Written by Kyle Kemp
Jaipur was the last stop on our indian itinerary, and we were so excited to celebrate it during Holi, the festival to celebrate spring's arrival.
Vicky (our driver for the last 4 days) dropped us off at the Jodhpur train station. It was about 7:30p and we had a 8pm train departure. The document we had from the travel agent was a sheet of paper that had the train station, the name of the train and something that said "2A" under "class". We entered the train station with hopes that it would be extremely obvious which direction we should go, and an organized and logical place that shows our seat assignment. That WOULD have been great. Instead it was a bit of a s*** show and it seemed like there was nobody there to provide you with assistance. After some trial and error - panics arose and we stumbled on our car with a small sheet of paper taped to the outside the car and our names printed faintly. It was one of those moments where you feel like you found a needle in a haystack with only a few tries.
Our train car was the "A/C Sleeper class". We had 4 beds and a small table. It was dirty - but nothing we weren't used to. The bathroom was interesting… It was essentially a hole in the train that went straight down to the train tracks. Probably one of the most badass pees of my life. Our 4.5 hour train ride started with beers and a heated game if gin rummy and ended in a pseudo nap on our respective "beds".
At about 1 am, we were notified that the next stop was Jaipur, our final destination. The train station was bustling even in the wee hours of the morning. There were tons of people sitting down everywhere. We were not sure why - and we never asked why - I guess that we'll never know…
Just to stay on par with rest if the trip, finding a cab to take us to hotel was a bit of a s*** show as well. We were all exhausted (Becky was super sick) and we just wanted to be in our beds. We finally found a cab, checked in and hit the pillow hard.
The next morning we slept in until about 9am, and went downstairs to get some breakfast. The hotel by day was a totally different experience! There was a cute yard with a restaurant, tables outside and was so charming!
After breakfast we decided to do some walking around town to explore. There was a Lonely Planet walking tour which brought us through the streets- passing vendors, bazaars, and other various quintessential India street happenings. We walked down an area where it was store after store of amazing scarves, tapestries, knick knacks etc. Poor Adrian had been such a trooper pitting up with all our shipping, so we tried to keep the shopping to a minimum. It was hard though! So much to buy! Lonely planet recommended a hotel restaurant named "LMB". So we stopped in to get a quick bite. After seeing the menu and other dishes around us we put on our game faces, gave pep talks to our stomachs and prepared to eat a disgusting amount of food. Our time in India was coming to an end and we knew we needed to DO WORK. Adrian and I ordered huge sample platters with free flowing curry - I repeat FREE-FLOWING CURRY. You could get refills on all items. All for 405 rupees! That's like $8 usd. I was able to try a wide variety of food I normally wouldn't have ordered, so though I didn't love everything, I do not have order regret.
After our rather gluttonous lunch, we headed back out on the streets. Vendors were selling Holi colored powder in preparation for the holiday the next day. A few men put color on my face - but nothing too messy. We strolled through streets following the lonely planet book and ended up at Jaipur's famous Hawa Mahal. This palace was built for the ladies to overlook Jaipur. It was a pretty great view from the top, so the ladies had it pretty good!
At one point, 2 men asked to get a photo with Adrian and somehow posed in the most awkwardly hilarious pose. I think they make a happy couple!
At around 5:30p, we hopped into a tuk tuk and headed for the pre-Holi celebration. As a little background, Holi is a very important festival all throughout India and also celebrated in some parts of Nepal and Pakistan. It is essentially a celebration for the start of spring. It is spent by dousing your friends and family with colored powder. Some of you may be familiar with the color run. This celebration is the origin of that concept.
The pre Holi festival was held at the polo fields. What we didn't know was that it was put on by the India tourism bureau and about 70% of the people there were tourists. We were in India for 3 weeks and barely saw any white tourists and suddenly we were in a stadium full of them - we felt like chumps. The festival was pretty contrived and not very authentic. They had some dancers in costume, a tug-o-war game -tourists vs Indians (Indians won). There were supposed to be extravagantly dressed elephants at the festival, but a last minute change from the animal rights activists canceled that part. They said that it wasn't humane because the elephants weren't in their natural habitat, but I'm pretty sure cows and camels in highways aren't naturally there - just sayin'. I only rant because all I wanted was to see we're some damn elephants decorated! Instead we got doused in neon colored powder and took about 100 photos with Indian men followed by a hug.
