Jaipur, also known as the Pink City, is the largest city in the state of Rajasthan. Jaipur gets its nickname due to the architecture having a pink hue. Nowadays, the buildings in the city have more of a salmon color due to sun damage. Some of India’s well known landmarks such as the Hawa Mahal can be found in Jaipur. While visiting the Pink City of Jaipur, Lisa and I explored these amazing places.
The first thing we wanted to check out was the beautiful Hawa Mahal. You can’t look up Jaipur without coming across a picture of the majestic pink structure. Built in 1799, the Hawa Mahal was constructed of red sandstone with over 950 small windows called Jharokhas. The reason for the Jharokhas was to allow the royal women to view the festivities of the streets below without being seen. If you wish to enter the Hawa Mahal, the entrance fee is 200 rupees for foreigners and 50 rupees for Indian visitors.
To get the best view of the Hawa Mahal go check out the Wind View Cafe which is located just across the street. There you can get incredible pictures of the Hawa Mahal from the rooftop cafe.
Galta-Ji Temple (Monkey Temple)
Located on the outskirts of Jaipur, the Galta-Ji Temple (also known as the Monkey Temple), rests within a crevice among the hills. The Galta-Ji Temple is well for its large population of rhesus macaques and langur monkeys which is why people have given it the nickname Monkey Temple. Keep in mind, the monkeys at the temple are WILD so please approach with caution. The Galta-Ji Temple is also known for its natural spring that fills seven large pools called kunds. Hindu’s from all over travel to Galtai-Ji to bathe in these kunds to cleanse their souls.
When visiting the Galta-Ji Temple, be sure to enter on the Western Side. That way, you can also visit the Sun Temple and get a panoramic view of Jaipur.
The City Palace
If you love learning about history then you better head to the City Palace located in central Jaipur. The City Palace hosts a marvelous museum that displays historical artifacts from previous eras as well as well maintained art pieces. There is an artisan section of the palace where you can purchase handmade crafts from vendors selling anything from jewelry to one-of-a-kind paintings. The City Palace still houses the Royal Family of Jaipur therefore some of the areas in the palace are restricted to visitors. The entrance fee for foreigners is 500 rupees and 190 rupees for Indian visitors.
Lisa and I visited the old Indian capital of Agra to see the infamous Taj Mahal. The only problem though, is that the Taj Mahal is closed every Friday. Guess what day we happened to be there? Yep, it was Friday. And of course we had a train to catch that evening so we weren’t able to extend our stay. Feeling a little down, we wanted to make use of our time in Agra and decided to see the famed Agra Fort where Indian royalty once called home.
The Agra Fort is an immense fortress that over looks the city of Agra, India. Also known as the Red Fort of Agra, the Agra Fort was used as a military fortress as well as a royal palace for the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty. The third Mughal Emperor, Akbar, rebuilt the fort using red sandstone from Rajasthan and completed the remodel in 1573. From the fort you can see the great Taj Mahal looming in the distance.
In a tragic twist of fate, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, (the Emperor who commissioned the construction of the Taj Mahal), was imprisoned at the Agra Fort by his third son Aurangzeb during an overthrow. From 1658 until his death in 1666, Shah Jahan could only gaze upon his beloved Taj Mahal from the confines of his cell. It is rumored that Shah Jahan was imprisoned in the tower known as Muasamman Burj which has a marble balcony that faces the Taj Mahal.
The architecture of the fort is truly astounding. From the intricate inlay carvings to the massive sandstone walls there’s a lot to behold. Personally, I loved the decorative arches above all the hallways of the fort. Along with the sandstone, the arches made the fort truly feel like a palace.
The entrance fee for the Agra Fort differs between foreigners and locals. For foreigners, the price of entry is 550 rupees while local price is only 40 rupees each. Be aware that camera tripods are not allowed inside the fort, but in case you happen to bring one there is a cloak room where you can store it free of charge.
