One of our biggest regrets about the Rajasthan trip is that we did not spend two nights in Bikaner. Many tourists entirely skip this 15th century town, located on the old trade caravan route, and I think it is a pity. Bikaner is a pleasant oasis in the middle of the Thar desert. After checking into our hotel, we hopped on to a rickshaw to visit the 15th century Jain temples in the southern part of the town. We met a friendly priest who was flying a kite and despite the lack of a common language we spent a memorable moment together. The walk back to the hotel took longer than we had estimated but it was enjoyable. Streets seemed to create one long bazaar of spices, kitchenware, clothes, car spare parts and textiles. We were definitely viewed as odd tourists who rarely stop by Bikaner, and locals kept looking at us from a distance with a reserved, kind smile.
As we had arrived in Bikaner quite late in the afternoon, there was no time to visit the fort, and this is what I regret. Built in the 16th century, the fort is another architectural masterpiece from the Emperor Akbar era. It is very well preserved because it has never been conquered. One day I will see it from inside.In the end we had to catch a rickshaw because the streets never seemed to end. We were covered in dust, hungry, and ready for a luxury dinner at Laxmi Niwas Palace. After all, who would’t use the opportunity to eat where King George V and Queen Mary once enjoyed chicken tandoori and gin & topic?
During our agreeable garden dinner a rare rain storm arrived, transforming the evening very special. I could only think of those people living in the Thar desert and how happy they were. And we were happy too. The dinner, typical Rajasthani dishes, was extremely good, one of the best we had during our journey!
So, if you are planning a trip in Rajasthan, do not limit yourself to the Golden Triangle. There is so much to see everywhere and I strongly recommend Shekhawati: the Haveli Hub and Jaisalmer, where our trip continued from Bikaner. Promise to think about it!
Laxmi Niwas Palace: http://www.laxminiwaspalace.com/
Note: This is the 15th post about our trip in Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan and Bombay in March-April 2008. Previous posts are:
Part 1. Arrival in Delhi: first impressions
Part 2. Eight cities of Delhi
Part 3. Road from Delhi to Agra
Part 4. Visiting Agra and Taj Mahal
Part 5. Fatehpur Sikri: what a pearl!
Part 6. Neemrana Fort-Palace: the magnificent 15th century palace
Part 7. Breathtaking Amber Fort
Part 8. Chaotic but charming Jaipur (part 1.)
Part 9. Chaotic but charming Jaipur (part 2.)
Part 10. Hotel Pearl Palace in Jaipur
Part 11. Samode Palace: live like a Maharaja
Part 12. Shekhawati: the Haveli Hub
Part 13. Enchanting Hotel Mandawa Haveli
Part 14. Karni Mata Temple (WARNING: includes images of rats)
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