The Taj Mahal is neat.
Jaipur is another crowded, polluted, but not entirely too bad Indian town. Capital of Rajasthan, the desert state bordering Pakistan, it has a few nice things too see, and alot more people trying to make money off of you seeing them than there is remotely any demand for. Throughout most of my travels, everyone spoke of Jaipur as notoriously being the absolute worst place in all of India in terms of rickshawmen and jewel dealers, tour guides and hotel pushers, etc. I found that they were so bad, in fact, that they got to me before I even left Agra. There was a hotel pusher at the bus stand where I was going to catch the overnight bus, who told me and this Japanese girl about his guest house with rooms for 60 rupees, which is a great deal. Well, when we got to Jaipur, the rickshaw man told us that the rooms there were actually 250 a night. Being a rickshawman, we of course did not believe him because he obviously wanted commission by bringing us to another hotel. Well, the only person awake at 5:30 am at this guest house either spoke NO English, or sleepily pretended not to. We asked him repeatedly if the rooms were for 60, and he just gave us the famous non-committal Indian hod wobble. Looking back, it is my theory that the whole thing is orchestrated to get you in there and unknowingly sign-in for a more expensive room than you think. We however refused to sign the guest book until there was someone who spoke English. But, after a few hours sleep and a shower (that certainly was not the hot one I was promised by Mr. Gotomy60rp.guesthouse), Japanese girl came by my room and reported she found another guest who said the rooms were 150. With this as justification, we both agreed that it would be perfectly reasonable to slip out quietly and be done with the whole deal. So, I got a free room and free mediocre shower in the end. And the rickshawmen ARE that bad. Most places, if you say no five or six times they give up. Here they often follow you down the street until you look them straight in the eye and tell them in varying degrees of politeness to bugger off. One cyclerickshawman who had been waving and calling for several minutes followed for several more minutes. When he finally understood that I WANTED TO WALK, he said, yes yes, walking okay! and continued to follow. Soon I asked what the hell he was doing. He said, you wanted to walk while I cycle and be your guide. Only ten rupees an hour. Out of some compassion it must be noted that cyclerickshawmen are as a rule extremely poor and are basically beggars with a tricycle and one can be certain that they do indeed need the money to eat. If only they weren’t so damned annoying, like the one guy whom we agreed to pay 15 rupees (already way to much) and then at the destination made a HUGE scene and refused the 15 claiming we had agreed to pay him 50! Some passersby took up the case and said something I hope was sufficiently scathing to him in Hindi. AND THEN after we were done there (Japanese girl was going to the ATM) he was waiting around and trying to get us to hire him to go somewhere else! Ugh.
The train ride from Jaipur to Udaipur was great. They have meter-guage lines out here, so the train was a bit smaller and more cramped, but it was wonderfully empty and I slept like a baby.
So far India has been a great place to travel alone because one need be only a little bit out-going and one can make friends and travel companions really easily. In Varanasi I had loads of fun with these crazy Slovenian girls (1,2) whom I met on the over-crowded metal death cage which passed as a bus from Khajuraho to Mahoba. Yesterday after the hotel incident Japanese girl and I went and sight saw, and it’s really funny cuz you meet lots of other people who are walking around together like great pals but only just met that morning. There’s something about the mentality of being a gringo in India and sharing the same sorts of experiences that makes it really easy and fun to make friends with random other travelers, even just for a day. When one travels with old friends, it’s too easy just to hang out only with your friends. While there’s nothing at all wrong with that, I’m really enjoying being able to meet all these new people.
In case anyone is wanting to see pictures, just give up hope. It’s too slow and I’m too lazy to load them until I get home. I will get home frighteningly soon. I cannot deny that I’m looking forward to it.