Like any touristy place, be sure you visit the fort as early as possible to avoid the big crowds as well as the heat. Bring water to stay hydrated as well as some snacks. There are guides available at the fort if you would like more in depth knowledge about the history and architecture.
While walking around one of the gardens in the fort, I heard Lisa burst into laughter. I turned around to see her holding a squirrel in the palm of her hand! Apparently the squirrels in the fort are so use to visitors that they will just come right up to you. There are even people inside the fort that will give you food grains to place in your palm for the squirrels to eat. Just be sure to tip the guys!
While Lisa and I were enjoying the wonderful village of Pushkar, we decided that we wanted to do at least one tour during our stay. The staff at our hotel recommended that we try a camel safari tour through the desert just outside the city. Lisa and I had never done that before and thought that would be a great experience. The tour agency we went through was called Pushkar Sun Dune Camel and Horse Safari. For 700 rupees each, Lisa and I opted for the sunset camel safari which was about two hours. We would be provided transportation to and from our hotel as well as an English speaking tour guide.
Around 5:15pm a tuktuk arrived at our hotel to take us to the starting point of our camel tour. I was excited! I had never ridden a camel before or any animal of that size for that matter. Lisa and I sat on the rear of the tuktuk as it sped through the city traffic.
The Starting Point
Once we arrived at the dropoff, I could see two camels laying out in the sand near the road. The camels paid no attention to the strangers approaching them. Too preoccupied with their evening meal of grain. Even though the camels were laying down they were still massive! From floor to their head was about five feet at least and about eight feet long. Two young men approached us as we were gawking at the camels. One of them introduced himself as our tour guide and indicated that the other was his assistant. Our guide’s name is Raul, and he works for the Pushkar Sun Dune Camel and Horse Safari.
Meet the Camels
Raul introduced us to our camels one by one. The one I picked out was named Romeo and Lisa’s camel was named Jimmy. You would think that we’d get a lecture or some type of tutorial on how to ride a camel, but no. Raul asked me to hang my backpack off the front of the saddle then mount the camel. I was a bit nervous getting on my camel, especially since he(Romeo) watched me the entire time I was near him. Once I was on, Raul instructed me to lean back as much as I could. Before I could ask why, Romeo stood up back legs first which caused my body to lurch forward. Then Romeo proceeded to stand up on all fours finally leveling me out. I watched Lisa go through the same steps: Awkwardly getting on the camel, laughing as she flew forward when the camel stood up, and being completely mesmerized by being on a freakin’ camel!
As we rode off towards the sunset, our guide Raul would serenade us with traditional Indian songs as we trudged through the desert. At one point we spotted a wild Antelope grazing on the little vegetation was found amongst the sands. Without warning, the reigns of my camel fell off and the two guides had to slowly approach my camel and attempt to put the reigns back on. I thought that at any moment my camel might take off running with me on its back! Good thing our guides were experienced and easily placed the reigns back on without any incident.
The Gypsy Stop
Towards dusk we came across a Gypsy camp where other camel tour groups had joined together. Raul informed us that this was a free stop where we could watch Gypsys’ perform traditional songs and dances. One performance I enjoyed in particular involved two Gypsy woman dancing while balancing bowls on their heads which were lit on fire!
Lisa and I watched the dancers for about fifteen minutes before we started walking around the encampment. We saw tons of other camels with intricate designs shaved into their hides. Some even had gold and silver nose rings that would compliment their heavily adorned saddles.
As the Gypsy performances came to an end, people started returning to their camels and chariots. Lisa and I found our camels and awaited for Raul and his assistant to join us before we mounted our camels and set off. The ride back to our starting point was calm and relaxing. The sunset was a glowing brilliantly behind us as the moon was illuminating our path ahead. Raul continued telling Lisa and I other facts about the desert as well as historical information about Pushkar itself.
