Jessica’s Jaipur: I liked Jaipur because it was less stinky than Delhi and we went to lots of interesting places. Me and Elliot especially liked the parks because we could play things like being jungle animals because there were trees and Narnia because there was a lamp post. We had a nicer hotel which I liked especially because there was a rooftop restaurant were we had some naughty breakfasts (chocolatey pancakes and waffles) and also there was a bench swing. Elliot opened a complicated padlock in someone’s pottery shop in a Hindu temple (see below), and won a greeny black little elephant and my gift was a wooden camel with a large hump with holes in it on a keyring. I took lots of pictures in Amber Fort and Jaigarh Fort on my camera because it was very interesting.
On arriving in at the train station (and not quite the right one at that – we should have alighted at the next stop 3 minutes away and closer to our hotel), the first thing we needed to do was find an ATM as we had no cash left. Ignoring all the people offering us rides, we navigated our way to the main road where google maps showed a number of ATMs. A stop at the nearby Shree Gangour Sweets, a very spacious and tidy juice/sweets bar nearby, allowed us all to cool off and have a drink whilst ordering and waiting for our taxi.
The taxi ride was really comfortable and dropped us at out new home for the next few days, the Kalyan Hotel. The room here was infinitely better than its predecessor – much cleaner and with a good hot shower! This hotel has a rooftop dining area – a very pleasant spot to eat (vegetarian), drink (no alcohol) and relax.
In Jaipur we have exclusively eaten vegetarian, and it has all been good. The kids are doing really well with trying new foods, and even coping with a bit of spice. You ask for ‘not spicey’ food for the kids, but it still contains a little heat! It’s surprising how quickly our expectations have adjusted, and now a meal is deemed expensive if it’s more than about £3 per person!
Jaipur was another sightseeing stop for us (it being part of the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra) and so these were a hectic few days although we did manage a day-off, spending most of this in an around Central Park. The tuk-tuk drivers can’t seem to understand that we want to walk to places and not just whizz by everything going from A to B. The prices drop from 100 down to 20 rupees pretty quickly as we ignore them, but we persist and as a result have wandered down streets that are well off the beaten track – though we have never felt unsafe, or unwelcome doing this.
City Palace At the heart of the so called Pink City of Jaipur, this palace contains a vast number of amazing courtyards and residences and a number of exhibitions (textiles, painting and photography, armoury), of which Jessica could have spent hours wandering through (needing to read every word). We had to rush her through about half of the photographic section otherwise we’d have seen nothing else before the place closed!
Jantar Mantar, located just outside of the City Palace, is a collection of huge astronomical observing instruments built during the first half of the 16th Century. This was very impressive and interesting. A short video in English (in a lovely air conditioned room) provided some respite from the heat in addition to useful information on how some of the instruments worked. The Samrat Yantra, below right, is the worlds largest sundial with a shadow that moves at ~1mm per second.
A visit to the Amber Fort is a must when visiting Jaipur and this was our main objective for the next day. On approaching the fort, we asked our rickshaw driver to made a quick stop for photos. Here we came across our first (& hopefully last) snake charmer, charming a black cobra which he kept in a very small wicker basket. It was a bizarre sight and an awful sound!
There’s quite a hill to climb to get up the fort, which we opted to do on foot though there were people going up on on the backs of very colourfully decorated elephants which was quite a sight. At the booking office, we hired an official guide for a change. He quickly developed a rapport with Elliot who then bombarded him with questions throughout the tour. Our guide was very knowledgeable and made the visit far more interesting – especially for the kids who would otherwise have got bored.
At the end of the tour, we paid off the guide and headed up the old access tunnel and path (about a kilometre or so uphill) to the much larger Jaigarh Fort which was built to protect Amber Fort from attack.
We kept attracting ‘guides’ here, staff who wanted to show us around and tell us about the place, for a small fee. For the hundred or so rupees this was usually worth it – it’s very impressive, in the same style as the Amber Fort and well maintained. The fort has a total length of about 3km and in addition to a cannon foundry for which it is famous, it contains many courtyards and residences and even some well maintained gardens. From one of the guard towers we caught a glimpse of a tiger; our guide had warned us there was one about as the monkeys were spooked and chatterring away. The fort is home to what they claim to be the worlds largest cannon ‘Jaivana’ (it was in its time and fired a 50kg iron ball 31km – though it was never used again after this test fire).
Jal Mahal (Jaipur Water Palace) lies on the road between Jaipur and the Amber Fort and can only be viewed from afar, as it is now a posh hotel:
Hawa Mahal (also known as the Palace of Winds on account of it being very well ventilated, not the vegetarian diet) was our last bit of Jaipur sightseeing. We visited in the last hour before closing. This palace was were the royal women could watch the goings on in the street without being seen (as they were not generally allowed out of the palace). The front facade is extremely colourful, dominating and impressive. Below is a photo taken from the inside showing the rear of the top section of the facade.
Kirshan Chandra Ji Ka temple We stumbled across this whilst walking towards Hawa Mahal. The keeper, who’s family have been running services there for several generations, was very friendly, and had an old British padlock with 3 keys which he challenged us to open. Elliot took the challenge and worked it out very quickly. The guy was very impressed as most adults struggle (see someone else’s video of an identical one here).
Central park After a roof-top tea house for brunch, which had proper tea (not just chai) and a tea timer so you could perfect your brew, we spent the day here. In the evening, we tried to locate an elusive International Jazz and Blues festival – advertised in several places online, but with no detail of precise time or place within the park. After sundown, there was a live open-air performance of classical Indian music (hammerred dulcimer, or Santoor, and drums) which was ok for a while, but not for the kids so we moved on.
Jawahar Circle Gardens has a good children’s play park (we were approached by tonnes of people who wanted to say hello, and find out our names, and others who just wanted photos with us), ice-creams, music, and musical fountain display (best of all it was free!)
We have been using the tuk tuks to get around, and mostly they have been OK. We had one crazy driver who seemed to enjoy driving fast and head-on into other traffic on the wrong side of the road – the most alarming moment being as we approached a traffic light junction (at night). I think we were all glad to get off that vehicle by stepping down from it, rather than crawling out of the wreckage! We have since noted that some of the motor-rickshaws have been converted from petrol to electric, and that there is also a new type of electric rickshaw. Given the pollution levels, we are going to aim to use either electric or cycle rickshaws to get about from now on..
The train ride onto Agra went smoothly again, and the train became quite empty at the station before Agra. When it first drew into the station though I did wonder if I’d booked the wrong thing, as most of the carriages where the crowded standing up type.