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Monday 29th November - Jaipur
By Claire
Monday, 29th November 2004 11:17

We had breakfast on the lawn this morning, surrounded by chipmonks that look much more like little rats than squirrels. They wouldn't come to me, but were happy to sit round the table legs and wait for crumbs.

We walked into the city and stopped on the way to buy some vitamin tablets and echinacea (which was tiny white beads in ethanol - quite disgusting!) and I had a look in a gem shop but the beads were very expensive. The man did the customary thing of pressing random numbers on his calculator to give the impression of a great discount before pressing the 'clear' button and typing in the price. We left.

After a lot of walking we came to the Palace of the Winds, which is a lovely sandstone building full of windows and carved stone screens. The royal wives used to sit here and watch the world go by without being seen. We had to cross the road to take some photos (lovely reddish stone against a clear blue sky) and the men there all wanted us to go to their roofs to take photos. We automatically refused and the men seemed upset saying that everyone says no, and there would be no cost. He kept repeating that it would be free and I finally explained that nothing is free in India and everyone wants money - the man had the cheek to look hurt.

Jaipur is known as the Pink City because all the stone walls have been painted pink, but to me it all looked rather orange. The streets were a mass of bazaars selling all sorts of goodies, and men called out ridiculously low prices to get us to look. I've got so used to ignoring everyone though, and it seems to work - we were allowed to pass relatively unhindered. One of the streets just sold metal buckets and chains, a bit further down were the spice shops: waist-high hessian sacks of cumin, turmeric, chilli powders and lentils stood on the floor, the necks of the bags rolled down to show the contents, and baskets and bowls with neat pyramids of great-smelling powders were lined up on the counters. Brass scales and piles of weights were dotted around.

We found the City Palace, still used by the Maharaja's family, and had a lovely leisurely walk round. There was pink (orange) painted sandstone and white marble and the largest silver items in the world (two two thousand gallon urns that the Maharaja filled with Ganges water and brought to England when he visited for Edward VII's coronation in 1901 cos he didn't trust London's water). We sat in a cool courtyard for a bit, watching the white-clad, red-turbanned doormen twirling their moustaches and then had a snack in the cafe. A traditionally-dressed man and matching boy, whose outfits actually resembled Austrian dirndl, complete with white hearts cut out of the red dresses, played traditional squeaky instruments and danced. The little boy did all the jerky head bobs and sinuous arm movements that we expected, but surprised us with his dancing eyebrows and cheeky winks. It was very funny, but nice when some of the squeaking music stopped!

Our final port of call today was Jantar Mantar, the observatory. This was a park filled with brick, metal and marble astronomical instruments. It looked like a cross between a modern-art sculpture park and an Escher drawing: huge curved staircases led to nowhere; dips in the ground were made of marble and carved with patterns and lines; giant triangular walls had arches cut out of them, and marble ribbons ran through doorways and along steps for no discernible reason. It was surreal and fun. But we'd had enough of walking so we climbed to the top of the tallest structure, a triangular wall with several rows of steps, windows and marble runways, and took in the view, and then took a rickshaw back to the hotel. The driver didn't know the way but never admitted that, and was surprised when we paid him the amount agreed and no more.

I'm going to have a nap now, because I can, and we'll book a trip to a fort for tomorrow morning, and have something to eat later. That's it, a nice gentle day.

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