Jaipur & New Delhi
Jaipur was a city I had hopes for, largely due to other people on my trip and anecdotes exclaiming great shopping which I enjoy...! The first thing that you notice from entering the city is all the terracotta of the old city walls. Proclaimed the ‘pink city’, after they proceeded to paint the entire city pink pending Prince Albert's visit and, the pink was claimed to be Queen Victoria's favourite colour and also the colour of hospitality. Over time this settled for terracotta so all new buildings had to abide by the standard. It makes for a beautiful facade across the inner city. When we arrived in Jaipur we headed straight to the amber fort which was founded and built by the emperor of Jaipur city from the 16th century to 18th century.
The fort is located in a steep hill, which trials you as you weave up and up the ascent in the sun not sure of the end point but assuming the entrance not too far ahead. As you reach the entrance you get an appreciate for how high you have climbed and you get a view of the surroundings. The fort is located a bit outside Jaipur so the view isn't directly on the main city.
The subsequent tour guides you into various buildings on the site used by the ruling family for all different activities. Some of these were so impressive, from the detailed sculptures of the capitals of columns, to the painting detail still vibrant today. I was in awe and could have spent a number of hours here. Again a lot of the architecture is inspired by Arabic architecture so you see these influences throughout.
After this tour we headed to the textile area of town to see some block printing done and we spend a longgggg time in the show rooms, the silks, embroidery and block was amazing we all bought a few things and one of the girls had some dresses made. Before long we were back at the hotel but no rest for the wicked we had a Bollywood dance class to attend. This was a comical experience largely due to the fact we were in the hotel lobby dancing with a teacher who I'm pretty sure was not a dancer teacher and made the routine up as he went along. Needless to say it entertained our group and I have some key moves to take with me 👍
We had another day in Jaipur which mainly was spent shopping, but we did take the opportunity to head to the Observatory which is well worth a visit for all the shapes alone. We also got a palm reading down which was really interesting.
After the visit we headed to the main bazaar area in the inner city but I was disappointed with the quality of stuff and everything was the same in all shops. We did go to a specialised gemstone shop but again I didn't rate the quality of silver which was what I sought.
Nevertheless I used the silver hunt as a food crawl and had lots of samosas, lassis and ice creams along the way before meeting the others at the cinema for a Bollywood movie. We had been told to experience a movie in India as it's meant to be a noisy affair. Regardless of this the movie we chose to see provided an education to us all especially the guys in the group. Padman is a true story film about a man from a small rural village in India who brought the sanitary pad to rural women in India. After seeing the plight of the women in his life during their menstruation, which in traditional India meant women had to sleep outside, eat separate to their family, not touch any one, and use a dirty cloth, he decided to do something about this. After realising the price of sanitary pads he invented a low cost machine to create them and then essentially franchised these machines to women in different villages to produce them themselves providing a small income for them. He won lots of activist awards and UN accreditation etc.. but as you see in the movie even discussing periods was taboo and he was ostracised and expelled from his village. It was a really interesting movie and certainly surprised the boys who thought it was going to be about iPads!
The next day we headed to capital of India, New Delhi. Yet again we set off on an early train, taking only 4 hours from Jaipur. When we arrived we headed straight out on a sightseeing tour of the city. New Delhi is intense to say the least. You are bombarded with the noise, the smells, the pollution and the staring mainly from men! I have travelled many many places before, included a lot on my own but my experience in New Delhi was breaching on awkward, I was very glad to be in male company even thought I am sure I was of no harm. Overall I was feeling the strain of constantly being segregated as a women whether it's on the metro carriages, specific seats just for women or separate queues for men and women it all kind of came to a head in Delhi. That's not to say we didn't see some great things. After fuelling up with a South Indian dosa again we explored a Sikh temple which was really fascinating. They are a separate religion to Buddhism or Hinduism and have a strong culture towards community. There was a large dinning hall next to the temple where volunteers cook 3 meals a day 7 days a week to whomever comes in, no matter what your class or caste. We had a quick go at rolling some chapatis and frying them which was fun, I would have loved to have volunteered a full afternoon. After this we visited Jamal masjid mosque, which is one of the largest mosques in India able to host up to 20,000 practitioners. It was really nice and peaceful although I had to pose for a lot of photos with people's children. You have to pay to bring a camera and the leave your shoes outside, but it's small change. They also give you a long jacket/dress for modesty.
A trip to India wouldn't be complete without some Indian spices, so we headed to the main spice street to satisfy this craving. Be careful though when you go into the chilli market it is a fierce battle of the sense, all of us were coughing and spluttering for about 10mins but if you want good chills they are the place to go.
That evening we thought we would relax before dinner as we hadn't done much of this, but unbeknownst to us the boys had planned a surprise for us. We were due to miss the holi festival of colour by a day so they arranged for us to use the rooftop of the hotel and have our own festival including the drone. This was a lot of fun but if you are ever in holi please remember to close your mouth and eyes when in a paint storm, I suffered on both occasions. Sadly I had to sacrifice a new white top but hey it was worth it. I am now 5 days on and I still have a red tint in my hair (I swear I have washed my hair numerous times) which is kind of cool so many I should get red pink highlights someday....!
India you were intense, beautiful, inspiring, delicious, mad, hectic, and bloody brilliant. I only, dipped my toe into India. I still have yet to explore the Himalayas in the north, the entire south and west, and the yoga delights of Rishikesh. I know with certainty I will be back, and in the meantime I will take some India home with me in all my cooking and my new bedsheet!