Wrong turn at Bikaner

Jesailmer was a recommendation for my next visit but it was in the wrong direction for my loop of Rajasthan. So against recommendation from Amin at Dylan’s I headed to Bikaner — a typical act of which I have now decided to change.

I found Bikaner a 50/50 experience. It was here I experienced two negative situations, one where I was threatened upon arrival late at night by a drunk idiot, indicating a shooting and the second a daytime car and dog interaction of which I won’t go into detail. Thankfully I evaded the first incident due to my street awareness in my birth city.

But not all was bad! Bikaner may not have much to offer but I enjoyed some good and funny times with people I met.

Just some things things and stuff…

Above: 1. The irony. 2. No M.O.T. required — the average local bus, this one I used to visit the rat temple. 3. Better watch how you sleep on that top bunk bwoy!! I obviously chose the bottom bed.

Chai ‘n’ laughs.

I have a thing for stopping for chai with your usual street vendor! I always prefer to give my money to the local store instead of a chain or bigger more successful place — you know, help the little guy and spread the good karma.

Whilst taking a slight tour with Manoj from the hostel I was staying at, I stopped to have chai with a street vendor who had a bit of a crowd. He was keeping his chai on the boil using coal instead of gas — something I’d not yet seen. This involved a small kiln that he kept hot using a hand wound air blower. It turned out that the guys were his pals and boy did I have such a laugh, but unfortunately for him it was at his expense. It was all in good taste though, and the lads were a superbly friendly and funny bunch!

Hustle, bustle and madness.

Diwali was in full throttle and the roads, buses were all busy. I arrived in time for ‘Lucky Day’ where the markets went berserk with people buying specially for the festival at lower prices.

Above: 1. Traffic jam, can you see why? 2. Below the surface is a flowing river! 3. What bus transport is like in 34°C heat and no A/C. 4. Market life.

How the other side live.

Now this is going to sound weird! During a stroll through Old Bikaner and viewing the old havelli’s I was taken to this place for a free tour as Manoj knew the guys who worked there:

I do remember it having a government statement about it being a protected establishment but I cannot recall what it’s called as it was all a rushed affair entering/exiting. All I know is it was previously the home of a wealthy family who now have it openly to the public for a fee.

It’s superbly detailed and most definitely a place of luxury. I’ve tried to find it online but nothing and Apple Maps is just … well … shit.

If anyone who reads this recognises the places, do let me know and I’ll update my most in informative blog entry to date! 😄

Above: Two Italian tourists, Manoj and me at the mysterious house of luxury.

Diwali’s here!

Firstly it’s the bangers going off as the kids start their games, then there’s the cleaning of, and lights that start to adorn the homes. Then there’s the decorations of the doorways and entrance floors and eventually the candles, a lovely festival.

But watch out for the fireworks as they’re being launched, lit, thrown everywhere and there are so many close calls! Walking through the night streets I’m invited by a family to light one of their fireworks, an Indian Bomb I’m told with verve. So I take this package about the size of a conker and a fuse about 1.5 inches, place it carefully and light the fuse……..

FzBOOM!

The fuse gives me literally 1 second to realise what’s going on! Luckily I close my eyes to feel the heat on my face and my right ear goes numb with only a beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep and I’m in that scene from Shaving Ryan’s Private’s, OOPS! Wrong movie. Saving Private Ryan where the mortar goes off leaving Tom Hanks stunned.

Shocked and stunned, worried for my hearing I leave the family quick sharp with the dad crying with laughter.

The good stuff

Above: 1. So many old bikes still going strong. 2. Manoj’s dad whom I thoroughly enjoyed his company even though we both couldn’t speak each other’s language! 3. Mother and pup both sleeping away the daylight hours. 4. The best popadum in the world.

The crap stuff.

Karni Mata Temple, or the Rat Temple of Rajasthan.

I’d read and heard a lot about this place and to be honest I wasn’t too bothered about visiting it. Anyway, I did. It’s a strange place absolutely creeping with rats and I mean they’re everywhere! While waiting to be blessed at the temple inner sanctum, it took me a few minutes to realise that they were even sat on the barriers right next to me.

I’ll be blunt. I didn’t like the place and it reeked of rat piss. Been there, won’t be returning thank you.

A cup of chai with some English please!

Again it’s chai. I love the stuff and the ability to just stop, have a tea and then move on but this time I was invited to join a group of Future English teachers, a nice bunch who’d just finished a game of cricket — yes that game I don’t care for which they find incredulous.

Not only were the boys interested in me talking and enquiring as to what is or isn’t correct but I also had two old boys just pull up a chair to just observe this white chap chatting away.

Exit to Jodhpur.

After a few days just taking it easy I headed off back to Jodhpur for one day to break up the 12 hour journey to Udaipur. Above is a picture of me at 60mph down a highway in the middle of nowhere. It’ll be good to get back to somewhere I know and feel comfortable.

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