Jaipur - Fifty Shades of Pink-ishMarch 2 in India ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C
The Palace of the Winds. Amer Fort. Jantar Mantar. Jaipur City Palace.
Jaipur is oversupplied with majestic structures, any of which would make an Indian top ten list.
But this doesn’t take into account the buzzing, noisy streets or the milk market, or the crowds or the inevitable squalor. More than anywhere since we left Delhi it is the whole package that makes up Jaipur.
Painted a sort of terracotta-inspired pink in 1876 to impress the visiting and eccentric Prince Albert, the old town remains so today, although in a classic case of “do what I say” the Maharaja’s Palace didn’t get the same makeover and remains a cream blob in a sea of old strawberries.
We drove to Amer Fort, about 11 kilometres out of town, and were bounced around in the back of a Jeep up to the entrance. What an industry the tourist-moving business is! There was a continuous convoy of jeeps ferrying people up the hill to be turfed out into an immense traffic jam from which the souvenir sellers could pick their marks.
Then there were the elephants, hundreds of them conveying rather seasick-looking people up the hill by a less animal welfare-aware means of transport.
The palace, with hilltop fortifications all around and towering over the township below, was spectacular, cleverly designed to defeat the extremes of heat by use of cascading water, and with some absolutely beautiful rooms and gardens. The Hall of Mirrors - Sheesh Mahal - was quite stunning.
Back in town, we stopped for a photo of Jal Mahal - an eighteenth century palace built in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, with - inexplicably - four of its five storeys under water when the lake is at its highest. This was picturesque, but the tribe of small boys enjoying their exciting game of marbles by the side of the lake was a more privileged insight.
Jantar Mantar is a kind of UNESCO listed outdoor observatory, replete with giant sundials and astrological detail. It was built by Maharaja Jai Singh, founder of Jaipur and, according to our rather proud guide, a man 25 per cent more intelligent than anyone else. Not quite sure how they measured that, actually.
There were quite a few Indian tourists about, families and couple excitedly snapping away. One family even asked Sharon to be a part of their photographic record.
Then we left Jantar Mantar, with its middle class Indian visitors, and went into the outside world, where we were confronted by small begging children, one of them carrying the inevitable semi-naked baby. They were appealing in a filthy, stinking way, but by no means underfed. The appalling life to which they looked destined was as moving as it was beyond our control.
Oh, and it was also Sharon’s birthday. A lovely gift from Kim and Steve, a Happy Birthday singalong in the van and a nice Italian dinner in the nearby Taj Hotel made it one to remember.
On the way back from dinner we were stopped at a level crossing while a long passenger train rumbled by in the dark, giving us a glimpse into another world - from the barely-occupied first class coaches to the jam packed fourth class. Plus the delay gave Aanand a chance a to gloat a bit more about the cricket as the Aussies headed for defeat in a one-dayer!Read more