The Travelling Teacher: Pushkar and Jaipur

 

This week’s blog

 

Last week was all about Uh-mazing Udaipur and this week I’ll be writing about the ‘desert-like’ Pushkar and the busy Jaipur.

 

This week’s entry is dominated by Fort visits but I have seen some of the most amazing forts. Read on to find out more!

 

Getting there

 

To get from Udaipur to Pushkar, again we took a taxi, this took us around 5 hours. If you’re looking for a quick route, then it is definitely much quicker to fly, with a flight taking approximately 1hour 30 mins. However if, like myself, you like a bargain and if you have time to spare, the taxi route could be cheaper. When finding the best route, I often use a really useful online site – ‘Rome2Rio’- this site shows you estimate times and prices for your journey by comparing the different modes of transport – it’s a great tool to use!

 

Also, another perk to taking the taxi meant we could slightly customise our route.  The owner of the homestay we’d been in at Udaipur had told us about an amazing fort that we needed to see before we left. So, for only a slight increase to our taxi fair, our driver agreed. We headed to Chittaurgarh on route to Udaipur and we were so pleased we’d made time to schedule this stop in, it was completely worth it!

 

Chittaurgarh

 

Our driver took us higher up, up and up. We went up some windy roads up a hill before getting to the entry gate/ car park for the Chittaurgarh Fort. For a fee of around 200 rupees each, approximately 2 British Pounds, we were allowed to visit the area. Our taxi took us up hill to what looked almost like the grounds of an old castle.

 

 

Chittaurgarh is one of the largest forts in India and is known for its honey-coloured 7th century fort, a vast hilltop complex which is also home to ruins and temples. We felt a little like celebrities as our taxi driver took us from each landmark at the fort – talk about door-to-door service! My only advice would be to bring a light scarf to cover your face as at times this place can get really dusty!

 

Our first stop was at the ruins and these were cool! So cool. In fact, little did we know that this would probably be the part of the Fort that I would find the coolest. We didn’t spend too long here as we were conscious of time as we still had a long journey ahead of us in the taxi. In fact, what we soon realised is that we really didn’t spend enough time here. You need time just to take in the amazing view over Chittaurgarh city, let alone to explore the fort itself which feels rather like a maze with it’s different levelled floors.

 

After this we explored the other sites at the Fort. The Vijaya Stambha is something else! This building is ridiculously tall and it is a victory monument. It was built to commemorate the victory over the combined armies of the Malwa and Gujarat and is dedicated to Vishnu. What a great dedication, they were obviously very proud as it stands tall and has many beautiful designs that cover it. These designs are engravings and carvings of sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses.  I tried to get a full length shot of it and struggled, so ended up almost laying down on the floor just to try and get it all in.  It’s that tall in fact, that it can be seen from the entire city!

 

The Kalika Mata Temple inside the fort did not disappoint either. You know when you just look at something and think to yourself, ‘How long must this have taken?!’ – all the detail that goes into making something like that – incredible! It is said that this magnificent temple was originally a temple of the Sun God however much of it was destroyed during an attack. As a result, the top of the Temple is newer than the rest of the temple. None the less, this temple is fantastic! To add to how special it was there were even some cute puppies strolling around. An architectural gem, panoramic views of the city AND cute puppies, I mean, what more could you want?

 

Pushkar

 

After our exploration of Chittaurgarh and a short taxi drive, we finally made it Pushkar, which is in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan. We arrived at our accommodation which was in such a remote location! This town borders the Thar Desert and with sand all around, we definitely felt like we were bordering a desert. This town is known for its annual fair where they trade camels. You will definitely see a fair few camels here, I saw too many to count! We were surrounded by open land and other small tin roofed buildings. We were the only people staying in the hotel! After a long drive and lots of exploring in the dusty but beautiful Chittaurgarh fort, we were hungry and needed to shower. Unfortunately our room had no hot water – first world problems hey! Luckily, as we were the only ones staying here they moved our room.

