Delhi and Jaipur, India
Delhi, street up to the mosque
One reason for Delhi's traffic problems
So back on the subway…Getting to from the subway and our hotel you have to go through New Delhi train station. For anyone who hasn’t been – it awful. Everyone is trying to sell you something, there are hundreds of people standing and sleeping in the station and the smell and noise almost knocks you over. I am soooo happy not to have done it sick. One guy even stopped and asked him for his ticket. (This guy we will find out later is a big scammer.) When he stopped James he pretty much got a Fu*k Off, James was worried he needed a ticket to go through and had no plans of walking all the way around.
When James got home I was still in bed and had no plans of leaving. The backpack mending man was supposed to come pick our bag up in the afternoon so James hung around. When he never came (we were not surprised) we both agreed to fix it ourselves instead of talking a chance on them. We could likely push the issue and get someone to fix our bag but what if they were late returning it? We had a train booked and didn’t want to miss it.
James eventually went for dinner alone and brought me back more apple juice. He ate at the same place as last night because it was cheap and close. When he finally crawled into bed I thanked him for taking care of everything and told him I was sorry he’d had such a bad day. Not much of a Welcome to India.
In the wee hours of the morning James was up puking. We knew that most people (so far everyone we’d talk to) gets sick at some point while in India but on the first day? That’s almost impressive – if it wasn’t so sad. I was feeling better but not great, the cold still hung on tight. James convinced me to get out of bed; we desperately needed to get our Russian VISA. We found a tuk-tuk, bartered hard for him to take us to the VISA processing office and then took off. Yeah, he had no idea where he was going. How do they barter for an unknown destination? The guide book got us close and we got out to walk the rest of the way. We asked a few men along the way and finally found the building. In the office we were asked to fill out an application and wait. We had printed off the Delhi applications from their web site and told them so. They said it was the wrong one and gave us another. We started to fill it in until someone stopped us, that was the wrong one. They gave us a copy of the one we already had. The girl told us ours wouldn’t work. You see their copy was on a single double sided sheet of paper, ours was on two separate sheets – they needed one sheet, not two. Huh? A little surprising since you have to attach a bunch of things (copy of passport, copy of plane ticket, etc.) to the application, so they aren’t real concerned for minimizing paper. This is officially our fourth Russian VISA application and the second of the same one. Grrrrrr. We finally got the forms completed and handed everything in. The girl gave us back a few sheets and we questioned her. Nope, here they didn’t care about those sheets that the other embassy insisted we needed. Yikes. They also kept our passports which made me nervous. We were traveling through India for the next week or so and I worried someone would want/need it. The girl assured me that as long as I had a copy I’d be good. I have no idea why I took her advice.
The Red Fort
All the tuk-tuk drivers kept trying to convince us to go to the spice market so we decided to go see what it was all about. The walk there took us past even more markets; street after street of people selling everything. In the streets, in stores, up steps…it was nuts. The sound of it all actually hurt my ears. The smell must have been strong to make it through my stuffy nose. We did find the spice market and after a bit of hesitation entered. It was tiny alleys filled again with people, goats, dogs, cows and the odd scooter. Men with truck loads of goods on their heads were running in and out and up and down the small passages. We were completely in the way. We got a bit turned around and I started to feel a bit claustrophobic. We passed the chilli section and we both started to sneeze and our eyes were watering. We finally found our way out and stood just off to the side trying to take it all in.
The spice market
We walked further into the market then out the other side. By the time we were out I was more than ready to go home. I had been bumped, shoved, my boobs had been rubbed, my ass grabbed and my head was killing me. The culture was even more aggressive than I had imagined. James gave in and we grabbed a tuk-tuk home. We picked up some juice and I was in bed and sound asleep 5 seconds out of the shower. It had been a long hard day for a sick person.
Not so pretty Delhi, view from the train
Random elephant on the road, no one else seems to notice
The pink city
We visited the City Palace. It was a striking display of stone, inlaid tile work and antiques. We wandered the courtyards and I was awed at the fanciness of it all. Everything was so shiny and ornate.
