Jaipur, also known as “The Pink City” is the capital of Rajasthan and the heart of India. It is wild and busy! The old town is a crazed mess of shops and rickshaws and historic monuments all mixed together. The city palace, in its luxurious glory, sits right in the heart of it all. The place is a mess. But it sure made for an interesting walk around!
Our first morning stop was actually in a neighboring city called Amber. Amber is only 11km north of Jaipur and has a beautiful amber colored fort sitting high up on a hill.
With another expensive entrance fee, we did our usual sneak attack and followed closely at the heels of a tour group. With guards at every courtyard entrance, we had to find a new tour group each time we moved locations in the fort. We are crazy, but it kept us happily entertained for the trip!
We started by walking the ten minutes up to the fort. The most popular way of entering the fort is riding an elephant. But at nearly $20 for a ten minute ride, we opted to hike it ourselves. Inside, the fort was beautiful. It had some spectacular views of the mountainous landscape and from the top you could see the zig zagging elephants as they ambled their way up the street. We wandered from place to place with our multitude of tour groups and did a full circle of the fort in just under an hour. Forts are all looking the same to us now. The sandstone structure is beautiful, the carvings are intricate, the throne rooms are elaborate and the views reach all the way out to the smog!
The following fort, just higher up on the hill from the Amber fort, was more of the same. At every corner there was someone waiting to give you an explanation of what you were looking at. We learned early on that after any kind of information you are expected to tip them. We simply do not have the money to tip a different person in each room for information we didn’t ask for! Instead, we spent forever trying to avoid them, going the opposite way from which they pointed and splitting up at parts to confuse them. In the end, people were still taking more photos of Kelsi and I than they were of the building, so we blew through the site as fast as we could.
By our third fort of the morning we asked Raju to just drive by while we took photos. We were finished with forts for a little while. So instead, Raju drove us down to some city gardens to check out.
“You see gardens now?” He half asked us as he dropped us off.
That sounded lovely, and different, and with the number of brightly coloured flowers they have here in India we were bound to get a few good photos. It was only 10 rupees (20 cents) to get in, but I still don’t think the fee was worth it. The place was tiny, had a couple of nicely trimmed shrubs and a few waterways with water spraying up out of them. That was pretty much it.
The only good thing about our stop was that there were street vendors outside. We picked up some juice and pakoras and samosas for about a dollar each for lunch. Raju was unhappy because our next scheduled stop was at another one of his pricey restaurants. Take that!
So instead of a scheduled lunch stop, we went back to the hotel for an afternoon rest.
At 3:30 it was time to pick up my ridiculously over priced skirt. We sat and talked to the uncle of the man who ran the place. He told us all about his morning yoga and meditation routine (no idea why) then proceeded to show us all the yoga techniques we needed to know for good lungs, a good stomach and a good brain. He was very sweet, but he talked non-stop for twenty minutes until my skirt came in. Meanwhile, two young guys behind the counter sat and, mouths open, gaped at Kelsi and I. No shame or embarrassment when we shot them glares from across the room. There’s no winning.
When my skirt arrived it was not what I was hoping for. Even with my measurements, it dragged along the floor, didn’t fit my shape and had enough material to make a dress for an elephant. Fabulous. On top of that, by the end of the day, the colour had bled all over my skin. I eventually soaked it in water, and the thing turned four huge buckets of water dark blue before I finally gave up. I learned the hard way, but it’ll be the last time I trust that any product is superior to others because my driver took us there… Lesson learned.
I left brooding and we had Raju drop us off at the edge of old town for our own walking city tour. We had him pick us up four hours later when we were finished.
We had found the walking tour in our lonely planet guide. It wasn’t bad, but not entirely what I was expecting. I guess I thought we would see a bunch of remarkable city structures and historical monuments around each corner. Instead, it just gave you a look at the busy market life of Jaipur while stopping at only a couple historical sites.
The bazaars were fun to walk through. It seamed like each section of street was dedicated to a different craft. One area would be all textiles, then electronics, then stone carvings or spices or hardware. The markets weren’t very touristy either. Although we saw a couple fellow travelers, the Jaipur bazaars cater mostly towards local needs.
About half way through the tour, Kelsi became very ill again. We left the bustle of old town to try to find a quiet spot in the city park. No such luck.
We hadn’t even sat on the ground before we got harassed by a bunch of young boys. They were only 8 or 9 years old, but there were about 7 of them. “Where from? What is name?” “You are so beautiful!” They giggled and called out to us. They wanted us to play a game of cricket with them. Kelsi could hardly stand, and I was in a skirt: cricket was not in the cards. We told them we’d watch them, but they were having none of it. They grabbed at us and tried to pull us onto the field. It was all funny at first, then when one young boy accidentally touched the side of my boob in an attempt to grab my arm he laughed and told all the boys. Then they all just started grabbing at Kelsi and I. I told one kid I was going to backhand him in the face if he didn’t stop (yes, I threatened to hit a child.) and Kelsi had to shove back another kid by her. Then, just when we’d had enough, some guy came along and started yelling at the boys until they ran away. When they stopped to come back we got up and left. If anything in this country is going to break me, it’s going to be the men here. Photos, staring, grabbing: they even think it’s acceptable at the age of 8. It’s not everyone, but it’s a part of this culture I’m not going to get used to and it’s exhausting.
Kelsi couldn’t handle it anymore and needed to get home. We grabbed a Tuk Tuk and called it early, half way through the city tour. She went to bed while I ate dinner downstairs and watched the singers and dancers entertain. The place may have been pricier than normal, but it did have a fabulous ambiance!
Overall Jaipur had a lot to see, the city palace was nice and the Amber fort was as impressive as any other. But it was the same as the rest in Rajasthan, and after two weeks of forts, I was ready to move on. The next morning we were off to a new province: Uttar Pradesh!