Pink Bits?

Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
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Trip End Ongoing


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Monday, January 23, 2006

The night train from Bikaner was absolutely freezing and the snoring seemed to be louder, consequently neither of us slept well and were not about to put up with any shifty rickshaw drivers on arrival in Jaipur. But for once we received very unusual treat. Our rickshaw driver guessed where we wanted to go so took us directly to our chosen hotel and didn't even charge us commission! Bargain. We knew what to expect from the hotel so forked out a little more for hot water. Not too bad I suppose.

Most people we'd spoken hadn't liked Jaipur so we weren't too sure what to expect. There are a few things to see though, City Palace, Jantar Mantar and some forts. Shopping is supposed to be good here too (not that I've actually got around to doing any!).

First stop was City Palace. I was expecting a palace or fort type building similar to those we'd seen before. Silly really. It wasn't and I wasn't impressed. It was built around the late 19th century with additions dating right up until the early 20th century. The actual palace area is huge and they've only opened a very small section to the public in the way of museums. I didn't find the actual buildings very interesting at all. There is a textiles museum, an armoury museum, some art and some carriages. There is a nice courtyard which houses two huge silver urns which Maharaja Madho Singh II used to fill with water from the sacred Ganges river to take with him on trips away (eg. England) so that he could perform ritual bathing after having to meet with non-Hindus. They are massive and said to weigh over 300kg each! But I didn't think the complex was that great. The ticket , however, would allow us free entry into Jaigarh Fort tomorrow.

Jaipur doesn't seem like such a bad place so far. Just big and busy and dirty, much like a lot of Indian cities. We hadn't seen too many pink bits though.

Next day we caught a bus to see Amber Fort (pronounced Amer). Some say this is the best fort in Rajasthan. We'll be the judge of that!!

The actual city of Amber has been around for a very long time and was the old capital until 1727 when it was moved to Jaipur. There has supposedly been Hindu temples there since the 10th century. The actual fort can be seen from miles away as it's conveniently located on a hill and has been around since the 16th century. It's a great place to wander around and has some beautiful rooms although I didn't think it was the best I've seen. There was, however, a stunning mirrored palace called 'Shish Mahal'. Just lovely. It's located in a cool (as in not hot) marble courtyard with a lovely sculpted garden area. We did our usual thing though and left all the other tourists to explore the less populated areas. There were loads of empty rooms and a warren of passages and stairways to run around. The views were spectacular!

The ticket that had gained us entry yesterday into City Palace would now allow us to see Jaigarh Fort as well. We slowly walked up the steep path - great for keeping other tourists away! I actually enjoyed this place a lot more than Amber Fort. It seemed less touristy and there were less people. There were some great displays with traditionally dressed dummies showing old ways of life and some really old cannons. It was built a long time after Amber (1726) and was never captured, therefore survived virtually intact. It's a great place to explore. There is an old cannon foundry where you can see the pit where the barrels were cast. It also houses Jai Bai, the largest cannon on wheels in the world!!! The views from the top are fantastic! We could just make out colourful elephants bringing lazy-ass tourists up the hill to Amber.

The day turned sour though when a bike decided to ride into me and scraped the skin from my forearm. Bloody hurt!!!

Our last day was spent at Jantar Mantar, a huge outdoor observatory built by Jai Singh in the 1700's. Each massive instrument has a specific purpose (like finding the altitudes of the celestial bodies and other things I don't understand), and for Hindus, horoscopes play a very important part in the selection of marriage partners. There is an enormous sundial that can tell the time accurate to 2 seconds! David was most impressed with two cats joining their furry celestial bodies underneath the big sundial. Needless to say they attracted an audience, but the poor tom cat never reached his goal. His lady-friend got stage fright and ran off through a hole in the wall with him in close pursuit! How entertaining and all for 50 rupees!!

I wanted to see the Iswari Minar Swarga Sal Minaret which was built the son of Jai Singh. He disgraced himself by committing suicide rather than facing an advancing army. Rumours has it that 21 wives and concubines committed sati (throwing themselves onto his burning funeral pyre)!! Brilliant views from the top.

That was it. We had both enjoyed the fabled Pink City. It's not pink though, might have been once but there's too much pollution covering it up now. We also bought some very tasty (and cheap) peanut brittle there!!
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