A lot actually. Unfortunately, you’re missing out by doing that lame “Golden Triangle” tour that everyone’s been doing for far too long which is causing:
Poor maintenance of monuments and sights throughout Delhi, Jaipur and Agra
Each destination to be completely trashed by tourists while being overpriced for basic necessities like water
Yawn fest - all your Instagram photos look the same
Let’s face it, I’m definitely a little bias when it comes to Bikaner. But when I first moved to Gajner to work on waste management and women’s empowerment projects with a local NGO, I asked absolutely everyone “where is Bikaner and what can I do there?” In response, I was led to visit surrounding cities like Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Pushkar, and Udaipur.
Throughout the 1.5 years I was actually staying on the outskirts of Bikaner, I had not ONCE set foot in the city to explore. I spent any amount of time I had in Bikaner, which was comprised of waiting for buses or trains when travelling to and from the city, in Harasar Haveli indulging in an overpriced breakfast buffet, or buying colorful and inexpensive textiles in the market to create cute kurtis.
Fast forward to 2019 and I feel truly blessed to be one of the only expats in the city. Everyday I’m presented with an opportunity to connect with an inspiring youth or women, try new Rajasthani foods, fill my belly at new locally owned cafes and restaurants (and they’re really popping up everywhere as the city expands!), and explore sights that I am always thrilled to introduce to tourists that stop by Hara House.
So, what are these sights?
Let me briefly introduce them to you and peak your interest so you get your ass here and explore them yourself.
This beautiful andmajestic fort is one of my favorites in Rajasthan, it’s also one of the most underrated forts in India. The fort showcases a range of various architectural styles, and houses tons of military memorabilia, including a World War 1 jet plane! Ummm...cool! I mean, if my 17-year-old brother enjoyed it, that says a lot.
The Old City
The Old City of Bikaner is one of my favorite walks and is always a tour I’ll jump on when tourists are headed that way with our student guides. We start at the artistically detailed Jain Temple, engage in a prayer at Laxmi Nath Temple, eat delicious street foods while walking the market, and end outside Rampuria Havelis, which Aldous Huxley deemed as “the pride of Bikaner”.
Shop ‘till ya drop
Bikaner is one of the most inexpensive cities to shop for textiles, jewelry, handicrafts, and art. Why? Because it sees the least amount of tourism in comparison to tier 1 and tier 2 cities across Rajasthan. As the underappreciated neighbor of Jaipur, the city has decided to do it’s own thang and offer beautiful products at sometimes half the price, without the hassle of haggling. Explore KEM Road and Rani Bazaar for all your gifts and goodies, and empower local artisans and shopkeepers in the process instead of fueling the greed of foreign investors that look at Jaipur with dollar signs in their eyes.
Cute ass cafes
You want your Instagram on fleek? Get yourself to Bikaner. Hara House (of course!) is an awesome stop for delicious, fresh, organic and veg foods made by Chef Manoj, while Cafe Indra is an adorable board game cafe serving up wood-fire pizzas and cold coffees on their bougie patio. Antares, located in the 'hip' Sadul Ganj area, has one of the best sunset view and serves up freaking delicious wraps, sandwiches and Indian dishes (and they have waffles!). The restaurant hosts a wide range of events that engage youth in various conversational topics, including equality (hell yeah!), and partnered with a local radio station to do an inspiring women’s day event this past month to provide women in the community with a platform to share their stories.
This bad ass temple starts with walking through a lion’s mouth, crawling under Shiva, sliding into a pool of water, and greeting massive Laxmi, Saraswati and Kali statues that make you swoon with female energy. The temple is a replica of the original Vaishno Devi temple located in Kashmir.
The Royal Cenotaphs
Devi Kund Sagar is an impressive example of traditional Rajasthani architecture. The cremation ground of the Royal Bikaner family surrounds a small man made lake, and makes for a great history lesson and some beautiful photography.
Karni Mata Temple
Located in Deshnok, a village 30-kilometres away from the city, this world famous temple worships the Goddess Durga and is home to over 50,000 rats. Although it sounds disgusting, it is one of the most interesting temples I’ve ever been to, and it hosts absolutely gorgeous prayer ceremonies. Plus, if you spot a white rat, you may just see some good luck in your near future.
Did I forget to mention there are multiple palaces, including Laxmi Niwas, a wildlife sanctuary and desert resorts you can enjoy nearby?
Alright, great, now you know.
So, when are you coming?
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