My solo bag packing trip to Rajasthan was filled with many experiences and obviously provides me loads of meat to blog about. My last blog revolved around trusting your gut feeling, and taking that thread ahead, I want to share yet another page from my Rajasthan Chronicles.
“Don’t go to Pushkar, it is so dirty that in spite of being an Indian you will find it unbearably filthy. Besides Pushkar Mela in November, there is nothing much to see, just a brahma temple that’s all. You will be bored out of your wits if you go there. If you want, stay in Ajmer and make a day trip to Pushkar and back. Besides, it is brimmed with perpetually high hippies smoking pot and not very safe for women, tujhe nahi maloom ? (Don’t you know?)
This was one of many opinions I got while I was finalizing my Rajasthan itinerary. Given the limited time I had, I wanted to make the most of it but at the same time did not want to follow a “touch-and-go” approach and check off as many places as I could in the given time frame. With Rajasthan I was spoilt for choice, there is just so much to see. I was mostly confused between Udaipur and Pushkar. Hence I went around asking people who have already been these places and voraciously read blogs on both. While Udaipur boasts of beautiful palaces, Pushkar is a quaint bag packer’s paradise. Ofcourse there was more to it than just Pushkar lake and Bramha temple. I also believe that each person looks at places differently and the way it appeals to different personalities also varies. So while it is good to take opinions and suggestions, don’t bias you views based on others .#ProTip
From whatever I read and saw of Pushkar, I was instantly intrigued. Apart from being extremely photogenic, it indeed was a spiritual place nestled in Aravalli Hills, with only brahma temple in the world.
I did get mixed opinions for Pushkar and you would get no brownie points for guessing if it made it to my itinerary. If nothing else, I will just sit back relax and read a book with spiritual chants in the background, I reassured myself of the choice I picked.
Next task was to look for a place to stay. I followed the conventional route and darted to lonely planet and TripAdvisor. Me being me, I researched a lot and it took me a while to decide on a place that struck a right balance between location, amenities and price. I was hell bent on having an open terrace, where I envisaged myself reading a book whilst sipping a cuppa.
Lonely planet threw up its recommendation on hotels in Pushkar and I shortlisted a few. One of the hotels I saw was highly recommended by lonely planet and they claimed that their independent authors have visited the place and given a stamp of their approval. This particular hotel made it to my top 3. I then went to TripAdvisor and followed the same regime. Next step in my drill was to check the reviews on TripAdvisor and see reviews by solo travelers. More often than not, experiences of a couple/family will vary from that of solo traveler and I make sure I cover most of the reviews and specifically the ones with Poor and Terrible rating. (If you are new to TripAdvisor, check the screen shot below and you will know what I am talking about)
Yes it does bias my opinion based on a few bad experiences by disgruntled travelers which are overwhelmingly out shadowed by excellent and good reviews. Honestly, TripAdvisor reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt as I feel some reviews are rigged and I have read reviews of many foreigners which stated that the owners have harassed them to write a good review on TripAdvisor, to an extent that they wouldn’t let them leave the premises without typing in a good review. Well, I know it is extreme, but all I am saying is don’t be fooled by the good reviews and cover all bases.
So when I looked for the reviews of this particular “recommended hotel” by Lonely planet, it was inundated with excellent and very good reviews. But when I ran my filters, I came across a bunch of reviews from a solo female travelers who reported how they were harassed by this particular over friendly staff and management did not do anything. There was another review that said that hotel guys were filming her through her room window while she was sleeping. One German guy also wrote that it is not safe for women traveler. I was shocked to no bounds for it was a “recommended hotel” by Lonely Planet. Reading this review I was thinking in my head, Is Pushkar really a safe place? Or should I just change my itinerary.
I knew I wanted to go to Pushkar, so I just shrugged off this thought and continued with my research, thinking Thank god, I just did not blindly go with Lonely Planet recommendation and book a hotel. Both my filters proved to be very useful and now part of my routine research.
