India: Jaipur and Jodhpur
It is no secret amongst people I talk to or people who read my posts, Carmen does most of the planning for our trips. After planning to fly into Delhi, and of course, going to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, we had to decide where else to go. We landed on Jaipur and Jodhpur, the former for no other reason than going to Elefantastic, we decided on Jodhpur because it would be easy to get to. I don't recall much other reason for choosing Jodhpur.
Leaving Agra on the first class train, which was not a sleeper train, it was a normal type of train, we arrived in Jaipur in the evening and were able to walk to our hotel. Carmen, the travel agent of the century, did a great job choosing the place. It had a rooftop deck, score! We hit the hay for the evening, our next day would be spent at Elefantastic.
Our whole reason, or the major reason, was going to Elefantastic; it is an elephant sanctuary. It is not the cheapest way to see elephants while in India, we felt like it was the most responsible, though. The elephants here are rescued from various places across the country, and the caretakers are paid well.
We were picked up from our hotel by a tuk-tuk and driver across town, past Jaipur Fort where our elephant was waiting for us. Her name is Sempa and is a rescue from a circus. She is their oldest elephant and we spent 2 hours walking with her, feeding her, patting her, washing her, and just being around her. They do allow you to ride the elephants here, we chose not to do this. They also allow you to paint the elephants (why anyone would want to is beyond me) which we also opted to avoid. Instead, we just hung out with her. I'm not elephant whisperer, but she really seemed to enjoy it.
After our time with her, we were driven to the owner's home, where his mom made us absolutely delicious food. This is also where we paid for the day. I don't recall the price, but it was worth every penny. My only gripe with the whole experience was people around Jaipur asking us, constantly, if we saw elephants, where we saw them, and that we paid too much. Yes, Elefantastic is more pricey, but I'll gladly pay a premium to know that the elephants are treated well.
On the way back to our hotel, we asked the driver if we could stop Amer Fort, which for a few extra beans, he was happy to do. The fort is situated on a hill and looks pretty amazing from the jam packed roadway. We spent about an hour here, walking up, in and around, and then leaving. I don't really know much about the fort, and any explanation I would give you is just going to be a bastardization of the Wikipedia article I linked up top, click that.
We also stopped at some lake fort on the way back to our hotel. I bought a handmade bird for a friend back home, we took some photos, and tuk-tuked away.
After getting back to our hotel, we went to the train station to purchase tickets for our trip to Jodhpur the following day, our course back to our hotel was as much of a meander as it could be. We also ate some food. A lot of people were flying kites while we were here, and it turned out that it was some sort of Kite Festival that day.
Getting to Jodhpur
Getting to Jodhpur was as simple as purchasing the train ticket using their convoluted purchasing method, walking the half mile to the station, and then getting our train; smooth sailing is the best description. Reality, however, was much different than our blueprint. On the way to our 11 o'clock train I got creamed by a scooter crossing the road, making it really difficult to walk. Our train was 8 hours late and every other, much faster train, was sold out. Frustration really hit us like humidity on a summer day. We rushed, well, as fast as a hobbling man can, back to our hotel in the hopes that they might have some options, or at least wifi, both of which they did. They booked us an overnight bus which left in about an hour, they also got us a tuk-tuk driver to the bus station.
Our bus was an interesting one, on one side of the bus was double-decker private beds, on the other side, the side we were on, was normal seats, with private beds above them. We, luckily, asked for sleepers, which gave us a private "bedroom" for the whole ride. When we looked at the rest of the bus, it was packed full. The ride was mostly uneventful, we had a "rest stop" where we all got out, the men went and peed in a field, and we could buy chips and such or have a smoke. There was also a cow. Along the ride, people would sell channa masala in little bowls for the equivalent of 15 cents: it was both delicious and unsanitary. The ride ended with us rushing off the bus, I had been tracking our progress on GPS and if I wasn't, we likely would have gone too far, they are not big into announcements on the transportation in India.
We arrived in Jodhpur, let off by the side of the road, at night and were inundated with "tuk-tuk?" requests. We took one of them up on the offer, and I was still having a really hard time walking and we just wanted to get to our hotel. We checked into the nicest hotel of our trip and went to sleep.
I'm not sure I can pinpoint why we went to Jodhpur, and if I was able to, we did not even accomplish the purpose of the visit. I believe there was another fort here with a nice view of the city. Unfortunately, Carmen got ill the day we were here, and getting around was quite the chore. She was able to, like a champ, get all the way to a step-well that I had found thanks to Dr Google, your source for step-wells and anti-vax facts. We spent most of the day walking, slowly, to get there, and then quite a bit of time just putzing around, as Carmen felt extremely weak. This was one of my favorite days, we had no plans, not goals, nothing to do, but we had the whole day to do it. The step well was beautiful, the alleyways and streets were busy, and the juice drink was delicious.
As we were sitting on the side of an alley, someone from our hotel stopped on his way home, saw the predicament we were in, and upon request of a juice location, took me to a small shop that squeezed fresh juice in front of me. I brought it back to Carmen, got her all hopped up on the sweet stuff, at which point we got in a tuk-tuk and headed back to the hotel. We ended up only going out to get pizza, then spending the evening lounging around in our huge hotel room, complete with a massive bath.
Before I wrap up about our trip to Jodhpur, I'd add that as I was walking to the stepwell, some guys wanted me to take their photos, which I of course did. Then I took a few more, and a few more. I gave one of them my business card, told him to Whatsapp me, and I'd send him the photos when I got home. I did, in fact, send him those photos sometime in March. We have texted almost daily since then. While I don't speak Hindi and he does not speak English, Google Translate and pictures really get us by. This is, besides the stepwell, the most memorable thing to come out of Jodhpur. I'm even going to send him a link to this blog post.
We flew from Jodhpur to Mumbia instead of taking one of the million-hour train rides. Getting to the airport was a very quick ride, the airport small and packed, and the flight was fast and comfortable. Jodhpur, for some strange reason, really stuck out as an interesting and fun place, even though I cannot pinpoint why.