Holy Cow.

Trip Start Dec 14, 2004
Trip End May 25, 2005

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Flag of India  ,
Thursday, April 21, 2005

Hello from the Pink City!
We are at the end of our stay in Jaipur (which is in the state of Rajasthan). We arrived here on Monday, after an 18 hour train ride up from Mumbai.
Lots to tell, and where to begin?
Our train ride here would have been fine- the seats were comfortable enough, and our first companions in the berth were friendly enough. Things were going fine, until they got on. "They" being a family of four- mom, dad, and two kids. Cultural relativity notwithstanding- they were the rudest, most intrusive people imagineable. From the moment they got on the train, their presence dictated the mood, the noise level, and our sanity. The children were small- a girl who was maybe 6 years old, and a 3-4year old boy. To describe all the levels on which they were rude is somewhat funny in retrospect- the father chewed loudly with his mouth open, belched, farted, and apparently, had an awful cold- he didn't bother to cover his mouth when sneezing and coughing- and tried to get us to move our luggage around to make more room for his (b/c they had only paid for 3 seats, since the kids could share- but they had enough luggage for about 6 people). The little boy proceeded to scream, yell, climb all over us, step on our feet- throw his snacks and rejected dinner on the floor. The daughter and mother were relatively benign- except for when Mom asked us to turn out the reading lights at around 9:30pm so her precious darlings could go to bed. Needless to say- there was a bunch of eyerolling between the three of us- and though we stood our ground on the reading lights- this family managed to make the ride pretty miserable. We really couldn't understand it- there were two other adults in the cabin with us (both Indian) who truly did not seem bothered. Cultural differences are one thing- but this went over the line.

Had the family not been there- the train would have been borderline luxurious- the cabin was air conditioned, and there was an endless parade of men up and down the aisle selling "Chai, Chai Masala", "Samosas", "Chapati"...

We arrived in Jaipur on Monday at around noon- hot, tired, and cranky. We had read and been warned of the touts who would try to steer us towards a hotel or store where they would receive commission. We tried to preempt this by prebooking a hotel. Still, when we were approached by a man telling us the pre-paid taxi booth was closed, but he would take us where we wanted to go for 30 rupees, we were wary. he was gentle enough though, so we decided to take a gamble and go with him and his sidekick. we piled our backpacks and selves into his tiny rickshaw and headed out into our first taste of jaipur traffic. oh my goodness. we don't really know if there's any good way to describe the traffic in this city. it is worse than what we saw in mumbai... it appears to just be random chaos happening on these streets. cars, rickshaws, cows, dogs, people with pushcarts, people without pushcarts, camels, elephants, donkeys, people on bicycles... all sharing the streets, all trying to weave their way around each other. nevermind that you're "supposed" to drive on the left here... people will just drive wherever there is space to squeeze through. our driver, who's name is actually mohammed ali (no joke, it's really his name), seemed to have quite a talent for attacking the traffic scene in his so-called "helicopter", and we decided that we would stick with him for a couple of days. he took us to all of the important sites in jaipur, as well as places that we wouldn't have known about without him.

our first full day with him included a stop at a textile factory... we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we stepped into the factory. we watched a man stamping colors on a silk tapestry for a few minutes... and then we were ushered upstairs. there were countless shelves full of folded bedspreads, tapestries, skirts, wall hangings, bags, pillow covers, scarves... you name it. we spent a good three hours being shown various patterns and materials and going through heaps of fabrics ourselves. it was overwhelming but so much fun. in the end we all walked away with a few purchases for ourselves and maybe some of you lucky people at home.

In the evening, Muhammad took as to a place called "Chaki Dhani" an interesting little place which resembled a sort of Epcot, India but was filled with mostly Indians rather than tourists. As we walked in, we each received a bindi and were showered with flower petals as a welcome. We spent our evening eating delicious and endless Indian food compelte with the tastiest sticky sweet desserts we had ever had. (We each had a least 10.) After eating, we watched some traditional Indian dancing, were painted with henna and played some games. All in all, it was a lovely and relaxing evening and our bellies were the happiest. So far, eating in India has been cheap and wonderful. Most restaurants are either vegetarian or mostly vegetarian, so the eating possibilities for all of us are endless. We have had a great time trying new dishes and trying authentic versions of the ones that we know from home. If we were to splurge on a big dinner complete with drinks and dessert, we would most likely spend no more than 3 or 4 dollars each.

We have spent the rest of our time in Jaipur visiting beautiful old forts, temples and palces, seeing beautiful architecture, paiting and carving. It has been nice to get some relief from the craziness of the city traffic in these more peaceful places. While visiting a museum yesterday were were approached by an Indian man who asked us if he could take a picture of us with his children. We were completely thrown by his request, but he was very nice, so we agreed to let him take our picture. Rachel was quickly handed a baby to hold in the photo and before we knew it a group of young men had gathered around also wanting to have a photo taken with us. Completely confused by the situation, we asked them why they wanted their picture to be taken with us. We never did get an answer... but it was certainly the strangest moment of our time in Jaipur.

we're off to the capital, new delhi, in a couple of hours. another train ride to endure... hopefully everyone around us will be healthy, as we are starting to feel a bit sick ourselves (thanks due to the nice family from our last train).
happy passover to all of you who are celebrating!
much love,
rachel, jodie, and allison
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