So following on from our beer on the roof top in Udaipur, we went to a cooking class. There were 12 of us from the group doing it and it was completely different from the one in the South, more recipes to add to our recipe book. Sam started off by making some chai which is the Hindi word for tea but is made with lots of different spices and lots of sugar! For a 125ml cup of chai, our last tour leader added 3 teaspoons of sugar!! It's always made very sweet. We also made a paneer ( like cottage cheese) dish with peppers and onions, Malai Kofta (potato balls in a creamy sauce), biriyani rice and chapathis. The food wasn't as good as in the south but probably easier to make when we get back home!
Next stop was Pushkar. We got there by train, the most crowded and uncomfortable train we'd ever been on! There were people sat/stood all down the aisles which made getting off the train a bit tricky. The train only stops at the station for 5 minutes so it's a bit of a rush and Indians being the way they are don't realise that it would be much easier to let the people off the train before they try getting on it, resulting in a massive crush with people pushing and shoving all over the place.
Every year in November there is massive Camel Fair in Pushkar with around 50,000 camels and 200,000 people. Unfortunately this started a few days after we left but we were still able to see them all setting up with hundreds of tents and camels already there. Walking around we also a snake charmer which was pretty cool although we think the snakes fangs had been taken out so not quite so impressive! There was also the Brahma Temple which is one of the very few temples dedicated to the Hindu creator god Brahma.
Walking through the streets of Pushkar we bumped into Jamie who we had met on our first night in Kathmandu! We knew he was in India but he was meant to be in Jaipur where we were going next! So of course this meant going out for a few beers that evening. Even though meat, eggs and alcohol are all prohibited in Pushkar you can always find it for sale somewhere.
We had two nights in Pushkar and then moved on to Jaipur in a minibus which we nearly had all to ourselves, apart from people crammed in the front near the driver. On the first day we got a cycle rickshaw to the old city, had a lassi which is a yogurt based drink from one of the famous shops and then went for some food at a very nice restaurant which specialised in things cooked in the tandoor. It was delicious!
Next day we went and saw the 'Palace of Winds' called so as the 953 windows have a breeze coming through which keeps the palace cool even in the hot months. We then got the local bus which took half an hour and only cost the equivalent of 10p up to Amber Fort. In the evening we went to the cinema to see a Bollywood movie but it was not what we expected, it was much better! Despite it all being in Hindu with no English, it was fab and we understood most of what was going on. It was called Krish 3 and was a bit like Superman in that Krish would save anyone that was in trouble and basically tried saving the world. There were still about 3 songs in it where they would sing and dance but the best thing about it was the atmosphere in the cinema. Everyone would clap and cheer if ever anything good happened or anything particularly impressive. It was hilarious!
We then moved on to Agra. We got the train here but this time we were in first class with comfy chairs and a free breakfast! There didn't seem to be an awful lot to do in Agra apart from obviously the Taj Mahal and a couple of other things that we would see in the same day. So when getting there we went to Costa which was just above our hotel and then Pizza Hut for lunch! At around 4pm we went in search of a rooftop restaurant where we could see the sunset and the Taj Mahal. Luckily we found one however the sunset wasn't too great as the air was quite hazy. We enjoyed a couple of beers and some food there with the group and the headed back to the hotel for a big day tomorrow!
We met at 9am and first went to the Baby Taj which is the tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah and often regarded as a draft of the Taj Mahal. Next stop was the Agra Fort followed by a bit of lunch. Then to the highlight of the day, the Taj Mahal! We had to pay 750 rupees (£7.50) whereas the Indians only had to pay 20 rupees, its like that in most places where foreigners pay more but not always quite that much more! We spent an hour and a half in there with plenty of Indians wanting their pictures taken with us but it was still abosolutely amazing. As we were about to leave Sam was crouched down packing away his camera and when we looked up we were surrounded by about 80 school children and their teachers just staring at us. We stood up and it was silent for a few seconds until the teacher started talking to us. They then followed us on the way out and insisted on a picture being taken with each of us. It was pretty strange!
That evening we got a night train to Varanasi. It was pretty non eventful and only about an hour late which was incredible for Indian standards! We were all betting on it being at least 4 hours late! We spent 3 days/2nights in Varanasi and what a hectic experience it was! The roads were much busier with a lot more cycle rickshaws and people hassling us from all directions! We did a sunset and sunrise boat tour on the Ganges where we let off candles into the river making a wish as we did so, saw plenty of people bathing in the river and then saw the burning ghats. These are where bodies are cremated in public, a very different thing to see. The bodies are wrapped up before being put on the piles of wood but as the cloth burns through it is easy to distinguish their legs/head. We also visited Sarnath, a Buddha statue along with a Chinese temple and museum just outside of Varanasi. Just outside our hotel door was a street food place selling big bowls of curry for the equivalent of just 20p. It was delicious, we couldn't really complain at that price!
It was then on to our final part of our Indian adventure. We both were ready to leave India by now, 6 weeks there was more than enough! We got another night train back to Delhi were unfortunately our tour leader had to leave us a day early as he had a family emergency back home. That day just me and Sam went to the Red Fort, the final chance for all the Indians to get there photos of us! We spent about two hours here before getting the very busy metro back to the hotel and meeting the group for the very last time. We went for a nice meal and then drinks at a bar before getting back at about 12.30. We said all our goodbyes as we were leaving the next day and then quickly got into bed!
The next morning Sam woke up being sick and really wasn't too well! Not what we needed just before we were meant to be flying! But he braved through and we got a taxi to the airport and then a flight to Bangkok. Luckily he managed to sleep the whole flight and felt a lot better by the end. We got the metro to the hotel with nobody staring at us or taking pictures, it felt like luxury!
So now we're in Bangkok ready for the next part of our trip with no tour leader to help us! India was an incredible experience, we met some amazing people and saw so many different things that we'll maybe never see again. But now it's time to get on with finding where we're going next, how we're getting there and where we're going to stay, something we haven't had to do so far!