We didn’t actually really want to come to Jaipur as we had only really heard negative things, but I have to say I was quite pleasantly surprised.
We arrived to Jaipur much earlier than we had anticipated – infact, 5.30am. We had told the hotel receptionist on the phone the previous night that we would arrived at 7am, and so now we stood outside the locked hotel not knowing what to do. We had a slight argument about whether we should call the number we had, and who should do it, whether we should ring the doorbell or knock on the door. After half an hour, someone must have heard us squabbling as a lady came and opened the door, and without saying so much as a word to us, showed us directly to our room. We slept before dealing with the signatures.
The restaurant upstairs served really great food, which is why we ate breakfast and dinner there… both days.
Wandering around the ‘pink city’, it’s impossible to avoid the rickshaws. The rickshaw harassment here is actually one of the worst we’ve endured so far. Even when we were inside one, they start splurring out the same old stories and that they want us to visit one shop, for free, with no pressure to buy anything, just so they can get paid or given free petrol, or they are adamant about taking you around the sights, even if you’ve already visited them or already have an arrangement with another driver. It’s pretty stressful and tiring, though I realise it doesn’t actually sound that awful just in words.
We did eventually stumble upon the City Palace, where we purchased a two-day ticket that gave us entry to several attractions in Jaipur. The City Palace is a complex of courtyards, gardens, buildings, etc. We paid for an audioguide, though I admit we skipped a few channels as we have heard similar stories in the other city palaces we’d visited. It’s impressive and stunning as you’d imagine, but I have to say it was pretty hard to enjoy when countless people stand taking photos of you from all corners, or come up to you and ask to take your photos, and shake you hand for the picture or pose in various ways next to us. Also, if one person approached us to take photos, it quickly escalated to maybe 30 people literally queuing to have their photos taken with us. It got to the point where I would just smile and walk away.
Coming out of the City Palace, we explored the bazaars lined with various textiles, handicrafts and jewellery. I bought a hand-made paper notebook with a camel painted on it, still missing Carlu the Camel. One thing I was pretty surprised about with these areas, was that we were barely harassed by the shopkeepers. There were hardly any tourists around and we were just waiting for someone to shout at us to look in their shop, or, when we were in their shop, harass us to buy something…but they didn’t! Not only that, but the prices were pretty decent. Perhaps this was something to do with it being low season…? Either way, it made us pretty happy.
The next morning, we were picked up by a very persistent rickshaw driver from the previous day, who took us to MonkeyTemple (Galta & Surya Mandir). He waited in his vehicle while we climbed the steep, STEEP steps to the top of the cliff, in the sweltering heat, to the temple. We bought a bag of nuts, which didn’t last us long as the bag broke when Brendan tried to open it, sending the nuts flying everywhere. The monkeys appeared out of nowhere. These ones actually made me pretty nervous. I always have this idea that monkeys are really aggressive, then when I went to the Monkey Temple in Hampi, I was pleasantly shocked that I could sit on the floor and calmly hand the monkeys the bananas. However, these ones seemed a little scary, and I decided I wouldn’t try to hand-feed them. Instead, watch Brendan throw the nuts on the floor away from us.
At the top of the cliff, we didn’t try to go inside the temple, but we sat and looked down at the small world below us… until the monkeys came obviously and shooed us away. When we eventually returned to our rickshaw driver, we slumped into the back, sweat dripping off us. He drove us to Amber Fort, which is a little way away from the city centre. It was a fair old hike getting up to the entrance, but worth it. We’ve seen a few forts now on our Rajasthan trip, but this is pretty remarkable… although, to be honest, is there an
existing fort, in Rajasthan, that isn’t remarkable? Again, we were pestered for photos which got a bit tiring after a while, especially when we’re in the middle of a conversation or listening to our audio guide, or taking in the view. And again, people actually started queuing for their photo. And, again, I ended up smiling and just walking off. We’d have been there all day otherwise.
On the way back to the city, our driver began his sob story of how he wants to take us to just ONE factory, with NO pressure to buy anything. His persistence wore off when we just agreed for an easy life. We could choose pottery, textiles, stone, cigarettes, metal, etc. I chose textiles as neither of us had much interest in any of the other and I for one, LOVE textiles! I love everything and everything about fabrics! Rolling around in a load of different fabrics is a dream for me. We both declared that we were not buying anything but would happily look for 10 minutes so he could get some sort of commission. At the factory (India Textiles), we were shown them making fabric dye from potatoes and watched them make and use the printing blocks. There was a divide in enthusiasm between myself and Brendan, and into the shop we went. We were greeted by a friendly man who gave us chai, pepsi and a ‘no pressure’ talk about the textiles. I could barely contain myself seeing all of these products and 3 hours later, I had bought myself and my mum cushions, and had some BEAUTIFUL bedding made for my mum which was delivered to my hotel later that evening. Honestly, I got an absolute BARGAIN! I really umm’d and ahh’d over the bedding and he saw me on the edge, so reduced his price SIGNIFICANTLY. I paid less than a fifth of what I would have paid for this back home… I really want to post photos of all of these items, but will have to wait a month so that my Mum gets the first glimpse.
When we returned to our poor waiting driver, we were annoyed at his persistence to ask us how much we paid. We realise he wanted to know so he knew what commission he should have got, but at the same time, it’s really none of his business. Also, the salesman had asked me not to tell ANYONE what we’d paid because he’d probably get fired for selling me the bedding (and cushions) at such a low price. Obviously, he didn’t want to pay the full commission to the driver, but also, I guess he didn’t want it to get out that people can, if they wait 3 and a half hours, get his items at a pretty great price. Anyway, we didn’t tell the rickshaw driver, even though he just wouldn’t SHUT UP. about it!!! (Even the next morning when he took us to the train station, he was still yabbering on about it no matter how many times we said, ‘I can’t remember’ or ‘it doesn’t matter’!!) We were going to get him to take us to the Central Museum, but Brendan was hungry, and after he’d just been forced to sit through his own idea of Hell, I agreed that food should be our next priority. A bit fed up of our annoying driver, we told him to just leave us here, and we’d forget the museum. After our thali, we walked to the museum, but found out that the entry fee wasn’t included in our ticket and we couldn’t really be bothered. Rain was clearly on its way, so we jumped into the nearest rickshaw and headed back to the hotel, where we enjoyed dinner upstairs again. We met a couple from Halifax up there, which made me smile.
It’s always fun hearing a fellow-Yorkshire accent.