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.  It is a luxury by Indian standards 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 standstill.  If they are a little hesitant, then a small shove in the back helps them on their way.   He's also the navigator when necessary to help the driver  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 that both coaches came to a grinding halt with nowhere to go unless one or the other coach driver backed up.  Our plucky driver told the driver of the big bus to back up. ' No way' says the driver of the big bus. 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, and try to save face in the process. 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.  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 very 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 carrying handbags.   I was quite intrigued by them, and had to ask DJ more about this little group.   He said. 'They are born Eunuchs.'  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.  Five minutes 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.   Meanwhile 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 of them off the bus.  The Sheby was becoming quite frustrated and rather tearful - another Mexican standoff.  In a bid to break the deadlock the driver once again made a decision to phone a friend.   His conversation quickly became very animated - I was a little concerned each time he turned around to speak to the Sheby, perhaps he hadn't noticed we were on a busy motorway - he also took his hands off the steering wheel from time to time ( Indians talk with their hands) during this confrontation, which was very scary.  Next thing the driver turns around and passes the phone to the Sheby.   I was bursting with curiosity, I wanted to know what was going on.   DJ was sitting opposite me so I gave him my best puzzled look and that little jerk of the head that I have adopted from the Indians.   DJ leant across and put me out of my misery.  Apparently, the Sheby was upset because she did not understand why they had been made to sit on the back seats, she thought she had booked the front seats.  Obviously not!   Eventually she returned to her seat, but she was most unhappy.
 Our driver decided that it was time for a pit stop.  Rather than use one of the designated stops conveniently placed on our side of the motorway, he chose to stop at one on the opposite side of the motorway - and how do you get across the motorway, 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 enough, it probably is!  The Pit Stop - pretty grim - we have seen some mucky places, but this was special.   Why on earth would you risk life and limb dodging on coming traffic, only to die of bubonic plague is totally beyond me, but this is India nothing quite makes sense.    

 I was wondering as we got back on the bus, if the driver was going to travel back down the motorway and use the same cutting to re-enter the motorway on the opposite side so that we could continue in the right direction.  Nope, once again, maybe for entertainment purposes, we were going to dice with death and travel up the motorway in the wrong direction.  Oh for heaven's sake!!!  However this is where Shotgun excels.   He was perched on the running board and calling the appropriate manoeuvres for the bus driver to cross the  3 lanes of busy traffic and re-enter into the fast approaching traffic on the opposite side, well at least we were now going with the flow of traffic.   Holy shit!  Fred didn't blink for 10mins, his eyes were like saucers - I think he was 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 the 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 had 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, you don't get this sort of experience on a luxury air conditioned coach. 
 We arrived at midday in Jaipur.  Jaipur is the capital of Rajastan it is 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 was in 7th heaven.    Now for the big treat, DJ had bought us tickets to see the latest Bollywood release in the famous Jaipur cinema.

   The vintage deco inside the cinema is splendid, we had the best seats in the house.  When the movie started the locals went nuts.  The hero of the film was very handsome, and very fit.  Within the first 10 minutes he had taken on and disposed of about 50 baddies, he jumped from rooftop to rooftop effortlessly.  With out missing a beat he ripped an electrical cable (not live of course) off the roof and then used this to bungee jump to the ground below and make good his escape! The locals cheered him on enthusiastically.  James  Bond eat your heart out, this boy even 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.    Our wanderings had taken us quite a distance from the Palms Hotel where we were staying, everyone was tired and hungry so it was unanimously decided to take cycle rickshaws back to a restaurant near our hotel.   DJ's choice of drivers turned out to be Kamakazi cyclist 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.  The food 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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