Jaipur City Tour

on Thursday, 18 March 2010

We arrived in Jaipur at 6am after an 8 hour train journey from Udaipur. The train was slightly larger than the previous one we had got, with lightly more headroom which was nice. We had been warned that Jaipur was notorious for rickshaw drivers not taking you to the places you asked and instead taking you to a hotel where they got commission. We checked a few  hostels near the station but they were a bit too expensive, so we got a rickshaw to a hostel we had found on Hostel Hero that sounded quite good. Surprise, surprise we first end up at a different hostel than we had asked for, we tell him we are not interested and want to go to the place we had asked for. We get there and it is full, so we check out a few others in the area. While walking around we come across a young boy who has been tied to a post with a bit of reed and is trying to untie himself.

The cheapest we can find is 150R but it is a 10’x10’ box room with nothing but a bed and an outside toilet and bathroom. We have some local Indian breakfast there recommended by the waiter of chhola puri, which is some type of lentil and vegetable sauce with some naan type breads. We next head to another hostel we have found on hostel hero, and again it is full. We walk around trying  a few other places, but they are either too expensive (more than 300R) or full. We then meet a bloke who is going to show us a hostel for the right sort of money, the first one has a huge Rottweiler outside that almost bites Tom’s leg off, so we are already not too keen on the area, it is also way too expensive. The second is only half built with an outside toilet/shower just on a half built part. He then says he will take us to some others, we go look at these and they are also two expensive, but near the last one there are a few others which we check out and eventually end up going for a slightly better room for 350R. It is now past 10am and we have spent more than 4 hours walking around trying to sort out a hostel. We then get dragged into the obligatory city tour by the rickshaw driver, Papi for 300R for the afternoon, we get a shower and wait for him to return at midday. We ask him if we can first stop at the railway station to get our ticket to Delhi, the trip is only 4 and a half hours so we get seats for 100R (£1.50) each. The first stop on our tour is the city palace, there seems to be one in every city, the entrance fee was 300R(£4) each, a bit steep, but included camera fee and an audio guide of the palace.

When we actually get inside a lot of the areas are no photography, so I have to take some sneaky photos without the flash. We come into the main courtyard and there are two large silver jugs, apparently they are in the Guinness world record book for the largest solid silver items. Each one was made from 14,000 silver coins melted down and formed around a wooden mould.

In this room we start getting had over, firstly we are forced into having a henna tattoo on our hands, mine is a basic sort of pattern, but Tom’s ends up just being a big scribble which we have no idea what it was supposed to be, answers on a postcard please.

Then  comes the demand for money, Tom refuses and I give them a 50R note that has been covered in pink paint from a Holi party and nobody will let me use, I resent even giving them that for the mess they have put on my hand, which will take days to get rid of. Then comes the guards wanting photos, Tom has one taken and I decline, knowing what’s coming, again they want money, again Tom refuses. We have a look around the armoury, which is a no photography area, but I manage to get a few sneaky photos.

There are hundreds of guns, swords and daggers, including a couple of huge guns which must have been 4 metres long. We then get to the exit and there is a snake charmer with a cobra, I have a few photos taken stroking it and he puts it around my neck.

Then, you wouldn’t Adam and Eve it, he wants 500R, I knew there would be a request for money but I wanted to do it anyway. In the end I didn’t pay him anything, which was perhaps a bit stingy but after all the other requests for stuff I didn’t want I was a bit annoyed. There was an observatory, but there was an 100R admission fee and we thought you could see quite a lot without going in, whether there was more hidden away we don’t know but the entrance fees to get in 4 or 5 places, plus the rickshaw driver is taking us well over our budget. We drove through the pink city, which was just lots of shops, visited yet another lake palace and another temple, Ving temple, plus a  few other places, one of which we didn’t decide to pay to go in. We have decided that we will not be doing any more of these city tours, because they end up being very expensive with all the admission fees and once you have seen one temple, you have seen them all. From now on I think we will be researching the sights in the cities we are visiting and just do the ones we think are most interesting. We then had the usual trip to the block printing textile shop, and are again shown how to do it and they try and sell us more carpets and table cloths, then there is Jaipur Mall, we end up seeing the same tourists at each place, obviously being taken exactly the same way. Jaipur Mall is absolutely empty and most of the items in there are massive and also ridiculously expensive. There is a 4 million rupee silver swinging seat, and other huge bronze and marble statues, I have no idea why they would think we would buy anything, and I can’t imagine anyone except the King spending £58,000 on a chair.

We are the only people in the shop, fortunately the staff are not pushy and we just walk around for 10 minutes so our rickshaw driver can get his 20R commission. Next is a jewellery shop, this is even more unbelievable, us walking in, in shorts and flip flops and the bloke is trying to sell us necklaces with what must be 50 diamonds on it. We have McDonald's for lunch and then head to a festival that is on today, called Gangaur festival, we arrive at about 4:30pm and it is not due to start till 5:30pm. I decide to get some fruit from a local stall, you can’t just buy a single banana, you have to buy a 1kg, I then get roped into buying some oranges. So end up with about 8 bananas and 8 oranges for 70R(£1). The Oranges are actually green, but these are some of the nicest oranges I have ever had. We get a place on top of a building to view the parade, but the parade doesn’t actually end up starting till about 6:30pm, by which time we have had enough of the hassle on top of the building, not to mention the urine, faeces and used needles, so we decide to go down nearer to where the parade goes by. Like an absolute idiot, I have not bought another battery for my camera out with me, and the days sight seeing has used it all up. Therefore I am afraid there are no photos of the parade. It starts with some people dressed up in costume including 2 people dressed as dogs and being led along by another man.

This is followed by a couple of elephants all dressed up and painted faces, followed by a band and then about another 25 elephants and about 6 camels and a few horses. At the back there is another band and some old men carrying a shrine on their shoulders, as the shrine is carried past people start chucking coins into the procession, most missing the shrine and striking people in the face, it looks like fun so I through a couple, hitting the target with one. We then make it back to the hotel, but there are thousands and thousands of people all trying to get out and walking down the main road followed by a few maniacal motorcyclists swerving in and out of people. Through a bit of luck and a bit of help by a policeman we find our way back to the hotel, opting to walk as the rickshaws couldn’t move in the mass of people going down the road. Tomorrow we have booked a trip to the Amber Fort, and then leave for Delhi at 4:30pm. We have also decided to make the trip to Amritsar on the Indian/Pakistan border, so will only be staying in Delhi one night and then returning after our quick detour to see the golden temple and the Wagah border crossing ceremony.