India Travelogue: Delhi to Jaipur

For the next few weeks, I’m posting a travelogue about my recent trip to India – my first on the sub-continent. For those of you dreaming of a trip to India or for those of you who have been, feel free to add tidbits of your travel stories in the comments section!

We’ve had some time in Delhi and our last is a travel day – our first journey by the legendary India Rail – but before we left the city, we had a bit more of the old city to explore before moving onto Jaipur.

I started the day, as many street photographers do, simply standing on a street corner near our hotel watching the city wake up. People were going about their mornings, children waiting for rides to school, shops opening up, and everyone watched as a huge, larger-than-life brass lion was offloaded from a truck onto a rickety rickshaw for delivery somewhere in the maze of alleyways where a truck simply wouldn’t fit.

We watched with trepidation as the lion was tentatively transferred and we waited for certain disaster. But the disaster didn’t come! The huge lion was not dropped by the men maneuvering it, it somewhat magically fit on the bed of the rickshaw, and the rickshaw didn’t in fact collapse under the weight. The men trotted off with their charge giving me a “thumbs up” as they left. I can’t imagine where they hoped to fit this huge sculpture!

Lion Delivery
Huge brass lion sculpture is offloaded onto a truck for delivery by rickety rickshaw into the maze of streets in old Delhi.

My husband and I set off for the Red Fort stopping for a quick trip in to see the nearby Jain temple. There was no photographing inside the ornately decorated temple, but the Vatican could learn a thing or two about décor.

The Red Fort is really a huge complex of buildings – a mix of palace and a later military complex. Many of the buildings are abandoned and run down though others are undergoing renovation. Some buildings are marble wonders and there is enough of the gardens to imagine what this place would have been like when royalty was around.

Red Fort Delhi
A shot of some of the architectural wonders of the buildings inside the Red Fort in Delhi, India.

Marring the day’s experiences was the heavy smog which made breathing a bit difficult. It cast a mysterious fog all around the Red Fort making my photos atmospheric (AKA can see the atmosphere).

Red Fort Delhi in fog
A thick haze of fog/smog obscures the Red Fort even from the parking lot.

We headed to the train station in the early afternoon, leaving lots of time since this would be our first experience with the Indian rail system. I had high hopes of the rail journey across the Indian countryside.

We booked first class for our first experience, but this ended up to be in a closed cabin with thick windows that distorted all of my photographic attempts. It was good that I saw the countryside. There was quite a lot of poverty with families camping by the tracks or set up in shanty-town like areas sometimes in the middle of what seemed like a trash dump.

We’ll have other train journeys, but this one was more mundane and colorless than I’d hoped. Tomorrow is a new city with new experiences.

I took quite a few videos to capture the flavor of our train journey across India. These show the countryside and the rural lifestyle.

We loved Delhi, but Jaipur proved more of a struggle.

We’d had a difficult time booking a hotel in Jaipur. There didn’t seem to be a center to where I wanted to photograph and even looking at what appeared to be the hub of the action around the palace and market we couldn’t find a good hotel. We had to book one out a bit and trust to taxis.

Apparently, there is a reason we couldn’t find a good hotel. The entire center is one big urban sprawl. There seemed to be no heart to this city.

Our hotel is a bit disappointing truth be told. It looked better in the photos. It’s clean-ish and the dog outside of our room did stop barking before we went to bed. The character that seemed to be in the hotel is much like the character that seemed to be in the city – a thin veneer of tat. Sorry, Jaipur, but I’m not a fan.

The hotel is quite a bit further from the city center than we thought. We took a taxi in and encountered the first of many little obstacles that made our day a challenge. The taxi dropped us off at the palace just as we asked (after being firm that this was the only place we wanted to go, and no we didn’t want a tour of the city today or tomorrow), but at the entrance for the royal family. Maybe our taxi driver hadn’t noticed, but we weren’t the royal family.

No signs led us to the real entrance. We tried one way than the other down an exceedingly busy street. I fell against a wall at one point and nearly got knocked over by a motorbike going the wrong way down the busy street. Things weren’t going well.

Added to this were the increasingly persistent queries for money. We simply stopped responding to every shopkeeper who asked us into his shop. We’d run out of “no, thank you”s and we’d only just started our day.

We stopped at a couple of tourist places and I tried to make the best of the photography to hand. The observatory (Jantar Mantar) had a few interesting angles to the largest sundials I’d ever seen and Hawa Mahal – built as a way for the harem to overlook the streets – had a thin veneer of ornateness and some interesting textures. The overall impression, though was emptiness and dreariness.

Jantar Mantar
The large sundial constructed at Jantar Mantar lends itself to layers of architecture.

I was much more interested in the colorful workers at Hawa Mahal than the landmark itself. At one point, we were looking straight down on the workers as they took a smoke break.

This worker takes a break from his work renovating a room in Hawa Mahal in Jaipur. We had a bird’s eye view from an upper terrace.

We got lost in the sea of market, but that was not necessarily a problem for my photography, however all the shops seemed to be textile shops. How many textiles can one person really see? There were a few interesting moments encountered with interesting people, but I just wasn’t quite getting the hang of the city.

Sewing Break Jaipur
This tailor takes a break from his sewing – or waits for the next customer – in the markets of Jaipur.

In one last attempt to see the brighter side of Jaipur, we walked to Central Park – green on the map, but covered in litter with even more traffic flowing through it. I was officially done. We hopped a motorized rickshaw for a very adventurous ride back to the hotel.

The city had stomped us. We were exhausted and feeling off color. We’d retreat and try some of the outlying areas tomorrow.

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7 thoughts on “India Travelogue: Delhi to Jaipur”

  1. I am really enjoying reading your adventures in Delhi, the lion could be a part of a pandal for some kirtan ( Goddess Durga sits on it) but then your guess is as good as mine . I look forward to reading about Jaipur for I was there for a short trip last year and your post is making me nostalgic. I blogged about it. One thing we share is the experience of persistently helpful auto walas, vendors following you every step of the way.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The persistent vendors only got worse! It helped when we figured out that in addition to a “no thank you” or just “no no” (or “nay nay”), we added a side to side hand wave. This seemed to do the trick and we only had to say “no” once.

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  2. Travel is like that, isn’t it? Sometimes it grants you a surprise of awe, sometimes it grates a bit in what does not quite measure up–for lack of knowledge of the local best-spots, or the real-life atmosphere of a place not being what one hoped or heard about or saw depicted. I hope that the rest of the trip had more high points than low points. BTW, that video of the shacks on the side of the train-track is so sad and yet speaks so much of the human capacity to make do. As for the vendors … I think that’d drive me nuts. … Waiting to read more! Na’ama

    Liked by 1 person

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