Trip Start Sep 02, 2012
Trip End Oct 10, 2012

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Where I stayed
The Hotel Palms
What I did
Amber (Amer) Fort and Palace Jaipur
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Friday, September 14, 2012

This morning we were picked up outside the Kishan Palace by luxury coach which, by Indian standards, is a luxury not to have to fight your way through crowds of people to catch a bus.  Our coach might be small but it's functional, just like the little guy riding shotgun for the driver. This guy makes multi tasking look like a walk in the park.  He not only looks after the luggage, he checks the tickets, he ejects passengers at their designated stops - sometimes this is done without the bus actually coming to a complete stop, if they are a little hesitant then a small shove helps them on their way.  He's also the navigator when we traverse difficult road conditions. In fact there is no end to this man's skills.
  Our first close encounter came as we descended a very windy road on our way to Agmer. Another rather large coach went too wide on the bend, which meant we both came to a grinding halt with nowhere to go if one or the other didn't back up. Our plucky driver told the driver of the big bus to back up." No way" says the big bus driver. It was a Mexican stand off.  Meanwhile smaller traffic was able to pass on the inside, but the larger vehicles were now queuing behind the big bus and tempers were starting to fray. Our driver then phoned a friend, and when he finished the call he made the decision to reverse back as little as possible, the upshot being that when the two buses actually passed, I swear you could not have separated them with a sheet of paper. Crisis avoided we carry on. Phew!
  We made some very bizarre stops to pick up passengers, one of which was in the middle of the motorway. We also picked up some unusual passengers.  I refer to the 6 Shebies. These were clearly men, they were not wearing women's clothes but they were wearing make-up, nail varnish, scarves and handbags.  I was quite intrigued by them and had to ask DJ more about this little group.  He said 'they are born eunochs', I said, 'we call them trannies'.  But he was most insistent that they were born that way.  Anyway they all piled on and were sent down the back of the bus by Shotgun.  5 mins later, what appeared to be the spokesperson for the group, came up to the front of the bus to speak to Shotgun.  The Sheby appeared to be most upset. She kept going in and out of her pink sparkly purse and producing a pink slip of paper whilst Shotgun was standing his ground and shaking his head.  I was beginning to feel that perhaps they hadn't bought enough tickets and that Shotgun was going to evict one off the bus.  The Sheby was becoming a bit tearful and next minute the driver phones a friend.  His conversation becomes very animated - I'm a little concerned as he turns around to look at the Sheby several times, even though we are on a busy motorway - he also takes his hands off the steering wheel from time to time ( Indians talk with their hands) during the conversation, which is very scary. Next thing the driver turns around and passes the phone to the Sheby.  I am bursting with curiosity, I want to know what's going on.  DJ is sitting opposite me so I give him my best puzzled look and that little jerk of the head that I have adopted from the Indians.  DJ leans across and puts me out of my misery.  Apparently, the Sheby is upset because she does not understand why they have been made to sit on the back seats as she thought she had booked the front seats.  Eventually she returned to her seat, but she was most unhappy.
  The driver decided that it was time for a pit stop.  Rather than use one conveniently placed on our side of the motorway, he chose to stop at one on the opposite side - and how do you get to that?  Well you just turn at the next opening, and drive up the motorway the wrong way of course - too easy!   I seriously could not believe my eyes.  There were bloody great trucks bearing down on us in all 3 lanes - complete madness!!!   Weirdly enough, no one blew their horn, it was almost like an everyday occurrence - and scarily, probably is!  The Pit Stop - pretty grim - we have seen some mucky places, but this was special.  We all get back on the bus and I am wondering if the driver will travel back down the motorway and use the same cutting to re-enter the motorway to continue in the right direction.  Nope. Once again, maybe for entertainment purposes, we are going to dice with death and travel up the motorway in the wrong direction to find a cutting to re-enter the motorway so we can continue in the right direction.  Oh for god's sake!!!  This is where Shotgun excels.  He's on the running board and calling the manoeuvres.  He manages to get us across the 3 lanes of busy traffic and re-enter into the fast approaching traffic.  Holy shit!  Fred hasn't blinked for 10mins - I think he's in a state of shock.  It's perfectly OK for the Indians to take these risks with their lives, because their religions tell them they will be going to a better life when they depart this one.  Unfortunately, if you don't happen to subscribe to that belief, then you tend to be a bit more cautious, and don't blatantly drive up a motorway the wrong way!   
  I forgot to mention there is a section in the front of the bus that is petitioned off, it's where the driver and Shotgun sit.  I didn't take much notice when the first couple of people sat in there, but it gradually started filling up - I have no idea what they were sitting on.  Eventually the only seat left on the bus was on the driver's lap and given half a chance Shotgun would have sold that as well.  I also found out a little bit more about the Shebies.  Apparently they are in great demand as entertainers, particularly at weddings, as women are not permitted to dance in public.  Another interesting journey. 
  Arrive midday in Jaipur.  Jaipur is the capital of Rajastan or referred to as the Pink City.  Pink is regarded as a colour of welcome, and in honour of the visit of Prince Albert of Wales in 1853, the Maharaja Man Singh 11 painted the city pink - a bit extreme, but rather pretty.  After a quick shower and a bite to eat we joined DJ for a taste of the local lassi, which is served in a clay cone.  It was delicious, Doris is in 7th heaven.  Now for the big treat - going to see the latest Bollywood release in the famous Jaipur cinema.  The vintage deco inside the cinema is splendid, we have the best seats in the house. The movie starts and the locals go nuts.  Our hero is very handsome and very fit and in the first 10 mins he has taken on and disposed of about 50 baddies, he's jumped from rooftop to rooftop effortlessly and then he's bungee jumped to the ground with an electrical cable that he's ripped off the roof and makes good his escape! The locals cheer him on enthusiastically.  Bond eat your heart out, this boy does his own stunts.  To finish the scene he gives us his best smouldering look.  What a man!   It was my first Bollywood film and I loved it -  couldn't help cheering along with the locals.  Oh and I forgot to mention the singing and dancing - these films always include at least 3 or 4 big song and dance numbers.  I'm hooked, the Indian pop music is dead groovey.
  After the cinema we went on an orientation walk that lasted a little bit longer than we anticipated.  Jaipur is like the other big cities that we have visited, noisy, dirty, smelly, crowded and very busy.  Not one of our favourites.  DJ organised some cycle rickshaws to take us back nearer to our hotel, The Palms, so that we could have dinner.  His choice of drivers turn out to be Kamakazi drivers just like the nutters who took us to the station in Udaipur, only this time they were using pedal power.  Our cyclist only had full use of one leg - hard to imagine that you earn your livelyhood as a cyclo driver with only one good leg - poor bugger.  Right!  I want you to picture this:  it's rush hour in downtown Jaipur, the roads are jam packed with every conceivable mode of transport, our cycle rickshaws don't have lights and our driver is trying to pass his mates and performing all sorts of hairy manoeuvres.  I asked him if they were trying to race each other - a big grin spread across his face as he nodded yes.  As it happens he came in second - not bad for a one-legged cyclo driver!   During the ride I did notice Fred's knuckles had turned white, and when we reached our destination, we had to prise his fingers open so that we could leave the rickshaw.  Anyone would think we had a death wish!
  Dinner was possibly the best dinner so far.  We went to quite a famous Tandoori restaurant which was beautifully cooked and presented.  It was a little bit more expensive than we have been paying, but well worth it.  Another day done, I'm ready for bed.   

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