Big City Jaipur
Travelling at Kevin speed now, we would have a lot of sights to cover in two days. Our taxi driver from the airport was ready to solve this problem. He could take us to all the big sights for one low, low price. We took his card, and said maybe day after tomorrow… Then we looked up taxi rates, and it was actually not bad, even if only F could understand a word he said.
Having arrived late, we thought we would just wander the neighbourhood our first evening, not realising that we were nestled into an ersatz bus depot that covered the streets for several blocks. After 20 exhausting minutes with many close calls and Kevin’s eyes getting bigger and bigger, we gave up, went back and ordered beers and dinner delivered to the quiet open air patio outside our rooms.
The next day we walked into the old walled pink city through a stone carvers district (does even India have enough temples for this many life size Buddhas and Krishnas and Ganeshas?), a jewellery district, and past some monkeys on rooftops, with F’s hat collecting our first direct hit from a pigeon so far. (Miraculous given the number of massive clouds we’ve had fly over in various cities.)
The biggest sight in the old city is the City Palace, but we were feeling a bit Palaced out, so we opted for a set ticket of secondary sights. We started with the Jantar Mantar, as fun to visit as to say, since it’s a huge collection of ginormous astronomical tools. Well, you couldn’t actually do much with it during daylight so after watching the 2-second increments pass on the two-story sun dial, we moved on to a queen’s… Palace, then climbed a giant minaret. Oddly, it had a tight spiralling ramp instead of steps to take you to a fantastic view of the neighbourhoods below.
In the evening we headed across the nearby busy divided road, crossing traffic in the dark like startled chickens. We were headed to Peacock, a well rated rooftop restaurant packed with tourists. The meal w hias excellent and we vowed to go back the next day before our tour.
After an equally lovely Peacock breakfast, day two started at 10am with a new driver sent by the airport guy, with better English. First stop involved him literally running us to the Krishna temple to just make the viewing of the 2nd most important Krishna statue in India, reportedly an exact representation of his human form. There was a minor frenzy as the curtain was shut and worshippers made their last circuit of the inner shrine caressing the locks and doors. Our driver’s ecstatic expression made it clear that we hadn’t been running just for our benefit.
The city palace was a quick walk through, though the arms collection was impressive, especially for its artful arrangement.
We then headed to see the fort. Not that much different than the other 4 we had seen in Rajasthan to this point. In now typical Jaipur style, there was no clear route, so we explored in a self guided walk, doubling back at times.
On the hike up to the fort we encountered persistent hawkers. One guy was selling hats. Starting at 50 rupee he quickly dropped to 5 and in an amazingly pathetic tone repeated “ONLY 5 RUPEES” over and over for our entire walk across the lower park area. On the way out he had shifted to strings of elephant beads… Same pathetic pitch.
There were cenotaphs of white marble and the Albert Hall museum to take in before we returned to the hotel and our customary beers. We were off the next morning before dawn on a train to Agra.
Jaipur was less impressive than the other cities we had visited, but was the first step in preparing for the bigger cities to come. In walking, we were mostly left alone until we reached the prime tourist spots. But we were put on our toes when M stepped into the street briefly to determine if we’d passed the minaret that’s set back from the shops, and within seconds had a helpful local ready to give us directions… someone is always watching.