‘In Jaipur you get lot of free massage’
That was how our rickshaw driver chose to describe the roads of Jaipur as I was busy bashing my head, elbows and knees against every available surface. This is known as the Pink City due to the sandstone used in the old town buildings (Jane got very confused as we were driving in as she was expecting everything to be blue – she’d mistakenly spent all her time reading up on the sights of Jodhpur instead). To be honest it’s more orange than pink, although apparently it was once all painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales back in the 19th century, as pink is traditionally the colour of hospitality.
We hired our rickshaws for the whole day to take us round all the sites, starting with Amber Fort, where we were greeted – very loudly – by musicians at the top of one of the towers. Chris is trying to compile a video of us all dancing all over the world so of course he couldn’t let that opportunity go by. We got some very strange looks from the other tourists.
It’s enormous and a complete maze in the fort, so we were there for quite a while, then just as we were about to leave we were shown into a tunnel (complete with bats) where we could walk under the mountain all the way to the next fort – we were starting to feel a little sorry for our drivers waiting outside though so we gave it a miss. We had the option of riding elephants up to the fort, but instead our drivers took us to an elephant village back in town where we could stroke them and feed them as well. Amie tried to copy one of the mahouts there by climbing the elephant by holding its ears and walking up its trunk – it seems that takes practice though and she has the friction burns to prove it. I took the much more sensible option of the ladder, mainly because I’d laughed so hard at Amie falling off (twice) that I didn’t have any stomach muscles left. Can’t say much for the ride, we were really only going around the paddock so there wasn’t much to see and the novelty of being on an elephant wears off quite quickly when you can’t actually see the elephant, but it was nice being able to get up close to them and feed them sugar cane as well, which we wouldn’t have been able to do at the fort.
My camera battery ran out after the elephants, so you’ll have to use your imagination for the rest of Jaipur. We stopped briefly for photos at a water palace (actually an old hunting lodge) which had been used for filming James Bond. Jay was horrified that I couldn’t name which James Bond. Sorry Jay, apparently I haven’t seen Octopussy.
One of my favourite parts of Jaipur was Jantar Mantar, the observatory, which is filled with complicated astrological and astronomical instruments for taking precise measurements of the position of the heavenly bodies, which are then used for creating very precise horoscopes and calendars. Apart from the world’s biggest sundial most of the uses for the instruments went over my head a bit – lots of stuff about finding rising signs based on angles of shadows and the position of the earth’s axis and stuff. I was trying hard to pay attention but mostly my brain was saying ‘nope, way too hot to understand maths, hey wouldn’t this place make an awesome skate park?’ I’d be quite interested in getting an Indian horoscope. I’m not sure I’d believe any of it, but I still find all the complicated calculations fascinating, and it has to be more accurate than saying everyone born in the same month is going to have an identical fortune and personality. You have to know the exact time of your birth though, which I sadly do not.
Our last stop in the evening was the Sun Temple, also known as the monkey temple as the way up to it is crowded with monkeys of varying degrees of cheekiness. I was carefully holding on to my belongings, but still managed to fall foul of them when one grabbed my pocket and almost pulled my trousers down – note to self, elasticated waistbands and monkeys don’t mix. I have a feeling we were the victims of an attempted scam at the temple. We had to take our shoes off and were told that we couldn’t carry them, so we had to leave them in a room instead. This room was inside the main door, the door was shut, and there was a guy sitting outside. Lo and behold, when we returned one of Amie’s flip flops was missing (Amie again, she didn’t have a very successful day, bless her). After searching every corner of the room a woman came out of the temple and said ‘my son thinks he saw a monkey run off with your shoe’ Hmm. There aren’t any monkeys this far up the hill. And the door was shut. And what happened to the guy outside? Then after a spot of amateur dramatics peering over the edge, the kids miraculously spied the flip flop over the edge of a cliff under a bush (none of the rest of us could see it, so either these kids have very sharp eyes or…). Older brother went down to fetch it while the mother was exclaiming ‘my son found your shoe, my son found your shoe’ with expectant eyes. I believe Amie said ‘well done’ and walked off, back down towards more trustworthy primates.
We raced back to the hotel (our driver was in a hurry – he had a party to go to) to enjoy veggie thalis and comfy beds before the drive to Agra in the morning. A word of warning if you have never had a thali before and are too impatient to read the menu properly (looking at you Kate). A regular thali contains little bits of lots of dishes – rice, dal, bread, salad, mystery curries etc. The special thali also contained a sweet dish, which wasn’t identified upon arrival. It is a good idea to try each pot individually before you end up topping your vegetable curry with custard.