Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Journey to Agra

Finally, after watching the sun set at the temple and taking some pictures of the Albert Hall museum illuminated at night, we did some shopping and capped off the evening by getting henna tattoos.

From K - India I


From K - India I


Many Indian women have these intricate designs on their hands and feet. The henna artists are so skilled that they can sit down and freehand draw the designs in just a couple minutes. We found henna artists on the sidewalk in Jaipur and paid 100 rupees (about $2) for each hand.

From K - India I

From K - India I

The tattoos are temporary, lasting about a week.
The next morning, we admired the view outside our hotel, before setting off for the 6-hour drive to Agra, our next stop on the “Golden Triangle” route.

From K - India I

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rushing around Jaipur

After visiting forts in the hills around Jaipur, we hit up some more of the tourist destinations and beautiful sights.

Jaipur looks peaceful from above, but don't be deceived. Below lies a city of over 3.9 million people.
From K - India I


Jal Mahal, the Water Palace. Managed to catch this photo right before a rainstorm. They don't call it "monsoon season" for nothing.
From K - India I


Next, we visited the Jaipur Observatory, also called Jantar Mantar. It's a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built in the 18th century. The various devices can be used to measure time, determine celestial altitudes, and track the movement of stars and planets.

From K - India I


From K - India I


From K - India I


From K - India I


From K - India I


We also made a sunset visit to a popular Hindu temple, the Lakshmi-Narayan Temple:
From K - India I


We entered the temple and walked with the Hindu practitioners clockwise around the temple. After you make a full circle, you receive an offering of some small sugar balls.

From K - India I


The day was packed but we enjoyed all the sights and it ended on a peaceful note

From K - India I



From K - India I

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monkeys and Forts

Our next stop in Jaipur: Jaigarh Fort, located on a hill outside the city. It was built in 1726 to protect the nearby Amer Fort.

From K - India I

From K - India I


The fort is also home to the largest cannon in Asia. Apparently the cannon has only been fired once - I don't even want to imagine the sound it would make when fired. The charge (of 100kg) was capable of traveling over 35 km!
From K - India I

From K - India I


The fort also is home to a sizable monkey community.
From K - India I

From K - India I


They might look cute, but they can be quite horrible. They're not scared of humans at all and they frequently run up to tourists and steal cameras or sunglasses. Sometimes they hiss and bite. I really don't want monkey rabies so I've been staying as far away as possible from these guys. I've found that wielding an umbrella can give me peace of mind when I have to walk by a monkey gang.

As close as I'm willing to get:
From K - India I


I don't think I've seen a camel up close until this trip. Such strange creatures.
From K - India I


The fort was built on the hills outside of Jaipur and has amazing views of the valley and the city.
From K - India I


From K - India I


View of Amer Fort from Jaigarh Fort:
From K - India I

Shopping in Rajasthan

Jaipur is known as one of the best places for shopping in all of India.
The old city is filled with bazaars selling gems, jewelry, textiles, spices, and loads of other colorful souvenirs and handicrafts.

Walking around town, you can't miss India's famous sacred cows. They're everywhere, munching on garbage and frustrating the scores of motorbike drivers that have to swerve around the animals.

One of the ubiquitous cows in Jaipur:
From K - India I


Sometimes it's helpful to wear earplugs when walking around the bazaars, to help you ignore the constant barrage of yelling. "You need shoes Madam?" "Please step inside!" "Please take a look" "Hello Madam, I make good price for you"

Walls of bangles
From K - India I


Spices
From K - India I


Some sort of sugary steet food:
From K - India I


A delicious meal of Paratha (fried bread) and curry
From K - India I


Vegetarian thali platter (set meal)
Dhal (lentil curry), Muttar paneer (peas in creamy sauce) and paneer curry
Served with rice, raita (yogurt sauce), and roti (whole wheat flatbread)
From K - India I


Jaipur, although overwhelming, was definitely a feast for the senses.

Jaipur: The Pink City

Fortunately, at the official government tourist information center, we met a nice British couple that was interested in going on the same tourist circuit as Dana and I. Nicknamed the "Golden Triangle", the circuit covers Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur.

Jaipur is the largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It's a really popular tourist destination, thanks to the ancient citadels, forts, and temples from the 16th and 17th centuries.

On our drive to Jaipur from Delhi, we stopped at the Amer Fort.

From K - India I


From K - India I


Built in 1592 out of red sandstone and marble, the fort was built by a senior general of the Mughal Empire. It combines Hindi and Mughal design elements.

From K - India I


From K - India I


From K - India I


The fort was amazing because it felt like my first real taste of India. We barely spent any time in Delhi, and it was chaotic because we were trying to plan a way to get out and explore Jaipur and Agra. So when we drove up to the Amer Fort, it really sunk in that I was in India. The beautiful architecture of the fort, the chai tea stalls by the road, and the curious Indian tourists made this visit a fascinating experience.

When we got into the town of Jaipur, we walked into the old city, also called the Pink City because of the color of the sandstone buildings.

We saw the Hawa Mahal, an 18th century palace designed so the women of the palace could observe activity on the streets without being seen themselves.

From K - India I


Jaipur has many beautiful buildings and historic monuments, but the actual city itself is crowded and overwhelming. Like most places in India, trash fills the streets and you have to be constantly vigilant so you aren't run over by a motorbike or car. It definitely takes some time to adjust to the noise levels and crush of activity.

First Impressions of India: Delhi

After a relaxing day and a half in Bangkok, we flew to Delhi.

I left behind delicious salads and fresh mango at the "vegetarian alley" in Bangkok, sad that I wouldn't be able to eat fresh produce in India (in case of water contamination), but excited to try the famous dhal, channa masala, chai, and naan.

From K - India I


From K - India I


Goodbye vegetables

From K - India I


Our first meal in India: paratha (fried bread), pickles, chutney, and boiled eggs

From K - India I
.

Delhi is an absolute nightmare for travelers. You can correctly assume that 100% of the people that approach you are trying to scam you. The most common scam is tuktuk, taxi, and rickshaw drivers refusing to take you where you want to go, and instead take you to a guesthouse/souvenir shop/hotel where they are paid a commission. We learned that the first rule of travel in Delhi is "trust no one". Aside from that, the city was interesting, albeit extremely polluted. I felt like I had asthma the entire time we were there.

Out of the hundreds of "tourist information" shops, this is literally the ONLY official one. It only took us a few sweaty hours of walking with our backpacks to find it.

From K - India I


Some sights around Connaught Place

From K - India I


From K - India I


From K - India I


From K - India I


From K - India I


Hello Pollution
From K - India I