FIRST destination onto our incredible India adventure is the colorful and vibrant city of Jaipur. We fly into the Indira Gandhi International Airport from Kuala Lumpur and arrive in Delhi at almost midnight via Air Asia. It was the first day of Holi and we arrive at our hotel located at the heart of the busy Delhi bazaars at midnight. The streets surrounding our hotel were deserted with only massive amounts of garbage scattered everywhere to show for the busy day that probably was. First thing the following day, we drive to Jaipur.
We settle in, get a good night’s rest in preparation for our “amazing race” as I liked to call it. Our breakfast at the hotel was 90 percent vegetarian, a right-in-your-face welcome to India for carnivores like ourselves. I was travelling with two of my closest friends: Alex Diola, who was probably a Maharani in his past life, and Jay Unchuan, a foodie who has an iron-cast stomach ready to tackle just any street food.
We had booked a private tour with car, driver, and guide through our five-day Golden Triangle Tour, a tour for starters where one can see three of the most interesting cities in Northern India: Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. It was the second day of Holi, a Hindu festival, a spring celebration of love, frolic, and colors where people play out in the streets and throw colors at each other. Mr. Magan Singh our guide for the day, and owner of Heritage India Private Tours, himself has told us even days prior to our trip to be weary of this festival as these colors were made of very harmful chemicals and were very difficult to remove from the skin.
On the drive to Jaipur, we noticed so many people covered in purple, yellow, pink, blue, and green. And because of our guide’s warning, we were very careful not to get too close to the locals as soon as we arrived at Amer Fort observation deck where many locals were shooed away by tourist police. Elephants painted in Holi colors were walking past by us while we were taking selfies with the Amer Fort at the background.
The following day we get to see the inside of Amer Fort. Meanwhile, we check in our beautiful hotel Khandela Haveli, settle in, and visit Mr. Magan Singh’s enormous, three-story home where he and his uncle cooked us up a delicious mutton stew at the rooftop. Just one tiny little problem: I don’t eat goat meat. And I was already quite starving on the way to their house!
I just had to focus on what a beautiful view we had of the sunset against an all-white Jainism Temple just right across their home. And when it was dinnertime, I was “forced” to eat a couple of small slices of the mutton meat to be polite. In Indian culture, the guests must finish eating first before any of them could eat. So all eyes were on us while I chewed and swallowed goat meat for the first time ever in my entire life. It was good but I couldn’t swallow any more.
On our drive back to the Hotel Khandela Haveli, I requested to make a stop at McDonalds where I finally got to try their Chicken Maharaja Mac (there is a vegetarian version of this), large fries, and specialty iced tea. In a country where cows are deemed holy and most of the people are vegetarian by virtue of their religion, I have, on my first night, already accepted that the next time I will be able to eat bacon will be in a week.
(To be continued…)