Happy Fourth of July from India. Truth be told, I didn’t even realize it was the fourth of July until the day was half over. If it wasn’t for someone on Facebook, I might have forgotten about it entirely.
Today marked the beginning of Nicole and my India trip with in a trip, India-ception! Nicole and I took a train from New Delhi to Jaipur that left at 6am. We traveled first class for $16 each. The seats were nice, the food was plentiful and the scenery was great outside of Delhi. The seats were really spacious, Nicole couldn’t even reach the foot rest in front of her because we had so much space. We had a filling breakfast of toast with honey, cereal, coffee, and a banana.
As we were leaving the Delhi train station we saw numerous shanty towns and Hoovervilles with locals pooing on the train tracks. It was bizarre. Presumably they knew everyone on the trains could see them. In most cases there were bushes and other things nearby that they could have gone behind and not been in plain site.
Nicole and I diverted our gaze and tried to enjoy our breakfast. Outside of Delhi, the scenery was much better. We saw little farms, soaring mountains, and the occasional little village or school here and there.
Eventually we reached Jaipur and hired a cab for the day for about $8 each. The driver took us all over Jaipur and we had an incredible time. After a quick fill up at the gas station, our first stop was at the City Palace.
Our next stop was Jantar Mantar, its right next to the City Palace. Jantar Mantar looks like a cross between a skate park and a Dr. Seuss book. The whole park is a series of astonomical tools used for things like predicting eclipses or the time of day. For anyone who has seen The Fall, several scenes from the movie were shot in and around Jaipur.
After our visit to Jantar Mantar, we crossed the street and walked to Hawa Mahal. Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of the Winds, is a palace in Jaipur within the old city walls. The palace’s name comes from the fact that its basically a giant screened lattice. It was built so the ladies of the royal household could look our over the commoners on the street without being seen. The palace was really cool to check out. All of the floors were completely open and as with other places in India we visited, everything was open to us. There were no rooms closed off or locked. We were free to wander everywhere.
The Amber Palace was our last stop on our trip around Jaipur. Its a bit outside of town and kind of difficult to get to. You can rent a jeep or you can take a tourist taxi, like we had to the top.
The road to the top takes you through lots of small and winding city roads before it eventually opens up into a wider road that terminates before the palace.
The driver dropped us at the entrance to the palace. From there, we walked a zigzagging series of ramps to the gate.
Just inside the gate is an expansive courtyard and another series of ramps and stairs leading to the palace.
This was probably our hottest day in India. We drank about 2 liters of water just walking around the palace.
The Lake Palace
On our way back to the train station for our trip to Agra, our taxi driver stopped and showed up the Lake Palace in Jaipur. Its a really cool palace built on the water and its absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, you cannot visit the palace. You can only take pictures from the shore of the lake. We took a few pictures and admired the palace as best we could from the shore.
The long train to Agra
Our train was supposed to last 4.5 hours, but we ended up traveling for 6 hours from Jaipur to Agra. Why? I’m not really sure. There was a lot of stopping going on and zero explanation for why. When we finally reached Agra we hailed an autorickshaw and rode to Hotel Sheela, our hotel directly beside the Taj Mahal, but more on that later.