Jaipur was a city I have been really looking forward to since we got to this wonderful country. I’ve been fortunate to have a number of friends also travelling at this time, and many have either just done or have recently done a few days here. Jaipur was destined to be a unique experience for us as well, because we were using Couchsurfing.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Couchsurfing (CS) it’s an online community for people who love to travel and meet new people. You can use it just to hang out with local people, or to stay with locals at their place. We used CS in Kolkata where we met Shekhar and had a great night, but this was the first time we stayed with a family. The idea is that surfers return the favour basically, so you offer to share a room at your place. For this trip, we were staying with Ganesh and his family.
I’ve spoken to some people who seem to think CS is just a way to get a free room for a night. I need to stress this is so not the idea. After buying the kids stuff and buying things for my family from Ganesh’s shop I probably spent the same I would on accommodation anyway. Likewise I need to stress this isn’t a way for creeps to just get people into their house, there’s a diligent verification system and the platform is built on references and user feedback.
Ganesh and his family lived in an area called Jhotwara, a suburb about 3mi from Jaipur centre. Many people would turn their noses up at this distance, but it was a very simple 20rupee (for the both of us) bus ride away that was an experience in itself! We were very fortunate and were given our own room, shower, and western toilet too, which I must say I wasn’t expecting. Ganesh’s home was shared with his sisters family, the mother and two children, alongside his wife and two sons.
We arrived at his house around 10pm and went straight to bed, but the next day we were straight up meeting his family, and going out the door to see the sights. Ganesh drove us around Jaipur for the whole day, taking us to the Monkey Temple (AMAZING, apart from a rogue monkey getting greedy and biting Kelly on the back of her leg, resulting in a pretty nasty bruise), the Amber Fort (again, amazing scenery and some truly stunning views), followed by the floating palace, two wonderful and unique Hindu temples (old and new, great to see the contrast on the architecture) and a great local place for lunch.
Whilst a busy day travelling around was at, my favourite thing of the day (possibly even the trip) was playing Cricket with his kids and the per local kids (who turned out to also be cousins etc). We ended up playing street cricket on two nights until the sun set which was a fantastic experience.
For me this just galvanised my thoughts that the best experiences don’t always need to have a monetary value, or require a queue to experience! This is exactly why we signed up for Couchsurfing, and this kind of experience isn’t something you can pay for at a hotel. I know there will be people reading this who would have loved an experience like that!
The following day we headed into the city minus our host. We decided to start the day exploring the Pink City, the oldest part of Jaipur and riddled with Bazaars and synonymous with high quality jewellery and fabrics. It’s called the pink city because, well, all the buildings are pink (I’d say more salmon personally), And it’s now law that this consistent colour much be maintained throughout the old districts. Unfortunately we were exploring the area rather early in the day, and at the start of a Hindu Festival so many shops were shut, but to be honest we weren’t going to buy anything anyway, so no biggie. Following the 3 odd hours exploring the area, we went to the City Palace. As you’d expect from the name, it’s a palace, part open to the public showing historic weaponry and clothing from the Maharaja ages. The history of this area or India (Rajastan) is absolutely fascinating to be honest. I really enjoyed reading about the battles for power, both internally and externally. The palace is still inhabited by the King too, although we didn’t get to say hello or get invited in for chai (how rude).
Sadly I think Kelly and I both managed to overcook ourselves whilst walking around the city. It’s quite hard to keep track of how much water were each drinking, and in temperatures around 35c and walking around most of the day (over 10k most days I reckon) we were clearly both dehydrated at points. Careful kids, stay hydrated! However, we persevered and continued to soak up the sights of Jaipur, which there are a number!
We were very fortunate to meet a lovely couple in Varanasi, Matt and Charlie, who happened to be in Jaipur the same time as us. We got on great in Varanasi so agree to link up here too. That night we went to a lovely rooftop restaurant for dinner and chatted rubbish for hours whilst overlooking the city. We actually ended up doing exactly the same the following day which was great. It’s really nice to meet new people you just click with especially on the road, and resulted in literally doing nothing for the last day in the city, and bloody loving it! I’ve also now got a bunch more movies for trip to watch (thanks Matt).
Jaipur was wonderful, but not necessarily for the reasons you’d expect. Yes the sights were cool and I’m glad we did them, but the highlight was definitely everything around Couchsurfing. Everything from being out of the touristy party of the city and having to get the bus in, to eating local and traditional Rajastahni food (that I wouldn’t have found if we’d been in the city), to sharing the experience of Hindu festivals with a local family and community to playing cricket on the street in the rain. This kind of stuff is simply unforgettable.
We’ve now had a day in Delhi with Tim and Steph, two mates from England (I went to uni with Tim) which was ace, albeit slightly more fuelled on beer and rum than I’ve been used to this past two weeks. We’re heading up to Rishikesh to see the Himalayas, Hindu temples and ashrams today, so I’ll be on radio silence for a few days I suspect.