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Things to do in Bikaner and the gaj kesri experience

by travelmynation
Things to do in Bikaner

Rajasthan Calling!

The last time Vidur stayed in Rajasthan was in the late ’90s and since then exploring Rajasthan has always been on his wish list. So, when we made plans to visit Bikaner we were both really forward to exploring a little part of Rajasthan and eating authentic samosas and kachoris. Since there is no direct flight to Bikaner from Bangalore, we had to fly to Jaipur first and then take another flight to Bikaner. And as luck would have it, the flight from Jaipur was indefinitely delayed so as an impromptu decision we decided to ditch our flight and take a road trip. And this definitely wasn’t in our list of things to do in Bikaner!

 

We’ve driven through Rajasthan’s main highway a couple of times in the recent past and we were expecting to see the sand, barren land and lots of camels. But Rajasthan surprised us with its lush green fields, well-maintained roads, and pleasant weather even in August! 

 

The fun part of the drive was watching Rajasthan pass by from our little car window. The villages, fields, and people going about their work. The small tea breaks we took along the way gave us a chance to talk to a few locals, listen to the typical accent that the Rajasthani language comes with and take in the smells of the rural areas. And in a few hours, we had covered almost 330 kilometers and were arriving at our destination, Hotel Gaj Kesri. 

Our Stay at Gaj Kesri

A grand entrance with big gates is what you would expect in a haveli hotel, and that’s exactly what we got. Just the entrance made you feel like royalty! The striking part of the massive property is the centrally located, flat red building which is the hotel. From the outside, the structure looks like a very elegant yet simple red limestone construction and you wouldn’t probably compare it to the more elegant Havelis we describe below. But Gaj Kesri hides what’s inside really well and as you step inside, it’s like you walked into another dimension.

 

As you cross the façade you will enter the Chowk, which is the social area of the hotel, with live music events, cocktail parties and other outdoor events taking place here. And this is where we spent most of our time at Gaj Kesri. The rooms are located towards the end of the structure, and passing by the Chowk you will see two levels of rooms in the corridor. 

Things to do in Bikaner
Things to do in Bikaner
Things to do in Bikaner
Things to do in Bikaner
Things to do in Bikaner

The rooms are not intimidating – they are simple, comfortable, and have all creature comforts you require while traveling. The interiors are not out of the world lavish, but the right mixture of Rajasthani heritage and modern-day necessities. The beds are super comfortable and you sink into their embrace, experience a good night’s sleep. And that’s’ what we did during our stay here and every morning we woke up, super fresh!

 

Another highlight of the property and probably a good spot to take instagrammable pictures is the swimming pool. The blue waters create a stunning contrast thanks to the light red flooring outside and the deep red hotel building. Although we didn’t get into the pool, it sure did look really tempting. 

Interacting with our hosts

Things to do in Bikaner

Over the next 3 days, we spent a good amount of time with our hosts, and the owners of the hotel, Mr. & Mr. Rampuria. They have an interesting family heritage with over 150 years of a lineage related to Rajasthan and are now settled in Kolkata. The couple now runs Hotel Gaj Kesri, Bhanwar Nivas Hotel in Rampuria Haveli and a few educational institutes in the city. 

 

We caught a couple of dinners together and got to know about their passion for education, handmade jewelry, and painting. While Mr. Rampuria is an outstanding painter himself, Mrs. Rampuria runs Fanfare Jewellery that she founded 13 years ago. In fact, you can buy some while in the hotel.

The Dining Area

Tucked away on the right-wing of the building is the dining area. Push the glass door and you enter the square structure beautiful decorated with fragrant candles, beautiful cutlery, and ambient lighting. Adorning the walls, are many interesting paintings –  each one a conversation starter, with the most intriguing one of two masked guys looking at each other. 

 

The food here, prepared with chefs from all over India, is a true representation of the local Rajasthani cuisine coupled with flavors from all over the world. Whether you are having the Rajasthani thali or white sauce penne pasta, you will get the most authentic experience. The staff is extremely courteous and it’s good to see that they too know a lot about the food and the history of the haveli.

Things to do in Bikaner

Exploring the Rampuria Haveli & Bhanwar Nivas

Now this one we loved the most. The Haveli is as grand from the outside as it is from the inside. Rajasthan is known for its magnificent Havelis and the Rampuria Haveli is a definite must-see. A trip to the Rampuria Haveli is nothing short of living life in a fairy tale – even if it’s for a short period of time. 

 

The haveli was constructed in the 15th century to provide the rich merchant family a regal, royal and architecturally elegant residence. The Haveli was built with Dulmera red sandstone as the base material which demonstrates gorgeous arty abilities prevalent during that era. 

 

The spectacular and lavish inner halls and the rooms are decorated with magnificent art installation; first-class landscapes and portraits. We tour a walking tour of the rooms and every unique room has a story to tell. We feel that each room, with gorgeous lights, intricately decorated bed sheets and artistic elements, deserves to be stayed in. Bhanwar Niwas was one of the last additions to the Rampuria Haveli and has now been established as a popular hotel for tourists. 

