Part IV – Pushkar
Sometimes we happen to be in a wonderful place with wonderful people during the most wonderful time of the year just out of pure luck. That certainly sums up our 3 days in Pushkar.
We did not plan to go to Pushkar at all; we did not even know the name ‘Pushkar’ before coming to India. When in Kolkata, we told our travel agents we wanted to go to Jaisalmer, to that formidable fort out in the desert, to a quiet place far away from the hustles of big cities, to do a camel ride and to stay under the stars on NYE. When the first agent told us it was impossible as all trains from Jaipur and Delhi to Jaisalmer were fully booked, we were terribly upset. So we went to another one, who told us the same thing. But then this wise guy suggested “Why don’t you try Pushkar instead? I’s only 2 hours by train from Jaipur. It is a small town in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains and deserts, and you can definitely take a camel ride there”. All the boxes ticked, so we quickly did a Google Images search, and booked the tickets right away. And we never regretted that decision.
We fell in love with Pushkar, it was our favorite place in India, full stop. Pushkar doesn’t have the haunting feel of Varanasi, the grandeur of Amer Fort, the fame of Taj Mahal, and the convenience of Delhi. Its Brahma temple is tiny; its deserts more like arid landscapes than true deserts; its weather severe, hot during daytime and freezing at night; and its foods strictly vegetarian, not even eggs are allowed in the whole town. But we still loved it, and will always do.
Pushkar greeted us with the magic of Kishan Palace, a boutique hotel with a richly decorated interior disguised under an understated exterior. The two brothers cum owners – Vicky and Benny – made us feel at home right away with their warm smiles and courteous manner. They also made us feel extra special by announcing we were their very first guests from Vietnam ever, and dubbed us ‘princesses’. Only later that night we discovered that they were actually of noble blood. Their father used to be a ruler in Rajasthan before the British Empire fell. Apart from the hotel, they also have a farm, and their own camels. From then on, we called them “princes” ^_^
It was in Pushkar that we enjoyed ourselves the most. Our morning strolls turned out to be a shopping extravaganza. We were enchanted by vibrant colors of Pushkar’s Sadar Bazaar, cute little souvenirs and charming shopkeepers, and most of all, the lack of typical nagging, coercing, and overpricing of big cities. We leisurely spent our afternoons cycling around, climbing up mountains, or taking a sunset camel ride out in the deserts. Otherwise, we just lazily stayed in the hotel doing nothing but marveling at all the colorful frescoes on the walls, on the ceilings, along the staircases, even in the bathroom; munching chapati with delicious cashew nut curry prepared by Benny in his “Middle of Nowhere” kitchen, or laying out under the beautiful blue domes, and staring into the mountains, the trees, and the deserts in the distance with a big fat content smile on our faces. In the evening, we stuffed ourselves almost to the point of bursting with sublime spaghetti at Little Italy Restaurant. We laughed our heads off when we couldn’t open the lock of my bike, and had to walk with one bike piled up on top of the other, attracting curious gazes and numerous friendly inquiries from locals. And at night, we literally slept under the stars, thanks to a nice touch on the ceiling by Vicky and Benny. The guys told us they were going to visit Vietnam this year. Hope to see you again very soon, princes!
View of Pushkar from Saraswati Temple. The little town wraps around a holy lake, said to have formed from Brahma’s dropped lotus flower. The town itself is wrapped on three sides by mountains, the remaining side by desert.
The Saraswati Temple has its walls covered in holy Swastika symbols
Steps leading to the ghats by the lake
The Pushkar Lake and its ghats are kept very clean, quiet, and serene, probably thanks to these strict rules
Lys after being blessed. Like many other tourists, we were ‘forced’ to do a blessing ceremony by some witty priests. Unfortunately (for them), we outwitted them. We happily followed their instructions, asked lots of questions, then gave them a very small donation and asked for a receipt. So they got some money, we got an interesting experience, some photos and something to keep as a souvenir at a small price. Even the score ^_^
The bathing ghats
The men in white were doing some morning ceremony
A temple by the lake
Women sitting by the steps of the ghats
Cows everywhere. But surprisingly, we did not see any cow dung near the lake.
Cows on the street
And so did camels and wild boars
On the way to the market
An empty fruit juice stall in the morning
Colorful paint pigments
A fruit vendor
A sadu (?)
The local market is a shopping paradise
Local women dress up in very colorful costumes, great for photos ^_^
You can find many types of fruits and vegetables at the local market.
Some architectural features
A ceremony at Brahma Temple
A camel ride
Sunset from Saraswati Temple
The last sunset of 2012
And below are photos of the amazing Kishan Palace Hotel
Views from the hotel