Are we ready for India?! We fly from Cambodia, via a quick stop in Bangkok, to New Delhi, landing around 1am, feeling a bit tired and slightly nervous on how we will find the craziness of India. After finding no WiFi at Dehli airport to order an Uber, and avoiding the prepaid taxi counters charging extortionate rates to get to our hostel, we find a cab outside the airport, handed over a slightly less extortionate amount of money and began our journey through Dehli. Our taxi driver couldn’t help but spend most of the journey telling us how there is likely going to be a terrorist attack on Dehli due to the current issues with Pakistan and India, before dropping us outside a tourist information office still 20 minutes drive from our hostel, saying he thought we meant a different hostel…of course mate. Accepting he was mugging us off, at 2am, it was quicker to tell him to get lost and order an Uber, than argue that Google Maps isn’t the one lieing here. We made it to our hostel with a slightly emptier pocket, but awaited a comfy bed in a surprisingly quiet dormitary of 26 double beds (thanks for the recommendation Christine and Daryll).
Our first day in Delhi kicked off with a walk around the ‘Lotus Temple’. An incredible religious building made of marble, which welcomes all religions, regardless of beliefs, to sit, worship and peacefully pray. A short walk down the road and we arrived at the local metro, where the trains are surprisingly cleaner and more spacious than the London underground. With the entire carraige of men staring at Lauren, it was a creepy but efficient ride to ‘Old Delhi’.
As we stepped out the tube, we hit the real hustle and bustle of Delhi. Screaming tuk tuk horns, colours everywhere, dust and a wall of smells ranging from delicious curry to human waste. We spent a great few hours walking around the small streets peering in shops, admiring the colours and nibbling odd bits of street food. One food we tried, was a fried sandwich filled with vegatable curry, served with two sauces – delicious!
After relaxing in the gardens of Ghandis’ memorial site, we headed back to our accomodation, and avoided the temptation of an unlimited booze pub crawl, instead deciding to have a relaxing dinner (also avoiding the risk of a drunken Lauren roaming the streets of Delhi after too much tequila). Our first proper indian curry was incredible! We even had enough left over to eat for breakfast the next day.
We swiftly moved on to Jaipur, otherwise known as the ‘Pink City’, which we reached via a hot bus cramed with locals. Our hotel was down a few small roads, and boasted a great roof-top restaurant with views across Jaipur, from which we would come to dine at throughout the weekend.
Still fresh to India, we accepted the offer from our hotel of a tuk tuk driver for the day. Our driver, Yusef, floored it around Jaipur from site-to-site. En route, we saw a cow give birth on side of the road, Lauren almost got hit in the face by a cow’s tail whist driving dangerously close to one, we saw our first camel, and a colourful elephant in the street. As we have seen throughout our India travels, each town and city is more like a giant farm, with cows, pigs, chickens, dogs and camels roaming free in the streets, often eating rubbish off the road. As you can imagine, this creates quite a smell, which is added by the notion that the street is also a human toilet for anyone who feels the need to go.
On our day trip, we saw an incredible floating water palace, which has an amazing 4 floors submerged in a lake. We walked around the Amber Fort, which stands above Jaipur with a wall lining the entire city. The intricate detail of the fort is beyond impressive! We also saw a beautiful step-well, with a bathing pool at the bottom, and visited a textiles maker who showed us colourful, soft-feeling cashmere blankets and scarfs that we couldnt resist. Lauren then purchased some moon-stone earings at a jewellers where they show you how jewellery is made with precious stones. Let’s just say it was the most purchases we’d made in our whole trip!
We decided to do a day trip from Jaipur to Agra, after much back and fourth with our hotel about getting transport booked with promises of tuk tuk transfers from the hotel to the bus station, we were up at 4:30am to find no tuk tuk in sight… after waking the hotel staff (who forgot our alarm call), we literally had to run to make our bus! Following Josh accidentally running through a huge puddle of black mass (didn’t stop to identify which animal it came from), thankfully we were on a sleeper bus with our own cabin, and within a few minutes, we were stright back to sleep.
When we arrived we surprisingly did have a driver waiting for us IN A CAR! So we had a comfortable ride to the one and only Taj Mahal. Thankfully our driver had warned us about people trying to rip us off or convince us that we need a guide. We were surprised that even at such a large tourist attraction there were not many other westerners and we were very much an attraction ourselves.
The Taj Mahal was spectacular. The white marbel is full of intricate detail that glistens in the burning sun light. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, we spent a good few hours walking around and sitting on the garden benches watching the craziness of India filter through. After the Taj Mahal, we visited the family who carve the marble for the building, a family business going back centuries. They showed us the techniques they use and told us of the family history in maintaining the Taj Mahal. Avoiding buying a number of marble pieces, we hopped on our sleeper coach back to Jaipur.
