After our time at the Taj Mahal, we drove yet another 4 hours from Agra to Jaipur which leads me to my third of four total India Adventures. I will count the drive nothing short of a blessing from God. It was a paved road with much less poverty and chaos than the drive to Agra where Mulkrag was able to consistently drive at around 60 kilometers per hour. Or perhaps we were actually starting to get adjusted to the culture. Hmm. No, it was the paved road.
I swear, I was literally thanking God the whole time and also throwing in a prayer that I wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom along the way. Ironically, or not, neither Rick nor I ever had to make our driver stop [ever] to use the bathroom. And trust me when I say we likely just would have had to pull off the side of the road and join the others that were going to the bathroom in public as I am doubtful there were any working bathrooms on any of our drives around the alleged ‘Golden Triangle.’ Oh, that’s another thing I have to write Trip Advisor and the travel books on. I have no idea why they call Delhi, Agra and Jaipur the Golden Triangle. I am sure Google has 5 millions results that explain it, but at this point in the trip, I didn’t see a lot of golden anything. Probably some super smart marketer trying to generate more sarcastic, white American tourists…hmmm…
Okay, back to Jaipur. Jaipur is a city of over 3 million, the home to unique jewelry, textiles, pink palaces and poverty. If you haven’t noticed already, based on my experience, India is a complete contradiction. A juxtaposition. Ironic. Beauty and the beast, so to speak. You would see gorgeous women wearing vibrant sari’s, working in a dirty shack. Among a beautiful pink palace there would be beggars and male-nourished children. A car driving on a street and a camel crossing the car. Families bathing and washing their clothes in a nearby polluted water pond, next to a brilliant jeweler warehouse. Wealthy families with teenagers as their housekeepers. Holy cows grazing the streets eating garbage. If that doesn’t cause some mental confusion, I am not sure what would.
After our long, but relatively stable drive, we check into the Sheraton Rajputana Palace Hotel which smelled of fragrant flowers, had a soothing atmosphere and we were welcomed with a ‘Namaste.’ I actually don’t know what the definition of Namaste is, but I gladly brought my hands together in prayer position, closed my eyes, bowed my head and threw a ‘Namaste’ back at the hotelier. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. And then, we entered our room and it was like a mini Rajasthani palace itself. Beautiful gray and white floral wallpaper, vibrant pillows and throws, fresh flowers, fresh fruit, bottles of water galore, clean, crisp white bedding and incredible marble throughout. It was truly an oasis, given the last 18 hours we had experienced.
Jaipur was an interesting and pivotal point of our trip and reeked of irony, very similar to our overall India experience thus far. It was filled with great adventures, food and sights. We road an elephant up to the Amber Fort. Took a camel ride and experienced authentic Rajasthani food at Chokhi Dhani, a must-see-and-do cultural experience in Jaipur. Shopped and splurged on gorgeous Indian rugs, among other local treasures. We wore turbans and danced to some crazy Indian music. Toured the City Palace and learned about the role Kama Sutra played for the oh-so-lucky Indian kings. Indulged in a health and wellness day of a two-hour spa treatment, sauna, steamer and loads of relaxation at the Kaya Kalp Spa. Simultaneously, I had gotten sick from the food. The day of relaxation was truly me forcing myself to relax which wasn’t easy. I ate pizza twice at the hotel. I would wake up before 6am still jet-lagged, emotional and delirious. I had a complete meltdown and asked Rick if we could go back home and I was 110% serious and would pay any amount to change our flights. I was terribly homesick and the thought of spending another full week in India actually brought me to tears. In my mind, there was no way I could take the intensity of the smells, the poverty, the food and the overall juxtapositions another minute, let alone a week. I craved a steak cut from a big fat cow from the Midwest, my favorite New Zealand wine (it was $120 per bottle in India so needless to say I didn’t drink it), the cleanliness of Chicago and the peace that home brings. Truth be told, I was in pain seeing what I had seen and frankly, just wanted to run from it and pretend it didn’t exist. I was ashamed that I couldn’t handle it. I was confused at God’s world.
In true Rick fashion, he calmed me, prayed and encouraged me to spend some time with God. And so, I did. Within hours my spirit was back and God had met me in India which was one of the highlights of the trip and I will always remember Jaipur for that. It was the turning point where I went from wondering why the hell I was subjecting myself to such mind-boggling things to trusting that God had me in India, at that exact time for some great reason. Now, take a look at some of the moments we captured.
You can experience some of the contradiction I am referring to as the stories I have written don’t necessarily match the beautiful pictures. One of the main reasons why that is, is because I couldn’t take pictures of the poverty. I am not sure exactly why, but partly out of respect and partly because I was in denial and didn’t want to remember India that way. But the reality is, that is India and it is a part of what we experienced. And in Jaipur, God allowed me to accept, grow and learn from that. And so, this concludes our Golden Triangle adventure through Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. There were laughs, tears, pain, awe, excitement, exhaustion and eventually, peace from God and stillness in our hearts as we closed the door to that part of the country. And ironically, such as our whole trip thus far, I found the collection of those cities to represent a golden-ness that the travel books talk about. It’s not the golden you would expect. It’s far different, very personal, subjective and unique. But, golden they were 🙂
Our next 6 days would be spent in Kolkata, stay tuned for the fourth and final adventure, the Kolkata recap!