Brooke Goes Global: Jaipur Travel Weekend

September 21, 2018

I have been on my abroad trip for 5 weeks and in India for 3 weeks.  I have told you ample about my classes and experiential learning.  However, I have dropped the ball on providing information about my touristy, free-time experiences.  Last weekend, IHP, our abroad program, gave us the opportunity to have a travel weekend.  A large group of students decided to go to Jaipur, a popular city in Northern India.  

From New Delhi, we headed on a 5 hour train ride to the city.  After many hours of staring at the “touristy Americans” throughout our transportation experience, we finally arrived in the city.  That evening we arrived at our hotel, the Anuraag Villa.  Consider this post to be a Yelp review for the Villa.  Every employee was kind and helpful, allowing their guests to make the most of their visit.  When we stepped inside the hotel, you were transported to a time when India was under British rule.  British colonialism seemed to be the decor theme of the hotel with their light blue bedroom walls, with adorned doors and large sliding locks.  Also, helpful tip: hotels are deemed some of the best places to eat authentic Indian food.  Professional chefs are hired by hotels, and because hotels cater to tourists, the food’s cleaning and cooking process is safe for a foreigner to enjoy.  Anyways, back to my Yelp review.  I certainly got the most bang for my buck at this hotel.  I shared a room with another girl in the program, and for two nights we paid $1,300 rupees.  This in terms of USD comes to about $13 per person for both nights.  It was not the most extravagant hotel I have ever been to, but it certainly contributed to my exciting time in Jaipur.  

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Me eating breakfast at the Anuraag Villa, enjoying the feeling of eating like a queen in India

Unfortunately, our time in Jaipur was too short to see everything the city had to offer, but I certainly saw a lot over the two days.  Our first stop on Saturday, was to an elephant farm in the outskirts of the city.  Our group was very concerned about the well-being of the elephants, but we were assured by the staff and reviews of the farm that the animals were treated humanely.  We had the opportunity to meet six different Asian elephants, each with their own individual handler.  Elephants are some of the smartest creatures in the world.  In the four hours we were with the elephants, we are able to make such a strong impression on them that if we came back three years later, they would remember us.  It was such a fascinating and invigorating moment to spend time with such large, yet gentle animals.  

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Playing with the elephants has been a highlight of my time abroad so far

 

After, we took off to the historical and iconic city of the Pink City.  The rumors are true.  Every structure within the boundaries of the city is pink.  Shops and vendors align the streets with colorful food and clothing.  The rainy weather caused a thin layer of mud to form on every inch of every sidewalk.  The bumper to bumper traffic caused a symphony of car horns.  And on occasion, a camel or an elephant made an appearance as a form of transportation.  We stopped for lunch at a rooftop restaurant.  We were able to eat some amazing food while enjoying some amazing views of the city.  The juxtaposition of the rolling hills against the building structures of the city created a sight that took my breath away.  Is there a better location to build a city than in the valley of a hill? 

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The beautiful view from our rooftop restaurant

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The Hawa Mahal in the Pink City

We spent the evening at the Amber Fort light and sound show.  The hour long performance gave a detailed history of the royal fort through narration, lights, and song.  The Amber Fort sits at the top of a hill, with a view of the city below.  With the mountain breeze sending a chill down your spine, it was a refreshing night to a long, tiresome, and hot week in New Delhi.  

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Amber Fort lit up at night

And to end the weekend, we spent Sunday morning at two historical sites including Jantar Mantar and the City Palace.  Jantar Mantar is a culmination of thousand year old sun dials that are able to tell the accurate calendar day and time of day based on the light from the “universe’s goddesses” — better known as the sun and the moon.  The City Palace constituted incredibly detailed buildings that showcased textiles, a royal and political meeting space, and chandeliers triple my size.  I appreciated the time we were given to experience a different part of India.  

PICTURE 7, 8, 9: The above three pictures depict the City Palace, a structure with exquisite detailing and architecture.


Lindsay in Thailand: Way La Kong Bangkok

September 10, 2015

Sawadika! Chan chob jang wat Khon Kaen ka!

