small minority of the locals, Jaisalmer is a beautiful city. It is dominated by a huge and wonderfully picturesque fort, certainly one of the most attractive in India, and surrounding the hill is a sandy-coloured town of winding streets and desert buildings, hiding among its twists and turns beautiful havelis, lakes with intricate temples, and a whole menagerie of farm animals from cows to goats to pigs to dogs to human beings. The inside of the fortress is even more intensely crowded, and is therefore even more fascinating, and once you've learned to avoid the slippery cow shit it's a delightfully mediaeval place to wander round.
Even if every now and then you have to laugh.