Day three and it was an early start with a 6am train from Delhi to Jaipur – the pink city – in Rajasthan, which is said to be one of the world’s 25 fastest growing cities. If possible the traffic here is worse than Delhi, perhaps because there is less of it so the crazy drivers can move at faster speeds. Our Tuk-Tuk driver had had a gentle whoopsy with a motorbike before we even reached the hotel!
We transferred from the station to our hotel in auto-rickshaws, climbing a relatively steep hill up on the way. We passed a number of cycle rickshaw drivers pushing their vehicles up the hill. Normally this would be fair enough, but what astounded me was that some of the fat Indian passengers were still sat inside – a form of modern day slavery, get out and walk you lazy s**t.
The hotel, Arya Niwas, was lovely. Security guards on the entrance and a beautifully manicured lawn out front. We came back one day in the rain and I was met by a man with an umbrella who escorted me to the door in the dry. It does however make you feel a little guilty when you realise this accommodation is unaffordable to most Indians, the majority of the guests being westerners.
I grabbed a lunch of aubergine and chips – not very Indian, then headed out on a tour of the clothing and gems industry of Jaipur. First stop was a place that makes the traditional block printed cloth. I volunteered for a go at block printing and didn’t do too bad, no elephants with six legs or anything. Then into the shop, were I spent far too much money. These people probably have some of the best sales techniques in India, I left having spent far too much on things I was not sure I really wanted and wondering why!
Then it was onto the gems shop talk on the precious and semi-precious stones in the area and a demonstration about how they are cut and polished. And of course the obligatory shopping where once again far too much money departed my wallet – although this time on goods I am slightly surer about!
That evening we saw a Bollywood movie. The theatre was spectacular, ornately decorated and teeming with Indian youngsters waiting to see the movie. The film started to much cheering and whopping from the crowd as their favourite stars appeared on screen. It was more like a pop concert than a film. The star of the show, an admittedly very fit young Indian, who looked remarkably western, had a bit of a cigarette habit but each time he lit up a ‘smoking kills’ sign appeared on the bottom of the screen.
The film was set in England, not what I was expecting, and so out of the window went my ideas of Bollywood glamour and instead western dress an English castle and country lanes. And a not particularly realistic portrayal of England, but then I should have guessed that when the film opened with the star lighting a cigarette whilst riding a Harley – not going to happen! We only watched the first half – they have intervals in Indian films, before heading to dinner. Finding out what happened at the end of Shandaar (awesome) will have to wait until I get home and find it with English subtitles.
After another fab dinner I stayed with Sukhi and a few of the guys for an extra couple of drinks. A tuk-tuk driver waited outside for us for hours – I’m not sure how it is done in Indian society, but again this seemed a little wrong to me. Sukhi assured me he was “sort of a friend’ and so it was fine. I guess he was being paid enough to make it worth his while hanging around outside for hours!
Back at the hotel we went back to Sukhi’s room to drink rum, the hotel not serving alcohol, and shared music. After introducing Sukhi and Mave and Brice (Canadians) to the Levellers, they liked and the Wurzels, they totally didn’t get it, it was time for me to head to bed for another late night while the rest of the guys carried on the party!!
A late night and early start for another packed day of site-seeing starting with the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds which was constructed as a facade so the ladies of the palace could look out of its many windows at the locals without being seen.
This palace is inside the gates of the old city of Jaipur, the city is a striking grid layout, inside which the streets are wide and the frontages of all the buildings are pink, each of the shops are exactly the same size. Our guide explained that this was because the Raj wanted to do something to impress the Prince of Wales when he visited. Now all the shop facades have to be painted pink.
Next stop was the Amer Fort (pronounced as Amber Fort), a huge imposing building atop a hill. The place was huge and really beautiful built across four different courtyards with the third containing with a stunning mirrored building built for the queens to sleep in. Between the courtyards were a myriad of narrow passageways that you could use to access the roof tops for stunning views around the palace and also for a view down into the court of the ladies – although this wouldn’t have been possible when the palace was inhabited and these rooms had rooves!
The king had 12 wives so built living quarters for each of them, with slightly plusher living quarters for his favourite wife. The wives were able to decorate these quarters; in the chamber of the favourite wife there still remained a painting from the karma sutra – this seems to be common-place in temples and palaces in India! Each of the wives were from a different area or country and so the king built each of them their own kitchen so they could eat their local food. Corridors ran between these living quarters allowing the king to access the chamber of each of his wives without the others being aware – the ladies would find out who the king had visited when the congregated in the courtyard and the wife shared the gifts he had given her.
On the way back to Jaipur we stopped for photos at the Jal Mahal or Water Palace. It is located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake and is built in red standstone. Of the five stories four remain under water when the lake is full. The palace is now a luxury hotel.
Jaipur is also home to another Jantra Mantar (I visited the original in Delhi), built by Jai Singh, who also built the one in Delhi. This one was bigger, better preserved and much more spectacular. Our guide showed us how to tell the time using both the large and small instruments. The largest of which has an accuracy of two seconds, you can almost see the sun moving along the dial. The site also includes instruments that calculate the position of the stars at the moment a child is born – the Indian’s believe this dictates the direction of the life of that child, right down to what kind of marriage they will have.
Our final stop of the day was the City Palace, a huge palace where the royals moved when they left the Amber Fort, but for me nowhere near as impressive as the Amber Fort aside from two huge silver urns… These Gangajalis are the largest crafted silver objects in the world and were used by Madho Singh II when he went to London to attend the coronation of Edward IV in 1901 – he didn’t trust the water in the west so he had the urns filled with Ganges water and took them with him!
From the City Palace the boys went back to the hotel and the girls headed out shopping. I bought an outfit to wear to the Taj Mahal – the girls having decided to dress as Indian as possible on the day. Then a very busy, very fumy tuk-tuk ride back to the hotel with just a few minutes to spare before dinner.
Dinner was at a heritage property, where they put on some fantastic Indian dancing while we ate. A young girl danced in a traditional style with five pots, the top one flaming, balanced on her head. Then after dinner a puppet show, which was all a bit odd and I had no idea what was going on. Then home and thankfully an early (ish) night before an early start for our drive to Karauli.