MiscSouth Asia

Jaipur

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When it was time to blow Agra we headed West into Rajasthan and toward Jaipur. The journey took six hours, which wasn’t that big of a deal since we had a rock star coach that about 300 years ago would have been pretty damn good.
As we left the leafy suburbs and started to move into Rajasthan the greenery turned to desert and suddenly horses were gone and replaced by camels.
This was the part of India I had personally been looking forward to the most – The kids are waiting for Kerala in the south and the beaches and backwaters, but I saw the amazement in their faces looking out into a seemingly endless desert from the comfort of our air conditioned coach.
When we arrived at Jaipur we were picked up at the bus station by Mr Singh the hotel manager where we were staying.
Jaipur is like a cosmopolitan sprawling city that is tame and quite unassuming, it really could be anywhere in India. It is quite Westernised and so whilst there we took advantage and I got the kids some new headphones; Abi had lost hers and then killed Charlie’s. We ate at Pizza hut and enjoyed Ice cream from Baskin Robins and went to the cinema to watch Cowboys and Aliens. It was actually really good, though Abi was petrified at the often quite intense scenes. I have no idea what the rating is in the UK. But in India tourists seem to be able to do what they please – Jhad for example had been to the shop to buy beers, I bet he wouldn’t get served, yet at 14 years old he returned with some nice, cold Kingfisher.
Japiur was the place to relax, we had a nice hotel (actually one of the most legendary hotels in this part of India – Pearl Palace) and it was really a place to slow things down a little.
We hired a tuk tuk for the day and set about visiting some of the stunning forts and palaces Jaipur has to offer. First on the list was FIRST, it sits high on a hill side and so when we got booted out of the tuk tuk at the bottom I wondered what was going on – The driver told me he didn’t have the power to get to the top – So feeling fit we set off on the trek up. It was hard work and at the top we had expelled every bit of enthusiasm we had. We found a palace and investigated that and the views over Jaipur were really something to behold. Being knackered and the heat being stifling we retreated back to the tuk tuk for the next stop; The Amber (Amer) Fort.
Now, you have to appreciate that coming from Agra and seeing the Taj Mahal things don’t seem to hold the same glory they probably usually would, or a start we had never heard of the Amber Fort and so wasn’t expecting much. After about 20 minutes we passed a few elephants having a smoke and a few Camels plodding along aimlessly, then in the distance I saw something which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
Protruding out the side of the mountain side was this stunning, awesome huge palace cum castle. Amber in colour it was enormous and as we got nearer I gave myself a slap for thinking the Taj Mahal was as good as it got – This was different, on a grandeur scale this was special. Though it was subtle, like it had always been there, borne out of the rock on the mountain it looked perfect. The tuk tuk driver had to drive back and pick my jaw up off the floor and the kids and I were excited to get inside and start exploring.
It was enormous, and of course we had to trek up to the entrance but it was worth it. Inside there was a myriad of maze like corridors all leading to rooms within the old palace, courtyards, gardens, rooms which stank of piss – It was so distinctly Indian that I almost changed my name to Sanjay in recognition.
I could sit here now (I’m actually writing this close to the Pakistani border in a little desert oasis – But more on that in an upcoming post) and I could get out my thesaurus, get highly emotive and paint a picture of just how amazing the Amber fort was – But I’d be wasting my time. Simply, I could never convey the true beauty, a photo might help, but to stand from the road, being passed by camels, elephants and seeing hawkers sell the most amazing street food, feel the extreme heat and to look at that fort face on – Rudyard Kipling would have struggled to convey that. Entrance was 200INR for me and kids over 7 must pay full price too. I didn’t bother to get Charlie a ticket and the guy at the entrance asked where his ticket was, I said he was six, the guy laughed and we were waved on.
Mesmerized we left and I knew the trip had taken yet another turn, there was a new bench mark – The Taj Mahal might be “a teardrop on the face of eternity” but the Amber fort was equally amazing.
The next stop was Jal Mahal, it seems everyone is getting in on the Mahal name and it was nice, not gorgeous, just nice. The tuk tuk driver reckoned it was a mausoleum (not confirmed) and is basically a nice building set in the middle of a lake.
We had two more stops on the tour but we were all forted out and so given that the winds had started, signalling the rain, we headed back to the hotel for some respite from the day.
The following day we hit up the pink city – I have no idea why it’s called the pink city because it is orange. Maybe the guy who painted it got cheap paint and was scammed, either way it’s basically a huge bazaar selling everything from pashminas to silverware to…well, everything. Prices are steep and bargaining is essential. Mark ups of about 90% seemed the norm. Abi chose a gorgeous pink headscarf which she is using to help keep the sun out of her face and off her head and Charlie got a henna tattoo which went wrong because the temptation to touch it was too much.
Jaipur was somewhere we could really have lingered, but it wouldn’t have been for the Rajasthan lifestyle, sometimes when travelling you just need to remind yourself you are Western and so places like Pizza Hut, particularly when they cost a fraction of that in the UK are just too tempting to forego – I mean, you can really only eat so many curries. We genuinely are getting all curried out.
I think we had just enough time in Jaipur and were it not for events which unfolded with Charlie (see next post) we’d have been happy leaving, content in the fact we had been there, done that and got the T Shirt.
A mini shout out to Bekkie for booking our flights out of Sri Lanka – It might have taken her three days, but persistence equals success.
This has nothing at all to do with Jaipur but I just have to say, we are sat in a roof top cafe in Jaisalmer, which is really deep into the Rajasthan Desert, At the left of us is a stunning fort (Google image Jaisalmer) It is 7.30pm and the sun is setting over the fort which has made the rock turn a deep amber colour in response. To the right of us are a few sand brick small buildings and a few trees – Then it is just desert, complete unadulterated, uninterrupted desert – This is India and damn, we feel privileged to be a part of it.

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