Exploring Jaipur

See previous and next. Date: Sunday 18th December, 2005 Starting: Jaipur

We had a good breakfast in Jaipur, and paid our bill of 600Rs (which covered two full meals and breakfast). This is about 8 quid.

A view to the Maharaja's QuartersWe went to the City Palace Complex in Jaipur first, this is a huge palace complex where the Maharaja and his family still live. India used to be a large collection of individual kingdoms, and at Independence the way that they got the kingdoms to join India was to allow the Maharajas to keep some perks and privileges. These were removed by Indira Ghandi in the 70s, but some families were independently wealthy enough not to need Government support.

The Pink City of Jaipur was once a yellow city, but was painted pink as a welcome to the Prince of Wales in 1876.

Mubarak Mahal

As we entered the City Palace, we were greeted by the Mubarak Mahal, or Welcome Palace. This was built as a guest house for visiting dignitaries. Today it's a museum. The guards there will offer to pose for photographs, and then cheekily ask for a donation (but it's not much - and they were very nice, giving us Masala tea).

There are shops in the square surrounding the Mubarak Mahal, they do try it on a little bit, and overcharge mightily for westerners.

One of the Silver Flasks used to Carry Ganges Water to England

In an adjoining courtyard is a building which houses two large silver flasks. These were made for a visit to London by the Maharaja to carry holy water from the Ganges. They're guarded, of course.

A small and easily overlooked passageway leads to the Chadra Mahal courtyard, providing a good view of the main residence of the Maharaja's family.

Detail in the Peacock Gate

The Maharaja's quarters

The doorways are ornately decorated, with the surrounding arches handpainted with intricate designs.

We stopped in the palace café, which was reasonably priced, but expensive by local standards.

On the far side of the palace café was a snake charmer with a Cobra. He was encouraging people to stroke the hood of the Cobra - I wasn't happy about it, but Monica obliged.

Cenotaph in JaipurCenotaph in Jaipur

When we got back to the car, our driver, Mr. Sharma had acquired a friend named Pradeep, who was in training to be a guide. Mr. Sharma was Pradeep's uncle. We were a little wary, but went along with it, and are glad to have done so. Pradeep took us to a memorial off the Amber Road. This memorial is a bit off the beaten track, but very impressive indeed. The city walls which snake up to the Amber Palace come down the hillside at this point . The memorial is apparently the cenotaphs to the Maharinis of Jaipur, and Pradeep said something about Madho Singh II.

From here we went up to Jaigarh, the Amber Fort. Here we found the Jaya Vana, which was the biggest cannon in the world when it was cast, with a range of some 22 miles. Below the cannon is a pond (and a long drop), so that after lighting the fuse the men can jump to safety.

Next was a visit to Amber, and a place called the Rajasthan Small Scale Cottage Industries. These are run by the Rajasthan state as an outlet for local products (no doubt giving a cut to guides who bring tourists). We were given the hard sell, which I find really annoying, and it makes me less likely to buy. Monica spent time looking at dresses and saris, and I got a headache. Essentially you sit on benches in front of a mattress, and there is a guy who lays everything out for you. Only once in India did I find a man who recognised this, he said to me 'you're British? I'll let you look yourself, the British like to browse, the Americans like to be sold to... I understand.'

Large Sundial and a view of the Janter ManterOur next visit was very close to the city palace complex, the Janter Manter. For me this was the highlight of Jaipur. The Janter Manter is a collection of odd looking sculptures (to the untrained eye), in reality they're a wonderful collection of astronomical instruments, including a sundial with 20 second accuracy (note, this is local time, for Indian Standard a correction must be made).

There are all sorts of devices at the Janter Manter (which means calculating machine, and actually refers to a pair of discs which hang like gongs).

We had another visit to a textiles place which was close to the Janter Manter and then we were ready to go to the hotel. After a respite during the visit the the Janter Manter (it was great!) my headache had returned. For reasons to do with room availability we had to change hotels, we had dropped off our bags in the new hotel that morning, thus we were returning to the Shahpura hotel.

The Shahpura Hotel, JaipurThe decorator at the Shahpura hotel in Jaipur

This hotel is in Devi Marg, and is full of marble and incense. The walls are handpainted, with a tiny brush, and we saw the decorator whilst we were there. This is detailed and time consuming work.

We were on the first floor, room 112, and the music from the dining room filtered upstairs to us. Including Frere Jacques on the sitar. This was all very nice, except that due to the limited repertoire we had Frere Jacques repeated several times.

We went down to the handpainted dining room for our evening meal. Monica had Yakhani Mutton, Palak paneer, and Veg Pulao. The mutton came with a lime/honey sauce and Palak paneer is paneer in a dark green sauce. The Dining Room of the Shahpura hotel in Jaipur I had Rajasthani Sula, which I really liked. I had this with butter naan and stuffed paratha. The sula was lamb which had been marinated in spices and cooked on charcoal.

For desert we had halwa, which is made with semolina and carrot. I don't normally like semolina, and so it was a lovely surprise that I really enjoyed this. It had a lovely colour to it, and the consistency of grated coconut.


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!)