Introduction to Jaipur

The day started at 4am with a quick get up and rush to the airport bus. Bangalore was still sleeping, and even food point was closed as we got the bus at 5am. We got to the airport at around 6.30 ready for breakfast, and first went to Chai Point which is a chain of tea shops. We both got chai and regretted it because it wasn’t very nice! We also got a wrap for breakfast from Kaati Zone, and a dog came over to stare at us until we finished it.

Finally it was time to check in so we showed our ID and passport to the guard on the door and checked in at the desk. Going through security there was a separate men’s and women’s line, with the women’s line having a little screen around it to shield the frisking from prying eyes.

The plane was smaller than I’ve flown on before, and the card in the seat pocket informed us that it was an Estraer 190. Of course Sellappan slept a bit, and we landed in Jaipur after about two hours in the air, and took a taxi to the guesthouse. The pilot had announced that the temperature in the ground was thirtenneny degrees, so we debated for a while whether it was thirty or thirteen – it turned out to be thirteen! The guesthouse, Prem Abilasha, was very nice and the hosts were welcoming, and I took a quick nap while Sellappan made taxi arrangements for the afternoon.

Our driver, Hafez, arrived at two and we piled into the car for a day of sightseeing, but started with lunch. We stopped at a hotel called LMB which seemed to be the centre of the universe.  The managers strode around the place instructing their underlings in every detail. The place had a very smart feel with lots of very polite waiters dressed in pristine khaki and calling me madam. The food was good, and we stocked up well to fuel us for the day. We drove through the bustling Pink City (Which is more terracotta, with white detailling) to the Jantar Mantar.

The Jantar Mantar is a world heritage site and consists of a huge set of astronomical instruments up to 90ft tall with strange angles, measures and staircases twisting around them, and arches carved out of the structures. The place was used mainly for astrology and telling the time, and has a sundial which is accurate to 15 seconds, if you know how to read it. We took a few snaps and dodged the unintentional photobombers forms while before jumping back into the cab for the next sight, the City Palace, which was very close by.

We spent some time touring the palace, with notable highlights including a different type of monkey, going in the out doors and being chased out of the armoury by the museum workers whose attitude to closing time was to turn off the lights and chivvy everyone out very firmly. Inside the museum had been a great deal of guns – some of them about 10 feet long, as well as nasty-looking curved swords and knives. On the way out of the complex we stuck our heads into a shoe shop, where the salesman tried to sell me a pair of shoes that I didn’t want for 650 rupees. The further we walked away the lower the price got, until he was finally offering them for 200. Shame I still didn’t want the things! I did get a scarf for our impending mosque trip in Ajmer, though.

We took a quick snap outside the Albert Hall, and swiftly moved on. Due to time constraints, we didn’t actually go into the Hawa Mahal, a palace on a main road which looks like stacks of windows and arches piled on top of one another. Hafez paused for us to get out and take a picture, and we were immediately approached by a chap on the pavement who was inviting us to his balcony to take a nice picture for free! I wasn’t convinced about the free part, but Sellappan was keen on getting his picture so we went up the staircase and got our picture. Then the catch came – come into my shop! We managed to escape the sales pitch, hopping down the stairs as jumping back into the cab.

The next stop was the Birlamandir, a Shiva temple, perched on the side of a hill and made entirely of white marble. The sun bounced around the place as it was going down, and we took a little time to take it in and take pictures of course. Finally, Hafez took us to a fabric shop where purchases of Rajasthani goodies were made for folks back home.

Our entertainment for the evening was Chockhi Dhani, a purpose-built resort which is set up like a traditional Rajasthani village. We left our shopping in the car and cut through the crowd to the entrance, past a wall full of candles in holes in the walls, and into the resort. Dinner was included in our ticket prices, as well as a drink on arrival and entertainment, fairground games and shops were spread around the complex.

The entertainment included a bird astrologer, a tightrope walker, a puppet show, musicians, magicians making pigeons appear from nowhere, a balancing act, dancers balancing stacks of pots on their heads, and a potter who helped you spin a clay pot. That’s without the henna, camel and elephant rides, bull cart rides and photo opportunities with props.

I’m sure that the money is made in the shopping though, and Sellappan shopped until he almost dropped, getting gifts for everyone, and I picked up a few things too. The night ended with a never ending series of dishes from the outdoor restaurant and a climb up a watchtower to see the view.

Hafez picked us up and took us back to the guesthouse for a much-needed rest, with the promise to pick us up at half past nine the next morning – what a luxurious lie in!

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