In the second week of our trip to India we left Daly College to do some sightseeing in Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. We departed Daly at 5am for an 11 hour train ride to Jaipur, meeting up with our guide for the week, Jayant (pronounced Gi-ANT, which Georgia and I giggled at immaturely for the first few days).
On arrival at the train station we realised that not all the seats were booked together in the same car. I ended up going to a separate train car with 3 of the boys, which I pretended I was fine with but was secretly a bit nervous. Thankfully Jayant managed to get some people to swap seats with us and we rejoined the rest of the group shortly after the train left Indore.
The train ride was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. India has an extensive train network, and apparently 20 million people ride the trains everyday. We were in a first class car, which was air conditioned, and the berths were comfortable enough. I was lucky enough to have a bottom berth (well, I think it was my privilege as a teacher on the trip!) so I didn't have the trouble of climbing up and down from a top berth, which was pretty close to the ceiling of the train. Everyone tried to sleep for the first few hours, although as soon as you found yourself nodding off either the train would stop at a station or a tea seller would come by calling out 'chai, chai, garam chai' loud enough for the entire train to hear. At one of the stops an Australian family from Melbourne got on; they recognised the name of my school on our T-shirts. The family was travelling with 3 kids around 6-10 years old which I thought was so cool. What a great thing to do with your kids, I hope Andy and I have the courage to take our kids travelling like that someday!
Arriving in Jaipur was the only really stressful time we had with the students as it was just ridiculously busy. Luckily we were all wearing the same bright blue tour T-shirts which helped everyone stick together. We were taken to our hotel which was pretty luxurious, especially after saying in boarding school rooms at Daly. The next morning we didn't have to be ready until 9am, a nice change from our 6am wake-ups at Daly, although I did miss starting the day with yoga and meditation.
|Pieces astrological sign at Jantar Mantra|
Jaipur is known as the Pink City as most the buildings are an earthy pink colour. Our first stop was Jantar Mantra, the astronomical observatory built over 280 years ago, featuring massive marble and stone instruments used to measure time and position in space. The accuracy of the instruments is astounding, telling time correct within 20 seconds using the shadows made by the sun. We also visited the City Palace (very good) and Albert Hall Museum (not great, but a lovely building designed by the same architects who did Daly College), and the Amber Fort (awesome). You can ride elephants to the Amber Fort which would have been brilliant but as it wasn't in the risk assessment we couldn't let the kids do it. Risk assessments are such a drainer!
|Snake Charmer at City Palace|
|Elephant rides up to the Amber Fort|
|Water Palace, Jaipur|
After Jaipur we headed to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Wow. I don't even know how to describe in words the awesomeness of this monument. You think you have seen the Taj Mahal in pictures and on TV so you know what to expect, but it completely takes your breath away. Although I will admit that taking a group of 18 teenagers through this did take something out of the experience, as you don't really have the time to yourself to savour the moment. The inside is not as impressive as the outside, I think mainly because there are guards blowing whistles constantly at people trying to take pictures of the inside, which happened a lot. (Why do people do this? If there is a sign saying no pictures, than don't take a picture! People who think that rules don't apply to them actually really annoy me.) So, it's not quite the peaceful, serene atmosphere inside that one would expect.
Our last 2 days were in Delhi and I think at this point everyone was pretty tired, and some of the students started getting sick. Nothing major, but it felt like the trip was just long enough, and it was time to go home. Delhi was interesting, although again visiting with students meant that we avoided Old Delhi just because it wouldn't have been safe or feasible to take a large group though there.
We were mainly in New Delhi, which was quite modern in places, and in fact the area around the Parliament buildings is impressive and modern looking, and probably the only place we went that didn't have piles of rubbish everywhere. However I think that made me feel a bit uncomfortable, as it was such a stark contrast to the poverty we saw in other parts of the country and even in Delhi. In fact I feel that perhaps our students did not quite get enough of a shock in terms of the poverty that the majority of the country live in due to the structure of the trip. I think the teacher that organises it is looking to include a service component for next year, so that the students can start to understand the country a bit more.
|The Lotus Temple, Dehli - where all religions are celebrated|
Our flight home was pretty uneventful, except for the fact that our bus broke down a few miles from Delhi airport on the morning of our flight, and once at the airport one of our students left their bag with passport in an airport shop and had to run back to get it! Thankfully the bus had just run out of gas and our student's bag was still in the shop, so both crises were averted. Oh, and also on the flight from Delhi to Singapore the guy in front of me had his seat reclined THE WHOLE FLIGHT, including take off and landing. The flight crew even asked him to put his seat up during landing and when they left he put it back down! Ahhhhh! Again, people who just ignore rules really annoy me! Of course this guy also took his seatbelt off and stood up before the seatbelt sign had turned off once we'd landed. The nerve! Anyway, annoying flight passengers aside, I had a wonderful time and would love to go back someday (maybe without students!) to further explore the country.