We had reached the end of the tour at around 7:30 just as the sun had completely disappeared over the horizon. Lisa and I disembarked off our camels one by one with the assistance of Raul. Raul’s assistant grabbed two bags of grain and placed them in front of our camels. Lisa and I took a seat next to the camp and Raul offered us some hot chai tea. As we drank our chai, we watched enormous fruit bats fly over head silhouetted by the moon. Sipping chai next to camels underneath a full desert moon was just the way I wanted to spend my evening.
Once Lisa and I had finished our chai tea, Raul gave us a ride back into Pushkar and dropped us off back at our hotel. We thanked him so much for such an amazing and authentic experience.
A Wonderful Experience
Overall, the tour was amazing and definitely worth trying if you ever find yourself in Pushkar. Riding the camels through the desert was an experience by itself, but watching Gypsy performances as well as viewing the sunset on the back of a camel was truly spectacular. Next time we would want to try the overnight camel safari where we would be able to camp out in the desert!
As with most countries, there are those out there that prey on unsuspecting tourists and try to swindle whatever money they can out from under people’s feet. India is no exception to this. During our travels, Lisa and I came across a few scams that can be found in India. Thankfully, we had read from other blog posts about the scams and knew how to avoid them. Here are a few common scams in India and what you should do to avoid them.
Your Hotel/Hostel has closed down
In this scam, you are taking a taxi to your accommodation when you are informed by your driver that your hotel has been closed down. The driver will then tell you about another hotel or hostel that they recommend and will promptly drive you to it. In this scenario the driver gets a commission for taking you to said hotel and you would be overcharged for staying there.
To avoid this, it helps to have a working phone so you could call your hotel and confirm that they had indeed not closed down. Having the app Maps.Me downloaded with your hotel saved on it also helps to show that your hotel does exist and can help you make sure your driver is going in the right direction. If all else, Uber exists in India! Take a prepaid ride in an Uber car that guarantees you’ll arrive at your destination.
Buy me Milk or Food from this Store.
While walking through cities and villages you may be approached from a beggar on the street asking you to buy them food or milk from a specific store. In this scam, the beggar and the store owner have a deal with eachother. When you purchase items from that particular store and give said items to the beggar, the beggar will then return the items to the store for a small amount of money. The store makes money off of you and keeps their products while the beggar only gets a small cash cut.
To avoid this scam, be able to recognize it while it happens. If someone is asking for food and is pointing to a specific store, they are probably a part of this scam. Trust your gut feeling on this one.
I’m Not Trying to Sell You Anything, but You Should Check Out this Tourist Center…
Lisa and I encountered this scam during our first day in New Delhi. While walking through Connaught Place in New Delhi, we were approached by a young man claiming to be practicing his English. Right away, he states that he isn’t trying to sell us anything and that he truly just wants to converse with English speakers. The young man asked us where we were from, where we are traveling to, and how long we are traveling for. The young man then informed us about this Tourist Center a few blocks away that could give us free information that could help us during our stay in India. I was totally swayed by how nice this guy was being towards us and fell for the trap. Lisa was still very wary and was relatively silent as the young man and I conversed on our way to this Tourist Center.
We arrived at the Tourist Center, which was off the beaten track. Once there, our new “friend” informed us that this place would help us and thanked us for allowing him to practice his english. We walked in and immediately was ushered into a room where a man was waiting for us. He gave us a friendly greeting and asked us what are plans were for India. After explaining a simplified version of our India trip, the man started giving us tour offers and began even planning out our entire India trip for us. We stated that we were still unsure on what we were doing and were going to play by ear. The man insisted that his plan was our best option to have the best experience in India. Lisa stated that we had already booked a train leaving New Delhi and his reply was, “Don’t worry we can cancel it for you and book you a better train”. It was now apparent to me that we were being scammed into buying over priced tour packages. Lisa and I thanked the man and said that we needed time to think about it. The man was clearly upset about our response and repeatedly told us that his travel arrangements were the best bargain we could get anywhere.
