Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jaipur, yes, but Jodhur, oh yes!

Hey again, all. Sorry for the hiatus - we were in Jaipur yesterday and the day before, and couldn't find internet there for cheaper than about Rs40-50/hr ($1.10-1.40). No deal.

One minor trauma later, we're in Jodhpur, where we'll be roosting for a few days. Before I get to Jaipur and the trauma, which after this blog post will not be spoken of again except as a cautionary tale, let me say that we're both pretty much in love with Jodhpur. Rajasthan, you know how to make a beautiful city.

First, Jaipur. We had the better part of two days in Jaipur, which was generally really nice, although during our time there we decided we'd had enough of bazaars for a few days. That's simple enough. Among the hilights were the Palace of Winds, which is every bit as Final Fantasy-esque as it sounds (so, obviously, I loved it. Nerd noise here). It's this beautiful huge construction right on a main market which is basically just a huge front that was constructed full of windows (over 900) so that women who were in strict purdah could observe festivities on the street without being seen. My hips couldn't get through most of the passageways, so obviously I'm not delicate enough for that kind of thing. There, that's my snark for the day.

The Jantar Mantar at Jaipur was really fascinating; it's this centuries-old field of huge instruments for measuring and predicting astronomy, astrology and... chronology? Time. They had ways of measuring the altitude, latitude and longitude of the sun, the accurate solar time within two seconds, which phase of the zodiac the sun is in, and bunch of other stuff that I tried pretty hard to understand but didn't. I think Emma followed a little more than I did, but there was a lot (especially about astrology) that we just couldn't piece together. Still, very very interesting. 17th century, I think.

Our hotel was really great, with a lovely courtyard, and two peacocks that the owner apparently feeds. Regardless of how you feel about that, damn are those beautiful birds, especially from 6-7 feet away.

Alright, the trauma.

Last night was our first overnight train. The overnight train process, we suspect, is in generaly going to be fine and fairly easy to use. Last night, it was not.

We booked our train tickets for the whole of Rajasthan (roughly the next week) at once in New Delhi, for convenience. We had a very long chat with the man we did the bookings with, who was very nice, and picked out our trains carefully. Last night we were meant to board the 11.57pm train, and had been waiting in the waiting room at the train station since about 8.30, because we were checked out of our hotel and had nowhere else we really wanted to go in the dark. Then, at about 11.45, when getting up to go to our platform, E. noticed that the date on our ticket said February 14 (which is today), not February 13 (which was yesterday).

So. We ran to the tourist office, who calmly assured us that it was correct, that they put the 14 because the train always runs late and therefore usually leaves after midnight, meaning the 14. He told us to get on the train. That made no sense to us, but we went to the platform.

Of course you see where this is going. Other people in our seats when we got on. The next 15 minutes were an insane blur of random locals trying to help us (who/wherever they are, we are so so grateful), pleading our case to multiple ticketing officials, jumping from car to car trying to find someone who will let us on. Reminder: it was midnight, we had our heavy packs with us, and no hotel for the night. Finally, as the train was pulling away, one of the ticket guys gestured vaguely to hop on, so we did, still not knowing if we could stay. He dragged us through a bunch of cars, out of 3AC (our class of ticket) and into sleeper class, which is noisy and comes with no bedding. He pulled two Indian soldiers out of their bunks (awkward) and put us in them. The soldiers were not impressed, although they were exceptionally kind to us. I felt awful, but we were also totally desperate. After some yelling between people in our cabin, we curled up and tried to sleep. It was freezing; we'd been expecting bedding. It's still going down to 2-3C at night, so we were pretty uncomfortable. But we were on the train.

After some rough sleeping and numb appendages, we realized that they don't announce the stops on the night trains, and we didn't know exactly when our train was supposed to get in. We thought it was around 5.30am. So at about 4.45, we got out of our bunks, pulled up our packs, and stood by the door to the car so we could ask someone at each stop where we were. We were wide awake, that artificial exhausted-awake, and finally an Indian man in our section traded berths with me so we could fold one down and E. and I could sit rather than stand. He also told us when we were at Jodhpur. We still aren't sure how they know. But we're pretty sure we could figure it out again if we had to - lots of people get off and on at the larger junctions.

Luckily our hotel had sent a driver to pick us up (we love this hotel), who was on the platform waiting for us when we got off around 6am. There was no room for us when we got to the hotel as check-out time was 10am, so he led us through the streets to another building that's being renovated by the owners of our hotel, and let us into a very luxurious but only half-finished room. It seemed safe. We offered him a tip (the ride was provided free and he carried our bags, plus it was only 6.30am still at this point) but he declined, saying, "Sleep, sleep." So we did.

At 9.30am we got up and made our way back to the building, had a lovely and leisurely breakfast at the rooftop restaurant (these are common in Indian hotels and extremely nice) and got into our room a little later. After the rough sleep and the tense night, we had a beyond wonderful day today, sitting on the roof in the sun, reading and chatting, again with lassis. E. loves lassi more than any human should, which is really hilarious and great.

So today, the day today, ended up being completely great. We got a refund on our tickets for tonight's train, and Jodhpur is just lovely. Many of the buildings are this beautiful robin's-egg blue, with the odd pink and whitewash sandstone ones for contrast. We have a great view of the fort, which I won't be able to spell properly at the moment, but we're hiking up to it tomorrow, so we'll let you know how it goes and maybe post some photos in another day or two.

So all's well. This post has been all story and no thinking, but we've both been thinking a lot (I think), so we'll have another thinking post tomorrow or the next day.

I wanted to thank everyone who's reading and commenting; your comments have been really interesting. I especially want to get into the question Cindy's raised about the human rights framework as an evolved form of colonialism, and the risks of that. Gonna keep that in my mind for the next few days. Really looking forward to seeing who weighs in on it.

You guys are great. Happy Valentine's.

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