Next we peeked into the Hawa Mahal. It was down a side street and not really on our to do list but we were thirsty and the entrance was beside a drink stand. It turned out to be a favorite site in Jaipur. It’s described as an “extraordinary, fairy-tale, pink-sandstone, delicately honeycombed hive that raises a dizzying five stories”. And it was – especially the fairy-tale part. It was built in 1799 to enable the ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city. Oh, so we know it’s mean to keep girls locked up but we’ll build a pretty pink castle for them to watch the world from. Meh! It was still amazing.
On our way to the Elephant Festival (after yet again getting in a tuk-tuk who said he knew where we wanted to go but had no idea) we stopped for dinner. We decided on McDonalds and I can honestly say it was disgusting. The big mac special sauce was a cheap funny tasting curry mayonnaise and the chicken patty was orange – I can’t imagine why. The flurries were the same so I ordered a large to go. Guess we’ll be skipping McD’s for a few weeks.
My new best friend
A girl and her chair
We headed out the back gate where the elephants were leaving from. On the road the mahouts were trying to get people to take their pictures with the elephants – for a small fee. Some people stopped, snapped a picture and paid. We laughed – why didn’t they just go back a block and get one for free at the free festival. Weird.
We decided to walk home and hoped to come across a mall or proper grocery store. They have the tiny hole in the walls that sell a small selection of crap but anything other than crackers and pop is crazy expensive. The heat and never ending dust has turned my skin into something resembling a crocodile. I was desperate for bucket loads of moisturizer. We unfortunately never found one. When we were back at our hotel we took cover from the sun and ate in our room. We had plenty more to see in Jaipur but no rush….ahhhhh.
We didn’t quite make it home. Our tiny alley was having its own party (very common to have little parties throughout the city more geared for families). There was a small band and everyone was singing and dancing and throwing paint. The two Scottish guys were there and we joined the fun. It was must more relaxed and no one tried to grab my boobs.
Finally, covered from head to toe in paint, we went to our hotel. Our new friends joined us. We sat in the courtyard of the hotel and begged the festive staff to open the beer fridge. They served us some beer and said the kitchen wouldn’t be open for a few hours - no problem, we had beer.
Other than losing a pair of underwear, a bra, a t-shirt (to paint, not actually losing them) and my hair being stained pink it was a great day. The courtyard filled up (most of which ended up being Canadians) will Holi celebrators; all of who were covered in paint. James and I remarked that it was the first time since arriving in India we felt some real culture. No one, not one person, has tried to speak to us who aren’t selling something. We understand we are visiting the top tourist attractions but we usually meet friendly locals or young kids who are just curious about where we are from. It’s like everyone took off their serious faces for one day. I loved it!
James and I took turns showering and when I returned I barely recognized Colin & Graham (the two Scottish guys). They looked much different cleaned up. We spent the night drinking beer and eating cheese toasties (the Indian equivalent of grilled cheese – that I had about 6 of). We had done some research and picked Japipur for Holi because it was a bit smaller and safer, and had the elephant festival. For once we were spot on. What an amazing day.
Before and after
We had a relaxing day off. No busy tourist spots, no walking in the heat for 8 hours, no cowering from the sun. Nope, nothing. We slept in. Did a bunch of on-line bookings. Watched some tv. Had a nap. Went for a meal at a recommended roof top restaurant. It’s just what we both needed. After dinner I found Colin & Graham in the courtyard just finishing and we sat for a few hours and chatted. It was a nice normal day, or as normal as traveling can get.
Happy Birthday to ME!
We are still waitlisted so decided to get a bus ticket just in case (even though the hotel owners assured us we’ll get on, we are third on the wait list). We also thought the bus station was beside a mall that had a Subway. Maybe the mall will have a big bottle of lotion as well – I still haven’t found any non-whitening.
We walked to the bus station and were told we had to go to the main bus station to get our tickets. But before we left enjoyed a Sub. Since arriving in India I have avoided all fresh fruits and vegetables unless I bought them and have cleaned them myself; I’m determined not to get sick. For some reason I felt safe at Subway and went nuts. I had them pile on the veggies and my body almost rejected them. I hope this doesn’t come back to bite me in the ass…..literally.
The main bus station was too far to walk so we grabbed a tuk-tuk. We got dropped off at the station and wandered aimlessly for a while. We found the government office but they only had seats, no sleepers. We thought 18 hours was a bit much for seats only on an overnight journey, not that we haven’t done it before. We tried asking for directions and got sent in circles. It’s down the road that way. No it’s back down the road that way. It’s on the left side, the right side. OMG! Finally someone told us it was a few blocks away. We weren’t optimistic but gave it a go. It was further than we’d thought but finally found it. We bought our tickets and I silently hoped it was going to be a waste of six bucks. If we got on the train it was first class; nothing like the sleeper bus I imagined.
