Due to Roo’s unfortunate ( but probably not unexpected – most people who’ve been to India seem to have been sick or some point or other) illness, the honours once again fall to me for another exciting guest blog. Roo could give you a very full account of what the walls of the hotel room looked like, or just how comfortable the bed was (walls were beautifully painted, bed v comfy), but she didn’t really get the chance to see, well, any of the city.
At one point, it was touch and go whether we’d even be able to get on the train, but after some impressive bag carrying by myself through the station, we made into onto the sleeper compartment for short 2hr trip from Sawai Modhpur into Jaipur. At least Roo got to collapse in the top bunk, and another one of the passengers very kindly got the guard to bring some fresh sheets and pillows.
We checked into our beautiful hotel (Hotel Pearl Palace, as opposed to their bitter rivals Pearl Palace Heritage), which had impressively elaborate painting and decor, as well as that always handy in-house silver shop. It also had cable TV, which was particularly handy as it meant that I got to watch pretty much all of Day 4 of the England v India test match, while I was selflessly “looking after Roo”.
When it became clear that the best thing for Roo was to slowly convalesce, I decided to roam out in Jaipur on my own.
Jaipur is one of the biggest cities in Rajasthan, and now has 4 million inhabitants, as booming economic development has made it a real centre for business and technology. It’s one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the state, and is also the 3rd point of the Golden Triangle, the most-established tourist route between Delhi, Agra and itself. It’s known as the Pink City -due to a mammoth re-painting of inner city-centre in the Victorian era aimed at enticing Prince Albert to visit – all the walled city was painted terracotta pink, apparently to make the crumbling building seem less cheap (to me it seemed more of a maroon, but I guess the maroon city is less dreamy sounding).
It’s a super busy city and isn’t always the most naturally charming, with infrastructure not really coping with the sheer influx of people – as a result, roads are clogged up with cars and bikes, and the isn’t necessarily the prettiest place. There was however, clearly a lot of building work going on, to build a new metro that hopefully should improve things – I’m sure it will be nice when it’s finished (just like Birmingham…)
After walking the 45 minutes or so along pretty soul-less main roads, featuring obligatory tuk-tuk drivers finding it hard to understand I was happy to walk, and side-stepping cows, waterlogged pavements and dodgily parked motorbikes in the process, I finally arrived into the tranquil sounding Pink City proper.
It was slightly down-heartening that this was even more rammed with traffic. But there was a certain kind of charm with the buildings all looking so uniformly terracotta, and once I’d blocked out the traffic, I started to appreciate it more.
I walked round the peaceful City Palace, still home to the Royal family, which featured some impressive and brutal looking weaponry, as well as the World’s largest silver vessel, a giant silver water holder. Other highlights included some really ornate peacock themed doorways, and the best-dressed guards I’ve seen so far, resplendent in pink turbans and obligingly agreeing to the many, many requests for selfies.
I also walked past the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), which is an elaborately carved facade on the street, where the Jaipurian ladies were able to watch out onto the streets below. It’s a beautiful, if not quite surreal building, which is very tall, but also very thin and isn’t particularly substantial, and is best admired from the street outside.
Jaipur also has a huge, vibrant and noisy bazaar on the outskirts of the Pink City, with vast arrays of colourful, exotic good, as well as the more generic goods aimed at tourists, such as bright pashmina’s and wooden carvings. It’s a real challenge to know which items are actually of genuine quality and which are likely to be too flimsy to survive the journey home.
Overall, Jaipur had some certain charms, once you got used to the noise, the traffic and the volume of people, and is grappling to cope with the influx of people to the ‘big city’. However, it was a good place to take stock and recover for a few days, in the very comfortable hotel, and come back ready to tackle the rest of what Rajasthan had to offer.