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February 2, 2017

India Day 20 – Jaipur to Delhi

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:32 am
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20/10/16

It was essentially my last full day in India today and in keeping with the tradition, I was up at some super crazy time again, leaving at 5am for the Jaipur Railway Station. Zigzagging through the streets at that time was quicker, but not a lot. I was surprised how much traffic there was and once we got to the station, it was a traffic jam. The station is home to many people, literally. As we arrived, there were many sleeping in and around the area of the station, owning nothing but the clothes they were in and the rug or cardboard they were covered by. Some begged a little, some hassled you a bit, but at that time, most were still asleep.

Jaipur Railway Station

Jaipur Railway Station

The train looked more modern, the carriages were double decker, but the train was still around 20 carriages long. It was an express train, but somehow stopped at nearly every station and even in between. It arrived about 3 hours late, not bad for a 2 hour journey.

Beside the train, Jaipur

Beside the train, Jaipur

The approach into Delhi central station is not one you would expect of a capital city. The side of the railway line was a stream of shelters of rusty iron held together with rusty nails, serving as shelter for thoursands, clothes, often not much more than rags, hung from whatever was available, kids and women sat in the dust outside, while piles of rubbish could be seen on the rooves of the shelters and surrounding areas. The rusty iron soon gave way to a more improved standard of dwelling – two storey brick buildings with external ladders to get to the second storey. Both types of dwellings weren’t much more than a few square meters in size, but nearly all had satellite dishes…

The slum area, just near Delhi

The slum area, just near Delhi

The contrast in life styles was stark, as less than a few meters away, people sat on a train immersed in their phones, oblivious to the surrounding area and the struggles of many just to survive.
Back in Delhi the waiting continued as there were only 2 taxis arranged for 17 of us. Just another example of the lack of organization from our tour leader, but that’s another issue.

The contrasts in life, slums and phones

The contrasts in life, slums and phones

Outside our hotel we were greeted by a lady and her young child begging. They tugged on us, then followed us to where we had lunch, kindly waited outside for us, then followed us back to the hotel. As harsh as it sounds, giving the beggars nothing is the best thing for them. It reinforces that it’s ok to ask for money, without having to do anything in return, it perpetuates the cycle from one generation to another and in the long term does more harm. Often too, there’s a ring leader behind the beggars, who take almost all the money given to the beggaras, leaving them with barely enough to provide food. The circumstances the beggars find themselves in doesn’t diminish their value as a human, they still have thoughts and feelings and are loved by God, our challenge as a society is to find a way to help them without hurting further, a way that will bring about lasting change and a change in mindset, enabling them to realise they are loved and valued, and helps them utilise their gifts and untapped potential within. Training, shelters, rehab, childcare may all help, but whatever the solution is, it won’t come easily or cheaply.

At Delhi, finally!

At Delhi, finally!

After a quick lunch a few of us went to Qutab Minar, built around 1193. Took the metro out there, which was really easy. It was a little busy buying tickets, and it was interesting to note that some of the Indians got upset with those who started to queue jump – that was quite satisfying given our experience earlier in the trip. Once at the Qtuab Minar station, we thought we’d get a tuktuk the last part. Got a couple who agreed on a price, then just as we got in the drivers started saying it was more and they were going to take us shopping as well. Climbed out, tried another, argued with them and we started walking. It wasn’t that far anyway, just would’ve given us more time to look around when we were there, because it was already late. There were a couple of nice looking parks around this area if you have time to explore, one with some interesting rules!

The rules for the park, near Qutab Minar

The rules for the park, near Qutab Minar

At the Qutab Minar complex, the main part of the structure is a single minaret, a 73m tower of victory, towering above the surrounding buildings. The stones are engraved with verses of the quran, and the area is meant to record the triumph of muslim rule. There’s also an iron pillar, 7.21m high, weighing over 6T and in over 1000 years is yet to rust. That’s one impressive piece of workmanship. Overall, most parts of the complex were in remarkably good shape given its age.

Qutab Minar

Qutab Minar

The same tuk tuk drivers we tried to get to take us to the area were there on the way out, as we expected. We gave them a wide berth and jumped in another for the trip back to the Carol Bagh metro station. Half way there one of our drivers says I’ll take you to the shops… We told him no shopping, no talking, so he turned the music up loud and drove along, wondering why we weren’t answering his questions the odd time he asked. Who knew those things did music! Great sunset as we jumped on the train. It was peak hour going back into Central Delhi, so the train was packed, but pushing is an Indian national sport, up there with hockey and cricket, so we just joined in.

