Incredible India! (part 4)

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March 30th 2015
Published: March 30th 2015
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From Jodhpur I took an early train towards Jaipur, another interesting city in Rajasthan, the state of the forts and palaces! I booked a seat in a “sleeper-class” which wasn’t too bad. I booked the train at the station three days in advance since the trains are often fully booked in India. While standing in the line at the counter, many Indians just walk in front of you instead of standing behind you and waiting for their turn in the line. I’ve encountered this more often and I started to be very serious about it and there is no way I let them jump in front of me. One time I had to push a guy away a little bit when he tried to approach the counter from the side. Same problem goes for the trains, where many people seem not to wait for everyone to get off the train before they start boarding. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s a “normal” thing in India...!? On the train I got a top “bed” and I put both of my bags up there. I put them on top of each other and slept with my feet on top of them. There was no way I wanted to leave any of my bags somewhere else. I just cannot trust anyone in the train.

Once in Jaipur, I took an auto-rickshaw to my hostel. In both Jodhpur and Jaipur I had very dry lips and regularly needed to apply lip balm because of the very dry air. On my way towards the hostel I could already tell that Jaipur was busier compared to the two former “purs” I visited. Jaipur has more than 3 million inhabitants, thus larger than both Udaiphur and Jodhpur. I checked-in at the hostel and then took an auto-rickshaw to the old city (also known as Pink City because of the colour of the buildings). The old city is surrounded by a city wall which has different entrances consisting of big arches. The first stop I made was at Hawa Mahal Temple, with its iconic façade full of windows which looks very stunning, like a "toy-house"! The temple was built in 1799 and was used by Royal women to “secretly” be able to look at the street life without being seen from the outside. Once inside, I bumped into the Dutch girls again: Laura and Selma. I knew they were going to be in Jaipur though. We did the rest of the visit here together and we also got lucky to be able to take a picture with four Sikhs who were visiting the place. We walked a bit through the old city towards Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory built in the 1700’s and consists of several geometric devices in different sizes, all to measure things such as the time, position of the sun, starts etc. I bought a combination-ticket which includes visits to many sites but the City Palace wasn’t included, therefore I didn’t bother to pay extra and just skipped it instead.

After this we were all hungry and went to this roof-top restaurant (almost every restaurant I’ve been to in India, are roof-top restaurants!). After this meal I was quite tired and I went back to my hostel; it was late afternoon. The girls said that they hired taxi for the next day to visit some of the sites of interest and I could join too, so we could all split the cost. Once back at the hostel, I was talking to this British-American guy called Will and he was asking about the city and so on. I told him about going in a taxi the next day and he joined too.

The next morning the four of us went on a drive and first we stopped at Albert Hall. This building was built in late 19th century and houses a museum with a collection of several Rajasthani paintings, music instruments, sculptures etc. and also an Egyptian mummy! Then we continued to Galtaji (also known as Monkey Temple because of the many monkeys wandering around there.) The temple-complex was built in the 18th century and used to be a place where Hindu pilgrims go to. The entrance was free but you just had to pay a small fee to be able to use your camera. It was a nice place but it lacks maintenance. When walking further to the back, there were stairs going up and when I went up, there was like a public pool and a few women on the side. I realized that this area was only for women once they saw me and started yelling “only woman, only woman”! After this we continued to Nahargarh Fort which was built in 18th century as a site for retreat. It’s located on the top of a hill from where you have a good view of Jaipur. Newer parts were built in the 19thcentury, expanding the whole complex with some palaces. The place is nice but I wasn't impressed. And then we went to the main fort, the biggest around Jaipur: Amber Fort. It’s located at the Maota Lake and was built late 16th century was used to house the Royals (Maharajas) from Rajput and their families. The whole complex is surrounded by a protective wall of several kilometres long, going all the way up the surrounding hills. It’s a big complex and inside is quite impressive. Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace) was my favourite part, all the walls and the ceiling was decorated by small mirrors.

The next day I took it easy, slept in a bit, and did a bit of laundry and typing. Later in the afternoon they picked me up to go to the spoken English institute, which Kamil from Jodhpur had arranged for me to go to. I sat in front of the class and introduced myself. These students come to these classes to improve their spoken English. The students were a bit shy in the beginning and they didn't ask many questions. Then they slowly started to ask more and more. They were very interested in my trip around India and also in Curaçao and the Caribbean (West Indies) in general. Since there is a team called “West Indies” in cricket, formed by the current-and former British islands, many people think it’s just one country. So I decided to give a little Geography lesson on the Caribbean by drawing a map of the Caribbean and naming the islands one by one. I marked the islands that do play cricket by putting a little star. Most questions were about Curaçao's food, music, population etc and they even asked me to sing a song. I "had" to do it and since I'm a terrible singer, I decided to sing just one couplet of my national anthem. It was a very, very interesting experience to share with these students and it was great to be a “teacher” again for an hour or two! After my class, most of the students went in smaller groups with different teachers to do group discussions but I didn't join.

I left Jaipur by train to Sawai Madhopur, which lies about 160km towards the south. Once there, I took a rickshaw to my guesthouse and booked a morning-safari for the next morning. The next day I woke up before 6am to go for breakfast and they picked me up at 6:45am. I boarded this truck with 20 seats and together with other tourists (both Indian and foreign) I went to Ranthambore National Park, home of the Bengal tigers. There are several routes you can take through the park and the guide said he’ll take route-3, which is the best one according to him. He said that there are about 60 tigers living in the park and the chance of actually seeing one is around 30%! (MISSING)We started our drive through the park and spotted deer, monkeys, peacocks, many birds, crocodiles...and YES, tigers too! That’s the main reason people visit the park and of course I was very happy to be able to see them. I couldn't be more lucky, being able to see tigers on my first visit! There were three of them across the water. Two of them where behind the grass all the time, while one was laying down in plain sight. After about 10 minutes the tiger stood up and slowly walked away and disappeared behind the grass. That’s when I took my best shot of the tiger. After all I didn't have to go on a second safari in the afternoon. Besides, it was storming a lot in the afternoon and in the evening. Many thundershowers, lots of lightning, rain and wind. This weather was on-off during the rest of the day and even at night, when I had to go to the station to board a train at 4am. When I arrived at the station, there were so many people and cows sleeping everywhere in the station and there was a lot of cow poop. Phew...this is India! I got my ticket for 100 Rupees and went on the platform to wait for the train, while I was enjoying the thunderstorm and close lightning strikes (yes, I’ve always been fascinated by them). More in the next and last blog from India!

Additional photos below
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30th March 2015
Galtaji (Monkey Temple)

What variety!
Beautiful palaces and forts, nature, a safari, friends and rooftop restaurants--India sounds great! I'm also amazed at how easy it has been for you to get train tickets--I'd always heard it was a nightmare--congrats!
30th March 2015
Galtaji (Monkey Temple)

Hahaha thanks Tara. Well, in this blog it was quite easy. Wait until the next blog and you'll read how much of a P.I.T.A it was to get train tickets ;-)
5th April 2015

Embracing India
Elton you continue to describe the sights and sounds with wonderful word pictures. In India they know few foreigners will challenge them about cutting in line. I had to laugh at this. Good job. The foods in India are so wonderful. Your experience at the school was perfect. Glad you sang for them. I know they appreciated meeting you.
15th April 2015

Hello, hahah yes yes, that cutting line thing is common here. I had to stand up for myself ;-) The school definitely a highlight, really nice experience to be able to share with the students. Have you been to India yourself? Highly recommended!! :)
9th April 2015


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