Jaipur, the capital of Rajistan
Well the last few days have been hectic and I haven’t had a chance to write anything for a while. On the 28th of August I set off from Meerut to visit Jaipur in Rajistan, the desert state. There had been riots on the streets of Delhi on the 25th with people killed and buses set on fire at Anand Vihar. All of this was because of the conviction of a Baba, a holy man, the guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, religious leader of Dera Sacha Sauda, who was convicted of rape committed some years ago. I had left Anand Vihar for Meerut the day before, on the 24th, and there was some speculation that the 28th, day of sentencing, could produce the same rioting. Luckily I made it through to Sarai Rohilla Station for the train to Jaipur with no mishap.
Sarai Rohilla train station in Delhi
The Sarai Rohilla train station isn’t the easiest place to navigate. There is little help, no platform staff (that I could find) and not much by the way of indication where to go. A friendly young police woman put me straight. I had a few hours to wait so, in Indian style, I had a snooze sitting on one bag and using the backpack as a chair back.
Once the train arrived a member of the station staff arrived and began to glue paper to the doors of the train. On inspection I found my name and seat number printed on the paper and confirmed that my seat number was the same as that which my ticket said.
The journey to Jaipur is 4 ½ hours. The train was a double decker and I was on the top deck. The aircon nearly froze me but the ride was comfortable enough. We pulled out at 17:35 on the dot. Travelling through the outskirts of Delhi heading west was yet another eye-opener. People sitting on the tracks chatting. Kids playing on the tracks. One teenager throwing stones at the train trying to break windows. People peeing and crapping by the side of the tracks with no embarrassment. I was happy to leave it behind and watch the scenery change.
The Himalaya Towers Hotel – Jaipur
We were a bit late in arriving in Jaipur. I was due in at 22:05 but we got in about 10 minutes late. I had taken the time to book a room at the Himalaya Towers Hotel using the Oyo app. On Google maps it looked like it would be a nice quiet place just outside the centre of Jaipur. It wasn’t. It was about 17km away and south of the airport. The Ola Cab didn’t know where it was and I was hassled and hustled by a taxi driver with excellent english. Eventually I did opt to go with him as he seemed to be the only person with any degree of knowledge. The cost was 500/-INR which here is exorbitant.
The hotel was, in all fairness, clean and tidy and not too expensive. About £7 a night. But what I hadn’t counted on was the expressway. I told you about the Indians love of the horn in this post. At about four thirty the trucks started going by. They have multiple horns. They play tunes like Woody Woodpecker and various other horrible “melodies”. So that was me awake with just over 4 hours sleep. I walked out at 8am and caught an Ola car to a hostel called Mai Thik Hoo that I found on the Hostelworld App.
Mai Thik Hoo Hostel in Jaipur
Mai Thik Hoo was a brilliant place and it was quiet! The staff are super friendly, helpful, speak great english and young. I was the oldest person there and they insisted on calling me “sir” which I hated. We got over it. If you are backpacking in Jaipur go to Mai Thik Hoo, you won’t regret it. I arrived at about 08:30, checked in and met a lovely girl called Liliana from Mexico. Yay, a chance to speak spanish again. We talked for a good while and decided to team up to see some the famous Jaipur sites. The boys from Mai Thik Hoo called up a tuk-tuk driver that they trust (the kept stressing that they feel responsible for their guests) and for the princely sum of 500/-INR Liliana and I took off for out tour.
The Pink City
We were taken first to a part of the Pink City where we got out and took some photos (or clicked some photos as the Indians say) and then headed off to Gaitore Ki Chhatriya, the Royal Cremation Ground of the Kachhwaha Rajputs.
Gaitore Ki Chhatriya – Jaipur royal memorials
Gaitore Ki Chhatriya will cost you 30/-INR to get in and it’s a bargain! There are three “courtyards” and they are incredibly beautiful. Built of marble, all hand carved and following the Vedic rules for building a memorial. Vedic rules, they state that crematoriums should be in north of the village and sloping southwards. A body of water should be nearby. A lake or a river is perfect backdrop for these memorials. The crematoriums and memorials should be constructed in a concealed location in order that they cannot be seen easily. I won’t go into it any more here but here are two links for those that are interested. [ 1 ] and [ 2 ].
The Amber Fort
Next stop was the famous Amber Fort of Jaipur. This fort is a spectacular piece of architecture sitting on top of a ridge. The Fort is known for its artistic Hindu style decoration. It is truly huge. It is actually located in Amer, about 11km away from Jaipur. As we were on a limited whistle stop tour we decided that to go in to the Amber Fort would use up too much time so we contented ourselves with walking round the outside and seeing the views from some of the ramparts. We also walked down into Amer from the fort and saw the Shiva Temple there too. It would be easy to spend a day in the fort alone. For those that want to know more, I have linked the wikipedia entry here.
Panna Meena ka Kund
We were then taken to Panna Meena ka Kund. This is another stepwell like the one in Delhi mentioned in this post, but more beautiful. There really isn’t anything more to say about stepwells but this one is situated near Anokhi Museum on the Jaipur – Amer road, It is a beautiful place that was built during sixteenth century. The place was mainly used as a place for social meetings. People from nearby places would come here to get water, go swimming or just to pass time with friends and family. This beautiful well has a unique architecture and style.
