It was 2 am when a local started yelling we had to get out now. Now?! Now!! B-but is this Jaipur? Yes, yes, now get out! We got exactly 21 seconds before the train would leave again, we gathered our stuff and jumped out of the high bunk beds. I tumbled over other passengers while running out with my big backpack on my back, small backpack on my chest and a blanket, a bottle of water and a bag of snacks in my hands. It was just another good morning on our trip through chaotic North India. Our arrival was by far from ideal, but after a 35 hour journey, we finally made it. We arrived in the Pink City, we arrived in Jaipur.
Our departure was btw not ideal either. Did I mention we took a rickshaw to the train station 1.5 hours before our train would actually leave? Oh, and did I mention that our rickshaw drive was only supposed to take 20 minutes. Yeah well, of course that didn’t all happen. Because it’s India and in India, things never go the way they’re supposed to go. We got in a huge traffic jam, I’m talking; cars, cows, scooters and rickshaws all in opposite directions honking at each other. There was no movement. And there wasn’t gonna be movement for another couple of hours. After a heated discussion about what to do, we decided to just run. We had 4 kilometers and 35 minutes left before our train would leave. As said in my last blog post, Indian train stations are the most chaotic thing in the world and getting there 30 minutes before hand is some good advice. Well, we definitely couldn’t make that anymore. With huge backpacks on our back we decided to run, run as fast as possible. Imagine 2 girls with backpacks bigger than themselves running in the rain and jumping over vehicles.
15 minutes later, we finally made it past the insane intersection. We then realized there were no rickshaws going in the right direction, all of them were still stuck in traffic. We ran further and further, hoping we’d still be able to catch our train. After another kilometer of running, we finally found another rickshaw, jumped in and screamed ‘Chello, chello, go to train station, chello!’ Chello, hello and thank you are the only 3 Hindi words I know, and right now this was very convenient. We finally made it to the train station to then hear that our train had a 4 hour delay. The stress was all for nothing. That 4 hour delay changed into a 6 hour delay and then a 8 hour delay. After 8 hours of waiting we finally got on the train, which then had another 7 hour delay. Yep, you’re reading that right. We ended up with a 15 hour delay and a 35 hour journey. As said, our departure, journey and arrival weren’t ideal. But in the end, I’d say it was all worth it, worth it for Jaipur.
Jaipur is the city of wealth, its filled with palaces and temples, many of those were on our to-see-list. We started off with Hawa Mahal, the wind palace. The palace looked pretty for sure, but nothing too impressive. We decided to get a Lassi aka Indian milkshake on one of the rooftops that had a good view of the palace. As we walked up, I heard my name. ‘Yo Mascha, Mascha! Up here!’ We hadn’t met anyone in Jaipur yet and I had no idea who the hell could be yelling my name. As I turned around I saw Nick and Adam! Our Aussie friends who we met in Sri Lanka. ‘Yeez what a coincidence!’ I knew they were travelling through India, but what are the odds that in a country this big, they’d be in the same city. And still, the fact that we managed to run into each other in a huge city with 211 temples, that’s pretty impressive too.
We talked, enjoyed our strawberry lassi’s and said goodbye to each other after an hour or so. Next we went to visit the water palace and the city walls. The water palace was a quick visit, but we ended up chilling at the city walls for a few hours. We ate a bunch of bananas while we enjoyed the view and took a ton of cool photos. Later, we met Ethan from New Zealand with his Kiwi and British friends. It’s interesting how easily you start conversations with strangers here, within 20 minutes you hear their entire life story and how the hell they ended up in India. I’ve noticed backpackers start conversations everywhere, whether it’s in the bus, in the hostel or at the city walls. It’s another part I love about travelling. It makes me realize tho, all these backpackers who easily start conversations with strangers… They seem to be ‘gone’ once they’re back home in Europe, the States or wherever it may be. I’m just as guilty though. Back home, in The Netherlands, I’d be sitting in the bus, in silence, maybe with headphones in, not talking to anyone. Here, I’d easily start a conversation with someone. I might try to do otherwise, once back home, but I almost feel like things are different back there. People don’t seem to want meaningful conversations with strangers. They just want to get to work or to school. Anyway, it’s definitely interesting and worth mentioning.