 

This place seemed really remote and you really felt like you were getting an authentic feel. We walked into the town and walked around the dusty market. This was so lovely! We then ate at one of the local cafés where we had a nice healthy breakfast to fuel our day the right way. As this town is considered to be sacred by many Hindus, meat and egg consumption are forbidden here! The café also had the cutest decorations, covered in colourful fabrics and with an adorable umbrella nest which birds frequently popped in and out of as we gazed over the street view.

 

There are hundreds of temples here so if you like temples, this is the place to go! Whilst walking around the lanes lined with small shops and the market stalls we came across the lake. This holy Lake is surrounded by the town and it is said that it appeared when Brahma dropped a lotus flower. Some men ushered us down to the lake, encouraging us to take off our shoes. It turned out what seemed like they wanted us to show our respect and give thanks, they actually wanted money to bless our family. Now, I am very stubborn and refused to participate or hand over any money, which did lead to the men not being very happy! This lake is considered to be sacred but don’t be conned into paying men to say prayers for you.

 

We only spent 2 full days in Pushkar but for us, we felt that was plenty as we had seen what we wanted. Then we were off in a taxi to our next destination, Jaipur. We thought we would just pay our bill and be off. However, they were struggling to get our cards to go through their machine. We had a Barclays Credit Card and our travel Monzo card (highly recommend one of these by the way – as normally it is brilliant) and neither would go through due to the weak internet connection. So, with Visa and Mastercard not working the hotel owner had to take us into town to find a cash machine. Cash machine 1 was turned off but thankfully cash machine 2 was out of service! By this point, I was starting to get worried and there weren’t many more machines left to try. Thankfully, cash machine threw our money out – literally!

 

 

Jaipur: Getting there 

 

On route to Jaipur, which is only around a 3-hour taxi journey, our driver asked us to pay extra as we went through many tolls. Luckily, I had made sure that the taxi we booked had the tolls included in the price we paid online so we soon put him straight. It’s always important to be vigilant when travelling as some people will try to exploit tourists.

 

***TOP TIP***

Make sure you stay vigilant and if you book an activity or taxi, keep the documents/ evidence to hand so you can be sure exactly what you’ve paid for. I know, it sounds like common sense, but it’s easy to almost go into that blasé ‘holiday-mode’.

 

This route started to feel much more built up. The sandy desert was disappearing and more and more buildings could be seen. I even spotted a drive- thru McDonalds – that’s when you know it’s starting to become more built up! Even though there were more buildings there were still people who were evidently living, eating and cleaning on the streets. It became more and more frequent that people, mostly women or children, would come to the car begging or tapping on the window.

 

Jaipur: First impressions

 

My first impressions were that Jaipur was much more built up than Pushkar! We were surrounded by buildings rather than a desert! Even though there wasn’t much a ‘view’ per say, we loved that this accommodation had a rooftop terrace. It was so lovely rising with the sun and eating our breakfast as the city started to stir.

 

Jaipur: Ajmer Gate

 

Our main mode of transport here was by tuk-tuk. For a small fee of 30 rupees, we were taken to one of many of Jaipur’s city gates, the Ajmer Gate. This is one of the most beautiful gates and is the entry to the bazaar. We were so surprised! It was like a small city of its own inside! The smells here were amazing! So many different cooking scents danced under our noses. There were even lots of shops that smelt like soap! My sense of smell was having a sensational field day.

 

We were excited by the smells and there were so many different options of things to buy from the shops, there were bike shops, bracelet shops and fireworks. We decided to buy some food (You know I love my food). We tried these yellowy looking balls, that almost resembled a round doughnut. I think they were called a Laddu and these can be found in many different flavours. My taste buds were not quite so keen.  I couldn’t place the exact taste, it was such a random mix but it was way too sweet for my liking.

 

We headed for the City Palace in Jaipur and on route we were told about a temple nearby that had a superb rooftop view where all of the city could be seen. We were taken there by a very friendly man and the view was great! Once at the city we walked around but decided not to pay to go into certain parts as it was very expensive for foreigners.  Around this area there are sooooo many birds. Pigeons are everywhere. At one point there was a flock of pigeons being fed by a man and every time a loud motorbike went past they would fly up in mass – which was pretty awesome to watch…if not a little worrying in case we got pooped on!

