I decided to fly to Rajastan as it was only £40 more expensive than the train but would take 20 hours less. Make that 16 hours less as the flight was delayed with no explanation apart from a very memorable Indian conversation. The conversation went something like this – “Hi, can you tell me why the plane is delayed?”, “Yes” followed by a wiggle of the head and a wide smile “Ok”,pause, hoping he would then say something else but I continued… “Is the delay due to connecting flights or bad weather?” “Yes” followed by a wiggle of the head and a wide smile”, Mmm” something quite not right as he continued to stare at me, times to try a different tact “ok what time are we now flying?” “Yes” followed by a wiggle of the head and a wide smile”, Ok, you don’t understand me do you?” “Yes” followed by a wiggle of the head and a wide smile, “Right, were not going to get very far here are we, I could ask you anything and you would say yes?” “Yes” followed by a wiggle of the head and a wide smile, “Can you give me a million rupees?” “No!!”Ha ha… he understood money then!!!
I left at this point never expecting my million rupees but smiling at the fact that I had so many similar conversations throughout my Indian experience. So many people say yes to you when they don’t understand you or don’t want to loose face in front of you and in part because they don’t want to offend you or turn business away! So funny at times, especially in restaurants and shops but frustrating when you get on the wrong bus and end up somewhere completely different. Arriving late in cold Jaipur I booked into the guesthouse which had almost locked up for the night, luckily they allowed me a Chai and I headed off to bed.
Morning arose and I met up with Marie for breakfast and started to plan our last 10 days or so day together. Jaipur is located in Eastern Rajastan and is a lot cooler up here in the North but it was great to be able to put some jeans on again. One of life’s little luxuries. We decided to spend our day exploring the city which is famed for its fort with pink walls that encompass the old city. Once outside the guesthouse and on our way into the old city you soon feel a different vibe from the rest of India. One of the main differences that greets you almost everywhere you look are the amazing, swashbuckling and debonair moustaches that the locals adorn and the magnificent multi coloured turbans.
We headed into town via tuk tuk after the usual long discussion about price. We arrived at the pink walls of the former city of the great warrior astronomer Maharaja Jai Singh II. He is also attributed to laying the plans for the grand city. The city walls were painted by a later Maharaja for the arrival of the King Edward VII, with the colour pink being associated with hospitality. We headed firstly to Hawa Mahal the major landmark in Jaipur and is a five storey building overlooking the main street. What is remarkable about this building are the honeycombed windows which were built to enable the ladies of the royal household to look out without being looked at. A quick walk round the Mahal whilst getting bumped and shoved by many Indians we headed to the City Palace Complex which is a blend of Rajastani and Mughal architecture and has been added to since the 1500’s.
Inside this complex is the Mubarak Mahal (The Welcome Palace) which is a beautiful structure. Inside this Mahal is a small museum dedicated to all things Maharaja especially clothes and in particular Sawai Madho Singh I who had an impressive record – 250kg and 108 wives. You’d have thought he’d weighed a little less with so many wives! Further inside are a collection of fine buildings and palaces and men with very fine moustaches. Enough sightseeing over for one day we headed back to the hotel via the train station to book our onward journey the following evening.
Later that evening we dined out near the hotel but on our way back we passed by a wedding ceremony. Rajastan is home of Indian weddings and we were at the tail end of the wedding season. Whilst staring inside we were summoned in by one of the wedding party and were treated as a normal guest and given food and drinks. We were lucky enough to see the bride and groom albeit none of the ceremonies. She looked stunning like all brides should, her dress was laced with gold, hands adorned with jewelry and henna and the groom was dressed in a traditional Rajastani outfit. Weddings in India are planned meticulously, mostly all are arranged and all have to consult and astronomer to find out if they are compatible and when they should marry. Weddings are always lavish and expensive affairs (most involve many elephants, horses and fireworks which signify opulence and expectation of large dowries!!! We became the Gora / Indian Wedding crashers.
The following day we rose late I enjoyed a lovely breakfast of Puris Aloo (Spicy Potato curry and light small fluffy naans) and at least 2 cups of chai as we debated on what to do for the rest of the day before heading to the train station later that evening. Sticking on the Maharaja theme (you couldn’t escape it here) we decided to head to head to the hills that surrounded Jaipur and visit Tiger Fort where we could gaze over the city. We negotiated long and hard with the tuk tuk man and headed off out of the city. Half way through I noticed that the fort that we supposedly were heading for was getting further and further away. Upon asking the driver he aid that we were now going to Amber Fort. Astonished and bemused we argued a little until we reached the top of the hill and saw the sight of Amber Fort below us.
We decided at that point that this wasn’t such a bad mistake, if it was one at all!! Amber Fort (pronounced Amer) is the ancient capital of Jaipur state built from 1592 onwards and is a maze of small palaces, audience halls, mosques and private apartments. Until 1980 a goat was sacrificed everyday in one of the temples, since then the goat’s protection league has been very happy. One of the finer structures is the Jai Mandir (Hall of Victory) and is inlaid with many mirrors and beautiful colourful panels. As ever in India a lot of repair work needs to be done but the Fort is an amazing place to walk around and imagine what it was like “back in the day”. We headed back to find our taxi driver and to head back to town but he was gone, his tuk tuk was there (with keys inside) but no driver. We had a spot to eat and a chai and eventually 45 mins later he arrived after falling asleep for nearly 3 hours after dropping us off! The rest of the day was spent back in town and the guesthouse organizing a few things for our next adventure further inland and West towards Pakistan and heading in the direction of Jaisalmer, hopefully so long as the train driver decided that was ok.