HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE IN PUSHKAR FAIR, RAJASTHAN IS UNLIKE ANY OTHER. INCREDIBLE INDIA!
This blog is a part of my series on the Pushkar fair of Rajasthan in Incredible India. Check out all my blogs in the series which apart from many interesting aspects of Pushkar fair, lists down information like – Best time to go to Pushkar, Best things to eat in Pushkar Fair, How to reach Pushkar Fair, Offbeat things to do in Pushkar etc. This blog is about Hot air balloon ride in Pushkar fair. I personally didn’t take the ride. I just observed it and clicked pictures. However i did take a memorable Hot Air Balloon Ride near Taj Mahal in Agra.
As soon as I got down at Pushkar after a short bus ride from Ajmer, I was surprised to see Pushkar’s connection with the small Jew community of India. Enjoying the November’s nip in the air, I peeped inside the Chabad House of Pushkar. I saw rows and rows of books, official spaces and bearded Jew men dressed in their trademark black attire and cap. They moved around peacefully, oblivious to the mayhem and madness of the Pushkar fair outside. An incongruous oddity. Non Jews were not allowed to enter the building and photography is prohibited.
Walking towards the main Pushkar fair area, I was relieved to see that rooms of all kinds were easily available. I settled for a room close to the Pushkar lake for a throwaway Rs. 350/- for 24 hours. I had to cajole him into renting it out for 24 hours as most hotels I had tried at, had a 12 0’ clock check out. It was a dingy and seedy hotel, which I thought would be inundated with budget Indian travelers. But surprisingly, I was the only Indian in the hotel. It was occupied by western backpackers on a shoe string budget.
After a loud satisfied burp post a delicious Rajasthani vegan meal, I was done for the day. Tired, I lazily walked to my hotel. The first thing I did on arriving at the hotel was to take a bath. I hadn’t bathed in 36 hours and had gathered all the dust, grime, grease during my worst train ride ever. . No wonder when I washed the soap off my body the liquid was blackish.
It strangely made me happy to see the black water on the bathroom floor. I felt liberated of all the filth I had gathered on me. I felt so light as if the amount of dirt I washed away symbolized the traumatic train journey. I had still not seen the Pushkar Lake (despite being adjacent to my hotel) , let alone take a dip in its magical holy waters, but I had attained my hygiene Nirvana right there in that dingy little bathroom. I was so tired that I didn’t even care to wear anything and fell on the bed . Needless to say, I had a very good sleep!
I headed straight to the Pushkar Fair stadium area. The schedule of programs I picked up from the Pushkar fair helpdesk told me that a hot air balloon show was scheduled at 6:00 a.m. As I entered the stadium, the sight of huge air balloons hissing and puking out fire greeted me. It was the first time I had seen a Hot Air balloon with such proximity. Curiously, all the balloons were occupied by the foreigners. They were in control of the things and trying hard to make it work, by trial and error. A group of curious Indians, mostly rural, had gathered around each balloon with eyes wide as if they had just seen Honey Singh singing bhajans. Soon, the balloons started to rise up majestically in the air, hissing and puffing. I looked at this beautiful scene over a hot cup of tea in a ‘kulhar’ (Clay cup).
A half an hour and Rs.20 bus ride away from Ajmer is the little visited gem of a destination. Every year in November, the otherwise low profile sleepy city metamorphosis’s into a magical cultural cauldron of all things Rajasthani.
So what all can one expect to see in this melting pot? Endless quirkily decorated camels, horses, festivities, rural life in its rawest form, music, dance, dip in the holy lake, roadside magicians, madaris, entertainers, circus, seers and saints, amused and happy looking wide eyed foreigners, rides and swings, riots of colors, great food , faith, spirituality, engaging activities, the works !
Surely a travel freak’s and a photographer’s delight! And most of the things to do and see are free ! People from many countries take the road to Pushkar for this annual celebration of Indian-ness and all of them leave with a broad smile on their faces. It’s a good opportunity to experience India quickly.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT PUSHKAR FAIR
Some animals were in bad health condition. I also saw 2-3 dead camels. The activities like matka race , kabaddi , wrestling etc. rarely started at their scheduled time. Also the hotel rates were too high. Plus buses to Ajmer were always FULL. And not to mention the ubiquitous conmen masquerading as Godmen, sadhus who were out to rob you.
GO NOW: Many buses at regular interval ply from Ajmer to Pushkar. Best time to visit is during the fair which falls in October and November every year.
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