In India, two important things to know: 1) people will always try to rip you off, and 2) the hotel never looks like the pictures. We arrived at the airport in Delhi just before midnight. Our hotel was the only one we actually booked ahead of time, since we did not want to be going from place to place looking at rooms in the middle of the night. After we failed to connect with the hotel pick-up that was supposedly sent for us, we opted for a pre-paid taxi. My travels have shown me so far that these are generally more expensive than negotiating with a driver, but only if you know the proper value for the ride you're taking. We were quoted anywhere from Rs 250 to 400 for the exact same ride, so we were immediately suspicious of negotiating this when we didn't know how far away the hotel was from the airport.
We arrive at the hotel we booked and it is in a seedy area of Delhi that I would not want to be in during the day, much less at night. The room was dingy and the bathroom smelled like mothballs, but we were only there for about 6 hours--we had an early train to catch the next morning.
Train travel in India is a unique experience. I'm not sure if it was the lack of signs anywhere, the throngs of people sleeping on the platform, or the wafting aroma of excrement coming up from the tracks because, oh yeah, the train toilets are just holes in the floor of the car. So whenever people use one, it comes out on the tracks. Lovely. This attracts rats, which are scurrying everywhere. We had help buying our tickets from a man I was working with at the charity in Shantimalai, and thank goodness, because there is no such thing as a line in India, as I may have mentioned before. We had to find our coach number and then our bunks inside, which, in a rare shining moment, actually turned out to be nicer than I expected. The train station probably set my expectations so extremely low, they could only be exceeded.
My sleeper bunk on the train
6 hours later and we arrived in Jaipur, also known as the Pink City. I had read about this place called Krishna Palace on wikitravel, so we decided to give it a shot. They offered free pick-up from the train station, so we were already off to a good start. We arrive and it is quite literally an old palace that has been converted into a hotel. They showed us a room, which was pricier than the website said, but then offered us a cheaper room on the roof--it was the only one up there, so it was very quiet. Lots of stairs, but I could definitely use the exercise. I'm so happy we took it. This place turned out to be the best hotel we've stayed in. Large rooms, AC, marble everywhere, wifi that actually works in the room (most places tell you they have it, but it only works in certain areas like the lobby, which makes skype kind of awkward). The staff was friendly and helpful, arranging the rest of our train tickets and hiring a car for half a day to show us some of the sights in Jaipur.
At the Amber Fort The afternoon we arrived, we went to see the lake palace and the Amber Fort, which is on the outskirts of town.We were too late to go inside but walked up as it's on a hill and looked around. Great views of the city from here. It looked like whoever built this fort tried to also build India's response to the Great Wall of China. That's all we had time for before it got dark, so we headed back to get some rest. Jaipur may be the Pink City, but it's not the most exciting city on the planet.
See? Great Wall of India!