Ruins at Qutab Minar

Ruins at Qutab Minar

Qutab Minar Station

Qutab Minar Station

Sunset from Qutab Minar Station

Sunset from Qutab Minar Station

Tonight was our final meal together with our group and we got back just in time to wander up to the roof top restaurant of the hotel. The meal at our hotel (Hotel Perfect) was quite good, reasonably priced and they did a good job of hosting our larger group.

January 31, 2017

India Day 19 – Jaipur City Palace

19/10/16
Earlier in the day was the Amber Fort. In the arvo, I headed to the city palace, in Jaipur itself, another opulent palace with extravagant decorative structures and fittings. There was a textile museum with both mens and womens clothing from centuries ago that was ornately decorated with beetle wings. Polo and billiards were introduced by the British around 1819 with sample costumes of the era in display. A weapons museum and the royal room were another couple of highlights and the four peacock doors in another section where one was restored looked magnificent.

Pink buildings at the City Palace

Pink buildings at the City Palace

Unfortunately Jantar Mantar Observatory, literally just across the road, closed at 5pm, just after I’d left the palace, and headed there. I would have liked to have gone there as well, but the palace was definitely worth visiting. Beware of the tuk tuk drivers outside of the palace, they’ll hassle you as much as they can and become your shadow outside the palace.

Outside the City Palace

Outside the City Palace

From there a few of us headed toward the bazaar in the city centre area for a few last minute souvenirs. Before we even got there though, we found a cool shop, Pachouli, that had a vast array of clothes, scarves and homewares that were well made and very reasonably priced. That’s near the city palace and the Tripolia Gate Bazar, they are well worth a visit if you’re looking for any reasonably priced small gifts for friends, or clothes for men, women or children or any kind of homewares like tea towels, towels or tablecloths.

It was around here that we encountered our “follower” for the second time. He’d introduced himself in the city palace to us, then “appeared” just as we were leaving Pachouli. He popped up again a couple of times in the bazar streets, then as he popped up again, we decided it was time to get out of there fast. You can’t accidentally bump into people around those crowded street bazars that many times – and we’d walked a fair way.

The bazar area was a tour through different areas with similar shops, a heap of stationery and book shops, some clothes areas, and general goods. Crowded narrow streets decorated with lights for the upcoming Diwali festival added to the atmosphere.

The streets at night, Jaipur

The streets at night, Jaipur

Our tuk tuk ride back was interesting – 5 of us jumped into a tuktuk for 4, got a few weird looks from the locals as normally it’s them travelling like that, not us! And the traffic at that time of the night was crazy. Jaipur is also getting ready for diwali, the annual hindu festival of lights, equivalent to Christmas for us. It’s next week, if it’s crazy now, I imagine it will be much worse next week.
Had a nice evening sitting in the lawn area of the Hotel Arya Niwas to finish up the day. Excellent hotel if you’re looking for a place to stay in Jaipur. Lovely lawns, restaurant (vegetarian), rooms and library. There’s also a nice little gift shop with a good selection of very reasonably priced souvenirs.

January 29, 2017

India Day 19 – Jaipur, Amber Palace

19/10/16
Fort, palace and shopping filled in the day today.
We drove past Hawa Mahal on our little scenic detour last night, not realising what it was. Actually even when we stopped to take photos this morning, I didn’t realise what it was. It wasn’t explained to us then, but at least I knew what it was called. It was built in 1799 for the ladies of the royal household to watch what was going on in the city, such as processions and general life, so that they didn’t have to mingle with the people.

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

From there we went to Amber Fort or Amber palace. The fort is actually higher up the hill, and it’s the palace that you look around, but it’s mostly referred to as Amber Fort. Either way, it was really stunning. The steps up to the fort look more difficult than they are but the elephants make light work of it. The elephant drivers are typical drivers and a few could be seen on their mobile phones while driving the elephants! Not sure how good the conditions are that they’re kept in.

Talking and driving on the elephant

Talking and driving on the elephant

The entrance to the fort consisted of food vans, snake charmers and of course people, but would have to have been the worst I’ve encountered in terms of hawkers (at least in India). They were persistent, in your face and extremely annoying, not taking no for an answer. They were selling a great variety of things, with not much actually related to the fort.

Pigeons reach plague proportions in India (much like the hawkers)

Pigeons reach plague proportions in India (much like the hawkers)

The fort stands on the hill, an impressive structure, visible from the surrounding plains, an ever present reminder of the dynasties that flourished, but no longer exist, the concentrated opulence of a few, on display for the world to see, a reminder of times past, existing now to serve the town in tourism only.