After my through research, I finally shortlisted 2 hotels- Kanhaiya Haveli and Hotel Everest (both ranked number 2 and 6 respectively on TripAdvisor). Unable to decide between the 2, I booked both the hotels for one day each. I used booking.com and reserved the place by paying a token fee.
Cut to my Rajasthan Trip
After Jodhpur, my next stop was Pushkar. After 4 hours of bus journey to Ajmer and then 20 mins of local bus ride, I finally reached Pushkar. For day 1 in Pushkar, I had booked Kahaiya Haveli. The location of this hotel was perfect, it was a 5 mins walk from the bus stop and since there are no auto rickshaws in Pushkar, I thought it will be ideal to walk down.
It was around noon that I reached Pushkar and sun was shining in its full glory. My shoulders were armed with a huge rucksack, a camera bag and pink bag pack and it took forever to reach the hotel, although my watch just clocked 7 mins!
Kahnaiya haveli had a very welcoming and grand entrance and my shoulders were ecstatic at the sight. The reception was not as grand as the entrance, but does it really matter, I thought. All my mind could think of is a comfortable bed with fresh bedsheets, where I would crash. The guy at the reception introduced himself and showed me my room. I entered the room and it was so very small and claustrophobic, that I couldn’t help but raise my concerns to the guy (who later I came to know was the owner). He did not quite take my views nicely and reluctantly showed me another room. Room 2 was slightly better but just did not feel quite right. I told him that the room doesn’t seem to be anything close to how it appeared in pictures and I thought the rooms were big but instead they are so stuffy. That was it, and it irked him to no bounds, he started yelling and hurling abuses at me. I was so shocked that I could not react for a second. What just happened? I quickly gathered myself and first and foremost asked him to lower his voice and talk properly. He was in no mood to listen and was abusing like there is no tomorrow. I was so infuriated that even I started yelling back and not taking any of this sh*t, I picked my bags up to leave. To have his say, he ordered me to get out of the hotel “Chal nikal bahar yahan se”
While my mind was still trying to wrap my head around what is really going on, I incessantly argued about his ethics and the way he was treating a women. Within 3 minutes of heated argument, I was out of the hotel, only to realize that I was standing in front of the same grand gate shouting back at that spineless prick, with many people gathered around. That’s when I realized I am not in Pune, I was in Pushkar some several thousand kms away from home and with no place to go. It took me a minute to absorb what was happening and i had to think of plan B QUICKLY
I left that place immediately and started looking for another place to stay. So much for the extensive research, so much for filters, so much for the reviews. That moment, all I was thinking is to find a hotel and then quickly write a very nasty TripAdvisor review for that stupid hotel that was ranked number 2!!! That was the best plausible revenge I could think of apart from going with a gang of women and beat that guy up and teach him a lesson, which of course wasn’t feasible, unfortunately.
I looked at many hotels ranging from one called Dr.Alone (yes that’s what it was called) and whose rooms smelled like a morgue or at least in my head they did. Most of the hotels were booked and my luck I felt was running out. Until suddenly there was a Eureka moment and I realized I had booked 2 hotels in Pushkar. Damn it, why did not I think of it before!!!!
I quickly called up Hotel Everest and inquired about the rooms. They said they would call me back and inform if any. What appeared like forever, I did get a call from Hotel Everest in 10 mins and they said they had a room. #WIN
So this was my first 2 hours in Pushkar and the next 46 hours in Pushkar were nothing short of blissful. It was definitely not love at first sight, but after a shaky start it found a really special place in my heart.
To sacred and shimmering Pushkar Lake, to bells of the 500 plus temples surrounding the 52 ghats, to vibrant bazaars, to fluorescent turbans and colorful ghargras, to rustic jewelry, to unforgettable sound of ektara, to hordes of bag packers and hippies, to the serene sunset, to awesome Israeli food, to desert camel rides, I was in love with Pushkar and now can’t wait to go back again. This time perhaps during Pushkar Mela J
Pushkar has lots of interesting tales to offer and in my photoblog, I have managed to capture a few. Do take a look, if it interests you.