The next two destinations many people skip over if they are on a tight schedule around Rajasthan, which they really shouldn’t do because seeing these cities allows you to see different angles of Rajasthan, not just the famous streets of Jaipur, Udaipur and Jaisalmer. Pushkar is a pilgrimage town, where many dreaded holy men come to dip their toes in the beautiful still lake or simply gaze out at this azure wander, marvelling at the white walls that surround the lake. The scene seems as if one of an island in Greece, but the various paintings of Hindu deities on the walls, remind you of your location: of India.
Inside the town there is a bazaar filled to the brim with all sorts to please a tourist and with so many Fed Ex and DHL shops that allow you to send packages home, it means many backpackers splurge here rather than save. Although, I was told that many of the fabric that is used here to create clothing for tourists is made from recycled saris, those who are ill or dying. I confronted a shop keeper with this information and he said they were in fact, recycled saris, although not necessarily from dying people- so be wary of this when shopping for clothes here.
You must visit the Brahma temple, (where the God Brahma dropped a lotus flower on the earth and created this memorizing lake and town). It is a cute blue temple at the top of the hill, which fits perfectly into Pushkar’s beauty, its laid back relaxed attitude and its spiritual vibe. If you can, try to hire scooters for the day and explore nearby villages in the vast mountains, as well as paying a visit to a holy man named “Baba”, who lives off a diet of potatoes.
Hidden upstairs and around corners in this quaint town, there are delightful little cafes and restaurants, all vegetarian that create culinary delights which would please any meat eater. Our two favourite restaurants are; Laughing Buddha– with its amazing Malai Kofta and half of the funds they raise go to a good cause associated with street children, and Honey and Spice that dons positive signs in the restaurant such as, “Your Real Wealth is Your Real Health”, creating yummy thoughts whilst eating yummy food. Make sure you check out the Falafel stand on the main street as well, the guy has been doing it for years and has become a master at combining all the juices and flavours into one compact package, in the form of a wrap.
It is easy to lose track of time here, and many backpackers do. Smoking hashish and munching special cookies whilst drinking “black soda”, the code word for rum, backpackers can sit out at one of the many rooftop restaurants in Pushkar, gazing out at the town below or at the beautiful stars above, smiling up into the universe with elated grins, whilst the stars smile down at them in unison.
We stayed at the Milkman Hostel, a well decorated hostel with many nooks and crannies, tortoises and a tin rooftop with a perfect view. Although the rooms were a cheap price, the staff can be quite rude and the restaurant is awful, as well as at times the hostel can be very noisy, so keep this in mind when booking.
Jodhpur looks more like a Middle Eastern town with its flat roofs, its winding streets past textile shops and the Mehrangarh Fort on the top of the cliff which casts Jodhpur into a shadow, enriching the blue walls of the city with its history and character. Make sure you visit this fort and look down at the city below, with the many buildings and its occupants playing on the rooftops and hanging out their brightly coloured saris to dry in the warm sun. An audio guide is included in your admission fee allowing you to take your time listening to each section of the palace and fort, to your own accord. After learning about the blood that was spilled over such a building, and the honourable bravery that was involved, wander down to the Clock Tower and Sadar Market, the main central location of the buying and selling whirlwind. We had the luck to be shown to a famous wholesalers, a textile warehouse that sold fabrics to stars such as Richard Gere and Liz Hurley as well as European Brands like Mui Mui, (no lie we saw the evidence). This meant we saw and felt good quality fabric with a variety of beautiful designs, various floors all packed tight as if sardines in a tin can. Which also meant our looking turned into buying- once again!
On our way to Jodhpur we made friends with a family from Hampi, who on their way to a wedding. Excited for them and inquisitive towards their style of proceedings meant we met all members of the family and the host of the wedding, who then cordially invited us to come along to the wedding reception. Not being able to contain our happiness, we smartened up for the occasion, (which is difficult for a backpacker to do) and went along. I felt apprehensive at first, as in awkward situations I talk and and ask questions, unable to deal with the resounding silence.
The family we met on the train welcomed us like we were their own extended family, adopting us and putting us under their wing, introducing us to members of their family. The children in perfect English, explained the proceedings of the bride and groom and the ceremony with the garlands of flowers. At first, we received a lot of attention; children wanting selfies and babies being thrust into my lap. But as the capacity of 500 reached the limit, (small for an Indian wedding), we blended into the crowd, as guests of the family. Being there for four hours for only one section of the wedding allowed us to recognise the lengthy procedure in what a wedding was like here. Although explosions from fireworks and glitter, explosions of love, happiness, colour and family, there is a lot of waiting involved. That is why there is such a large variety and choice of food, so everyone is satisfied throughout (as if pleasing a child by giving them ice cream- and yes they had ice cream). After trying a number of delicious vegetarian dishes and asking for seconds- I just had to, and sweets that made me split and splutter, our family allowed us to leave.
A wedding in India is a fantastic experience and a beautiful opportunity. When the bride and groom smirked at the numerous cameras, lights and directors staging their every move for the perfect wedding video, we caught glimpses of delight and amusement on each others faces, which for an arranged marriage, made the wedding more magical. The wedding in Jodhpur made our experience here unforgettable, (as well as the omelette stop- you must have an omelette here for breakfast), which thanks to the warm hearted kindness of strangers, was able to happen. And although it feels like we are constantly being cheated or scammed in India, the wedding invite is a large symbol and a reminder of what real India is like.