With about a month left to go In Goa, I had a choice to make. Do I head south for more beautiful beaches or do I head north for the land of snake charmers, camels and turbans? The idea of spending more time on the beach was definitely something that interested me, but it was time to move on and explore what I like to call the “real India.” It is often said that Rajasthan has more history than the rest of India combined. From the vast deserts to the camels and elephants clogging up the roadway, Rajasthan is a place that encompasses what India is truly about. I knew that I would regret not exploring this magical place before it was time to move onto Nepal. So I booked a 24 hour train journey that would take me to the small southern town of Bundi. For the next month, the state of Rajasthan known as the ‘Land of the Kings’, would be my home.
India is full of overwhelming and chaotic towns and cities. Bundi is not one of them. Bundi can be described as laid back, blue, captivating and has a magnetism all of its own. Surrounded by rolling hills, Bundi is a small town full of narrow streets, shops, step wells, temples and palaces. Looking down from the hillside Bundi Palace, nearly the whole city is painted in a light shade of blue. Bundi is full of people from many different religions, yet they go about there day in perfect peace. Whether walking the narrow streets or shopping in the market, almost everyone you pass will greet you with a smiling face and a warm greeting. Bundi is also a town full of parties and festivals. On any given night there will be music blaring from speakers and fireworks going off while crowds of people parade down the street celebrating who knows what. Bundi is a place to get lost in your thoughts, a place to escape the madness that is India. You may plan on spending just a couple nights in this enchanting town, but don’t be surprised if those couple nights turn into 7 or 10.
A 5 hour bus ride north from Bundi will take you to the hustle and bustle capital city of Jaipur, also known as the ‘Pink City’. Not one for big cities, I was not sure how my 4 nights in Jaipur would go. By the end of it, I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty that this crazy city holds. On my first full day I decided to venture down the famous shopping district known as M.I. Road on my way to the old city. Now more of an orange color than pink, the old city is full of shops selling everything from copper wire to barrels of spices and childrens clothes. There is also the beautiful City Palace which was built by Sawai Jai Singh in the 1700s. It is quite a fabulous place with museums devoted to armories and royal clothes. On my second and third day, I hired a rickshaw driver to take me around to all the major sites in Jaipur. Our first stop was the mesmerizing Amber Fort. There are many courtyards, a beautiful garden and other sub-structures within the complex but I found the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) the most impressive. This is a room covered in tiny mirrors and the total effect is mesmerizing. One could easily spend several hours within Amber Fort. On the way to Galwar Bagh (the monkey temple) which overlooks the whole of Jaipur ,we stopped at Jal Mahal which stands in the middle of Man Sagar Lake. You cannot actually visit the palace premises inside the lake but even from the shores it is a beautiful site. From the age old temples to the Louis Vuitton and Nike shops lining M.I. Road, the capital city is worth a visit while in Rajasthan.
In the month before I had planned to visit Jaisalmer during the famous Desert Festival. The festival is full of competitions such as camel racing and polo, turbin tying, Mr. Desert and of course the popular mustache competition. Outside of the hectic festival sits a desert town full of ancient ruins being overlooked by the amazing Jaisalmer Fort. The city of Jaisalmer continues on into the fort which is full of Jain temples and Havelis. A very popular activity while in Jaisalmer is taking a desert camel safari overnight. Jaisalmer is a great place to get lost. Just when you think there is nothing else to see, you stumble across another beautiful temple or lake. At the end of each day I would make a trip to the famous ‘Lassi Shop.’ These arent just any kind of lassi, which are a yogurt drink by the way, these are special bhang lassis. Go ahead and look up bhang lassi to get a better idea. Rajasthan is one of the few places in India where Bhang is legal, so I was sure to take advantage of this opportunity while I could.
From Jaisalmer I headed by bus to the busy city of Jodhpur. Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan, and it is also known as the blue city. Though the small town of Bundi was much more blue, Jodhpur definitely has its share of the color. After finding that there was a hostel named after Bob Marley, I knew I had to come to this city. The center of town is based around a century old clock tower, which happens to be right in the middle of the enormous Sardar Market. If you want to do some cheap shopping then this is the place to do it. Looking up from the market you will notice the massive Mehrangarh. This military fort stands almost 400 feet about Jodhpurs skyline. From the fort you can walk to Jaswant Thada, which is a beautiful white memorial to Jaswant Singh II, which is made almost completely out of marble. After just a few days of wandering the city and market, I was ready to escape the craziness and head to the small peaceful and holy town of Pushkar.
Pushkar with its laid back and spiritual feel was by far my favorite place in all of Rajasthan. It is said that Lord Brahma, the creator of the world, was looking for a place to perform a ‘mahayagna’. In order to search for an appropriate venue, a swan carrying a lotus in its beak was released. It was decided that the yagna would be performed where the lotus fell. The lotus fell in Pushkar, forming the Pushkar lake. Pushkar is now home to one of the few temples in the world dedicated to Lord Brahma. Pushkar is not a place in India where you come to see the sights, for there are not many to see. This is a place to relax and go with the flow in order to soak up the culture and allow India to show you its true beauty. My days were full of walking down Sadar Bazaar, eating amazing food and reading on the many ghats that surround Pushkar Lake. Being a holy city, Pushkar shut down quite early in the evening. Though there was never a shortage of loud music and parties due to the insane amount of weddings that take place here. The feeling I got being in Pushkar is like no other I got while in India. I could easily spend weeks, if not months in this small and enchanting town. Pushkar will forever have a special place in my heart, and I hope to one day return.
In the end, Rajasthan lived up to everything that I had hoped it would be. It was crazy, beautiful, hectic and captivating. Rajasthan was able to show me what India was all about. The people were so welcoming and the culture simply amazing. If you want to really see India, than Rajasthan is a must see for anyone planning a trip. With about 10 days left in India, lets see what Agra and Varanasi have to say for themselves. Rajasthan, its been real!