See previous and next. Date: 17th December 2005 Starting: Delhi

We were up early, and hot water was a problem. There was a distinct lack thereof.

Or rather, there was hot water, but no water pressure. Some patience and a bucket resolved this problem.

Breakfast was taken at the hotel, it was a little disappointing truth be told, rather bland. We met up with the driver at around half past seven. His name was Mr. Sharma and he would be with us for four days. He spoke English, but was not fluent - and we had no Hindi. Fortunately he did speak বাংলা (Bangla/Bengali) and so Monica could drop into Bengali if needed - my Bengali is minimal (though more than most Brits, I suspect)

Getting out of Delhi was a little bit of a black art, signposts were few and far between - I think we went out past the airport. Along the road were exhortations that 'Lane Driving is Safe Driving'. These signs were often ignored.

At about 9:45pm we stopped at a roadside café´ thing, which was essentially an open kitchen in a barn like structure. We had Masala tea and Aloo Paratha each - it was truly excellent. The bill came to 30Rs or about 40pence. The Aloo Paratha were flat, with finely chopped vegetables. Beautiful - I had other Paratha since then in India, these ones were my favourite.

The Highway to Jaipur could be alarming. We were travelling at times on dual carriageway, which occasionally had contraflows. In the UK when there are roadworks requiring a contraflow, the two lanes of traffic are kept seperated by cones. Here, cones directed the traffic through the gaps in the barrier and across the central reservation - then they vanished. As a passenger one would look up to see traffic coming toward you on the wrong side of the road and in the same lane as you. In both directions (on a two lane carriageway) both directions of traffic would be over, and undertaking. Sometimes both - and sometimes both flows at once!

Driving in IndiaThere were some crazy situations on the roads, we saw several vehicles with people travelling on the outside of the vehicle (i.e a full jeep stuffed so full of people that one man had to travel by standing on the running board. He had his head poking through the passenger's window so that he could maintain a conversation).

I quite enjoyed seeing all the camel drawn carts that people used.

Camel drawn Cart

About 12km before Jaipur is the Amber Palace. This is the start of a phenomenal series of structures around Jaipur. The setting for the Palace is lovely (though the road to it passes through quite a poor area). The sheer engineering feat it represents is incredible.

Looking out from The Amber PalaceThe palace sits underneath Jaigarhm the Amber Fort - and looking out from the palace there is a wall that snakes away along the hilltops. It's rather reminiscent of how I imagine the Great Wall of China.

The courtyard of the palace is free, but to enter the main area a ticket is needed, this is 50Rs, or 75Rs if you take a camera. It's not worth trying to play the system and hide the camera, 25Rs is not really worth the effort, and it pays for the upkeep of the place.

The palace is worth exploring, every time one turns a corner there seems to be something new.

These are the quarters of the Maharaja's favourite MaharaniAfter leaving there, we went up to the Tiger Fort, this was a palace that the Maharaja of Jaipur built for his Maharanis. The guide there was excellent - and he took lots of photographs for us (indeed, he insisted upon doing so). The Tiger Fort, or Nahargarh, commands views over Jaipur.

When we returned to the car, Mr. Sharma was taking a nap and we did not want to disturb him, so we ent to the café next to the fort. We shared vegetable cutlets and vegetable pakora. We both had a sweet lassi.

Jal MahalAs we drove into Jaipur we passed the achingly beautiful Jal Mahal, or Water Palace. This was apparently used in two Bond films.

In the evening we stayed at a small family run hotel, the Dera Rawatsar. This is located on Vijay path near the Sindhi Camp bus station at Bani Park. It's a family home that has been converted to a hotel, there are only a few rooms, and it's very nice. The doors to the room folded open to a small courtyard area. The bathroom was set up as a 'wet room', and had a good supply of hot water.

The TV in the room (as with all the other hotels we stayed in) had a good range of channels, mostly Hindi, there were some English language channels which were watchable - whilst in the rooms in India we saw everything from the A team to the Kumars at Number 42, to Robocop! Later on in the trip we had to spend some time in the room, not just yet, though!

The evening meal was a buffet, and was quite good - the highspot was the Indian Sweets to finish (this is not to every westerner's taste - I like the firmer sweets)

As the booking was made rather late, we only had this hotel for one night - the next day we would move hotels. This was fine by us, a change is as good as a rest (and other such inanities!)