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The Pink City
By Mikey
Monday, 6th December 2004 12:16

Jaipur is called the Pink City because it was painted prior to a royal visit some years ago. Since that time it has allegedly been painted a few more times but to me it looked a little bit orange. Of course, we didn't get to see anything at all on the night we arrived as it was dark. We should have arrived at 2pm but our train was running over five hours late by the time we actually got to Jaipur.

Emerging from the station and even while we were still on the platform, auto rickshaw drivers surrounded us and tried to take us to their rickshaws. We just kept repeating to them that we were being met by someone in the hope that they'd give up. It was worth a try. Fortunately for us though Jaipur had a pre-paid rickshaw office that we bumped into by accident. Instead of having to pick an auto and haggle with the driver we paid a very reasonable 27 rupees to get to our hotel. The driver was very chatty and put in a spirited attempt to make us change our minds about our hotel choice, even when we told him we already had a reservation. That didn't endear him to us as he switched tacks and tried to offer his services as a guide for the following day.

The hotel that we chose, Arya Niwas, was perhaps one of the nicest we've had in India. It certainly was cleaner than most and I think that matters more than creature comforts but we had a few of those too. I was worried for a few moments that there wouldn't be a room available because we arrived five hours later than we had said we would be there but there was and we were soon settled in. Just slightly down the road we found an Italian restaurant and had a nice stone baked pizza to give us a rest from Indian food.

In the morning we handed in some laundry and left for a day of exploring before the rickshaw driver returned at 10am as he had said he would. We had tried to tell him the previous night that we didn't want his services but the message didn?t look like it was understood as we headed for our room. Fortunately he was nowhere to be seen as we started walking.

After visiting the post office we ended up at a homeopathic shop to stock up on some vitamin tablets. Whilst we didn't end up with the sort of multi-vitamins that we're used to we did get something that should help keep colds away. From the shop we then walked towards the centre of the Pink City to see what we could see.

Jaipur's roads are a lot wider and straighter than most of the other Indian roads that we've seen. They were no less busy though and we had a long walk through the fumes to get to where we wanted to go - the Palace of Winds. I had expected it to be bigger than it was based on the photos that I'd seen but it was still quite impressive. The palace is a strange, almost triangular looking building nestled amongst many plainer buildings either side. We crossed the road to take some photos and managed to get them but not without some hassle from the shop keepers there. They kept offering us the roof of their shop to use but we knew that to do that meant going through the shop. Even though they kept saying that to use the roof was free, the cynics in us thought that unlikely and so we tried to ignore them.

Just around the corner from there we went into the City Palace for a look around. Part of the palace is still occupied but the rest made for a gentle walk away from the rickshaw drivers. It wasn't long though before we felt really, really tired even though it was only about 2pm. So we decided to take in just one more stop for the day, the observatory. Jai Singh's astronomical masterpiece consists of many sizeable instruments, designed and constructed by Jai himself, used still to pinpoint the location of heavenly bodies. It was an interesting twenty minutes.

We left the observatory and immediately found ourselves in a mass of rickshaw wallahs arguing about who saw us first. We picked an elderly guy partly because he was closest, partly because we thought he could use the money and partly because he proclaimed quite loudly that he knew where "Arya Niwas", our hotel, was. Only the first two proved to be true.

After only a few minutes of hard cycling by the little old man, we stopped to get directions. At least it seemed that way, I couldn't understand the Hindi being spoken but the body language was clear enough. Shortly afterwards we stopped again. The journey back seemed so much longer and more involved than when we had walked out in the morning. Finally we stopped a third time for directions and we began to recognise the surroundings. We got out of the rickshaw and gave the man the amount we had agreed on before setting out. He wasn't too happy with that but then he should perhaps have admitted that he didn't know where our hotel was in the first place.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully except for an interesting delve into a warehouse of silk scarves and pashminas. We ended up there as Claire had asked the man in the shop opposite the hotel if he had a particular item in another colour. After twenty minutes of exploring we left having spent only 200 rupees. The man in the warehouse gave us a look that said that he was used to people buying many thousands of rupees worth of merchandise and a mere 200 rupees was hardly worth the effort.

The following day we got up early and took a taxi up to Amber fort. Rajasthan is full of forts and the one in Jaipur was great fun to wander around. The palace part of the fort was riddled with narrow, twisting passages and we had great fun getting lost there. After we'd had our fill, we jumped back in to the taxi and zoomed back to the hotel in time to pack up and check out. Lucky us, the train was five hours late again!

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