Lisa and I had read that scammers in big cities such as New Delhi will lure tourists to these centers and would get paid commission if the tourists purchase any packages. It was made obvious that this was a scam when we were approached by at least a dozen other men asking the same exact things as the first guy; claimed to be wanting to practice English, was not trying to sell us something, and informing us of some tourist center nearby that we should visit. Seriously, it felt as if all of these guys had the same script that they would recite to tourists. Once we told them that we were fine and didn’t need any help they would get agitated and storm off. We even ran into the first guy again and he was visibly upset when we told him that we left the tourist center without booking anything.
So, how can you avoid this scam? Be wary when a stranger approaches you and asks you about your travel plans. Once they mention that you should visit a tourist center, that’s your first red flag that this could be a scam. Once you realize it’s a scam, politely let the person know that you’re not interested and walk away. They will try and convince you that they are not trying to sell you something, but you must be persistent.
Don’t Let the Scams Ruin Your Trip
I know these scams can sound like a deterrent to even consider traveling to India, but don’t let them. India is an amazing country that has beauty that you cannot find elsewhere. When it comes to the scams, being educated about them is your greatest weapon against them. If I hadn’t read about the scams before my trip to India I know I would have fallen for them easily.
I hope these tips help you out on your trip to India. As always be safe, alert, and keep an upbeat attitude to ensure an amazing trip through the beautiful country of India.
I have read from other blogs that if you can travel to India, you can travel anywhere. Honestly, I think there is some truth in that. India is an industrious third-world country that is in between old tradition and modernization. India can be overwhelming at times, but it is definitely worth visiting once if not multiple times. Here’s a few things I put together to give you an idea on what to expect while traveling through India.
India is Huge
India is a lot bigger than you think. With over 3.2 million square kilometers of land, it could take days to travel city to city by land travel.
There’s a lot of Dudes
Due to the preference for sons, the ratio from men to women in India is quite high. Not saying that it was bad seeing men everywhere, it was just very apparent that there was a lack of female presence in most public spaces.
Expect a lot of Selfies with Locals
This one gave me quite the laugh. While visiting the Red Fort in New Delhi, Lisa and I were approached by locals asking to take selfies with them. At first one person would politely ask us if they can take a picture with us and before we knew it we had small groups coming up to us asking to take pictures with us. It was really entertaining because it made us feel somewhat like celebrities. It even got to the point where we had to start declining offers to take pictures.
It wasn’t just at the Red Fort either. At just about all of the tourist hot spots we would have people ask to take pictures with us. What was nice is that everyone would ask permission first before snapping away. So be prepared for random selfies with locals throughout your stay.
The Railway System is the way to Travel
Taking the train in India is the best and most budget friendly mode of travel through India. It is also a great way to see the beautful country side outside of the the busy cities. Book your train tickets in advance! We learned the hard way that train tickets sell out fast, so be sure that that’s one of the first things you do.
Cows are Everywhere
In Hinduism, cows are a very sacred animal. As India is home to the largest population of Hindus, therefore the people there treat their cows with a lot of respect. It’s a common sight to see a small heard of cows casually walking through city streets. Seriously I’ve seen more cows in India than I have seen cats in India.
India is a conservative country that requires you to dress appropriately, especially near religious sites. Unfortunately, the dress code is more aimed towards woman. Shoulders and legs should be covered at all times unless you want to be starred at by both men and women. As a man, you can pretty much wear whatever you want without any harassment from locals.
Most Restaurants are Vegetarian
Again, cows are sacred in India, so don’t expect to find beef anywhere. If I came across any place that sold meat it was always chicken.
Be Wary of Scams
As in most cities, there are people who are trying to swindle money out of you any way they can. Read my post of the most common scams in India here.
The Poverty Can Be a Little Overwhelming
As with most developing countries, poverty is a very common sight especially in the larger cities. In India it is no different. You can be feet away from a brilliant historical monument and at the same time be right next to a slum with children begging for anything. It can be hard to witness, but it is a reality for a lot of people living in India.
India is an Ancient Land with Loads of History
There are texts in India that date back to over five millennia ago, making India home to some of the oldest civilizations in the world. There are temples that are still erect that date back thousands of years.