Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jaipur, Agra and we're done with the first country!

Well, Chris may not think that the shopping in Jaipur isn't worth writing home about, but guess what? I do!!! :) Actually, shopping in Jaipur was the highlight for me. The Amber Fort was definitely impressive as Chris described and as you can see from the photos (don’t make fun of the posing!), but for me the best part of our short time in Jaipur was wandering around the streets in between where all the shops are in the city. What I really discovered in Jaipur and have noticed since is that sometimes the best way to learn about a city is to get lost. We were looking for the street that had all of the fabrics and textiles, but somehow ended up on the street that had only tricycles, paint and hoses. What a combination! That street was perpendicular to the "Home Depot" street. I wasn't looking for any tricycles or hoses, so we headed back in the direction of the textiles street. On the map, the streets looked like they were only a short city block away so we took a tiny side street. The streets ended up being massively far apart, but it was so fun just wandering down the less touristic streets, avoiding cattle, cattle poo and honking mopeds. For the first time, I felt like I was starting to get the hang of this hectic country.

As far as the actual shopping goes, we purchased some lovely textiles to make curtains out of back home including an aquamarine silk and white organza. Additionally, we got some pashmina scarves for our families. Which leads me to an observation about travelling in India. Sometimes people tell you stories about things and you I couldn't help but wonder whether or not it is even true. Not only because you hear other tour guides different things, but because the stories are so outlandish. Por ejemplo - one shop owner told me that the difference between pashmina and cashmere is that they are both from sheep, but that the pashmina comes from the neck wool of the sheep that gets caught on a certain type of tree that they eat from. No way - I'm not even that gullible. If anyone can confirm or deny this story for me, I would love it. I'd also love to hear if anyone else heard similarly outlandish stories when they were travelling in India.

After Jaipur, we headed to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Ok, I have to say it – Agra is a dump! It is even dirtier than Delhi it seems. It is sad to say, but if it weren’t for the Taj, there would be no reason to go to that city. The Taj, however, is more than worth the effort. We lucked out and the evening we were there it was crystal clear. It is amazing that this mausoleum was built by a man that was so in love with his wife and so devastated when she passed away. The Taj isn’t only the white building we all think of, but two other pink buildings that are a mosque and guest house. The Taj building is overwhelming in its symmetry and intricacy of carving and jewel inlays. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves with this one.

After our 24 hour jaunt in Agra we ended up having to take a five hour cab ride to Delhi because the train was delayed by at least three hours. Note to self; don’t try to travel to the city you are flying out of the same day you are leaving. It leads to a nerve wracking time. On top of it, our cab driver didn’t know where the international airport was. Chris and I ended up having to show the cab driver where it was!

On the way out of Delhi after spending an excruciating eight hours in the hot airport, (so glad we were there in the winter) I still wasn’t sure how I felt about India. To be honest I still am not sure. It is one of the most emotional places I’ve been to. You can go from seeing one of the most beautiful mosques in the world to walking just down the street and seeing people literally crawling down the road with polio and deformities begging for money. Just thinking about it now I want to cry. India accosts all of your senses – sounds, smells, sights. Some are awe inspiring, like the Taj, while others are pitiful like two young girls playing in a makeshift landfill while all of the plastic bags have spread out and are hanging in the surrounding trees like ghosts. I’ll always remember watching the kites that people fly from the rooftops in all the cities and the times I wanted to run back to my room because the smells are overwhelming. In the end I’m glad we came here and I’m sure my most vivid and memorable images will come from this conflicting land.


Carrie February 1, 2010 at 10:32 AM  

My favorite post so far! I miss you guys. Can't wait to hear about your adventures in Southeast Asia! Keep em coming.

Ryan Ray February 1, 2010 at 9:05 PM  

gave me chills.. I couldn't have expressed my emotions better about India.. While I can't vouch for the origins of Pashmina, everything else you've written about India is 100% accurate and all things I experienced myself. I'm just so overjoyed that you had the opportunity to experience this place. What an amazing start to your trip. You guys are ready to tackle just about whatever else can come your way. The rest of your trip is going to be a piece of gulab jamun! ;-)


Margie February 10, 2010 at 6:34 PM  

The pictures are tremendous. Wish I could be there with you!

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