Sunday, 9 November 2014

India: Jaipur

Less than a week in India and we'd tried almost every class of sleeper the trains had to offer. We started out living the high life in second class, quickly followed by third and now at the bottom in what is referred to simply as 'sleeper class'. We figured the quicker we got used to the crowded, loud and sometimes smelly compartments the better as our budget doesn't allow for luxuries. We arrived into Jaipur feeling well rested after a surprisingly pleasant journey. We'd read so many horrible things about the railway system in India with many warnings about 'sleeper class'. However we found it no different to third class as the cabins are set up in exactly the same way - we'll definitely be using this class for every travel in the future! 

This time we were staying in another Zostel! As we mentioned in a previous post; hostels are a rarity in India and with Zostel being the first ever chain company, there are numerous ones dotted here there and everywhere. We try to choose a hostel with a dorm room over a private hotel as we enjoy the environment they provide. We get to meet people who are travelling like us, share stories and plan our next stop according to their recommendations. Hostels also tend to provide a kitchen area for use by guests which makes a big different for us. It means we can buy ingredients and make our own breakfast to try and cut down on our spending - Nannies porridge recipe has been a massive hit! 

Once we were all ready to begin exploring it was that time again - time to flag down a rickshaw and barter like hell for a reasonable price (our favourite game.. NOT!). It seems the rickshaws of Jaipur are a lot smaller than anywhere else as this time we couldn't fit four of us along the back seat. Bethan drew the short straw and was told to sit in what would be the 'boot', or in this case a sheet of metal welded over the engine. Don't panic, this was standard practice for the Indian locals who could impressively fit up to twelve people in one rickshaw!

The first stop of Jaipur was Amber Fort and Palace, built in 1592 and lived in by royals, atop a massive hill overlooking Maota Lake. There are two options for reaching the fort, on foot or by elephant who will pick you up from somewhere near the bottom. We were all so excited to catch a first glimpse of an Indian elephant. They all seemed to be cared for very well and were only worked for a few hours each morning. Once they had finished their shift they were taken to Jal Mahal (Water Palace) for a splash about in the lake before being taken home for a well earned rest. 

The Fort has multiple palaces set up over a four level layout, each with a substantial courtyard. The one that stood out the most for us was the Sheesh Mahal, which is also known as the mirror palace. This was very heavily decorated with, yeah you guessed it, mirrors, arranged in a mosaic format to create flowers and pretty patterns. We mostly enjoyed visiting the Fort because we felt we were free to roam pretty much anywhere, which made it different to the others in the respect as nowhere was off limits. Although this did prove difficult when trying to navigate our way out of the twisty corridors - all part of the fun! Bethan and Jack were the first to find their way out of the labyrinth and happily awaited the others in the most amazing coffee shop - Cafe Coffee Day, India's largest coffee chain. This was a little slice of home for us serving the most amazing chocolate cake, frappes, iced tea and sandwiches. We'll definitely be looking out for these in all the other cities!

Amber Fort is connected with Jaigarh Fort by a subterranean passage which was used as an escape route in times of war. We walked for around 20 minutes through this passage and up the steep hill before reaching the summit and entering Jaigarh Fort. Here we were met with amazing views across the landscape of Jaipur. We were also treated to pretty gardens, a puppet show and a photo shoot with almost every Indian family that passed by - forcefully handing over their babies for pictures haha!

We knew we had a busy evening ahead of us with Diwali celebrations in full swing, so we headed to a restaurant for some chill time. This turned out to be such a let down; Jack ordered a chicken korma, which was definitely a sagwala as it was covered in spinach and Sam ordered a veggie burger which turned out to be a very small bun filled with one slice of tomato, cucumber and onion - yummy! Diwali celebrations later that night were... uhh... interesting. It was sooo busy, we spent the evening wading through the massive crowds, avoiding fireworks being thrown in the streets and witnessing police officers beat boys with sticks when they become too boisterous. Safe to say, we were exhausted so took refuge on a rooftop bar where we could enjoy the fireworks in peace. Anyone visiting India during Diwali, we suggest you visit somewhere out of the city to avoid the crowds. 

The next day marked the final day for our Spicy Mermaids, it'd come around far too quickly! We decided to visit the City Palace which was built in 1729 and 1732 by Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amber. The palace also includes the Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal. We'd heard and read good things about the palace but all felt a bit let down by it as there weren't many interesting things there to see and learn about. The most entertaining part for us was 'the worlds biggest jugs' as we childishly found this name hilarious! There was nothing particularly funny about them (except the name), as they were just two large, silver jugs which held a world record for being just that.

Later that day, we visited Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds, as if the worlds biggest jugs wasn't enough of an innuendo!). Built in 1799, it gained it's named due to essentially being a high screen wall which was built so the women of the royal household could observe street festivities while unseen from the outside. We decided to skip this palace as it was due to close by the time we arrived, but the Spicy Mermaids went inside anyway for a quick look around. Foolishly, Bethan gave Jack her camera so he could take some photos for the blog.. the results were interesting! The photos we have posted below are the only ones that weren't of Sinead's bum, strangers posing or security cameras (thanks for that Jack-o!). 

There was only one thing left to do, say goodbye to our beloved mermaid friends! Things got a little emotional as we said our farewells over a sweet lassi - it was like leaving home all over again. It's going to take some getting used to, just being the three of us again - we miss you mermaids! 

Here are some of our favourite pictures from our time in Jaipur: 


First Glimpse of an Indian Elephant at Amber Fort
How cuuuuuuute!
Amber Fort
Jack Boughey Photography©
Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace) inside Amber Fort



Pretty Gardens

View of Amber Fort from Jaigarh Fort
Getting swamped for pictures
City Palace - Jaipur




Hawa Mahal
View across the city from Hawa Mahal
Street Decorations for Diwali
Shop decorations - Happy Diwali! 

Happy Wanderers 

2 comments:

  1. The peacocks on the wall are lovely. :) The panoramic photo is great too :) Enjoy the next part of your trip!

    Amy at Amy & More

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    1. They really were very pretty! Thanks Amy, I'm sure we will :)

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