The Water Palace – Jal Mahal
Heading back into Jaipur from the Amber Palace we stopped at the Water Palace. Our tuk-tuk driver told us that once one could visit it but these days the government has shut it off to visitors. So we took some pictures, (which you can see here) of this amazing piece of Rajput style of architecture, bought cucumber snacks and kulfi which is an incredible rich, dense, creamy non-whipped ice cream and headed off to the Monkey Temple.
The Monkey Temple
This temple is dedicated to Shiva. Upon our arrival a very slick young man with good english entered the tuk-tuk and started giving us his sales pitch. He lives in the area and has worked with the monkeys all his life. They can be viscous and carry rabies and apparently we really needed his help. Liliana and I took an immediate dislike to him. He wanted 200/-INR from each of us to walk us up a hill of about 800m to a temple. There are supposed to be loads of monkeys around. We were also hassled to buy peanuts for the monkeys, being told it was “good karma” to feed them. Anyone who has any knowledge of the laws of karma knows that that’s pure BS. The result was another young lad took us up for a quarter the cost. Maybe he only had a quarter the knowledge because he really didn’t seem to know what he was talking about and contradicted himself a few times. But there again there wasn’t really much to say. Hey ho. We saw not one monkey! However when we got back down we found them all asleep near where our tuk-tuk was parked. In all honesty this was the most uninteresting part of the trip and we were both happy to get back to the hostel.
Pink City revisited (day two).
Liliana and I arranged to wake early and get back into the Pink City fairly early to try and maximise her last day. We caught the metro from Civil Lines, where Mai Thik Hoo is situated, and headed for Chadpole station. While India wakes early, not much starts before 09:00. We arrived at Chadpole and put on Google’s location service so that we could navigate. Both of us wanted to see more of the Pink City than we saw the first day (all the photos are above). We also wanted to go to Jantar Mantar, the Palace of Winds (Hawa Mahal) and the Albert Hall Museum. Unfortunately we ran out of time for the latter.
On exiting the metro station we happened upon a beautifully decorated temple. I haven’t been able to find anything online about this place so I asked Mickey from Satya Dhaam to translate the hindi in the photo. This is what he said it says. Maji Sahib Shri, Shri Tawar Ji. He also says that he thinks the temple is to a person called Maji Tawar and the Sahib, Shri and Ji are honourifics or marks of respect for the named person. I have searched google and can find nothing more. It seems a shame that no one has written anything because it was quite beautiful. It also contained a drum machine. The strangest drum machine I have ever seen as you can see in the photo.
The next few hours were spent with Liliana taking photos and shopping for presents and souvenirs. It was fun but tiring. The shop keepers always want you to buy more and more. You tell them you haven’t any money, they say “use a card”. You tell them that you are backpacking and don’t wan’t the weight, they say “we’ll send it to the hotel or your home”. It’s never ending, very tiring, stressful and irritating and a lot of time was wasted just trying to say NO. The people of Jaipur have a much better command of European languages. We were hassled by a young man speaking excellent spanish who wanted us to go to a particular café overlooking the Palace of Winds. Looking for his commission I suppose. By now I was hot, tired and my blood sugar levels were dropping fast and all the both of us wanted to do was sit down, have a bite to eat in relative quiet. I lost my temper with the guy and asked him, none to subtly, if there was any danger of us being able to do what we wanted to do without him hanging around hassling us. He left and so did we.
Palace of Winds – Hawa Mahal
The Palace of Winds (or Palace of the Breeze) is a super impressive structure built of red and pink sandstone. However it is really just a screen to allow the women of the palace to watch parades without being observed. It is attached to the women’s quarters of the palace. Built in 1799 and supposed to emulate the crown of the Lord Krishna. There are 953 small windows covered with a lattice work that allows the breeze to pass through and creates a form of “air conditioning”. The whole structure is only one room deep but the lower floors have small patios or terraces. There is a lot about Hawa Mahal on the web and this is the wikipedia entry.
Jantar Mantar – astronomical instruments
Salads finished we headed for Jantar Mantar. Jantar Mantar is is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments, built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, and completed in 1734 CE. It features the world’s largest stone sundial, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which, in my experience means higher entrance costs, longer queues and more tourist prices and rip-offs. The observatory comprises of nineteen instruments for measuring time, foreseeing eclipses, following the placement of significant stars as the earth circles the sun, finding out the declinations of planets, and deciding the heavenly elevations and altitudes. Most of this information is from wikipedia and I won’t repeat it here. It is enough to say that it is very technical and very impressive. The instruments are huge with a view to increasing their accuracy. The Giant Sundial, known as the Samrat Yantra is one of the world’s largest sundials, standing 27 metres tall. Its shadow moves at 1mm per second, or roughly 6 cm every minute. It rained when we were there so this phenomenon was lost on us.
And that was it – we were out of time. Liliana had to get back to the hostel to get her stuff together for the train at 17:00, so we grabbed a tuk-tuk and headed back. All in all a good day. Personally I have to say I was super to be speaking Spanish with Liliana and we both enjoyed the days and each other’s company.