The journey seemed to go on forever and ever and the 5hour journey turned out to be much longer, which was typically India! We had a few stops offs and one longish stop off which made it hard to know if we had arrived in Jaipur or not. Afraid we would miss our stop, we hopped down at one point and I asked the driver who told me it was the last stop. No worries! So when we finally arrived in Jaipur, I was greeted by a wet, soggy, muddy backpack on the side of the road, having been taken out of the luggage compartment. I was kicking myself for not putting the rain cover on my backpack but realised that this was a lesson to learn and I would definitely be doing this from now on. After getting a Rickshaw through town, to Juwala Niketan Guest House, we declined the expensive room and went to check out next doors prices which were even higher. At 11pm we opted to go back to Juwala Niketan for the night where we took a double room, which was nice and big apart from the families of ants residing on the floors. I tried to not let this put me off a good night’s sleep.
We had a good night’s sleep and awoke in the morning, feeling refreshed and ready to explore Jaipur and The Amber Fort nearby. In the hopes of publishing my blogs, catch up with the outside world and let my poor mother know I was okay, we set out to find a restaurant with wifi- something that seemed ‘Impossible’ according to many of the locals we asked. I was beginning to think that there was no way I was going to get in touch with anyone while In Jaipur. Eventually finding Mohan Restaurant, we ordered some food, and I began my Jaipur blog, through WORD, which will be the norm for me during this trip I thought.
So we just spent over an hour on a cycle rickshaw being taken around the incredibly bumpy roads of Jaipur, to a night bar called Reds which didn’t exist, by a rickshaw driver who kept stopping for directions because he didn’t know the way. A pretty crazy evening, but let me tell you about our day up until then. So we headed off to spend the day at the Amber Fort just outside of town, away from the hustle and bustle and up into the lush green countryside. The rickshaw was pretty cheap thanks to my haggling which saved us a few bob, and considering the distance, we were pleased with ourselves. The scenery on the way to the Amber Fort was beautiful, we passed by the odd colourfully painted elephant, wandering camel and looked out onto lush green hills, lakes and beautifully created temples. It was another world outside our ordinary busy day to day Indian adventures. It was a nice change. We arrived at the Amber Fort which was utterly enchanting and really captivated everyone’s attention. There were not that many tourists there and overall the amount of people here really made us glad we had come in the rainy season, It was a much less stressful experience we had thought. We walked up the steps, which reminded me slightly of the setting of Machu Picchu with its lush green lawns yet, ancient ruins, together working together in a truly mysterious way to tell a beautiful story to Its visitors. It was one of the most incredible settings ever. Looking at a 360 degree angle you could take in the beauty of the gardens, the hills adjacent to the ruins, complete with an old ‘great wall of china’ style wall running up hill through it. The igher we got, the more of the view we could take in and the more we could appreciate what we were looking at. When we reached the ticket office, we purchased a concession ticket- with my out of date student card luckily- which entitled us to half the normal price and entry into 5 attractions around Jaipur. In true unpredictable monsoon style, the rain lashed out of the heavens without any warning, but in such a way that It was a lot more forgivable than say, an Irish pour down. The rain here was almost a relief from the heat, although we had noticed Jaipur was a lot less hot than where we had been already. Nonetheless we, took shelter on a step with some locals, and waited for it to pass before carrying on with our sightseeing. We spent a good hour and a half walking around the Amber Palace, admiring the marble effect from the harsh erosion on the many buildings and the sheer intricate architecture of them. When we felt like we had seen it all and it was time to move on, we headed towards the exit where we –almost by fate- came across an uber modern coffee shop right in the middle of these ancient ruins we had just been admiring. It was a weird moment seeing that! Nevertheless we went in and I ordered a sizzling brownie with ice cream and chocolate syrup, which when It came out, had a smell reminiscent of my time working at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. It was served on a hot stone plate and it did what it said on the tin, It sizzled. When Eliza tasted mine, she went and ordered one too, they were just too good to pass up. Without a doubt, come to Amber Fort, Jaipur for the best brownie you will ever have.
