Chapter 5: The Blue City

July 31st- August 2nd

It’s been a little over a week and I’ve had glimpses into the dark side of the moon; not all of it has been as bad as it first appeared to be. Perhaps the shock of being thrown into such an overbearing city as New Delhi made it difficult to clearly see the gems India possessed. It was never a question of whether or not this country was great, but rather if I’d enjoy such a challenging, unpredictable journey. Overall, we’ve developed a love/hate relationship. There are days where I find myself experiencing some amazingly mind blowing things and others where the chaos, poverty, and unsanitary conditions scream, “Run!” Perhaps that’s what makes this country quite unique and remarkable: the drastic changes; how real it is. It’s yin and yang, always having both right in front of you. A complete rollercoaster ride where anything and everything can happen in an instant. Life and death extremely present.

After a five hour train ride from Jaipur, I finally arrived. I walked out of the train station, and a man approached me asking if I needed a tuk-tuk. I hesitantly said, “Yes,” and shortly after, he took my suitcase and began guiding me out towards his vehicle. Security forces stopped him right as we were about to descend down the stairs to the parking lot and told me to grab my bags and go. Was he a notorious scammer? Probably so. By this point, it wouldn’t surprise me. I took my bags and looked for a tuk-tuk to take me to my hostel. After negotiating down to a price I felt comfortable paying, I loaded my luggage on to the vehicle and took a seat. In a matter of 15 minutes we arrived, and immediately after walking in to the hostel where I was welcomed with open arms, I noticeably held my guard up. Individuals had been persistently trying to scam me left and right and trust was not a word I could easily breathe. I took a seat and provided the required documents for my stay to the receptionist and hostel owner, Immy. Shortly afterwards, I was shown to my room which only contained a bed. At first glance, I was shocked at the minimalism of it, but later on I really came to appreciate it all. The bathroom was very small and awkward; the stall would always get wet after I'd take a shower due to how close they both were to one another. Furthermore, NO toilet paper was ever provided. Things were about to get REAL! I decided to make myself comfortable and overlook the scary simplicity. I set my luggage down, turned on the ceiling fan, and rested my head on the bed’s pillow. After an hour or so, I woke up from my brief sleep session alarmed as I remembered the receptionist had not returned my passport. The fact that I was never even told it would be held rubbed me the wrong way. I was FURIOUS! I ran down to the reception desk and demanded I get my passport immediately, or I would be leaving the hostel. A new face I had not yet encountered looked quite taken aback and proceeded to calm me down. I had made my point EXTREMELY clear; I was NOT playing around. Quickly, he informed me that they needed to make a copy of it and that he’d bring it up to my room in a matter of five minutes. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and made my way back. After all, I had booked my stay through a reputable source. Five minutes later, and my passport was in my hands just as he had promised. I proceeded to pocket it away and continued on with my nap.

Later on in the afternoon, I woke up and decided to go for a walk up to the majestic fort that sat on the hill. My walk turned into an unexpected workout as the hike made me sweat bullets reminding me of my favorite workout machine- the step master. I LOVE a good sweat session and this hill did the job. Once on top, I admired the city view. I took a couple pictures and decided to descend back down to the hostel for dinner. Thankfully, they offered a variety of delicious dishes from their menu which were freshly cooked and prepared. Feeling adventurous, I decided to try the mushroom paneer with a couple of plain naan. My tastebuds did not know what magnificent surprise they were in for. It was GLORIOUS! The taste of the exquisite cuisine was so full of flavor; I loved it! After finishing off my plate, I made my way to the terrace and watched the sunset. It wasn’t long before the moon was out and the fort was lit up amidst the darkness. I couldn’t take my eyes off of such majestic structure. It would instantly teleport me to scenes of what I assumed life could have been years ago. After experiencing such scorching hot weather, the night’s cooling breeze was a nice change everyone welcomed. It was soothing and added to the ambiance of this magical city. Shortly afterwards, I went to shower in my quirky little bathroom, and fell asleep in my bed to the hum of the ceiling fan. 

Next morning I woke up extremely late. I did manage to open my eyes briefly at around 8AM but I had no desire to go anywhere. This was the first time since my arrival in India that I had complete privacy, and I treasured it. It felt great not dealing with other people in one’s room. Moving around so much exhausted me and all I really wanted to do by this point was relax and take it easy. Catching trains, visiting temples, and keeping up with a schedule made this journey seem more like work than a vacation, so I lay in bed deciding not to get out till around 2PM. Once I did manage to get out of bed, I walked down and placed an order for what would become my favorite dish- potato cumin with plain naan and freshly squeezed orange juice. Both Immy and his friend (who was the one working the reception desk when I stormed down there yesterday searching for my passport) looked a bit surprised upon seeing me. I was asked if I had just woken up to which I, embarrassed, said, “No; I actually woke up at 10AM, but have been working on a couple of things.” Truth is, I did wake up at 10, but fell right back to sleep. As to me working on a couple of things, I had not lied. I had been intensely working on my sanity by sleeping and relaxing. Of course, I didn’t mention this to the guys. Instead, I made my way back to my room where I waited for brunch. Once received, I devoured it like there was no tomorrow. It was DELICIOUS! I instantly knew I’d be ordering that dish once more. 

Later on that night, I went up to the terrace where I met a lovely couple from England. We started a great conversation which Immy ended up joining later on in the night along with his beautiful wife who was pregnant with their first child and due to give birth in a matter of days. We continued on with a deep conversation where I ended up learning so much about life in India. They were both twenty six and for such a conservative country, they were quite liberal and open minded. Both very athletic and even though life here in India limits women’s roles in society, Immy was extremely supportive of his wife and her happiness. He informed us that he was atheist and that it was difficult for him to live in India due to such limited perspective on life. I completely understood where he was coming from. After all, it can be quite difficult to spread one’s wings under such oppressive environments. They were both smart, full of life, and driven. Might I even add, some of the few truly trustworthy people I’d come across. I felt like we all connected so well that night especially after sharing such personal details. It’s moments like these what make traveling worthwhile. 

After spending two days in Jodhpur, it was time to continue on to my next stop- Udaipur. I learned I’d have to come back to catch an overnight train which would transport me to my desired stop in northern India- Amritsar. No direct trains where available from Udaipur to any place, and as a matter of fact, the only way to access the city from Jodhpur was through bus. This news, while surprising, didn’t really bother me. After talking to Immy and his wife the night before, I kind of looked forward to seeing them again. Plus the food here was so good, I couldn’t help but to look forward to enjoying some of these dishes once again. Morning came and I headed out to the bus station. Once I got settled in to my seat, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up till we arrived. Six hours later, and Udaipur welcomed me with pouring rain. While I was glad I had made it safely to my next destination, the blue city lay pressed in my memory, for it was here that I realized that where you stay can really make a difference in your overall experience, especially in India. The ambiance, the people, and size of the location are major factors contributing to your overall experience and Immy and his family contributed positively to mine. Perhaps that’s where I went wrong in New Delhi? It would be my last stop in India before departing to Thailand, and I looked forward to redeeming myself by staying at a different hostel and hopefully getting to see a whole new different side to New Delhi. I was optimistic, but now, Udaipur had all my attention and it was time to explore. 

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