Finding Our Feet

Trip Start Aug 28, 2012
Trip End Aug 09, 2013

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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Friday, August 31, 2012

31st Aug-2nd Sept – Jaipur

As normal food seems to be rather a novelty here, I was rather excited when we had egg for breakfast; and a banana: Very happy! We got on the road for Pushkar at about 8:30 and were soon arriving in Fatephur to see the gigantic ancient city of Fatephur Sikri which was the short-lived capital of Mughal in the 1500s.  The site also included a stunning mosque called Jama Masjid which was completed in 1571. 

Om wasn't allowed to drive us to the site; we could only get a sort of local shuttle.  As always, Om continued to give us good advice, warning us about the numerous people who would offer us tours and lifts or information about the site and said get the bus which is simply 5 Rupees (~6p!).  As we were the only ones waiting, no one would drive a bus from around the corner to take us to the city; they had to wait until the journey was worth their while.  We ended up waiting for 15 minutes until we were allowed on the bus because about 50 Americans had descended on the site, all of whom were dressed in anything but appropriate in terms of being covered up; they obviously had not read their lonely planet!

We paid 250 IR each to enter (~3) and after being told we couldn’t walk in one direction and ignoring them (another thing Om told us to do), we made our way around the city, which was still in very good condition considering it was built in early 16th century.  Whether the gardens were maintained or in full flourish because of the monsoon season, they were so lush and green.  The rest of the ancient city was lovely to look at and just aimlessly wander around.  After realising we didn’t really know how to get to the mosque, we asked the Americans tour guide who said we needed to go out of the city to do so.  We did as we were directed with the question lingering in our minds, that 'without a tour guide, are we going to be allowed back in?’

The Mosque was breathtaking, and also a breath of fresh air as it was full of locals!  It consisted of an open square in the middle with open walk ways all the way around.  This is where the locals were sitting, just having their fly infested lunches and enjoying their day (not sure why so many are not in work though!).  Obviously, as we walked around we got our normal stares, children waving at us, and people pointing at my face (I’m assuming my eyes?!).

On the way back to the car, we had to walk past numerous shops with a lot of people bothering us to "come see my shop, number 28, 28!"  We realised we needed more trousers and opted for the Punjabi look; Laura getting some camel ones and me getting some maroon sort of patterned ones, for 150 IR (about 2) each!  Bartered them down from 600 IR for one pair!  Job well done.

Then off we set to Pushkar, napping quite a lot on the way, of course seeing a lot more cows in the middle of the road and getting in the way and also a lot of bumps.  After about 5 hours of driving, we came face to face with a massive queue, so Om, rather than doing what most would do i.e. sitting in the queue, or what some would do, i.e. turning around, he drove onto the wrong side of the road.  This however, didn’t seem that unusual as of the 6 lanes over both sides of the road for both directions, 5 of them were taken with traffic going in the direction we were headed.  So we were driving in the one empty lane, on the wrong side of the road, with traffic coming towards us; interesting experience!  After concluding there was no way in which we were going to get to Pushkar, we did in the end turn around and go back to Jaipur (where we’d just been through) and just changed our plans a bit. 

On our way around the city to our hotel, Om spotted a local celebrity; the Olympic woman’s shot-put thrower.  So we encouraged him to chase her so he as well as we could get her autograph.  Conveniently the traffic lights show a timer on them, and luckily we pulled up right next to her and had 33 seconds to get 2 autographs.  A very happy Om.  But this was soon ruined by the police.  As we turned a corner we got pulled over by a traffic policeman.  He started to question Om about not wearing his uniform and said he would need to give over his ID for the charge to be confirmed and he could pick up his ID later in the week.  The officer had obviously seen from the number plate that Om was not from Rajasthan, but from Delhi so would not be able to pick up his ID.  So the only way in which Om could do anything about it, and obviously this is what the policeman wanted, was for Om to pay him 200IR simply for the fake crime of “not having a uniform on”.  CORRUPT POLICE!!!

A little bit disheartened by the local law enforcers, we checked into Rajputana Hotel, a hotel with unbelievably beautiful ceilings and chandeliers as well as wifi in the reception and just warm enough water to have a nice shower.  We had our normal quick dinner and just chilled in our room and did our first lot of washing as we were staying more than 1 night.  Laura had bought these paper slips of washing powder that you mix with water and do your laundry.  This however proved rather difficult due to the fact the sink had no plug, so a sock would suffice.    We went to bed thinking about exploring Jaipur; our first more than 1 night stop – room will soon be a mess!

The next morning, we got a lie in until 8 which was followed by a rather boring breakfast.  But the days events started well with a trip to Amber Fort where we would get an elephant ride to the top.  As normal, Om reminded us about the con artists in the area and that on the way to the fort, many people will offer to take your photo!  As we got onto the elephant from a heightened platform, we soon realised that we were not going to get a picture of either of us on an elephant, so for once ignored Om’s advice and got some pictures, supposedly 1 for 50IR (we later got all 4 but for 100IR which we were happy with).

The sites on the ride up to the fort were amazing, and even more so when in the fort.  And the fort itself was amazing.  Me and Laura became like children again, more or less exploring every stairwell and corner of the fort, thinking we’d reach somewhere no one else had, then bumping into someone.  Two women tried to con us out of 100IR for a photo with them; I gave them 5 which they seemed very unhappy with but our attitude was we didn’t have to give them anything!  On the walk back down we passed through some stunning gardens.

