May 19-20, 2016
Arriving to Pushkar
An air-conditioned bus took us to Ajmer where we caught a local bus to Pushkar. The 30-minute bus from Ajmer to Pushkar only cost us 25rp ($0.40). We dropped our bags off at our room and went for a walk into town before it got dark.
The City of Pushkar
We quickly noticed half a dozen white people as we strolled the streets, something we haven't witnessed since Kathmandu, Nepal. Pushkar seems to be largely a tourist destination, though the vast majority of tourists are Indian. Unlike every other place we've visited travelers in India are largely domestic. What I mean is that Indians travel within India more than other nationalities. It may just be due to the huge Indian population and their relatively low wages--making international travel unreachable.
We walked to the lake and saw dozens of children bathing and swimming in the many ghats. I asked Sylvie if she wanted to go for a swim and she just stared at me in disgust. Later that night we saw a puja being performed on the lake. Pushkar is a holy city and many Indians make a pilgrimage to visit the one of the very few Brahma Temples in the world. It dates back to the 1400s. We didn't go in because I had visited it the last time I was in Pushkar and was in and out in 3 minutes. Pushkar is such a holy city that it's almost impossible to find beer being sold in any of the many rooftop and curbside restaurants. Meat is illegal and is not allowed to be consumed in the city.
We passed by a barber that called to us and convinced me I should have a haircut. Hey, for 100rp ($1.50 USD) I thought it was a killer deal. Afterwards he started rubbing my shoulders and tried to sell me on a 15-minute head and neck massage...I wasn't biting. After returning to our room for a quick shower we went out to a rooftop restaurant (Sixth Sense) that is rated top 5 (out of 80+) restaurants by TripAdvisor. The atmosphere was stunning and the place even had a tiny elevator to transport the food from the kitchen on the ground floor (1st floor in American) up to the seating areas on the 3rd and 4th floor (4th and 5th floor if you're using American terminology). There were vines growing within the large open interior of the hotel. There were a variety of wooden staircases (some winding, some narrow, some highly decorated) flanking the perimeter of the hotel making the place feel more like a personal mansion than a hotel. Actually many hotels are called Havelis, which is a generic term used for a townhouse or mansion in India. The derivation is Ababic. Despite the raving reviews the food was average at best.
During the next day in Pushkar Sylvie and I ate, shopped, ate, and shopped. We started the day with our first good breakfast while in India. Sylvie bought a new pair of flashy pants and a dress whereas I bought a mango. However I may buy a new shirt and white pants tomorrow in Jaipur to look handsome for my 30th birthday, which is in a few days.
We also bought 4 patchwork pillows that we plan to send home. We had spent many hours scouring the shops to find the perfect ones and finally settled on the original shop we had looked at. We really liked the pieces on display but couldn't find anything similar for sale. We discovered that the sun had bleached the colors on the display pieces so much that it made them look dull and muted. Sylvie and I actually preferred this look. After a while of going back and forth (between shops and selections) we ended up on 2 square pillows, a circular pillow, and a cylindrical stool. We'll have to stuff them ourselves back at home. The shopkeeper, along with all other, where largely inflexible in their pricing and kept saying fixed price. Many of the shop keepers said that since it was low season they just start at a lower price and save on the negotiating. I don't quite believe them, but still can't understand why they were so unwilling to drop their prices, even a little. He was firm on the 1,500rp ($23 USD) for the 4 pieces but I bargained hard. I was able to get him down to 1,200rp ($18 USD) but it came with a cost. The transaction became heated and he was very unhappy with the deal, however no one forced him to accept it. I handed him 3 500rp bills and asked for change. He tried to tell me he didn't have enough and told me "how about I pay 1,300rp". I told him I'd pay the 1,160 I had in my pocket or I would wait for him to get change. He continued to hassle me for more money. It really upsets me how pathetic and lacking of ethics the majority of Indians are (the ones I've interacted with). We had both agreed on a set price and I even put my hand out to shake on the deal. After he shook it he still tried to scam me for more money. I saw in his cash register that he did in fact have ample change. It's getting increasingly hard for me to respect a culture that doesn't see me as an individual but only as a potential prospect to be scammed for money. In support of that last statement this is what two shopkeepers said to me today, "Hey you" (them flapping their hands in my face) "You bring lots of money and spend it here".
Last time when I was in Pushkar I bought two patchwork rugs that were unfortunately lost in my move from Memphis to Philadelphia. I told myself that I would go back to India and replace the pieces, but after returning to Pushkar I don't think I will be able to fulfill that dream. Whereas patchwork rugs where commonplace seven years ago they are now only sold in 1 or 2 shops. The variety has greatly diminished and the 1 piece that Sylvie and I saw was selling for 80,000rp ($1,200 USD). It must have been quite the original piece of art. I think the pillows more than make up for my desire to replace my old pieces. I don't remember seeing any pathwork pillows being sold 7 years ago but now they seem to have replaced the once ubiquitous rug.
Our last night in Pushkar included a nice pizza dinner and a romantic walk around the lake. There were less than a dozen people around the entire lake. However we were scolded by almost every one becuase he had our sandals on. The law is that all patrons must remove their shoes when they are 40 ft from the ghat's stairs. Several times we tried to put the shoes back on but we were quickly yelled at. It it weren't for the loose stones, cow feces, and crawling critters we would be happier to comply with the shoe rules.
Old Blog - Pushkar 2009