India - around Jaipur without luggage
In the meantime we have developped a certain routine. The night before we received an email that our luggage is now in Delhi and not in Moscow anymore. So we decided not to buy any more clothes (one set is enough). At least, in the meantime there was a chance to get our luggage back. The problem was, that the service desk was still not answering any phone calls and further emails. So our luggage was in Delhi waiting to reach us and we could not instruc them what to do. But buying new clothes would have meant to carry more stuff with us later on. So back to our routine: before going to bed, washing our clothes, hanging them right under the fan - and it works. The next morning, they are dry! Like this our situation was bearable.
In the morning after we got the email at night telling us, the luggage in Delhi, I tried to call the service office of Aeroflot Airlines at Delhi Airport for the 100th time (it felt even more....!). I nearly got shocked when someone answered the phone ;-). But no big hopes. This lady was telling me to call back after 10 am because her colleagues who are responsible for the luggage start working at 10 am. I got really angry at that point. But it did not help. So we had a relaxing breakfast and discussed what to do. With this non existing service we decided to make a detour. Our next destination was Vrindavan in the north. But we decided to take a car back to Delhi airport, pick up our luggage by ourselves and join a group we were supposed to meet in Vrindavan. But they would arrive in Delhi the following day and we could join them on their bus from the airport to Vrindavan. And it would be the best chance to really get our luggage back!
OK plans set, we organised a car and a driver for the following day and even got a really good price including the possibility that we could pay the ride in cash (which is a problem) - but with our old notes (which is not a problem and perfect!). This is India: it makes you soooo many troubles, people sometimes make you feel completely crazy and desperate and the next second there is an angel coming out of nowhere. Anyway, this sounded like a good deal.
As we did not want to wait till 10 am to make our call to secure that they keep our luggage for 2 days, we decided to go sightseeing in the meantime. With the current cash situation, to make things worse, we did not want to spent money on uploading our indian mobile phone. And making phone calls from the hotel was free and no problem. So we took a rikshaw to the City Palace. As everyone was raving about the this Palace we thought we should have a look at it. Hey, we are in Rajasthan, the place for palaces and forts! Well, and it was really nice concerning the architecture. It is very well maintained and it feels a bit like in a fairy tail walking through the grounds. The annoying thing is that inside the palace there are many shops and it is not at all hassle free to walk around. You pay 500 Rupees entrance fee to be chased by hawkers. This is India.
But we discovered an interesting thing. The indian government introduced the new notes and keeps the amount of cash short out of 2 reasons: to fight corruption and to make India a cashless society. That is their official statement. Interesting is that when you visit private sights as a tourist (like the City Palace) it is no problem to pay by credit card. But if you visit governmental run sights (i.e. like the Amber Fort) you have to pay cash! You can make up your own thoughts........
We spend a good hour in the Palace before we decided to also visit the Govind Dev Ji Temple. This is one of the 3 temples where an original Krishna Murthi from Vrindavan is. The Temple is right behind the grounds of the City Palace. Entrance is free. We loved this temple. It was busy, but not crowded. The atmosphere was simply amazing. A group of women was singing bhajans, lot of people were doing the parikrama (you walk around the temple 3 times in a clockwise direction. Hindus say that this is burning karma). Even as westeners we could go clesley to the deity. We could sit down and meditate (which we did). Wow - normally in indian temples you are just pushed past the main deities and it is terribly busy. Sometimes, you are as westeners not even allowed inside. But here is was simply lovely and we enjoyed the beautiful deities and the amazing energy.
Then it was time to go back to the hotel and call the airport. And, indeed, I reached a lady immediately. By telling her my name she already knew who I was. It made me laugh - the lady in the morning got my message (when I was angry). Well, we were assured that they keep our luggage till we would pick it up. Whe should call her again when we arrive at the airport at 9.30 am and she would sent someone out to give us our luggage (in India you are not allowed to enter the airport without a flight withing the following 3 hours - so it is impossible to enter the airport to get your luggage, it must be carried out). OK, we were slightly releived. Still, we did not trust them - but there was a decent chance that everything turns out fine.....
After a short lunch, it was time to explore the surrounding of Jaipur. We hired another rickshaw to get us to Amber Fort. On the way there we asked the driver to stop at several banks and ATMs. We tried 7-10 different ones - all without cash. At the one with cash, only local cards were working. OK. We arrived at Amber Fort early in the afternoon. And the sight was stunning, really beautiful.
Only in the morning you can ride an elefant up to the fort, in the afternoon you can take a jeep or simply walk up the hill for 10 minutes. This is what we did. We were happy with it. Because when I look how they treat the elefants I did not feel like supporting this kind of business anyway. The walk up was already impressive as was the whole fort. We had a nice view down to
the village of Amer and the Mahota Lake. All the halls, gangways, hideaways in the fort were really amazing. There was one part that was fully covered with little ornaments of mirror and glass. Quite a glittery affair! The pictures just do no do the fort any justice. After the Amber Fort we took the way further up the hill to the second fort: Jaigarh Fort. The entrance there is included in the ticket of the Hawa Mahal. As we still had that ticket - free entrance for us. The fort itself was much older and not so well maintained. But the views were even more impressive. We even could see the Jal Mahal (water palace) on the horizon. And we had a fantastic view over the entire Amber Fort further down the hill. Great - this trip our of Jaipur was worth every rupee (and we only paid 450 Rupees for the trip with our rikshaw, a very good price). We walked around the ground of Jaigarh Fort till we finally made our way down back to the rickshaw. Our driver brought us to a viewpoint from where we could take pictures of the famous and beautiful water palace. It was already getting dark when we went back to Jaipur City.
Back in town we checked out some more ATMs without success. Finally we found a Thomas Cook money exchange - but he had run out of cash just an hour before. Next door, at another exchange office we were more lucky. They still had cash and offered us cash in advance on our credit card. Per person and per card there is a limit of 5000 Rupees per week at one place. The comission was fair. So we were really happy when we hold 5000 Rupees in our hands!
We were sceptical in the beginning of coming to Rajasthan. A lot of travellers have warned us that it is rough, people are unfriendly, it is dirty and there is lots of ripp offs, esp. with rickshaw drivers. At least in Jaipur, we had a different experience. The dirt is dust, but overall, this city is quite clean compared to other indian cities. People are really friendly, helpful and warm hearted. The hassle in the strees and on the bazaars is like everywhere in India. But it is bearable. Just walk away and do not discuss with the guys and you will be perfectly in peace. And there are public toilet and even a few waste baskets. We have never seen this is India before.
We are keen on visiting more places in Rajasthan. It is a new and different kind of India for us, but in a pleasant and interesting way. But this we must do on one of our next trips. For now, Jaipur was all we visited in Rajasthan. We ended our time with another delicious dinner in the Sunder's Palace Rooftop Restaurant. We enjoyed the views over the roofs of this city, happy we went here. We had a lot of troubles but that had nothing to do with this city we really liked.
And here we were, on the road in India again. Our next stop, hopefully with our luggage: Vrindavan.