We had left one big sight for this afternoon. The bus didn’t leave until 8 pm and the train 11 pm and we had no hotel room which left us a lot of time to kill. We arranged with a tuk-tuk to take us to and from the Amber Fort; a good half hours ride. We then hopped in and I sat back and enjoyed the ride. I’m not sure if there was a more direct route or main road but we zigged zagged down small side streets for the first half of the trip. I still can’t figure out how there aren’t more accidents. For one there are cows everywhere. On the sidewalks, if there are any, on the roads, walking, sitting, sleeping, eating…everywhere – and they are big. Then add the goats (omg they are so cute) and dogs and kids and scooters and cars and people – selling, eating, sitting, sleeping, buying…everywhere. All crammed and moving in what we’d call a single lane (should be one way only) pot holed street. We joined in the confusion as we rattled along in our tuk-tuk.
More fort, I love old and crumblimg
We finally headed back down to our tuk-tuk and were off. I strained my neck to get a last look at the stunning and imposing Amber Fort. Our driver stopped at the mosque in the middle of the lake just long enough for us to take a picture and be offered more postcards, bags, wooden elephants, snow globes – no pigeon food this time though. The ride was as interesting and fun as the first go.
At the hotel we checked our train reservations and I was relieved that we had gotten seats! We were also in first class; not by choice but because that class had the shortest waitlist. We had met a couple that did first class and raved about it. It was a day train and they had been watered and fed the entire 12 hours. Yeah! But it meant we had more time to kill than if we had to take the bus. We decided to try the mall. I was expecting a real honest to goodness mall - I mean you find them in other cities/counties. It was a complete let down. It was half empty and really only had one floor of market type stuff (being sold for more than in an actual market). It did have a fancy Pizza Hut on the ground floor so we treated ourselves. As we were leaving we could see another mall type place across the road so decided to try it; it’s not like we didn’t have time. It was pretty much the same except with a Body Shop. Everything was 4 times what I’d pay back home and I just couldn’t pay $15 for a small bottle of lotion. For one I was too cheap and for another it would last a day and a half and I’d be back looking again. I decided I’d lost the fight and we got a tuk-tuk to go home. Three seconds into our ride I spotted a real grocery store. I started to yell stop to the confusion of James and the driver. We paid him and jumped out. I was so excited, it is sad really how excited I was. We walked back the half a block and I happily bought a big bottle of Vaseline Aloe Vera lotion. It’s the little things in life isn’t it? We decided to stock up in a few things and then went to find another tuk-tuk. Easy a kilometer back where the fake mall was – on a dark patch of road with almost nothing around – not so easy. James grumbled a lot until one came along. I was just happy that my skin might stop itching.
We did find a tuk-tuk eventually and made it back to the hotel with about an hour left. We settled into a couch in the courtyard and were treated to a puppet show. How great was that? I’m not usually a big fan but the puppets were beautiful and the puppeteer was very talented. They also had a belly dancing lady with pots on her head…interesting.
When we walked to the road to get a tuk-tuk to the street was dark. Quiet and dark. Hmmmmm. A couple of guys walked by (out of our happy alley) and offered to help. They saw a tuk-tuk delivering propane to a hotel and asked him to take us to the train station when he was done. Jaipur has been a nice break from the madness of India. On the way to the train station the poverty problems of India hit me like a slap in the face. During the day you see homeless people, kids begging and we’d passed countless tented cities (tents being used loosely) and slum areas. We hadn’t spent much time out late at night. Every street had people lined up under dirty blankets sleeping. A few were single mounds and others were lined up; 6, 10, 12 in a row. People slept in tuk-tuks and the back of bike rickshaws. A few people were sitting up cooking over small fires and talking; almost like you do in your living room with company. We saw a program on tv talking about the homeless problem in India. On top of the poor who just can’t afford anything else there is a shortage of 27 million homes. If you sent India all of the homes in all Canada that would only cover about 1/3 of the shortage. How do you even begin to solve a problem of that size?
Our travel companions
Our luxury beds