We then went to the Tiger Fort also known as Nahargarh Fort; not as stunning as the Amber fort but as it’s an 8km drive up from the city, the views are stunning and we got a proper idea of the vast size of Jaipur.  We then went to a fabric factory where we saw the delicacy and precision that goes into material printing, and got to have a go ourselves.  We then (of course) were taken to their shop where we were taught how to put on a sari as well as trying on one each, and then had a discussion about schooling.  They all have to pay to go to school here, about 3000IR (~30) a month – to them obviously quite a lot – this is why most don’t go to school at all or only do up until preschool.

We had been mentioning to Om since the start that we didn’t want to eat in all the fancy touristy places and that we wanted to go somewhere more local, and he finally listened to us and took as to a little less touristy place for lunch.  The prices were more what we were expecting and the restaurant was filled with Indians, most of whom are probably tourists from the south, and all of whom started at us for most of our meal!  After we made a detour for me to get some henna :), feeling lazy we went and chilled in the hotel for an hourish, then started our great adventure...

We took off the training wheels and were dropped in the “Pink City”, i.e. the Old City centre.  Of course we were dropped off on a tourist street, but soon found our legs and ventured into the real India, WITHOUT Om!  Here we saw the actual shops where women buy their saris from, at a fraction of the price we’d been offered, spice markets, fruit and veg markets, school children, goats on motorbikes, sugar cane being processed, of course cows and the cutest boy who continuously said “hello!” to us.  Along the way someone also stroked my arm, a lady pulled my plait and congratulated me on how well it was done and someone pretended to spit at me.  All in a days adventure!

After a few hours of venturing out by ourselves we found our footing and asked to be taken to our choice for dinner, the Peacock Rooftop Restaurant at Pearl Palace Hotel.  An obvious backpacker’s hotel that we probably would have ended up at if we had not booked the tour but it is ruined by a massive big screen TV (becoming my dad!).  The food was a very good price and very tasty.  We got our first Indian pudding, which even for me was too sweet: Shocker!  

A really good day of breaking out of the constrictions of our tour and doing what we want.  I have decided I want a sari... the true representation of India and a great momentum that I will definitely make use of... but how to fit it into my already stuffed luggage?! I’ll work that out tomorrow!

The next day started with an even longer lie in, breakfast and then were driven back to Jaipur centre at 10am and dropped off at The City Palace.  Because we had already bought a multiple entry ticket to all other tourist hot spots in Jaipur, we decided not to pay the additional fee to get into the Palace; however we did manage to walk quite far in without paying anything or being questioned, so managed to see a fair amount!

We went straight to Jantar Mantar which is a geeky scientists dream and would have Irene (our Physicist at school) running around like a kid again, all excited.  However, as biologists who avoid physics at every possibility, we didn’t really understand that much of it!  The whole site was massive shapes and structures used to measured physics stuff: a lot about longitude and latitude and degrees in 6s into 4s into 2s and minutes and seconds and hours to tell the time, where the constellations were, the zodiac signs, etc :S  There was a ginormous sun dial that was pretty cool though that even we understood.  However, the kids walking around probably just saw pretty shapes, which is more or less our understanding of the whole place!

When back in the streets it started to rain so we ran under a bridge for some shelter, joining about 20 locals including some police officers who all found us a very interesting sight, which they simply just watched!  The bit of rain was a rather nice refreshment and kept us a bit cooler for the next few minutes because of our wet clothes.  Once the rain had stopped, everyone spilled back out onto the streets and on we went to Hawa Mahal, also known as the Temple of the Winds or the Looking Place.  During festival times, the woman of the palace were not allowed out, so they went into this building which has “peek” holes so they could see the street and festival below.  It was stunning and we could see it from behind when we were in Janter Mantar.

We then went for another bit of a wander around the streets of Jaipur.  I was on the lookout for a sari but as we didn’t go down many of the side streets, it was unlikely I would find one at a good price.  Laura copied my baggy, local trousers idea and found some similar trousers whilst I later found I had ripped a hole in the crotch (made good use of Laura’s sewing kit in the evening).  We went to LMB hotel for lunch after deciding that the original place we were going to go to was a bit to “authentic” for our liking!  LMB was lovely, obviously just for tourists but good food and for once, we ate a bit more than one dish and a naan!

We then wandered down to Jaipur Gardens and towards Albert Hall where we were being picked up.  After a bit of a panic that we’d gone completely to the wrong place and were in fact in the museum rather than Albert Hall, it turned out they were both in the same building! We did go in Albert Hall, but by this point the heat of the day was at its peak, so our tour simply consisted of running from fan to fan, and looking at whatever happened to be in front or behind the fan.  It turned out to be quite a good way of looking round the area as they had a lot of fans.  We didn’t really have time to appreciate the amazing things inside as it felt like we were melting, but saw some stunning pots and armour.

We were picked up and off we went to Pushkar, about a 3 hour drive.  For the last part of the drive we drove into a thunderstorm which persisted to get worse until we were attempting to drive through massive puddles in order to get to our hotel.  If the rain continued and these puddles got any bigger we may not be leaving Pushkar (which would be bad as our train is on the 4th to Jaisalmer...). 

We were in Hotel New Park which has a SWIMMING POOL and is situated around the hills of a quaint, small town.  We took the evening to chill out, use the wifi and eat in the hotel restaurant.  We will definitely be using the swimming pool tomorrow unless the weather causes us to feel like we’re in a swimming pool anyway!
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Nicholas Lees on

wish i was with you! X

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