It was a warm Saturday morning and I woke up feeling just ten cents short of a million, I was eager to get out of Mumbai. My break from work had just started and I didn’t want to waste a single minute of it.
So after a quick shower and a scrumptious breakfast, my edgy fingers tapped away furiously looking for holiday packages across India and internationally.
I had initially thought of just packing my bags and heading to the airport, however, I wanted to get a better deal online. I didn't want to be too fool hardy and risk spending, the little I had saved.
So after a few quick taps and clicks, I was heading for Sri Lanka, I entered my credit card details and was about to click ‘process payment’ when sanity struck me and I decided to check the cost of the hotels.
Well thank God, I was born with some intelligence, I was relieved that I waited. The hotels were out of my budget and I wouldn’t want to go to a different country and have no money to spend on shopping.
So Sri Lanka, was put on the back burner and I decided to go local. Cochin was my next destination, a beautiful place, affordable hotels, and very romantic, I was all set to finalize the deal, when I started to think, Beautiful place, pretty romantic, and I am going alone. It would have been too depressing.
So another destination thrown into the bin, time was running out and almost half the day was over. I had to decide, so after another quick search I checked the deals on Jaipur. I got a good deal on the air tickets and the hotel I selected wasn’t too bad, Well so I thought.
I decided the more I thought about the pros and cons of my trip, the longer it would take for me to decide and I would land up at Little Flower staring at the ceiling, until my vacation got over.
So without further thought I clicked ‘Process payment,’ the moment I hit that key, I knew that there was no turning back and I would have to make the most of it.
So I packed my bag, net book, camera, and clothes, and checked to see if I had everything in order. It took me 10 mins to pack and 3mins to do a quick check. I got dressed and headed for the airport.
I engaged a rickshaw and I was on my way. My rickshaw driver presumed I was getting late and he spared no effort in getting me there in less than 15mins.
I am sure that Schumacher would have been very proud of his driving skills. He swerved, cut and zipped and zoomed through traffic lights and within an inch of other cars. He cut through traffic like a surgeon on steroids. Well, I must give him credit, I did enjoy the ride. I was hoping that this would not be the only excitement or highlight of my trip.
It’s been over a year since I went to the airport, the domestic airport is pretty swanky, I was impressed; I checked in and waited for my flight.
G8 111, echoed on the intercom and I got up and heading to the boarding gate. After screening your carry on, at security check, they also check your bags thoroughly before you board the aircraft. They ask you to open your bags and they look through everything. I just don’t understand why they can't do it earlier.
A very attractive lady, probably in her mid-thirties had her bag opened and out popped some racy lingerie, much to the amusement of the other passengers. She didn’t seem too fazed by the incident. I put her down as a frequent flier.
I boarded the aircraft and a couple of minutes later I was on my way, as the plane flew higher, I sat back and thought to myself ‘this is it’ in a couple of hours I would be in Jaipur, no plan, alone and 5days to make the most of this trip.
2hours later I was over Jaipur, it was a smooth landing and as the plane grew to a halt I switched on my handset. Low and behold not a single message, I guess no one missed me; The Jaipur airport is absolutely stunning. I was amazed how advanced they got since I last came to the pink city.
I went to the prepaid taxi stand and got my ride, I soaked in the architecture and scenery and after an hour I reached my hotel.
I checked in, had a shower and headed out to get something to eat; I went to the Kebab Palace, awesome food great service. Then I took a rickshaw back to my hotel. Day one was uneventful, I changed and headed for a shower and crashed.
Sunday was a better day, I woke up at noon and headed for brunch, I stopped at a local café and after a quick bite I went to Jal Mahal only to find it closed for renovations. I travelled by the Jaipur local transport bus.
I could write a whole new chapter on my experience, but I’ll cut to the chase and try and summarize to the best of my ability, well I learn t over the last couple of days, on the travel etiquette of a foreigner in Jaipur, I refer to myself as a foreigner, cause the only thing different about them and I, is the colour of our skin and accent to some extent.
So back to the Jaipur bus, it comes in various sizes large, medium and small, but you don’t get fries with that. Large – like the Ac buses sans Ac, we have in Bombay they are known as the Jaipur Transport bus; however to me I know them as the stealth express or the invisible beast, because this bus magically appeared only once I boarded the small bus and would disappear as soon as I alighted.
