We woke up to the sounds we've grown used to over the past week: of beeping horns and cooing pigeons- a stark contrast to our peaceful mornings in Palampur.
Being our first full day in Amritsar, we dedicated Sunday to visiting the Golden Temple - which thankfully was only a two minute walk from our hotel. After sleeping in our air conditioned rooms, we were well rested and eagerly dressed in our traditional Indian suits - a strategy we thought would help us be the crowd.
Trying to be as inconspicuous as we could, dressed in our Indian suits, covering our heads and giving in our shoes, we entered the Golden Temple. Photographs can't describe the experience of the music, the chattering, the people greeting us with 'welcome to our holy city'.
Unfortunately we couldn't see the central Golden Temple itself due to the long queues which were split into male and female and we decided we couldn't bear to part from Joey.
Following this we headed to the largest Hindu temple complex in Amritsar; Duargiana Temple.
We spent early evening chilling in our accommodation and enjoying air conditioning. Before bed a few of us decided to return to the Golden Temple to see a departure ceremony called 'Palki Sahib' while the rest of us decided to have some last moments of rest.
Highlight of the day was definitely seeing how many of us we could get into one moving tuk tuk. Seven!
Still awed by the Golden Temple, we took a morning visit while it was cooler and the crowds weren't out. After repacking our now bursting rucksacks, we had one last chance to sample Amritsar.
We then prepared for the long 18 hour train journey to Jaipur. 12 hours to just outside Delhi then less than 2 hours to get to New Delhi station for a 4 hour train journey to Jaipur. I quickly irritated the group with my constant reminders of timings and seats after having a less than comfortable experience on our last sleeper train.
Arriving with over an hour to spare, we soon found our train and settled into our beds. We managed to unintentionally get an early night with some of us asleep by 17:00.
After stopping at what felt like nearly every railway station north of Rajasthan, we arrived safely in Jaipur. We quickly unpacked in the beautiful hotel Rachel had booked for us and set out to make the most of our day despite our lack of sleep. We decided to not do anything too strenuous and opted to pay to use a nearby hotel's swimming pool for the afternoon. We also took the opportunity to get some quick massages. In the evening we conducted our own night city tour, as none were running as it wasn't tourist season. We discovered that we could enter the City Palace by night and found out that we were the only visitors. The staff switched on a 25 minute light show on the history of the maharajas of Jaipur against the backdrop of the city palace walls followed by a guided personal tour of the palace. We were all particularly interested in and horrified with the armoury which included knives that opened up while inside their victim. The guides were very keen to see us hold the weapons!
We had a relatively early night after our long day and enjoyed the comfortable beds!
We had booked a whole day NGO tour for the Wednesday, organised by Lily. We set off at 9.30 without fully formed expectations. To our excitement we first visited an animal shelter called 'Help in Suffering' which was set up in the 1970s. The charity takes in all animals from cats and dogs to cows and monkeys. As well as relying on charitable donations (part of our tour costs went to the charities we visited) they have a full time vets to treat locals' pets for a cheaper price that the private vets but with a donation to the shelter. We got to meet the main vet surgeon who'd moved here from the UK over 17 years ago and discovered the charity was responsible for rabies eradication in Jaipur by vaccinating and marking all strays. We took the opportunity to cuddle the dogs after having to stay clear of any strays all trip.
In the afternoon we visited two children's homes, a girls and boys, and found out the history behind each one and the background's the children are from - some have been taken out of child labour whilst others have run away from abuse. The girls were keen to show off their henna skills after returning from school and wrote designs and their names in Hindi on our arms. At the boys home we found out more about their routine after school including activities and dedicated homework time. One boy was keen to tell us his achievements in national long jump competitions, supported by funding from several organisations.
After the tour we decided to visit the famed Amber or Amer Fort. Based in the former capital of Rajasthan, the royal family resided there for centuries.
Once again we aimed to get an early night, this time for the 2am water call to catch the train to Agra!