Groups of tents form across the side of the road, located in front of three story concrete apartment buildings and next to rubbish piles. Small wafts of smoke spiral in to the air, leading up to large billboards advertising fine living, as groups of people cluster around a small fire for warmth below. Driving into Jaipur is the first time I can blatantly witness the distinct ends of the poverty spectrum. In the dark of the night, this moment soon passes as we enter the busier streets of the Jaipur centre but this contrasting images remains with me.
We tell Mr Singh that we are most interested in visiting the Nehru Bazaar at this time. Although he seems to think it is bad timing for this marketplace, we convince him otherwise and he drops us off as close as he can drive, a few streets away.
There is something about this marketplace that attracts me. I might go as far as to say it is my favourite market in all my travels. I can’t fully put my finger on why, but the vibe, the sales’ items and the sales people just make the place.. or maybe I was just impressed with the Spanish of one of the salesmen.
I make two satisfying clothing purchases and hold two friendly conversations with the salesmen in the material shop. One whose name I believe to be Iam, firstly explains to me the history of the bracelets he is trying to sell (but respects my rejection) and then explains that his English education has come solely from customer interaction. The second conversation I hold briefly in Spanish, learning that this salesman has studied in Spain for six months.
(In the midst of the market with Lucy and Allira.)
For dinner we find a Lonely Planet recommendation at a rooftop restaurant called Ganesh Restaurant, nestled within the Nehru Bazaar. This food comes close to the delectability of our first lunch in New Delhi. In fact, we like the food here so much we return for dinner the next day.
(Our second day is spent in the neighbouring town of Pushkar. Refer to Peaceful Pushkar.)
On our second visit to the restaurant, we walk on to the rooftop and are greeted by a small warm bonfire. The night temperature reaches about 12 degrees so any form of warmth is welcomed. Hovering around the fireplace we noticed a large camera and an apparent reporter who tells us he will take photos for the local newspaper. We are disbelieving of his credibility but pose anyway and what do you know, the next day we find ourselves on page seven of the local paper, Rajasthan Patrika.
The two lines accompanying our picture on the right, highlight that even tourists find the weather cold.
Having spent two nights at Hotel Umaid Bhawan in Jaipur, it is on our final day that we properly explore the riches of this town.
We start off the morning in our mini bus and head 11km north to the Amber Fort. To put it into perspective, the construction of the Amber Fort was overseen by Maharaja Man Singh, a commander of Akbar’s army. (It was Akbar’s city we stopped by yesterday.)
We opt for the elephant ride up the mountain and join the long morning queue with the salesmen roaming between all us tourists. Lucy and I pair for our ride and power up the hill, with each stomp of the elephant giving us a better view of the town below and bringing us closer to the Fort. Arriving 15 minutes later to the sound of beating drums and music we disembark from our elephant and explore the Fort.
(Photo credits to Matthew Blake)
This is the first place that has a student discount. I just wish I had brought my uni card! But with some clever manoeuvring in the queue we get all pass through on student price.
Walking through the gates we arrive at the mirror palace, also known as the Sheesh Mahal. Mirrors glitter across the ceiling and wall and our guide jokes that the husbands of today who sensibly maintain one single wife, can visit this palace and see hundreds of wives reflect out of all the mirrors.
We continue on and I look out the window where the wives would wait for the return of their husbands.
We explore the Maharaja’s apartments, where his favourite 12 wives each have an apartment.
(Photo credits to Patrick McElhone)
We stand on the platform where the Maharaja would call out to one of his favourite wife.
And we finally sit and relax in the Baradhari pavilion, where the Mahajara would meet with his wives.
Before I explain the wonders of the new city, once we have headed back in to town, I want to clarify the different between a Raja and a Maharaja, whose names confusingly intertwine wherever I go. Pretty much they are both Kings, but a Maharaja ranks higher than a Raja.
Exploring the new city is a little difficult, mostly on own my part. The stamina of these girls i’m travelling with is simply incredible, but I think exhaustion is hitting all of us. I mean we seem to be on the go all the time, with new sites to see and people to meet there’s plenty to keep us occupied and plenty to tire us out. But we proceed on, knowing in a few hours we will be able to rest on a plane ride down to the South of India.
Our guide takes us to a science observatory park, called Jantar Mantar (calculation instrument), which in itself is pretty amazing.
Jantar Mantar holds a collection of time telling gadgets, horoscope predictions and foretelling star locations. My guide was explaining the importance of horoscope predictions to the individual citizen, saying he had the prediction of the birth of his two sons come true.
While we were ambling through the instruments, a school class approaches a few of us and presents us with cards and drawings they had completed themselves. In unison they also say: “We love mathematics”. A proud opinion they wish to share with us.
From the observatory we head over to the Hawa Mahal. This tall pink structure was built to allows the wives of the Maharaja to be closer to the bustle of the city life when they wanted to escape the confinement of their Fort. I enjoy peeking my head out of the many windows in the building mostly because of the view provided of the city. Looking down on to the bustling road, and hearing the many bikes and horns go off, it reminds me a little of the streets of Saigon.
This is our last adventure for the North of India, as we hop into our mini bus and head to the airport. We bid farewell to our driver Mr Singh and his companion, Bhupi. We give them a tip of 1000 rupees each, a burden that had been hovering over us for this last day. But finally relieved of the tipping expectation we go through security and fly out to Bangalore.