To be honest, we had mixed feelings about our trip to India. If it was not for the inauguration of the Bhakti Marga temple and ashram by our spiritual master Paramahamsa Vishwananda we would have probably stayed at home. But attending such a ceremony with your own living master in the holy city of Vrindavan is a once in a lifetime gift! So it was a great reason to go to India again. Despite what had happened during our last trip (when Nina ended up in hospital , when we visited a city that consited only of garbage and when we decided to make a big break of India.....) we booked a flight, applied for the e-visa and packed our backpacks.
The inauguration ceremony for the temple and ashram was supposed to take about 3 days. Therefore, we had planned a little "side programme" before and after. This is why our first stop was Jaipur in Rajasthan. Well, to come there was a typical "indian" story - or better: a complete chaos. We had a flight from Zurich to Moscow where we had 1,5 hours to change our plane. The first snowstorm of the season was just hitting Moscow shortly before we arrived and our plane started to slowly descend at the time when boarding for our next flight started. We had exactly 10 minutes to run through the airport with one more security control to catch the next flight. With us, quite a lot of ohter passengers had the same problem. Complete chaos at the airport - but we made it. The flight to Delhi was uneventful. We had enough time to recover for the next events. By arriving at Delhi airport we passed the visa control which was straight forward and empty at 4 am in the morning. Then we were greeted by an aeroflot employee. Most of the luggage (ours as well) was still in Moscow. No surprise for us. But then, the indian bureaucracy (better to write: bureaucrazy!) hit us! We filled in a form, waited in line for 30 minutes that another employee could fill in another form (actually it was just copying our form to a new form). We were asked many questions which we all already had answered on the form in capital letters. Tired, at 4 am in in the morning, and about 20 people asking questions in between your conversation with the official, being pushed constantly by people who had the same problem as you - well, this needed patience. After 2 hours we had a copy of our complaint that we had no luggage, we had a phone number and different people telling us "No problem, your luggage will be sent to Jaipur tomorrow. No problem!". Somehow, we did not believe in the indian "no problem".....
We took our hand luggage (happy, we had some fresh underwear in there and all our electronical devices - but not more), walked out and the next problem arised. Arriving on a sunday meant, the whole airport was without cash. It was even impossible to change money. We new, the financial crisis was just about 2 weeks old. But never had we thought about this extent! OK, we were in Delhi, no luggage, no cash. And to make everything worse, most of the shops not accepting credit cards as for them it is impossible to get the little cash machines - they are sold out and production of those is slow.
We tried to keep calm. We were already awake since 24 hours. We had 4 hours to kill till our next short flight to Jaipur. We found a shop where we could at least buy a toothbrush, shaving cream and toothpaste. The basic outfit for the first night. We had breakfast and boarded the flight. How thankful we were that we had already booked our airport taxi in Jaipur through our accomodation. The taxi guy was already waiting for us. And he was of great help. We could pay him by using one of over old notes. Indians with a bank account can pay these notes on their accounts and do not loose money. For us visitors, the old notes are of no use. He even change us one 500 note into a new note. And our accomodation
accepted credit card payments. So we did not think about cash for food and our bed. One problem solved. We had a strong chai on the rooftop terrasse and planned what to do. On our way from the airport we had seen a shopping mall in walking distance and this was our goal for the morning. We needed some clothes as we were still wearing the winter clothes without anything to change in the hand luggage. We bought the most necessary things (with credit card) and finally could relax a bit. A nice lunch and more chai was a good treat. And we have to admit: we started to really like Jaipur. People were really helpful and friendly and the city looked beautiful. Despite a terrible start in India again, this is our holiday and we want to make the best out of it.
In the afternoon, we therefore took a rikshaw to the Galta Gate. From here we walked up the hill to the Galta Dham Jaipur, the Galta Rishi Mandir, the Shiv Mandir, the famous Hanuman Mandir (Monkey Temple) and the Surya Mandir (Sun Temple). On the way up we were never alone: there were monkeys galore, cows, goats, pigs and dogs. Yes, this is India - but this part we do like! We really enjoyed the walk, the vaishnava temples were really beautiful and we were very happy we were allowed to visit all the temples as sometimes westeners are not allowed to go inside. We got many blessings and in the monkey temple a yound pujari even took us to the core of the temple. There was a beautiful energy inside and it was very quiet. He blessed us, gave us prasad (holy food) and did not push us at all for money. He waited patiently as long as we were meditating. It was a very nice experience. Finally, for sunset we walked up to the Surya Mandir. From there, there is a great view over Jaipur and finally the pink city turned really pink. It was peaceful, wonderful and somehow great!
