We arrived to Pushkar after a tiring bus ride, not because of the distance but because we had to change buses. The first bus took us from Jaipur to Ajmer, about 3h. Once in Ajmer we had to get the bus which would take us to Pushkar (30 mins away) and after a longish wait and a growing number of people waiting for the bus and of course because in India no one respects the queues, we literally had to fight our way into the bus.
Pushkar at first sight wasn’t what we expected, we thought we would find a quiet Indian town with few foreigners but what we found was an oasis made for tourists at the doors of the Thar desert (Great Indian Desert). There were shops everywhere, henna painting saloons, many cafes and restaurants with continental menus and the lake more than a lake it looked like a man made giant swimming pool. But as the days passed we discovered other secrets of the city that made us growing into like it.
Pushkar is a holy city in the state of Rajashtan. The Hindus believe that Brahma, one of their divinities known as the creator, released a lotus flower into the earth. When the petals of the flower reached the earth three lakes were created, and around the biggest one grew the city of Pushkar. The story says that Brahma was to marry Savitri, a river goddess, in the banks of Pushkar lake with a ceremony called yagna that can only happen on a specific astrological moment. As Savitri was late, Brahma was forced to find another unmarried woman, as without a wife he could not perform the yagna. Gayitri was the only unmarried woman available, so they went ahead with wedding. When Savitri finally arrived and saw Brahma married to another woman she was furious and coursed him saying that he would only be worshiped at Pushkar. Pushkar is now one of the few places in India where you can find Brahma temples. There are also temples devoted to Savitri and Gayitri, both of them situated on top of two hills in the surroundings of Pushkar. To placate Savitri, it was agreed that her temple was to sit on the highest hill and that she would always be worshiped before Gayitri.
We arrived to Kathmandu after our short stop in Delhi. We flew SpiceJet, an Indian low cost airline which was quite okay. On arrival we had to arrange our Visas. Tourist Visas to visit Nepal for 30 days can be obtained in arrival, all you need is a passport size picture, fill in the form and pay the 40$ fee at the airport.
We were picked up at the airport by a driver from the Khangsar Guest House, where we had booked two nights through agoda.com. So far the prices we have seen in Agoda are a little bit cheaper than in other websites.
Once in the city and after unpacking, we tried to find a place for dinner nearby (around Thammel). It was a little bit disappointing to see that the area is a tourist bubble within Kathmandu, full of very westernized shops and restaurants. As there wasn’t too much choice we ended up having a bite at a chill out bar (hopefully this won’t happen very often).
The next day, full of energy we wondered around old Kathmandu, visiting the Durbar Square and the narrow and busy streets of the city. On our way to find the Ghats (stairs that lead to river at crematory sites) we found ourselves following and being followed by a sacred cow, and Isma running for his life when the cow approached him! The area surrounding the Ghats is used as a dumping site, where many locals live and try to make a living by searching through the garbage. It was shocking to see how people try to survive in these kind of conditions. This really kept us thinking for the rest of the day.
After two nights in Thammel, we decided to escape from the touristy trap, and hopefully experience a more local atmosphere by moving to a guest house (Himalaya Guest House) on a different area (Jhochhe Street).
Settled in Jhochhe, the day after and continuing our tour around Kathmandu, we climbed a countless number of steps to get to Swayambhu, which is a set of Hindu and Buddhist temples on top of conical hill invaded by monkeys. The most interesting part was seeing Hindu prayers and offerings to their goddess. For lunch we headed to Patan Durbar Square where we tried woh (fried lentil-flour patties) at a hidden local smoky place. During a stopover for a chiya (nepali tea) we had the chance to chat with a couple of Nepali teenagers who told us how they managed to escape the life on the streets. They definitely seemed to know more about life than we do.