Amber Palace from the outside

Amber Palace from the outside

It is well preserved, the walls able to tell stories dating hundreds of years. The large courtyard in the fort was once home to the hustle and bustle of markets and town life, the fort walls containing the town of Jaipur until it was moved to the plains, part of the reason being the plains were more suited to the <a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jantar_Mantar,_JaipurJantar Mantar observatory.

Jaipur

Jaipur

Mirrors decorate different parts of the palace in the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors). Shining a light on the mirrors makes the ceiling twinkle like stars at night, a spectacular feature of the palace. In other areas marble wall carvings, columns and arches abound.

Mirrored Ceiling, Amber Palace

Mirrored Ceiling, Amber Palace

The golden cage was interesting. It was where the wives and harem of the king lived. 12 wives, 132 others. The 12 rooms of the wives looked on to the courtyard, but all were kept separate. There were secret passages inside the walls so that the king could walk between each and nobody could see where he was visiting. The area had hot and cold running water, latrines, wheelchair access and a special area set aside for the women to give birth. It was ahead of its time, but if I was a woman from that era, I wouldn’t want to live there: the “golden cage” nickname a clue as to how the women were treated.

Some rooms of the golden cage, Amber Palace

Some rooms of the golden cage, Amber Palace

The drive back in the tuk tuk was through some narrow crowded lanes – and for the first – and surprisingly only – time our tuk tuk was involved in a little scrape after we were nudged from behind by a bus I think. It was significantly bigger than us, but our driver jumped out and was ready to have a fight with the other driver who took great amusement at our drivers animated antics.

The old and newer... Elephant and Tuk Tuk

The old and newer… Elephant and Tuk Tuk

Lunch at the the Hotel Arya Niwas was good as usual. More on today later…

January 27, 2017

India Day 18 Tordi Gah to Jaipur

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 3:59 pm
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18/10/16

Another early morning, up in the cool and dark to hike up the hill to see the sunrise from the fort at Tordi, which was really worth doing.

Different colours

Different colours

I’m glad we walked up the hill in the dark though, as there were some fairly steep sections, which if you could see them, may have messed with your head. I’m sure it’s always easier to walk up the hard parts in the dark without knowing what you’re in for.

Lake in the morning light, Tordi Gah

Lake in the morning light, Tordi Gah

It was a great view of the area from the top. The fort was fairly small, especially if you’re comparing it to the big forts in Agra, Delhi and Jaipur. It was only a small kingdom also, so a smaller fort does make sense. The sun came up really quickly, and seemed to pick up where it left off last night colour wise. It came up a brilliant pink colour and brought a soft glowing light to the surrounding area. Sitting at the top was nice and peaceful. No horns, no people, nice and cool and some biscuits and tea to fill the gap.

Time for a rest while drinking in the view (and water)

Time for a rest while drinking in the view (and water)

After watching the sunrise, I took a quick look around the overgrown fort ruins. Most of the fort was just ruins, some brick walls and wells hidden beneath the vegetation, hidden reminders of an era long gone. I’m not sure there’d be enough to even try to restore if they wanted to.
We wandered back down, getting a view of the others side of the hill and the dam in the distance.

The few willing to make the hike

The few willing to make the hike

After the fort hike, there was time for a bit of recovery, then off for a walk around the village. It was just a normal rural Asian village, people walking around, or going about their normal morning routine like washing, getting to work, school etc. The population is about 1500 and most earn their living from subsistence farming, so the addition of tourists has been good, but it needs to be monitored a little so that the kids don’t take advantage of the tourists for thing like money etc.

Generations, Tordi Gah

Generations, Tordi Gah

From there our short stay in the village was over and we headed to Jaipur. Tordi Gah was a great little detour and while there’s not much to do, that is also part of the attraction. You’re able to get away from the noise, hustle and bustle of tourist India and take some time out.

Tordi Gah guest house with fort in the background

Tordi Gah guest house with fort in the background

Once in Jaipur, our tour leader took us on a short walk (march) to the old city area – going past the shops too fast to actually see much. We ended up visiting another couple of tourist shops, one which demoed block printing, then of course tried to sell us things like linen, scarves, etc, then on to a gem shop for the same type of thing. At least they give you free drinks at these shops, but it gets a bit boring if you’re not there to buy anything.

Shopping can be boring

Shopping can be boring

We were driven back to our hotel by a guy who owns the gem shop. He spends 2 months in Italy, then comes back to India for 2 months, back to Italy for 2 months etc. He was great, very informative and would probably make a great tour guide! The traffic at night around the city centre in Jaipur is crazy and our driver gave us a good tour of the city after he unintentionally took the scenic route. It would have been good to get to see the park at night, that was lit up well and looked really cool.

Elaborate candelabra, Jaipur gem shop

Elaborate candelabra, Jaipur gem shop

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