We sat on the wall, looking down to the city and laughed about ourselves. This is India: you hate it, you do not want to be here, you just have problems, people can be so annoying. And then you turn around and the country is a gem. You love it, people are wonderful and life is perfect again. It is incredibable! India takes out everything of you in just 1 day and gives you back everything in 1 day but on a different level. We will never understand this. One can never understand India. At night, we settled back in our hotel, had a delicious dinner on the rooftop, washed our few clothes and fell into bed terribly tired.
Next day, our normal plan would have been to do some relaxed sightseeing. But not nowadays in India. It was monday - so the day of the week with the best chances to get some cash. Our taxi driver helped us, found us a rikshaw guy who new an ATM that was open. No doubt, we quickly went on the way. Foreigners and women had their own line and after 1 hour of waiting we could get 2000 Rupees cash each. This is not much (about 60 US$). But it is a start. One problem solved. Next problem: trying to phone the airport. we tried this I do not know how many times. The only answer was: Delhi airport has a breakdown of the system. Call back tomorrow. Our mood was back to level 0. We had all our good clothes for the inauguration ceremony in there. OK, we could buy something again. But it would be a bug struggle with the financial situation in India. And we are not here to solve problems, but to enjoy our holiday. OK, as we could not do anything, we decided to simply enjoy the day. Tomorrow will be another day to take care of our luggage.
We went to the old town of Jaipur. We visited the different gates (New Gate, Sanganeri Gate, Ajmeri Gate), strolled through the bazaars (very amazing was the bazzar where you can only buy saris - and how precious and expensive they are!). We admired the Albert Hall Museum from the outside, which is really impressive (when you have 2, 5 days in Jaipur, you do not want to visit museums from the inside - there is so much more to see). The typical rajasthani shoes are big business here. For sure, because Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan. We loved the streets with the old houses - it indeed is all pink! Jaipur is lively, loud, busy - but it was not rough for us. People are friendly, shopsellers try to sell you something but they also leave you if you say no (that has never happened in India before to us!). We had expected Rajasthan, and overall its capital, to be really rough, dirty and unfriendly - especially to women. But in no other indian city, I (Nina) has felt as safe as here: no starring, no touching, no talking - nothing but respectfullness. We were really surprised. And it is not dirty at all - of course, it is an indian city, but it was our first indian city with public toilets for free for men (and they are used by hordes of men).
By exploring the city, we just took in all the sight, feelings, the atmosphere and the smells (which were good - well, they have public toilets, so no peeing in the streets). We passed by the most famous Lassi Walla. But because we are really afraid of getting whatever bug, we skipped this experience. Finally we arrived at the Hawa Mahal, the Palace of the Winds. This beautiful building was once built for women. They should be in comfort and safety but also take part of the street life. The airy building was the perfect solution and still today walking through it is like walking in a fairy tale. You do not only have great views of the city life but also from whole Jaipur and the surrounding mountains. And the number of tourists visiting it was bearable. We could freely roam around for as long as we liked. Afterwards, we continued our city walk without a real aim. It was already too late for the major sights, so we
looked out for some temples. As Jaipur as much more than 1.000 Krishna Temples, we quickly found a small one. We just came in time for the aarti. We continued our walk through the bazaars and stopped at some more temples, mainly Krishna or Shirdi Sai Temples. After sunset, when the lights got on, the atmosphere became even nicer. People were busy shopping and we walked the little side streets to take it all in. Finally we were too hungry. As cash is the predominant thing which comes to your mind for eating, the only option was a restaurant taking credit cards. So we ended up in the travellers hub of Jaipur: the famous Peacock Restaurant. It has a really lovely rooftop terrace, there was some life music (local artists performing bhajans) and food was good. It was a bit expensive and we preferred the restaurant of our guesthouse which is just around the corner, the Sunder Palace. But a great day and a nice evening came to an end.
The only question still was: what about our luggage? Sailesh was still wearing his one and only pants, and I only had one dress to change. And no news from the airport. But as indians say "maybe later, maybe tomorrow....."