Off to Jaipur for Diwali
Last weekend was the Diwali weekend, which meant Thursday and Friday were off. Diwali is the biggest festival in the Indian culture. It is like Christmas and New Year’s Eve together. Since my work colleagues indicated that the best place in India to celebrate Diwali was Jaipur, we had to go there. Jaipur is a 12h bus ride away from Chandigarh. The bus leaves in the evening and arrives in Jaipur the next morning. Thus, theoretically it should be possible to sleep. I tried.
Beautiful Old Town
In Jaipur itself the old town, which is surrounded by a huge red wall, is particularly beautiful. Upon arrival on Thursday Carla and I therefore went straight to the old town. At that time, I already thought it was very crowded with people, but that was nothing compared to Friday, the actual Diwali holiday. We took our time for some relaxed sightseeing and watched the hustle and bustle in the streets. I thought the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) very beautiful. The old town of Jaipur resembles a bazaar. To me everything seemed like a 1001-night story.
Interesting Shopping Experience
We also did some shopping, which normally is not worth mentioning. However, when Carla wanted to buy two tiny elephants, we got invited into a shop. We entered simply for the experience. We must have been in there for more than two hours. We were served tea and snacks and had a nice conversation with the shop owner. OK, in the end Carla bought the elephants and most likely paid too much, but it was definitely worth the experience.
Jaipur’s Old Town flooded with People
Our friends arrived the next day in the morning. Together we went back to the old town and the problems began. Actually, the entire day was marked by accidents. At the entrance gate to the old town we had to realize that it would be impossible to keep a group of six or even only four people together. Later it turned out that even keeping two together was difficult. We ended up as three groups, who wanted to meet again later, and walked through the old town. I believe on this day all three million inhabitants and approximately two million tourists were squeezed in the old town of Jaipur. Even in extremely crowded clubs one has more space.
A Series of Accidents
At lunchtime we noticed some mobiles did not work anymore. Therefore, it was very difficult getting all groups back together. When we finally had lunch at around 3.30 pm, I was starving! We left the restaurant at about 5.30 pm. The plan was to watch the giant Diwali fireworks from a fort high above Jaipur. From there it all went wrong. Some drove by car, some by motorcycle. Philip, Ralf & I were left with an old rickshaw, that struggled to get going. On the way up the mountain some Frenchman’s bike broke down. In exactly the same place our rickshaw broke down, too. There we were in the middle of nowhere with two broken vehicles. Apparently, this was not bad enough, because only moments after I stepped out of the broken rickshaw, the worst thing happened. The bag with our beer tore in my hand and I stood in the middle of beer and shards. The worst thing about it – we did not have any more beer!
Do not touch Indian Firecrackers!
We managed to make the best of the situation and went to a good view point. There we had our own party without beer, but with a marvelous view over the city and the fireworks. We also had our own firecrackers. Unfortunately, I had the experience myself, that Indian firecrackers are not always the safest. Upon lightning one firecracker exploded in my hand. Immediately, I was covered in steam. I was totally in shock, because I did not see my hand anymore. I also did not hear anything anymore. It was quite scary – I am not joking. After the steam went away I saw my hand and was relieved. However, it took very long to get back to proper hearing.
Being the Monkey for a Change
On the way down the mountain we met our friends again. Together we went back to Jaipur. We went to a very nice rooftop restaurant, which was on the fourth floor. There we were the target for all the cracker-happy young Indians. From the ground they lit up firecrackers and threw them up the roof. I do not know, whether the owner called the police, but after some minutes they stopped.
Suffering Elephants at Amer Fort
Saturday was a rather relaxing day. We went to the amazing Amer Fort, where we took an elephant ride. We paid for the ride up and down the fort. However, after we saw how badly those elephants were treated, we decided to walk down on our own. I felt extremely bad for supporting this in the first place. The Amer Fort itself was huge and beautiful. It felt like being in a different time or in a movie. I liked the typical Mogul architecture. We spent almost the entire afternoon there.
Mind-blowing Views at the Jal Mahal
Sunday morning Ralf and I got up at 5.30 am to watch the sunrise at Jal Mahal (Water Palace). Some of you might know the Jal Mahal from the James Bond movie ‘Octopussy’. The Jal Mahal itself is a palace in the middle of a lake. If this was not beautiful enough, the sun rises between two hills behind the lake. And when the sun rises, it reflects in the water in front of the palace. Watching the sun rise above the Jal Mahal was mind-blowing! We were there for over an hour and I think we both took more than 50 pictures. The Indians must have thought we were crazy.
Another Night in a Bus
Jaipur definitely made an impression on me. As usual on Sunday afternoon of a weekend trip, we had to go back in a bus where one could barely sleep. We reached Chandigarh around 5am Monday morning. I went almost directly to the office, where apparently almost everyone else still had the Monday off. Not just in my company, but in the whole sector. However, my American client would not let me have another day off.