Tuesday, 25 September 2007

A 'Holy' Hole

Hotel Master Paradise, Pushkar
Well, I can honestly say that Pushkar is our least favourite town so far. Basically from when we got out of the car to walk around the market and visit the famous Brahma temple, to when we got back in the car, we were constantly hassled for money. As soon as we got through the town gate there were guys shoving flowers in our hands and then trying to get us to go down to the lakeside to throw it in, then I guess try to get money from us, but we ignored them and kept going...
When we got to the Brahma temple (the main attraction of the city) there were a million guys trying to get us to leave our shoes with them, it was obviously some kind of money extortion ploy, but unfortunately we couldn't see many other alternatives since we couldn't take our shoes inside... We asked him how much it would be, and he said "it's a donation for the temple, as you like", so in the end we left our shoes there and went up to the temple... These people kept offering to give us a tour, of course we said no but they persisted, especially this little kid, of course they all said it was free and they were 'students at the temple' but yeah right... It seems like you can't be polite with these people, I just kept saying 'no' until eventually he left us alone.
The temple itself kinda had a nice view of the lake and the surrounding area but was otherwise wholly unimpressive, we took some photos and then left, when we went to collect our shoes, after we'd put them back on the guy (of course) asked for a fee, we said we'd already donated at the temple (we hadn't actually, but we thought that might get him to leave us alone), then he started going on about how it was his business, and then we were like 'you said just before that it was for the temple, not a business!' and basically left. I didn't feel bad at all because he was obviously experienced at ripping tourists off, and probably does quite well out of it... And we didn't really have an alternative either, i.e. leaving shoes somewhere that we weren't charged for.
Actually while we were outside contemplating whether to even go inside the temple, there was a little kid who went up to Mark and started playing some instrument, we totally ignored him, he played for about half a minute and then asked us for money, of course we didn't give him anything since we didn't even ask him to start...
We eventually found a quiet place by the lake and started to take some photos, but it wasn't quiet for long because some random guy wandered up to us and first told us to take off our shoes, which was completely stupid because we weren't even by the temple and we'd seen other locals walk past with their shoes on - then he started trying to tell us we weren't allowed to take photos unless we bought a special wristband from him, another obvious scam. That's when we got totally fed up and just left the town. All along the way there were people calling out to us 'hello, good evening' and someone even called out a greeting in Korean to me (I keep getting mistaken for a Korean or Japanese tourist) trying to get us to buy crap from them...
The really stupid thing about Pushkar is that it's supposed to be a totally spiritual place, but it's just one giant tourist trap with pretty much no redeeming qualities, I'm glad Rakesh warned us not to give money to anyone and not to buy anything at all, but I think we wouldn't have anyway. Okay, actually one redeeming quality I guess is that the hotel is fairly nice, but we're paying for it already.
Pushkar also proves once again how the Lonely Planet can be pretty useless sometimes, here's what it said about it:
"Pushkar is a small, magical, desert-edge town. (...) the town remains enchantingly small and extraordinarily mystic. (...) It's small and tourist-friendly."
Pushkar is anything but magical and holy, and I would definitely recommend skipping it if you can. The only thing we got out of coming here is I guess funny stories about how people tried to rip us off... Ah well, still not as bad as Niksic though!
P.S. India won the cricket, so everyone's going to be in a good mood tomorrow! Hopefully that means less people try to rip us off, not more...

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