Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Unexpected Trip To Jaipur

At around 10 pm on February 14th (probably, notes are a bit fuzzy on the date) we checked our flight schedule for our planned departure to Kerala at 9am the next morning and discovered the plane was cancelled and we'd been rebooked in a manner that would cost us a night in New Delhi and pretty much guarantee that 60% of our remaining time in India would be spent in transit. This sounded so awesome we phoned the flight provider, Jet Airways, to try to cancel the flight, figuring we'd rebook and go somewhere else. We eventually got through to a human being, who advised us to call Expedia. Expedia put us on hold for a while then advised us to call the provider. Jet Airways agreed to cancel and refund the payment - but their refund goes back to Expedia. Refund confirmation number in hand we called Expedia again and were then put on hold while Expedia called the provider to confirm the refund before finally being assured our refund would go into the Expedia refund process the next working day for the agent, if she remembered, and would then be refunded to our credit card after 4-6 WEEKS. WTF Expedia. This took so long we gave up and called it a day.

The morning of the 15th we did some research in Lonely Planet and combining this with what cheap flights were available soon concluded we would spend another day in Chandigarh then fly to Jaipur on the 17th for a few days, fly back to Chandigarh on the morning of the 20th, hire a driver to take us to New Delhi (~6hrs), and then fly British Airways from New Delhi to London, arriving in London on the 21st after flight time and time zone shift. After settling on this plan we embarked on another exciting flight-rebooking proceeding as we had already booked our flight to London from south India with BA. The actual rebooking with British Airways was far simpler than the Expedia/Jet Airways fiasco but also rather more expensive; our tickets out wound up costing a couple of hundred dollars more.

On the 16th in the evening after shopping we finally flew out of Chandigarh, with Kingfisher this time. We touched down and found our hotel without much issue. As always our driver assured us the hotel was in a horrific area of town, ludicrously far from attractions, and that he could get us a better deal at a better hotel that was practically next door to the key attractions. After assuring him we had already paid for the hotel and it was non-refundable he switched to the "I can drive you around for the day for cheap" routine. We were pretty happy to be rid of this chap when we reached the hotel, checked in, ordered room service, and then crashed. Travel in India is rather tiring.

On the 17th we puttered about our neighborhood a little, argued with the manager about whether unplugging their internet pc to plug in our laptop for a few minutes would break anything, eventually convinced him, did some internet chores, and then grabbed an auto-rickshaw to go poke around a little. First up we took a look at the Raj Mandir, a 1976 movie theater that is essentially so garish it is an attraction in its own right.

Near the Raj Mandir we saw another wonder: the original Lassi Wala and it's many imitators side-by-side. Apparently this place was so successful clones opened. The original is the one that says 'since 1944' on the left :)

After a rather long lunch break at a relatively fancy restaurant we headed for the center of town where a number of the attractions cluster. First up the gates and the bazaars near them seemed worth a quick look. Reaching the entrance involves playing real-life frogger through the numerous vehicles also trying to ram through the press to get in.

Much like in China, little space is wasted. Any exposed surface, including rooftops, is used for something even if it is just hanging clothes.

Unfortunately shortly after making our death-defying dash inside the walls Rod started feeling stomach discomfort and we decided that it was probably best to take the afternoon off then execute a more prepared assault on the city the next day. Looking back we were pretty tired all the time by this point; even rolling out of bed energy was nowhere near normal 100%.

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