 

As you can probably tell, I have arrived safely in Thailand and am now acquainting myself with the language! What a trip it has been so far. I arrived on the 16th after 33 hours of travel that included two flight delays.   I do not think I have ever been so exhausted in my life. My sightseeing that first day totaled the 15 minutes viewed from my cab window and the walk to my third story hotel room. I barely showered and unpacked before I fell asleep for a short ‘nap’ at three in the afternoon that ended up lasting 16 hours. Luckily, sleeping through my seven alarms actually put me right on track for the 11 hour jet lag I would have experienced.

 

Growing up, I have always heard the phrase “what a small world.” I never considered the world a ‘small’ place until arriving in Bangkok. After I posted a photo online about my travels, a boy from my hometown commented that he was also in Bangkok. Even though it was the last day of his six week stay, Derek invited me to join him and his Thai friend on their final adventure. We made our way through the horrendous traffic, after stopping for my first Thai iced tea, and ended up riding elephants. Being surrounded by animals so ginormous and normally seen at a distance behind bars was so surreal. I have to say I love bear hugs, but I now like elephant hugs more.

 

The very popular Thai Iced Tea in a bag

The very popular Thai Iced Tea in a bag

 

If you ever see a picture of a relaxed individual riding an elephant, just know that it is actually harder than it looks. Here, for example, I am struggling to keep balanced!

If you ever see a picture of a relaxed individual riding an elephant, just know that it is actually harder than it looks. Here, for example, I am struggling to keep balanced!

After my ride, I visited my first temple that hosts the second largest Buddha in Bangkok. I learned proper temple etiquette, including fully covering one’s ankles and elbows, stepping over door entrances, and ensuring all toes are pointed away from Buddha while bowing three times to him. The temple was unlike any architectural structure I had ever seen before and I look forward to admiring many more throughout this semester!

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Outside the Temple

 

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Old temple ruins

 

Inside the temple

Old temple ruins

 

Derek raved about an amazing celebrity bakery and downtown Bangkok Blue Sky rooftop bar and restaurant all day. After a long day of long walking and sitting in heavy traffic, I could not wait to delve into a traditional Thai delight. On our drive there, Derek decided to stop at home to change clothes. When we were ten minutes outside of the city, we received notice that two bombs went off in the downtown area. Both attacks were directly below the places we were headed.

 

I guess I should provide you with some context of the bad luck spells I have had while traveling in the past before I continue. The day of my first ever plane ride, the Malaysia plane went missing. While in London, the Charlie Hebdo attack occurred. During my time on Crete, the Greek financial crisis further erupted. Derek and his friends were aware of this misfortune and, when we received the news, they turned to me in the back seat of the car with disbelief. Was I the bad luck charm?

 

Looking back on that day one short week ago, I remain shocked. That was such an unfortunate event that this city has not seen in years, yet how was I so fortunate?

 

Although I cannot be certain where I would have been exactly during that time, it is very likely that I could have been on the street or watching the following events unfold from the rooftop.

 

In the downtown area for some time afterwards, you would not have expected that an attack occurred moments ago. It was not until hours later that a city lockdown went into place. During that time, I felt a whirlwind of emotions as I sat frigid in the standstill traffic. As I contacted family concerned about my safety, Thai people continued to shop, eat, and walk about the surrounding streets.

 

After what seemed like hours, I arrived at my hotel. I was highly concerned when I found out that two girls from my program I met for the first time earlier that day were missing. The girls’ families and hotel staff had not heard from or seen them all night and both of their phones were turned off. After over an hour, I was beyond relieved when both girls pulled into the hotel parking lot. I was also amazed to hear that they were ten minutes from the attacks but were unaware of the situation for over four hours.

 

I cannot express how grateful I am for the support I received from my family, friends, and school that day. After posting a general message online for concerned family and friends, I received notice from both people close to me and others I have not spoken to in years who were sending love and prayers my way.   My email inbox was filled with messages from UR and CIEE staff concerned about my well-being and providing me with updates and information. Even though I was alone, I felt so connected to everything I know and all those I love who were a ‘small’ world away. Someone was watching over me that night, and they taught me what it really is to know there is no place like home, and no one like those people that make it home for me.


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