The medium bus, as large as a regular school, or Goa bus and Small, you will find a lot of these guys running around, the most easy to catch and I’m guessing the cheapest.
So I get into this small bus aka sardine express and it’s empty and I’m thinking to myself this is not so bad, until a couple of seconds later the bus is filled to capacity, and I don’t mean the Virar local capacity, a Virar local would be a much better option.
So now that the bus is filled, and I am assuming we are going to be on our way, when I hear, the conductor yell out, now to the locals or disguised locals I’m guessing he was calling out the following destinations, however to me it seemed like he was saying, let’s see how many people we can pack into this bus.
What is worse than traveling by a packed bus, is traveling by a packed bus filled with people who believe on expressing their flatulence freely with flair.
I learned a very short time to breathe every 4mins; I believe I cleared SCUBA training level 2. I wanted to contact the Guinness Book of World records and show them how you could squeeze 50 people in a mid-size bus.
I am 5.7 and very lean, however my head almost touched the roof of the bus. So you can imagine how spacious it was, at one point I felt I was practicing for a part in the black swan, I had just about enough place for the little toe on my right foot, and I managed to sustain this balancing act for half an hour until I was spewed out onto the street.
For some inexplicable reason throughout my trip, I noticed that people of Jaipur wanted to go everywhere I went. Because every time I would board and empty bus, it would get full in seconds and when I got off, everyone else also decided to get off. It happened too often to be a coincidence. I guess the people of Jaipur love me.
The people in Jaipur are pretty friendly and help you find your way. I tried to blend in by trying to imitate the Jaipuri accent, but I was as inconspicuous as a Chinese in Nigeria. So I stuck to my Bombay Hindi, mixed with English. In the evening I decided to go to a new place. I walked about 2kms and finally found a non-vegetarian restaurant, not too fancy but the food was good.
Day 3 started off well, No Monday Blues, what a relief. I got up 6am, heaved a sigh of relief and went back to sleep. I woke up at noon and after a quick refreshing shower I headed to the shopping square also known as the big square, or badi chopar. I browsed around but didn’t find anything appealing. So I headed to the holiday inn and had lunch over there. After lunch I went to the arts and crafts gallery and picked up 2 wooden boxes with ceramic drawers painted by blind one armed Rajasthani workers, well I'm just kidding, they had both their arms.
I visited the Havaa Mahal, clicked a few snaps and headed back, I took the sardine express and reached the hotel drenched with sweat and accompanied by 50 different odours from all parts of Jaipur and Rajasthan. I had the longest ever shower and changed into a new set of clothes.
In the evening I went to the Raj Palace for dinner, the place was exquisite, the food was served in gold rimmed plates and the silverware was actually pure silver. After a scrumptious meal, I took a rickshaw back to the hotel.
Day 4, I got up at noon and went to the city palace, I clicked a few snaps, and then I headed to an art shop, and got some souvenirs for my team, I knew I was getting taken for a ride, but I was in no mood to bargain. I was just tired and wanted to head back to the hotel. Day 4 was a pretty lazy day. I spent the evening packing my bags and I did a quick check on what I spent. I went to sleep early.
Day 5, the final day in Jaipur, I got up a 10am, I settled the bills and I was on my way to the airport. I hitched a ride with Thomas a Spaniard who was also heading to the airport. We started chatting along the way and I learned that he was in India for 3months. I was really hungry so I stopped at the Marriott for breakfast and paid my share of the fare to Thomas.
The breakfast was absolutely amazing; I ate to my heart’s content and was happy that it was 50% cheaper than Mumbai. I decided to walk the 2.5km stretch to the airport, as I was stuffed and needed some exercise.
The walk was very pleasant as the skies were overcast. At the airport I met a fellow traveler Jagdish from Gujarat; a very friendly fellow. He introduced himself as “Myself Jagdish, you can say me Jag”, You say your name please”.
Jag probably thought I was listening very intently to every word he was saying, and he was right, I was because I was trying to decipher what he was trying to say. Some sentences like “I was shutter last night, as I wet in thunder rain” ,“my house have father, camel and mother” and the best one “Camel is my brother”,
He’s got one kinky father, I thought to myself. Well Jag had to leave as he was taking the spice jet to Bombay. I was leaving an hour later via Go Air.
I learn t a lot from this trip, as I do from most of my solo trips. Looking forward to many more trips across India and the world, hopefully I’ll have company next time.