After some showers, Adrian went on a wild tuk tuk ride for 13 km to a hotel where a driver had his camera he had left in Delhi. We had been trying to get this camera back for about a week now and low and behold, HE GOT IT BACK! Apparently he bro'd it up with the man who drove his camera with some whiskey -then bro'd it up with the tuk tuk driver over some streetside chai. Later that night Becky's cold hit her hard - and despite her best efforts to hang with the crew, she threw in the towel and went to bed early. Next door to our hotel was a rooftop italian restaurant that had been begging us to eat at all day. We decided that we could go for a non-Indian meal and the proximity couldn't be better. The restaurant was nice, but as far as atmosphere goes - well lets just say I saw a tumbleweed roll by…We ordered some pizzas and a salad in hopes to find food with any sort of nutritional value. We also ordered some Kingfisher beers. They explained to us that they didn't have a liquor license but could sneak beers in and disguise them as "tea". So our beers were served in a tea kettle and we consumed our delightful malty beverages out of mugs with our respective zodiac signs. Pretty hilarious.
The next morning was Holi! We woke to people shouting in the streets "Happy Holi!!" At our breakfast, our hotel had a Holi presentation complete with a musical performance, dancers and concluded with a full on color war. We caught the tail and of the color war, met up with a few fellow travelers and headed out to the streets to celebrate Holi.
We were by no means naive, we knew what we were getting into (or so we thought). We knew we would put up with some cheap groping from men applying color to us - but had no clue it would be quite so much. The 7 of us piled in a tuk tuk and was dropped off at an intersection. We purchased some colors and suddenly found ourselves being swarmed by men coming up to us 2 or 3 at a time. They would apply color to our face, slowly graze by a breast or two (because they're so close to each other - honest mistake…not!) and then insist on a "hug". Suddenly there were more and more people swarming us and getting too close for comfort. We all started to get really overwhelmed and when it got too much we were literally pushing people off us. At one point I saw Gina getting swallowed into a sea of men and her face was of sheer panic. I fought my way over and shoved men off her just as Adrian grabbed her out of the mess. We somehow ended up alongside 4 German tourists who were also realizing Holi wasn't the festival of Spring" it was actually the "Festival of Groping". After Bout 20 minutes of this we all hit our saturation level and opted to get the heck out of there. We flagged down a tuk tuk, hopped in just as about 6 men came up to us and reached into the tuk tuk grabbing us in the chest area and on the arms. As our tuk tuk started to drive away, our American friend (6'7″ tall mind you) and our 4 German friends we met in the chaos screamed to stop the tuk tuk. They all hopped in and suddenly we made clown cars look like roomy busses. We took our tuk tuk back to the hotel and decided that was the last time we'd go outside for the rest of the day. Beers on the roof were in order and man did that beer taste good!
The rest of the day the 14 of us hung out on the roof, exchanged stories of why we were traveling, sang songs and listened to the ukulele playing by our American friend Jake, or as we called him "lion man".
We went next door for a pizza party and when we got back most of us crashed out. Becky and Adrian decided to keep the party going and bing out drinking beers for a few hours later.
That night was pretty low key. We had dinner in our hotel for super cheap and it was pretty decent food!
The next morning we boarded a plane for Nepal! It was so bittersweet to say goodbye to India. A place that we had been for 3 weeks - but felt like a lot longer.
I know Americans have a preconceived idea of India - and the recent rapes in the media doesn't help - but despite the bitter undertone in this blog entry, India was generally a pretty safe place. There we a few moments I didn't feel safe, but you get that in every country. When I look back I will remember the extremely wonderful individuals I met along he way. Indians are proud of their country and want to make sure others think of them fondly. Which I definitely will.
Onward to Nepal!!