For our last day in Jaipur, we decided to walk around the city. We visited a giant sundial courtyard known as Jantar Mantra which has some incredible structures capable of reading the stars, as well as enjoying lunch at a roof top cafe opposite the Hawa Mahal (wind palace) which is one of the most impressive buildings we have seen on our travels.
The journey to the desert town of Jaisalmer was our first experience of India rail! Our hotel in Jaipur insited on buying tickets for us, but along with that came the insistance they do it at the last possible minute in case we changed our mind. This meant that the only tickets available were 3rd class, air-conditioned sleeper seats, which isn’t a terrible choice, but did mean we had no curtains. We joined a large family in our alloted area, and climbed up to our reasonably comfortable beds. Despite the weird, constant stares from men throughout the night, it was a cheap and convenient mode of transport.
We arrived at 5am, and as it turns out, our hotel in Jaisalmer was amazing! Despite having to step over a herd of cows to get to the entrance (literally), the hotel looked incredible from the outside. The manager kindly upgraded us to a room with a window sofa and view of Jaisalmer Fort. The hotel also had a rooftop restuarant which provided views overlooking the whole town.
We didn’t have much planned for Jaisalmer, so we spent most of our 5 days here walking the streets of the town, admiring the incredible sandstone buildings and dodging numerous animals. Josh even got a hair cut for a quid!
During the week, we hooked up with a desert safari tour and a night under the stars. We joined 6 others at our meeting point in town, where we boarded some jeeps and swiftly (est. 80 mph) drove into the desert. When the road ran out, we bounced around the jeep as our driver curved through the sand, to reach our onward travel method…camels! Our first time riding camels, and since Lu is a more than competent horse rider, we questioned how different a camel would be. Fortunately, we gently plodded through the desert for a couple hours, basking in amazing views as the hot sun beat down on us. Arriving at some golden dunes, we ungracefully dismounted, and admired the breath taking landscape.
40km from the border of Pakistan, we were out in the wilderness with no light pollution, meaning as the sun set, we were gifted with a view of the milky way! We sat round the fire, eating food cooked by some locals, discussing life and travelling, before heading to our surprisingly warm and comfortable beds out in the open, under the stars. We felt it was one of the few times in life we didn’t want to fall asleep as we gazed up at millions of stars. In the morning we found little tracks made in the sand under our beds that we thought were cute little birds, we came to find out that it was actualy giant beetles…! We rode back into town in the morning, realising that camel riding is a lot more painful in the long run than horse riding!
With our time running out in India, we booked a sleeper bus to Jodhpur to spend a couple nights before heading back to Jaipur for our departure. As with any bus experience in India, it was bluddy confusing working out which bus was ours, and so at midnight, we hopped on the wrong bus. Fortunately, this was the first bus they checked our seats properly, so we were able to hop off and get on our actual bus (with some helpful cooperation from the locals).
We safely arrived in Jodphur, and found our hostel hidden away in the ‘blue city’, in the shadow of a huge fort. We spent two days in Jodphur, exploring the city as much as we could, either by walking several hours on foot, or succumbing to a cheap Uber ride. Our self-guided tour included a tour of the fort which dwarfs the city, eating delicious curry, the royal family’s palace, which is one of the most impressive palaces we have seen, a deep step-well where locals were jumping into the water, and several local markets.
BACK TO JAIPUR AND DELAYED FLIGHTS
After learning from our mistakes, we got on the correct bus to Jaipur, and arrived safely at a hotel, where we would spend one night before flying out to New Zealand. Our hotel caused nothing but complete nuisance, so we’ll skip past that and move on to our delayed flight. We had planned a flight at 2am to Bangkok, Thailand, which would in turn take us to Auckland, New Zealand, but not before giving us enough time to have a full day out in Bangkok. Also worth mentioning that Lu turned 26 on the day we were meant to land in New Zealand. Things did not go to plan.
Upon taxiing down the runway in Jaipur, our pilot announced something was broken, and as we soon found out, in true India style, a spare part would have to be ordered from Dehli. Complete chaos ensued, by 6am we had a room in a plush hotel to sleep for 3 hours. Our flight was delayed until 2pm the following day, and thus, we missed our flight from Bangkok to Auckland. Fortunately, the flight company put us in another 5-star hotel once in Bangkok, and gave us unlimited food, just to ensure Lu didn’t suffer on her birthday. We made it to New Zealand a day later than planned, but grateful to be back in a country where people queue, items in the supermarket have prices on them and traffic stops to let you cross. What a relief! Time to lose some of the weight we’ve gained from eating curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner.