Jaipur, India

I arrived at the train station around 3pm which was similar to the one in Agra with taxi drivers and tuk tuks hassling right as you walk out so I knew to order an Uber right away (since this was an actual city compared to Agra). As I was waiting for the Uber by the main street, of course this one taxi or tuk tuk driver followed me and wouldn’t leave me alone and the busy streets were filled with non-stop honking mopeds so I was getting a headache. Jaipur is considered the "Pink City" of India because of the pink colored buildings and palaces all around. As the Uber picked me up, I was trying to see if I would make it to the city palace close to my hostel after checking in. The hostel I booked was the same chain as the one in Delhi, called Mustache, I booked on Bookings.com because it was easy and I did it last minute (3 days beforehand). I had overheard that they give 10% discount, but apparently have to book through their site as opposed to Bookings.com so they wouldn’t give it to me as I checked in. I tried getting a discount for breakfast the next day but they really wouldn’t give in - Indians are very hard-headed when it comes to money, like Asians. It was a rustic yet Moroccan-style hostel with a rooftop and pool and lounge area, all white decor and paint with indigenous decorations - it seemed to have just been built as it was very clean. I booked my last private room and I was so happy I did that as there seemed to be many young Indian natives partying on the rooftop. I quickly got settled in and changed and then ordered an Uber to the famous pink City Palace. As soon as we drove into the gates of the city it was evident why it's called that...I mean every single building was covered in this pink colored clay-like paint all along this one main street and surrounding streets (a spectacular drive). The town was packed with chaotic drivers and locals and tourists walking in the streets and storefront markets and vendors everywhere. The Uber correctly followed his GPS which took us down this skinny alleyway to a closed off dead-end where he had to maneuver his way out of this mess of a corner...and then drive through this tiny gate where I don’t even know how he fit through it...one of the most bizarre Uber driver experiences. When I arrived at the City Palace, I didn’t realize that you had to pay to enter so I ended up not going inside to save 700 rupees and just admired the view from outside which was fine by me. Close by, there was this observatory composed of many large unique architectural structures and only 200 rupees so I decided to check that out instead. I walked around the town as the sun was setting, watching as the locals went about their day. I saw a fruit stand with various fruits I wanted to try and didn’t really have a sufficient lunch, so I ate a couple of oranges. As I walked around the town filled with dirt, stray dogs, cows and ancient pink-colored arches and buildings, I saw many souvenir pop ups so I was definitely in the prime touristy spot as I was on my way to another palace. The Hawa Mahal palace was set along the sidewalk with tons of tiny little balconies and windows, a beautiful old building. As I was taking pictures of the palace, I got battered by this Muslim looking guy, Salman (another Salman) who told me the view was better across the street and that he has a cafe that I could sit on the rooftop and enjoy the sunset at. I was hesitant at first, but as I looked across the street at the cafe, I saw many locals and tourists so I decided to give it a try since it really was difficult to admire the palace from right underneath. As he guided me across these busy streets of crazy Indian drivers in his white Muslim shall outfit, we walked up 4 steep floors to “his” cafe, which I was unsure about. He pointed out the jewelry store right beneath it that he said was also “his” and that he lived in Italy for some time so had quality things..it seemed like he was trying to impress me and at the same time help me, but I made sure to be careful to ensure I wasn’t putting myself in any danger. I ordered some lentil soup and coconut water (from an actual coconut) as the sun set behind the Hawa Mahal and many tourists admiring the view (slash ruining the moment - this French couple was very obnoxious at the table next to me complaining). He asked if I wanted to see some jewelry so I went to check it out just to be nice, knowing that I wouldn’t purchase anything (but actually ended up later on). As we walked down to the main street, I informed him that I needed to buy some last minute Christmas gifts and scarves for my family. He was so eager to help and wanted to show me everything so I followed him on the busy streets, trying not to get run over, to the city’s gate entrance and then he showed me this other temple nearby and then back towards the souvenir storefront shops. He knew exactly where to take me to get scarves as it was right near his cafe and he knew all the guys working there - which I didn't know if it would be a good or bad thing when bargaining. There were many different types of scarves and I wasn’t in a shopping mode but it was my last chance to shop before going home so I tried to snap into it. It was hard making a decision as a couple more seller guys came in and asked me questions about living in the USA and then the owner offered a chai masala that helped but it was hard making a decision. I was in there for a while until I finally landed on 5 smaller silk scarves and a nicer one for me, all for $50 which was a good deal because the ones at the airport were triple that price. I was happy with my purchase in the end and it was funny answering the same questions to these guys... Which country are you from? How long are you in India? What were you doing before this? They all sell clothings, jewelry or whatever as a living and thrive off tourists and bargaining goods. Then we went back to his cafe to go to the tiny itty bitty bathroom on the rooftop and I decided to look at the jewelry one more time since I knew this was the last chance to maybe get a good deal, and ended up buying these earrings for $10. Then he asked if I had been to the water palace and I said no but I didn’t realize what it was, and that it was far, but he drove me on his moped to this lake I had looked up before and would be going past the following morning on the way to Amber Palace. Being on his moped was fun as I was contemplating ordering an Uber scooter but was nervous it would be too dangerous and wanted to do my last scooter/moped ride in Asia/India so I finally got my chance after all! He was a pretty crazy driver, like the rest, but I felt comfortable which was important and I knew where I was going since I had looked up this palace beforehand. I’m actually glad we went that night because the following day I ran out of time and it was beautiful seeing during the night anyway. Afterwards, he asked if I was hungry and I mentioned I wasn’t but could maybe have my last beer in India and that I also needed pants so he took me to this other store near his cafe and of course as he walks in and the first thing he does is mention that I’m from America. I think he informed the owner so he know how much to bargain...hilarious. I tried on various patterned pants and couldn’t decide on one so I got two for a good deal, thankfully Salman helped out that time (2 pants for $10). Then we scootered to this bar, which was somewhat further than expected and he asked about my family and boyfriends and age. Surprisingly he’s 25 and I guessed 30 haha but I had a right to since he said he “owned” many things and had started his own business. It was a very random interesting night, that I don’t think anyone will understand how I felt, but it certainly felt like I was in a another world/dream. When we arrived to the rooftop bar, he ordered a Pepsi and a large beer for me, I didn’t realize he didn’t drink but made sense since he was Muslim. We chatted about his religion and how strict his parents are and he couldn’t be caught with cigs or a lighter and that the Muslim women stay inside and the men pay for the wedding which 9000 people come to and have 40 different types of foods and 30 meals over the course of 4 days. He said I could come to his sister’s wedding and maybe “we can have a wedding” haha he was really trying. It was crazy that it was my last night in India, my last night of freedom, my last night of my backpacking trip...it was all hitting me quickly but not completely yet. I was just trying to be in the present moment and enjoy this strange person’s company. To this day, I’m not sure if he's a show-off, grabbing tourists to come into his stores type of guy who does that all the time for a living or that it just so happened to me. I’ll never really know but he was a nice guy, offering hospitality in his country, trying to show and tell me the good things. There’s people like him and many Indians in general that seem to want to show off their country and help tourists sincerely, but sometimes you have to ask yourself if they’re doing it for friendship or just trying to get money, or something worse out of it. From Ichi in Bali, to Salman in India, I was more prepared the second time than the first - when a stranger tries to help me in a bad circumstances - I now know how to handle these people and take care of myself. There was a little hesitation when we were on his moped of where he was taking me, but I had my phone, I had an idea of where I was and I could tell he wasn’t a bad person, just hungry for a better life. That’s really all it is in the end anyway, as long as you maintain respect and don’t cross the line. We said our goodbyes and mentioned diamond selling and if I needed a diamond to go to him first haha cool? I Ubered to my hostel and packed up and organized, showered and got to bed by 11pm as I needed to get up to go to Amber Palace the following morning before catching a bus back to Delhi that afternoon (and then a flight home to the USA).

I woke up with a stomach bug in the middle of the night so I took some alka seltzer and finally fell back to sleep but didn’t get up as early as I had hoped. I grabbed breakfast quickly and ran into a girl I had met at the other Mustache hostel in Delhi and then Ubered to Amber Palace which was 30 minutes away. It was a lot bigger than expected and as we approached it from a distance, I was amazed by its beauty. Honestly, I wish I had more time there as I didn’t have nearly enough and wish I had tried to get the student discount like the Australian boy I briefly met (it cost me 500 rupees) but didn’t try and rushed in and out to take some pictures. There were elephants taking people up and down the palace streets and it was sad to see them enslaved like that. Though it was an ancient palace, filled with so much history, you definitely need like 3 hours or more to really take in all the glamour. I quickly ordered an Uber back to Mustache and got there in time to check out by 11am and grab another one to the bus station, which was confusing at first. It was just a stand and not a legit bus station but there was a waiting area as I made sure to ask the guy standing at the stand that I was at the right place. There was a teenage girl also waiting and I asked her to watch my big bag as I went to get snacks and water. And then had to go to the bathroom which was across the street at this gross facility where you have to pay 5 rupees for a floor toilet and had my two smaller backpacks with me so it was very difficult trying not to touch anything as I legit squatted with one in each hand. The bus arrived only 5 minutes late and put my big backpack in the back and found my sleeper seat which was a bit dirty but plenty of space (somewhat similar to the train side bench seat on the way to Agra from Delhi). I wasn’t in the mood to sit there as it was more of a booth than a seat so I sat at the seat sitting upright next to it and then got kicked out eventually because the bus became full. We left 30 minutes late and finally stopped to pee at this bus stop after a couple hours (I had to ask the bus driver if we were going to stop soon). My stomach was still really bothering me so I tried taking more meds but nothing was working. I felt like shit but just dealt through the pain as I knew this was the last hurdle before home. As the bus was arriving closer to the Delhi airport, I wasn’t sure if the bus would stop closer to the airport than the stop I had purchased the ticket to drop me off at. I decided very last minute to get dropped off literally on the side of the highway with this other girl and then had to pay the taxi driver 200 rupees because I didn’t have service or time to really get an Uber as I wanted to get off the highway. The airport was only 5 minutes away but it seemed dangerous to try to wait in the middle barricade so I just went with it. I was also flustered from getting off the bus so quickly and tired of bargaining - I was just happy to be getting to the airport on time.



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