Things to do in Bikaner
Things to do in Bikaner
Things to do in Bikaner
Things to do in Bikaner

A big attraction of the building in the dining room, a massive area with elegantly set tables. The room has an interesting blend of Mughal and Victorian influences but the most important identity is that of the Rajasthani heritage. And this is where we were joined by Mr. Sunil Rampuria and his wife, the lovely Mrs. Anju Rampuria. 

 

Lunch consisted of a traditional Rajasthani meal and out of the many veggies we had, Gatte ki Sabzi turned out to be our favorite. There were more than 10 items to be had along with a drink and dessert and honestly we’ve never had a more ‘fulfilling’ experience.

Best things to do in Bikaner

Things to do in Bikaner
Things to do in Bikaner

Junagarh Fort

It is said that the foundations of the Junagarh Fort were laid down in 1478 by Rao Bika and was built as a stone fort. It was initially called Chintamani and in the 20th century was renamed to Junagarh Fort. 

 

The structure today was inaugurated in the 16th century and since then it has stood the test of time, maintaining its elegance and asserting its aura on the city of Bikaner. There is plenty of exploring inside the complex which consists of gates, palaces like Karan Mahal, Phool Mahal, Anup Mahal, etc and a museum that was constructed in 1961.

Karni Mata Temple

The Karni Mata Temple, also popularly known as the Nari Mata Temple, is a highly popular tourist spot amongst devotees that is dedicated to Karni Mata, who is believed to be an incarnation of Maa Durga. She is supposed to have laid the foundation stones of two of the most famous forts in Rajputana, and numerous temples dedicated to her can be found all across the country. What is unique about this temple, however, is not its architecture or location, rather the fact that 25,000 black rats live, and are worshipped, in the temple. 

 

Well, we had heard a lot about this and watched many documentaries about the Rat Temple, but little did we know we would visit it one day. As you walk towards the temple complex, you can see white marble flooring, with railings to guide you through the entrance and exit. Take off your footwear and keep it in one of the designated storage areas. 

 

Once you step inside the open-air temple premises, you will see the rats, laying around on the railings and the floor. They don’t move fast, and some don’t even move at all! Through the journey inside the temple, you will see the rats sleeping all around, some might cross paths with you. 

Lalgarh Palace

Located in Bikaner, the Lalgarh Palace was constructed sometime between 1902 and 1926. This beautiful structure now serves as a Heritage hotel and you must spend some time here admiring the architecture and the lovely green lawn in front of it. 

 

The estate also houses a museum named Shri Sadul Museum, where you can find traces of Rajasthani Royalties and get an insight into their extravagant lifestyle. One of the estate wings has been maintained only for the Royal family of Bikaner. The other two wings are for The Lalgarh Palace Hotel and the Lakshmi Niwas Hotel. 

Things to do in Bikaner

National Research Centre on Camel

We weren’t too sure about going since we’ve seen camels before and done a couple of camel rides as well and didn’t expect to see anything new. But walking through the center we were amazed to see the sheer number of camel here, pushing each other during their busy lunchtime. And then we got to see for the first time ever, the black camel and a white camel as well. 

 

And just for this, you should pay the place a visit as well. If you have kids with you, they will definitely want to do camel riding and safari and available there. A special attraction of the center is the Camel milk parlor and you can have unique camel milk products like ice-cream, hot and cold beverages. This is one of the best things to do in Bikaner that the kids will enjoy.

Gajner Palace

A reddish sandstone building, located next to the water and its reflection on the still water creating a magnificent sight! That’s the Gajner Palace for you. The palace was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh as a hunting lodge but was converted to a hotel in 1976. Gajner Palace offers you a variety of leisure activities from boat rides to desert safaris. 

 

Built as a traditional Rajasthani Palace, it is an architectural beauty and the entire vicinity is filled with lush green trees while the glorious palace itself offers recreational activities like billiards, lawn tennis, cycling, bird watching, and wildlife safaris.

Best time to visit Bikaner

The best time to visit Bikaner is from October to February. The rest of the year is extremely hot and should be avoided. From March to June, the days are sweltering with the temperature rising to 46 degrees Celsius and dust storms are very common during this season. 

 

The monsoon arrives during the period of July to September but the weather becomes hot and humid. October to February is the winter season. The temperature may fall to 4 degrees. However, this is the best time to visit Bikaner since the weather is pleasant.

How to reach Bikaner

By Train

 

You can travel to one of two railway stations in Bikaner – Bikaner Junction and Lalgarh Railway Station. They approximately 6 kilometers away from each other and are located within the city. Bikaner has a proper and well-linked rail system that is connected to most of the Indian cities like Delhi, Jodhpur, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Trivandrum, and other cities. 

 

By Air

 

Bikaner is connected by flights through the Delhi Airport and you will need to book these connecting flights. Otherwise, the closest airport to Bikaner lies in Jodhpur which is 250 kilometers away. Jodhpur is well connected to the rest of India with direct flights coming in from places like Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Goa, Pune, etc.

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