Real beauty lies in chaos. Every November, thousands of camera-heavy tourists from across the world embrace this chaos and swarm to the holy city of Pushkar to witness one of the most vibrant cattle fairs in India. The week-long festival offers a slice of local culture blended with traditional musical events, cattle exhibitions and rural sports.
But although the tourist influx increases each year, barring guest houses and a few run-of-the-mill temporary tents that came up in the 1980s, there is still a lack of any quality accommodation. To fill this gap, an adventure travel company in India, Adventure World Experiences, introduced the concept of ‘glamping’ or glamourous camping in Pushkar that’s quite popular among travellers abroad.
Drive a kilometre away from the main fair ground, and the frenetic activity of the noisy locals settles down into a sublime affair. A slight detour into a narrow pathway opens up into a vast area dotted with a Swiss tents camped on sand, and a clear view of low-cut hills in the backdrop. That’s when epiphany strikes: Am I really in Rajasthan?
Pushkar during the festival isn’t a discreet affair but the way to the AWX camp certainly was. There were no directions or sign boards to guide visitors inside. But I reckon it was a well-thought out strategy to not attract unwanted attention from customers who wouldn’t understand the concept, let alone experience it. When I entered the AWX camp, I was ushered inside by a group of Langa folk musicians singing traditional Rajasthani music. Their unmistakable rustic and honest voice makes you feel one with the place and its people. Then you notice a line of camel carts trudge slowly into the camp and park themselves next to the reception. It’s as if the troop has been patiently waiting for you to step inside and announce your arrival in the grandest way possible. What’s also awe-inspiring is the sheer expanse and the wonderful location of the camp, which is something to write home about.
I was told around 60 tents were on offer and that the entire camp will be sold out in a day. Judging by the number of people hanging outside, I thought otherwise. It was only around 5pm when I noticed quite a few people, mostly Chinese and British, come out of their tents and board the camel carts to catch the last vestiges of the dying sun at the fair. Yes, Pushkar during sunset is quite a marvellous scene. Almost immediately, the service staff greeted me with a garland of flowers and offered fresh juice upon arrival. It felt different to be treated this way. Because when you’re used to camping out in the wild, this mollycoddling seems almost alien. But then this is ‘glamping’, where everything you think you need is already taken care of or is made available with a drop of a hat.
“This is our maiden glamping project, which caters to international and high-end domestic travellers. Our whole idea was to bring in foreign as well as high-end Indian tourists into Pushkar which doesn’t have decent accommodation to offer. We want to popularise glamping in India by organising quality accommodation with a focus on a high level of service,” said Sameer Bhattacharya, president, Travel World Experiences.
Then there is another vital aspect to this unique experience in Pushkar. “The allure of the Pushkar cattle fair is fading. In the next 5 to 10 years it might even cease to exist. So our motive is to invite travellers to experience such places with style and luxury before it’s all gone,” said Davinder Singh Dhanjal, camp manager at AWX.
The tents bore a luxurious look and feel. And even though they sport a simple design, they’re equipped with all the modern day luxuries such as a 24×7 air-conditioner, a roomy toilet with running hot water, a comfortable sitting area, and a large, extremely cushy bed for two.
“Our tents have a simple Jholdari style that are very easy to set up, much like temporary dorm-style tents the East India Company used back in the day for soldiers to sleep inside. Only difference is we’ve got all the luxuries packed inside,” said Thakur. At night, the camp pathways are elegantly lit up while the rim of the mountains glisten in the backdrop under the mesmerising moonlight. To sweeten the deal, a musical performance by the Langhas is organised each night and it’s almost as if you’re right in the middle of a desert living a bedouin way of life, albeit in luxury.
One of the highlights of the camp is the impeccable quality and consistency of food. The camp offers simple yet unmistakably classy vegetarian food. I noticed that the service staff is alert and receptive to customers’ needs. A simple nod of the head and the staff is at your service.
This kind of intuitive service is not possible if you’re looking at clocking in quantity. Which is why AWX’s service is small in scale, but highly personalised. “We want to have that one-on-one connection with our customers so we can spend more time knowing each individual at the camp,” said Bhattacharya. It’s therefore not hard to imagine why they’re targeting International and high-end domestic clients who value and understand this niche segment.
“Foreigners have experienced all the luxuries back home. But when they come to India, they see luxury in rustic conditions and get a kick out of it. Maybe it’s a downgrade in terms of hardware, but the experience is unforgettable,” adds Bhattacharya.
Davinder echoes the sentiment: “Foreigners have seen the best in life so it’s not wise to replicate a similar experience. We give them a taste of local culture so that when they go back and remember the rustic experience, they will appreciate their life even more.”
Currently, they have two types of tents on offer: Super Deluxe AC tent for Rs 15,000 and Deluxe non-AC for Rs 11,000 (taxes and all meals included). Bookings open till 6th of November 2014.