When I originally looked into Rajasthan, I had wanted to stay an entire month. We ended up staying two weeks and while in an ideal world I would have spent a couple extra days here and there, I think it ended up working out great.
Rajasthan is known as the Land of Kings, and the name couldn’t be more fitting. Every city has a palace and a fort with loads of history written within its walls. When you think of India, the maharajas, the princes and princesses, the kings and queens, you are most likely thinking of Rajasthan. And if you’ve seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (like I have, five times), that is also Rajasthan (Udaipur and Jaipur to be exact).
As I was saying before, we had struggled with the idea of hiring a car, but honestly, I think jumping right into the trains and public buses in India would have been too overwhelming for an already overwhelming experience. It was well worth the $600. Plus, if we hadn’t booked our car, we would have never met Ram (pronounced ROM), our amazing driver and now friend. Our entire experience in India would have been completely different.
So, off we went. We had a lot of ground to cover in two weeks. We were taking a very common tourist loop. Everyone we met along the way was either on the same loop or exploring it in the opposite direction. Meeting travelers on a similar route was one of the best parts of the trip as we were able to share and receive tons of tips and recommendations along the way.
We knew we wanted to see Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Jaipur and given the long distances and recommendations during our travels, we ended up adding in Bikaner and Pushkar. We will write a much more detailed guide to Rajasthan including hotels, restaurants, and excursions, most likely in another lifetime given our current status with the blog, but for now I’ll go through a little description of each magical city.
Note: If anyone needs help planning a trip to Rajasthan, or India for that matter, please feel free to contact us! We would LOVE to help you plan your trip!
First Stop, Bikaner!
Delhi to Bikaner
9 hours by car
We had never planned on visiting Bikaner, but since we were driving by car, it's impossible to reach Jaisalmer in one day. Also, we had just watched a documentary on a famous temple in Bikaner, so we figured it would be the perfect overnight stay. If you are visiting Rajasthan by train, I would suggest skipping this sleepy town and heading straight to Jaisalmer (if you are limited on time), but thats only because the city doesn’t have much to offer except for the famous Rat Temple. Yes, you read that right…a temple…for rats. Visiting the Karni Mata Temple was nuts. The sheer magnitute of people that travel from all corners of the country to pay their respects to these revered animals was jaw dropping (and at times confusing).
The drive from Delhi to Bikaner was long and uneventful, with dusty, dry landscape (and the occasional cow) on either side of the highway, until out of no where, you would reach what looked like an amusement park, disguised as a temple. The pictures below are of a temple dedicated to Ganesh and Lord Shiva. These temples appear out of nowhere along the vast bare landscape, as if it's a mirage, without the disappearing part, and people come out of the woodwork to wait in lines and pay their respect.
There are many stories of how the Karni Mata Temple came to be, but here's the one we were told. An army of 20,000 men deserted a battle, and as punishment, Karni Mata turned them into rats and gave them the temple to live in. It’s also believed that sharing the food or drinking the milk in the temple is good luck, and many people follow this belief. Brian and I, however, opted to skip out on the rat milkshake and instead watched in complete bewilderment as this happened (desperately trying our best to keep our facial expressions pleasant vs. the normal 'this is revolting' look that came more naturally). Lastly, it’s also said to be good luck to find the white rats, believed to be the manifestation of Karni Mata and her sons, and after searching high and low, we finally found one (but have no photo evidence)!
The temple smelled exactly how you would imagine a temple filled with 20,000 rats would smell. And since you were barefoot, anytime you saw something jet across the floor or felt something brush up against your feet (which was one time too many for me) it really made you squirm. But in the end, it was totally worth the visit, and the rabies shot we got the following day (just kidding...kind of).
We said goodbye to the rats and spent the next two hours trying to find our hotel we booked on hotels.com, in the dark. Note to anyone visiting India: Google Maps lie (its not their fault, street names don't really exist here)! And, if you book a room with OYO Rooms in the title, its not the actual name of the hotel. Again, we will talk more about this later.
We finally checked into our hotel which was a work in progress. For example, when you turned on the sink, the water drained directly onto the ground since there were no pipes (which didn't make a difference since all bathrooms in India are wet rooms, and everything just flows together. Everything). There were also various holes in the walls and corners which in my mind could only mean one thing... that Master Splinter was going to pay us a visit in the middle of the night. The lack of windows also made for a very depressing hotel room, but the giant Kingfishers helped put us at ease. We fell asleep wrapped in our silk cocoons awaiting our six hour drive in the morning to Jaisalmer. At least we only had one night!