Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
149Trip End Ongoing
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At Pushkar Peter and I parted company, as he was heading directly to Delhi, while I wanted to make a detour to see the Taj Mahal. I left late in the morning for a quick 13km spin to the next town, Ajmer
The Jain temple was properly extraordinary. From outside it was just a large, red sandstone temple, but inside was depicted, in gold sculptures occupying a room the size of a sportshall, the principal legend of the Jain religion and the structure of their mythical cosmology. This involved flying boats in the shape of swans, the disc of the universe with concentric rings showing the 14?oceans and 10ish worlds (exact figures not available at this time, cosmological details not guaranteed), with the olympus-stylee mountain in the centre where the gods live. The models were both intricate and enormous, with fine details on grand palaces, processions of hundreds of figures including human/animal hybrids, elephants with multiple trunks, people with multiple limbs, everything Terry Pratchett thought he made up, and all in gold, or possibly covered in gold leaf, I'm not an expert, but very very shiny.
My next stop on the way to Agra was Jaipur, Rajasthan's administrative capital which I'd been advised by everyone I met to avoid on grounds of traffic, pollution and absence of tourist appeal
Jaipur's best tourist attraction was the observatory of Jai Singh (mebbe. one of that crew anyway). I was expecting something resembling a science lab, perhaps strewn with cast-iron contraptions, rudimentary sextants and early telescopes. What I found was an open field of giant brick structures, each built for a specific purpose. Among them were a series of identical sundialesq structures all of which gave exactly the same information, but at different times of year. Possibly the worlds largest sundial was the main attraction, casting a long enough shadow that you could just about discern it's movement.
The hassle in Jaipur was at a tolerable level, but took a form that I hadn't encountered anywhere else. Three times while walking the streets I was accosted by a stranger asking
-can you stop for a minute?
me- Sorry, I'm in a hurry
-Why don't you want to talk to me?
me- Because you're a stranger accosting me in a strange town on a dark street, where you were loitering for the purpose
- (mock-offended becoming aggressive) Why don't you want to talk to Indians? Why did you come to India?
I rejected "because it's on my way to Australia", which would prolong the conversation, and the more confrontational and mocking "Oh yes! I'd forgotten! I came to India to talk to you! 7000km I've cycled, just to reach this stretch of mud between my hotel and the lassi stall and hear about your brothers 'goodpricegemshop'". In the end I settled for vague mumbling while walking away.