‘There are three things you need when driving a rickshaw in India- Good Brakes, Good Horn and Good Luck’-Sheikh, rickshaw driver, Jaipur.
Outside of the Fort we took a rickshaw back towards town where we would explore our next port of call, the Jantar Mantar observatory. En route, we switched rickshaws and were taken the rest of the way by a friend of our driver who was a guide/driver in and around the area we were going. We initially thought it would be a money scam, encouraging us to go touring with him and when he showed us his book about other tourists experiences with him as their guide, we couldn’t help but feel excited. He had great English which was a nice change, and we had good conversations for the most part. He offered to wait outside the observatory for us for an extra 60 rupees and then take us to see some textiles and jewellery in the hidden parts of town where a lot of designers come to buy stock to sell at home. It was warehouse prices he told us. We spent a good hour in the observatory in awe of the creations around us. These monuments had been erected years and years ago, an intelligence way ahead of their time, to display astrological meanings and show sun dials, time and celestial objects in the sky. It was incredible and by looking at the shapes and sheer size of some of them, It was hard to think that these were this old. One of the sun dials there, we were told, is the tallest sun dial in the world. With another unpredictable monsoon shower pouring down, we quickly took shelter in a narrow door way of one of the monuments, before bracing ourselves and running back out the exit to our rickshaw driver Sheikh who was waiting for us. Soaked, we sat in the ‘vehicle’, while he took us to the textile warehouse. ‘Just looking, No buying’ , but we knew otherwise. We were told that Jaipur is the textile and jewellery capital of India and that It was also the cheapest place for jewellery in the world. We were told that a lot of designers and business people come here for their stock and he even showed me a card belonging to a woman from Kilkenny, Ireland who had a shop selling Indian merchandise. She came here every year he told us! We met the owner of the textile factory who showed us how the silk was made, with vegetable dyes such as indigo flower, onion skin, spinach, saffron and chilli which seemed incredible when we saw the results on the previously off white material. He then showed us the design stamps the place on the material to create its original design. It wasn’t long before we were given some refreshments and taken up stairs where we left our shoes at the door and were invited in to see some of the materials they had. He sat me at a computer checked out dresses that I may want to have custom made here for very cheap, while Eliza joined him to check out some intricate bed spreads. After a while on the computer checking out maxi dress styles, and wishing I could instead just use his internet to upload my blog, I decided against ordering a dress here. It wasn’t cheap after all and I didn’t have anything I wanted enough, in mind. We left the store and carried on with Sheikh to the next stop, the jewellery warehouse. Here we met a nice young man who showed us how the gems are produced and designed to make all sorts of nice pieces. He then offered us a Pepsi each and we sat opposite him at his counter inside, to admire some of the rings I had asked to see. I settled on an Indian Jade stone ring which seemed significant to me and Eliza decided on another gem. We chatted with the man for a while about the benefits of meditation, appreciating what you have got not what you want and feeling happy doing what you are doing. He said to us, ‘think of all the people who say they want to come to India but you are here, they are not, you are happy to be here’. He talked about taking time to meditate and to realise that by meditating, this is helping you control all of the elements in your body. Its true what they say ‘Your body is a temple’ or in the words of John Mayer ‘Your body is a wonderland’, but either way It makes sense because our bodies have all the elements of the earth and we need to realise how to control them and use the energy properly. He explained the red dot on the forehead, for Indians and told us that this is a sign of energy, a place of energy. A chakra, I knew because of my previous Therapy studies. It was very interesting speaking with him and we even had a laugh with him when he said to us ‘You know Sting?’ and I said ‘Yes’ and after a bit of a silent moment I said ‘Oh do you like Sting’ to which he replied, ‘Well I tell tourists I worked with Sting and they can’t believe it but when he came to my shop he was so general person I didn’t know he was famous. He went on to explain how Sting and Trudy arrived in a rickshaw dressed very casually. He had been here several years ago for yoga and meditation, and this man had met him, Kristy Thurlington and The Beastie Boys, all who had come to India for meditation and some jewellery. We laughed about this for a while and encouraged him to buy Heat magazine to catch up with the celebrities of the western world in case he should have another unexpected ‘general looking’ celebrity arrive by rickshaw. We said Namaste and were on our way with Sheikh back to our hotel… or so we thought.
