|For a quick overview of India by the BBC, click here
Decided to suck it up and pay the plane fare to India. So much better than the alternative land crossing involving arduous hours, multiple buses, rickshaws, trains, etc. Flew into New Delhi and headed straight for the train station (we wanted a "soft landing" into India so opted to get out of the big city fast) after buying a SIM card for our cell phone and confirming our onward train ticket at the airport.
While the train was over an hour late and there was confusion with our taxi driver regarding where the station actually was, and some confusion as to whether our train was just late, canceled or otherwise, it was relatively straightforward. The trains were decent, though not particularly clean. Five-ish hours after boarding, we arrived in Jaipur, where we were met at the train station and whisked off to our excellent guesthouse (clean, charming, fantastic food, cheap), which made for a great introduction to India!
Jaipur is a middle sized (for India) city of a mere 2.6 million people and is known as the "pink city" because of many sandstone structures that give off a pinkish hue. We spent three days soaking up the sights here.
Spent a few days in the old city, which has partially intact walls, gates, and is full of insane traffic (cows, people, bikes, rickshaws, trucks, goats, etc.) and busy bazaars. Here, we went to the Hawa Mahal (a 200 year old sandstone building with good views of the city) and the City Palace (where the current Maharaja of Jaipur lives in Chandra Mahal (palace)).
We had a crazy traffic accident experience on our way back to our hotel in an auto rickshaw. Essentially a motorbike cut in front of our rickshaw so that our driver hit the back of his bike. There was no damage done as it all happened at walking pace. However, a large crowd quickly assembled and two guys were trying to pull our rickshaw driver out of the vehicle to (presumably) beat him up if he didn't give them money. It got very heated with shouting, slapping, etc. We started to get involved (yelling at the guys assaulting our driver and pushing away their hands), but then quickly got out of the rickshaw after our driver got out and disappeared (we've heard riots can start this way and did not want to be in the middle of the chaos). Eventually, we were relieved to see our rickshaw driver return and the problem dissipate after a traffic police officer came onto the scene. We carried on towards our hotel with a quick stop for a Lassi at Lassi Walla (we were a bit dubious about the safety of drinking from a street shack, but it was delicious!)
We spent another day visiting Amer Fort and Palace (the former capital of Jaipur state built in the late 1500's) and Jaigarh Fort (built in the early 1700s and much less impressive), before catching a train to Agra.