 

Jaipur: Man Sagar Lake

 

Another tuk-tuk journey later, we were at Man Sagar Lake. It had what I can only describe as almost like a small market lining the pathway round the lake as people have things for sale, the floor laden with goodies to buy though lots of it was the same! This made for a nice walk and there was a lovely elephant statue here.

 

Jaipur: Kanak Vindavan Park 

 

From the Lake area, we took a short tuk-tuk ride to Kanak Vrindavan Park. This was a nice park area with some fountains and plants that would make a nice laid-back picnic spot!

Ladies be warned, the toilets here are almost like a cave and, like in many places in India, had no toilet roll!

 

*** TOP TIP*** - I always carried some tissue or some folded up toilet roll just in case some places didn’t have any…which was often the case in India! 

 

Jaipur: Nahargarh Fort

 

Past Man Sagar Lake and up the twist roads in the hilltops there are some amazing views! Particularly good views of the lake, which looks even better from up here at Nahargarh Fort, also known as the ‘Tiger Fort’. As the roads were quite steep we were often getting over taken in our tuk-tuk by cars.

 

Once at the top we were at the fort. The views were…W.O.W. This fort is known for its views of the Pink City. We found a particularly nice route if you walk along the right of the fort rather than the popular walkway to the left. This route is slightly more overgrown and I had to watch out for the thorn bushes. It was nice to look down and hear the buzzing of the locals below and watch the kids fly their kits. Another top drone flying spot – Have I convinced you to invest in a drone yet?

 

Jaipur: More Forts

 

We also headed to yet another fort, Jaigarh Fort, which though cool with a cannon in the middle of it and it’s red sandstone walls, it’s not quite as stunning as Nahargarh Fort. The views though, they are definitely on the same high level of Nahargarh Fort. As there wasn’t as much to see at this fort we soon headed to Amber/ Amer Castle and Fort. The roads on the way to this were VERY busy and this was a VERY popular spot. I would definitely recommend looking up the best time to go to avoid the crowds.

 

As you go in, you walk through the garden area and then begin your ascent up towards the top. Definitely wear trainers, I wore sandals and had stones in my shoe constantly. As you make your way up the fairly steep slope there are beggars and some people selling bits and bobs.

 

At the top they charge a view to go to the highest view point however we managed to find a spectacular viewpoint for FREE and without the crowds. We headed back out in the direction of the tour cars and you get a great view that cuts out the traffic being in your pictures too!

 

Jaipur: Monkey Temple

 

Our last stop of the night after visiting a few temples in one day we headed to the Monkey Temple. By the time we got there it was dusk and starting to get dark. Such a perfect time that really made the setting. As you walk up the hill towards the temple you can see exactly how this temple got its name. Monkeys everywhere. Baby monkeys are particularly cute though I was still very cautious. Though I think they are lovely to see, I always think that these are wild animals and very unpredictable, plus they have HUGE teeth. There are people selling ‘monkey food’ for those braver than me but we politely declined making a purchase. Oh and not forgetting to mention the pigs/ hogs, there are lots of cute pigs and piglets too.

 

The walk to the top is quite long and it does get a lot cooler and at times a little windy, so I was pleased I’d bought trousers to change into. The view at the top was lovely. The monkeys didn’t seem to go this high but the view over the city with the sun setting in the background was marvellous!

 

What’s it like to work here?

 

In Pushkar the Wifi really wasn’t great. I had to keep getting them to make sure it was turned on and then men would appear in the accommodation who would be sat on their phones and suddenly the connection speed would slow down dramatically.

In Jaipur the connection was much better but at times I struggled to find a strong connection.

So, overall it was o.k. here but I would definitely recommend contacting your accommodation to check their speed. If teaching, I guesstimated (by the sim usage) I was using a few GB per day so ensure they can match this.

 

What’s up next?

 

Next week I’ll be writing even more about India as I head to Agra. You know what’s there?....Only a little building called the Taj Mahal. You have to come along next week to find out this place!

 

Until then, if you have questions or would like to contact me, send an email to - travellingteacher@iqbar.net .

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2018-07-16 01:24

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