Saying Namaste to Sheikh when he dropped us off, we looked around and carried on down the road he had told us our hotel was on. Around the corner he had pretty much said. As we walked further and further and nothing became familiar to us we decided to ask several people if they knew where it was, who all told us it was over 15kms away from where we were. We could not believe Sheikh had don’t this to us. The good thing about this happening in India though is that everyone is so friendly and a lot of people speak English that they will do their best to find out for you and point you in the right direction which is what happened. We took a rickshaw back home to change, doll ourselves up a bit ad planned to head out to Reds- a chilled nightbar which was located in a mall nearby. We took yet another rickshaw, but this time a cycle rickshaw, a much slower method which when you are on it, makes you feel so bad for having this tiny person working so hard to get you through the busy traffic and over the deep pot holes, at times even stopping to pull the bike. It was clear that this guy didn’t know where he was going considering that throughout the most frustrating journey ever, he stopped to ask tonnes of people how to get there. Reaching the middle of nowhere, and after a slight bomb scare which turned out to be a wedding firework planted in the road, it turned out to be the final point when he realised we had come all this way for nothing and that we had to turn and live through it all over again. This time downhill, though luckily. Eventually we reached Mall 21 where we got dropped off, and paying him the original agreed payment to his dismay, he demanded 20 more rupees for the long journey even though it was his own fault. I never understand why they don’t just say they are not sure in the beginning, even if they don’t know where they are going, but each to their own. We quickly declined and ran up the steps of the mall, followed by 5 flights of stairs, each getting less and less lit up and more and more abandoned. Being ushered down by the mall security, we couldn’t understand why there was no Reds here, after all the Lonely Planet had listed it and It was the latest edition. Seriously Lonely Planet this is your fault! How and ever, we asked the security guard who seemed pissed off and said ‘Reds closed, permanently closed’. Furious at the whole ridiculous evening so far and all dolled up and nowhere to go, we took ourselves and our growling tummies across to Mc Donalds. Sat in Mc D’s eating our super cheap, large McVeggie meals we couldn’t help but laugh about what had happened. After glancing around the restaurant I somehow caught a glance of a sign I had been longing to see all day long, a sign I was pretty sure didn’t exist in Rajasthan at all. This sign was ‘Free WiFi Here’….
Not believing me at first, Eliza looked over and saw the sign too, before turning to me and bursting into hysterics. We could not stop laughing and I couldn’t help but think of this being another joke put on my by god. These things always happen to me! I had already made arrangements in my head to return tomorrow to get my blogs published and lift this weight off my shoulders. The evening became funnier when we were drawn to the insane entertainment we were being shown on the Mc Donalds tv. Some of the jokes were hilarious – ‘Witty, do you know who succeeded the first president of the United States?, No Kitty, who?, ‘The Second one’. Ha ha ha ha! Oh lord I could recite them all now but it would take too long, It was just the funniest in house entertainment I had ever laid eyes on. We sat there, after finishing our meal, still in hysterics at the tv, and even drew attention from a group of guys who found it hilarious too and joined in with our hilarity. Our first day In Jaipur was an absolute mix of emotions but in such a great way. It makes me love India so much more and I have now learned to take things in my stride and expect the unexpected in this bizarre but amazing country.
The following morning, after dreaming about posting my blog (yes writing has really got to me), I decided to head off on a rickshaw to McD’s to have some veggie Mc breaky and use the wifi but to my dismay the wifi was not working and I was told It would not be working any time soon! Oh My God! I headed off in search of an internet café, after all I had time to kill, as I had told Eliza I would be back at 11.30am. I knew this wouldn’t be an easy find in Jaipur though!