10 Surprises from our trip to India
We’ve just got back from our Indian road trip and boy do we have tons to share with you all! Here’s a little selection of stories from our travels, I thought I’d put together a list of 10 surprises that we came across. Each one gives a little snapshot of the sights, inspiration and culture we experienced while there. If you’re planning a trip to India, you might also find some good advice and inspiration for sightseeing ideas here too!
1. Traveling by train
Traveling by train through India is a great way to see the country. There are lots of different trains and classes so it can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to deciding to how to tour India. My advice is to enlist the help of your hotel or guest house. Don’t be shy, because they’ll be happy to arrange tickets and will give you advice on the best trains!
We learned that you should definitely book your ticket in advance. It was very hot, so we booked the air-conditioned chair car, and we were definitely glad that we did. We found out that this is the equivalent to first class and it only cost about £5 – well worth it! This ticket included a comfy seat, cups of tea, biscuits and a meal, all delivered to our seats, which was a surprisingly lovely experience for a typical travel day.
2. An underwater Palace
Jal Mahal is a palace IN a lake! It is located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur, and was built in the 18th century before the area being flooded.
This castle was designed so that two completely sealed floors could sit underneath the water, creating a type of natural air conditioner. This provided a cool place for royalty to escape the heat of the summer. What an incredible way to innovate with the earth’s resources!
Tuk-tuks are the easiest and cheapest way to get around India. If you’re planning on using them (and you probably will!) do check that your driver has a good understanding of where you are going!
We were glad to know that our driver had a phone and Google Maps on him… since we were complete newbies to the area he had to fully take the lead! We used Tuk-tuks to pop around for quick trips up to 20 min, which ranged from 50p to £3.
Everyone uses tuk-tuks for commuting as they can get across the cities faster. We saw lots of school girls crammed in with all their bags hanging off the back. I got the sense that the rule of the road was use your horn to let everyone know you are there… it is a very noisy experience!
One of our tuk-tuk drivers was a great guy called Sheikh who became our guide around Jaipur. If you ever travel to Jaipur, he is wonderful and will sort everything you need sorting. Seriously, pop me an email if you’re planning a trip as I have his contact info and he was a fantastic help!
4. Casual cows…
Cows are everywhere. I couldn’t believe that they just wonder the streets eating the garbage off the roads, even the plastic! We couldn’t get over the fact they we’re putting themselves in the middle of the busy roads, but our guide said there’s actually a reason behind this – it’s the best place they can find away from the flies.
5. ...and milkmen!
These men in the photo are processing cow and water buffalo milk. In India, milk is boiled before distributed to households, so this means that milk men basically deal milk to delivery guys, who then distribute.
The belief is that cow milk is more desirable as it is more nutritious than water buffalo. We ran into them on the way to the flower market at 7 AM, and loved our early meeting and watching all the pouring!
Also as you can see below, we met the best moustache outside the UK handlebar club! Very impressive
6. The beauty of the Jaipur flower market
Everything in the Jaipur flower market is flamboyant colour. The streets are filled with bundles of marigolds in orange, yellow and even white. Second hand saris are used to bundle the flowers in, placing bright patterns against the gorgeous blooms.
There are parcels of delicate rose petals and jasmine strings with the most heavenly scents, mostly used in wedding ceremonies and temples. Tuktuks kept on pulling up at the curbs with more bundles of marigolds brought in fresh from the flower fields. If you’re in Jaipur, it is 100% worth getting up early to see this absolute hubbub of colour, noise, business, and beauty.
7. Experiencing paper
These photos are of one of the oldest paper mills in Jaipur, and industry that goes hand in hand with the textiles. It’s just fascinating to follow the process of ragging and pulping down cotton fabric waste to create handmade paper.
We were visiting out of season so we’re the only people in the factory too!
8. Antique treasure
We popped into the most incredible antique emporium! We were absolutely stunned – it was like walking into a treasure cave.
So many carved doorways, statues, frames, tables…and so many elephants. It was an absolute labyrinth – every time we thought we’d reached the end of the tour they opened another door to another vault of treasure! If only I had a spare £5,000 to spend!
If you ever want the details of this place do email me – I have their card and would love to share the magic.
9. The Pink Palace
…known officially as the Hawa Mahal, The Palace of The Wind. In case you didn’t guess from this list, Jaipur (and all of India) has a lot of palaces! The Hawa Mahal has one window for every day of the year.
It’s said to have so many small windows so that royal women could look out and people watch, as well as look out onto the streets during festivals and celebrations. Women had to abide by the strict rules of ‘purdah’, which didn’t allow them to appear in public without face coverings, which made the access that these windows allowed even more meaningful.
10. A mysterious hotel
I’ll end with another Jaipur gem, though there is still loads more to share!
We stayed dilapidated heritage hotel called Niwas for a couple nights, as we had an inkling that it was going to be an unforgettable experience. We were certainly right! It was a bit like staying in a museum, and to add to the effect we were literally the only guests.
The hotel was built in 1828, designed in the Anglo Indian style – you can definitely feel the Victorian influence throughout. It’s the type of place that I imagine requires lots of upkeep, and still somehow maintains that dusty, slightly abandoned atmosphere. Definitely a fun stay!
If you’re planning a trip to India, enjoy holiday tips or travel guides, or just like reading about our adventures, keep your eye on our blog as we’ll be posting much more about our trip! And take a look at our latest Indigowares right here – we brought back so many new treasures and will be releasing them throughout the coming months.