My swanky HUGELY overpriced Indian Railway journey from Agra to Jaipur was a good chance to see how the other half live. I love to “rough it” when travelling and as a result, I haven’t seen a great deal into the lives of India’s higher caste. I continued my travels with three lads from England, one who’s on a short holiday to India, one on his Uni break and the other on his gap yah. Compared to me, their short trip means they have plenty of cash to spare, hence our luxury rail ticket. The three and a half hour journey was another chance to stuff myself silly, this time with waiters serving me an array of complementary snacks and meals throughout the journey.
The food was pretty diabolical with my veg sandwich being…well I have no words to describe it. See for yourself, above ^^. There was certainly no shortage of it and even though it wasn’t the tastiest “waste not want not” I gobbled half a sandwich, a samosa, two Indian cakes, a curry, rice, dal, roti, tea, soup, breadsticks – it just kept coming! Although I enjoyed the journey, I was rather annoyed at the waiters insistence of a tip after plonking down a tray of 100 rupee notes (the equivalent to £1 but to an Indian worth about a tenner), which had clearly been placed there by staff to look like it was the normal amount to tip.
I was rather pissed off at his demand and inability to move until I gave a tip, which I felt unnecessary given the extortionate catering charge I had already paid as part of my ticket and the disappointing food, complete garbage compared to the street food on my journeys in second class. I ate it all anyway, stingy backpacker getting my money’s worth, and resentfully gave a tip.
Jaipur wasn’t on my list of places to go but I had met a good group of lads to travel with, with half going north to Varanasi which I had already visited back in March and the others to Jaipur. After an enjoyable stay in Roadhouse Hostel in Anjuna, Goa, I decided to check out their Jaipur branch. While the lads went for a massage I went on the hunt for food. Massages are a waste on me, I can rarely relax especially when someone I don’t know is doing weird things to my half-naked body. Food satisfies me far more and I picked up Chole Kulche, a traditional Indian breakfast served on the street for 30 rupees (30p).
I spent the day exploring the local markets around the pink city, which if I’m honest was more of a terracotta colour than pink. I didn’t see a single foreigner in town and many locals stopped me for a chat. Most wanted to bring me on a sight-seeing tour in their tuk tuk or have me accompany them to a shop so they would get commission, but some just wanted to know who I was and where I was from. One guy asked me why every foreigner he tries to speak to ignores him and tells him to go away. I explained that many westerners are cautious because India has a reputation of being a little dangerous and many Indians do scam and make money from those caught off-guard. After cautiously chatting for half an hour he invited me to his shop. My point exactly.
The lads I was travelling with were out all afternoon at an elephant rescue centre. I passed on that as I don’t agree with or get enjoyment from seeing animals away from their natural habitat, even if they are treated well. Instead I got my hair butchered cut for 100 rupees (£1) in a male barber shop, which was an experience in itself. Think of those Crayola scissors we had back in the day in the hands of an over-enthusiastic Toni & Guy wannabe. The lads joined me later for a few beers on the hostel roof, which soon put an end to our plans to see Jaipur’s many forts and temples the next day. Three strong beers in 40c heat followed by a few hours sleep in a highly air-conditioned room absolutely killed me. Two beers has become my limit in India, I’m a cheap date fellas 😉.
Joking aside it wasn’t just me who was dying the next day, even a KFC couldn’t sort the boys out and we spent the entire day napping in the hostel lounge. Oh and OF COURSE, the lads managed to make it up the street to watch the footie in a seedy sports bar. I was dragged along too. Huff. I’m a pretty lousy tourist, travelling a nine hour round trip to step outside of the hostel for just two hours. We had a laugh though and found a great local shack selling the most delicious curries for just 50 rupee (50p). Win.
We attempted to teach the owner how to take a photo of us but he was unable to grasp the concept of taking a photo. I pointed, indicating for him to stand in front of us to take a photo and he did. However, to our amusement he had his back turned to us, pointing the lens out on to the street. I can’t fault the guy from trying. The man in the photo below pulled up on his motorbike as we were walking back and spent a good 20 minutes or so commissioning poor George to a photoshoot. God knows what these Indian men do with all their photos of westeners, I dread to think.
Jaipur, was in my eyes, just another big Indian city, with a few beautiful forts and temples around. As much as I love Rajasthan’s rich culture, bustling markets, fantastic street food and historic beauty, I’ve seen all this first hand on my cycle tour. So, my backpacking stint is more like a relaxed holiday; I can be lazy, drink beer, join other travellers on their hunt for western comforts (something I’ve really never understood myself) and stay up past midnight.
It was time for the boys and I to go our separate ways apart from Tom who I joined on the train back to Delhi, where I had my luggage and a busy hostel waiting for me. General class is the way to go and although it was delayed (again), this time for over an hour, the hot crammed conditions are far more fun than travelling in AC class. The question of “where to next” came up once again…stay tuned to find out more…