A map of India with Rajasthan in red. I spent almost the entirety of my trip in Rajasthan state, next to Pakistan.
India is one of those places that’s been on my bucket list for a long time. The food, history, and natural beauty are rightly famous. For years I’d been put off by tales of the hardship of traveling in India. The constant hassle and scams are two of the first things people would tell me about when I mentioned I was thinking of spending my three and a half week Chinese New Year holiday in India. “It’s dirty, poor, and chaotic. It’d be very easy to get sick,” a Chinese teacher at my school told me (a few days after she said that hundreds of millions of people in China were placed in lockdown for the coronavirus, and she hasn’t mentioned anything about that since).
Sacred street cow in Jaipur, also known as the Pink City, in Rajasthan state. This street was outside my hotel in the old town. My first morning in Jaipur I went out and was startled to see things jumping from building to building over me. They were monkeys! Cows, pigs, goats, chickens, and monkeys roam the streets freely.
I’m so glad I took the plunge and visited. I ended up loving India, and it’s one of my favorite countries I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.
I naively assumed Indian food was mainly divided between the north and the south. Each state has its own cuisine, and this is a typical thali or set meal in Rajasthan. Almost every restaurant I encountered was vegetarian. In the north, the thali costs about $1. It includes a few different kinds of curries and naan. You’re supposed to eat with the right hand, as the left hand is considered dirty. I’d just go to crowded restaurants serving hot food and never had even the slightest upset stomach.
I stayed only one day in Delhi, which I’d heard was a hell hole. I got a hotel room across the street from New Delhi Railway Station, and caught the early morning express train to Jaipur, 4.5 hours from New Delhi. Similar to Chinese trains, there were five seats across in Second Class AC. There are a ton of different train classes in India, but I always traveled in this kind. It was comfortable and easy.
The Ajmeri Gate in Jaipur. Most places didn’t really have street names, and the old town was too narrow for cars. This was the closest landmark to my hotel, so I came here to hail a taxi or get dropped off. Haggling with the local drivers was useless, so I instead used a local ride hailing app called Ola. I bought an Indian SIM card off Taobao in Shanghai, and had data upon arriving at Indira Ghandi International Airport in New Delhi.
The main attraction in Jaipur is a day trip to the Amer Fort. There’s a winding walkway to the fort on top of the hill, dodging elephants along the way. This is a view looking down from towards the top of the walkway.
Amer Fort. There’s a bus, but I just took a taxi. It was less than $3 for the 25 minute ride from Jaipur to Amer. Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur are the three most visited spots for travelers to India. But the vast majority of tourists were locals, who often wanted my photo. Just like in China.
Rajasthan means The Land of Kings, and was formed as an amalgamation of principalities under the jurisdiction of the British Raj during the formation of India in 1949. Jaipur is the capital, and it’s the largest state by land area in India. Each city and town had a large, intricate palace or fort on top of the highest hill dating from the Mughal Empire. Rajasthan is a Hindi speaking state, though most people I met spoke a dialect such as Marwari at home. English would be their third or fourth language.
A sign by the lake at Amer.
The courtyard at Amer Fort.
One of the Mughal gardens at the Fort. I easily spent a few hours wandering around this massive building.
Jaipur street life as seen from the Hawa Mahal Palace in the center of the city.
Sometimes the sidewalks weren’t in the best condition.
Everything happens later in India. Dinner is eaten around 8pm or later, and I found myself getting up too early at the beginning. This is a street by my hotel in the morning.
Eating dinner in an alley restaurant in the old town of Jaipur.
The Mughals left some really impressive architecture, and I spent three days exploring the various locales of Jaipur.
Jaipur was a stunning locale if just for the buildings.
I had no idea what most of the things were on the menus in India, so I just ordered the set meal. One dollar is about 70 rupees.