The three essentials when driving in India, which is why the long drive to Agra and Jaipur involved very little sleep. You are in constant fear that you are going to crash. 'Don't worry, no problem' is how Shivrag reassures us that we will be fine. Well, we are alive and in Jaipur so I guess we have good brakes, a good horn and good luck...
Fun fact: I actually tried my hand at driving a tuk tuk today. It's either really hard or I'm a horrible driver... no comments on that please.
After our drive to Agra on Friday, Anna, Claire and I visited Agra Fort. It was stunning, full of little paths leading us to different buildings inside the fort, designed with Indian, European and Japanese architecture. We played around with photos and leaned on balconies overlooking the Taj Mahal across the Yamuna River with the sun setting behind us...What did you do Friday?
Afterwards, because Shivrag is the sweetest man alive, he surprised us with a quick trip to a Costa Coffee, to enjoy something other than chai or Nescafe. We were super grateful. Especially as our next stop was an incredible restaurant where Anna and I tried the famous Indian beer for the first time, King Fisher, and ate an amazing meal of Tandoori chicken and a variety of different curries and saffron rice. King Fisher, by the way, tastes just like Heineken. It really isn't anything special.
The next morning was our Taj Mahal visit before heading into Jaipur. We woke up at 5:00am to catch the sunrise over the Taj but unfortunately it rained. But there was one perk, the Taj was literally sparkling due to all the rain washing away any dirt and grime. The marble was jaw dropping-ly beautiful. I teared up a little bit and couldn't stop smiling. I got a really warm feeling when I walked up to it. The story behind it makes it even more beautiful, as the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built it in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. When the mausoleum was finally finished, the Emperor cried because he knew she would never get to see it...sigh, love stories.
The Taj truly is an incredible piece of art. It's easy to see why it is one of the 7 wonders of the world.
After passing countless camels, it was obvious that we were now in Rajasthan. Rajasthan is very dry, as a lot of it is desert. It is also the festival state! There are festivals all year round here, but of course not while I'm here. Womp, womp.
Upon arrival at the guesthouse in Jaipur, we were greeted again, like in Delhi, with a red dot, a lay and flower petals being tossed up into the air to land on our heads. It was instantly washed off though unfortunately because we were all so freaking sweaty after 6 hours in the car.
There are a few others in the guesthouse here in Jaipur. Most of them are leaving to either go to Delhi or Goa between today and Wednesday but we did get to go dancing with them in the city last night at a hilarious dance club. One of the girls is actually from Montreal. We met on Facebook before we left for India so it was nice to finally meet in person. Everyone giggled at us as we danced around and hugged each other. Apparently we are very similar. We're just Canadian, eh!
Today Anna and I started our day a little later than usual due to our lack of sleep over the last 2 days. We gobbled down lunch at 1pm and grabbed a tuk tuk to take us to The Pink City. We walked along the rows and rows of pink buildings and shops, that are actually more of a terra cotta color, and thanks to Anna's eye for cute harem pants, we ended up at a shop that changed the whole course of our day. Inside we met Pratik, also known as Sonny, who showed us pants, dresses and bracelets that we both spent too much money on, and sat down for some info on Jaipur and some chai. Sonny then introduced us to Sheikh, a tuk tuk driver, who treated us to an incredible afternoon. He was so knowledgeable and funny, making jokes with us in German and English. He took us to the Water Palace, Wind Palace and Village Textile, a hand block printing factory, where we got to see the process of dying and printing Indian clothing. They actually work with huge international companies like Zara; it was really cool to see where all of it comes from. It is a family run business and they really made us feel at home, again with more chai and treating us like princesses in our own palace. Sheikh then thought it would be awesome to go to McDonalds, which we were both sadly really excited about. After all the spicy food we've been eating, it was nice to have something simple. We then got lost on the way home and I got to drive the tuk tuk.
Tomorrow we start our work with the education project and we are both so excited, especially since we now have new Indian clothing that won't make us stand out as much. We also get our sarees delivered tomorrow that we purchased today. I honestly cannot wait, I am so in love with the material I bought for mine.
Now that I've seen so much beauty, I think I'm ready to see the slums.
Tomorrow is going to be an eye opener.