We ended the day at the rooftop of our hostel. It’s a really chill spot, with good music, good food and good vibes. Imagine a place filled with a ton of small lights and a ceiling decorated with blankets in a 100 different colors. The chairs were car tyres from the dump and we were surrounded by the coolest art pieces on the wall. We met the Italian Stefano, Swedish Astra and Canadian Adam there. We all had the best Indian paneer with roti while we talked. Stefano and Astra were doing the same master, which allows them to have 4 semesters abroad in 4 different countries. They both had done 1 in their home country, 1 in the Netherlands and now 1 in India. Adam is an artist from Canada, he shared his life philosophies and told us about his experience as an actor in the 100! In case you didn’t know, the 100 is one of my fav Netflix series, so you can imagine, we listened with full attention.
The next day started on a good note. We woke up early and went for a visit to the Amber Fort. The Amber fort is the most popular tourist attraction in Jaipur and rightfully so, the palace is absolutely stunning. The sun had just risen, the sky was still beautifully orange. Walking there truly takes you back in the ancient times. I imagine queens in colorful, Indian dresses and kings with golden jeweled turbans. The mosaic ceilings, ivory-inlaid wooden doors and marble walls are all insanely impressive. We wandered around for hours, walking from one beautiful room into another.
After our visit to the Amber fort, we’d quickly had to get a new train ticket. We booked everything in advance, but decided to cancel our trip to Jaisalmer, the dessert city. This way we’d have more time in Jaipur and so our 10 day holiday wouldn’t feel as rushed. However, this wouldn’t be India, if getting a quick train ticket wouldn’t take hours. Literally, hours. We raced with our rickshaw driver from one travel agency to another, where they’d all do the same. You’d get a chai tea, you’d have to wait for half an hour to then hear ‘sorry ma’am, we can’t help you.’ It was 3 pm by the time we finally had a valid train ticket with both our names on there, by then we were exhausted and annoyed. We walked up to Central park, listened to chill music and enjoyed the warm rays of sunshine while laying in the grass. I tried to forget about all the screaming rickshaw drivers, rude travel agencies and the street sellers who always try to rip you off. It was in that moment where I missed the South, with its genuine, friendly locals and in general, way more chill vibes.
We ended the night low key at the rooftop with Astra, Stefano and a British couple. Today wasn’t perfect, but Kar and I promised each other we’d make the next day, our last day a really good one. We started with sleeping in and getting pancakes with syrup and a fruit salad for breakfast. If that’s not a good start of the day, then I don’t know what is. We started out with the Monkey temple, it was hidden in a valley, the view was quite stunning. A simple, but beautiful temple in between the rocks. It was quiet, we weren’t surrounded by hordes of tourists and that felt really good. The reflection of the temple in the water looked peaceful, once in a while some of the monkeys would jump in. We watched them play and fool around,
We spent the afternoon shopping and went to visit the city palace with its 100 beautifully decorated doors. And if you know me, you’d understand I had to take a bunch of photos in front of all doors hehe. That night was our last night fun night at the hostel before we had to say goodbye to everyone. We thanked everyone for making our stay so much more fun and wished them all good travels. Astra would travel to Pondicherry soon and even promised us she’d visit us on the project, aaah so much fun!
We woke up super early the next day, ready for a 2 day journey back to Pondi. First, a rickshaw, then a 6 hour train, then a rickshaw, then a shitty, nasty hotel, then a taxi, then a 3 hour flight, then a metro, then a 5 hour bus and then a rickshaw again. It was a long, uncomfortable journey. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say getting sick in a train, then throwing up in a plastic bag which then rips open, isn’t a hell lot of fun. Taking the metro in the wrong direction twice, which is why our metro journey took 2 hours wasn’t a lot of fun either. Off course our bus had a 1 hour delay. And let’s not forget about bargaining in the pouring rain because the rickshaw driver asked a crazy amount of ₹550 instead of the usual ₹100. After yelling at him that he was a pathetic liar, he decided he’d bring us for ₹400. I was thinking. Maybe if he could’ve heard my thoughts out loud, the fact that he has the most horrible karma and would probably turn into a rat in his next life, maybe then he would’ve brought us for a ₹100.
You can imagine we were so, so relieved to be back on the project after all those hours. Back with our boys and back with the staff. We’ll be here till December 28th but due to the Christmas holidays, we only have 23 days left with em. And I promise, I’ll cherish all 23 of those.