2nd Nov – 3rd Nov 2016
After our big drive from Delhi, we were exhausted from doing nothing. So we chilled out in our room, before stepping out to find an ATM. Good old Google maps, shows a few, just around the corner. We find the first one and go in….no money. Next door….no money, a third one….Out of service! Shit! Across the road are another two, so we head over and each try a different one. Mine worked super quick, and Will got money after a couple of goes. Happy, we toddled off through the back streets to our hotel. Enough adventure to start.
Wednesday we were up early for my birthday, and to be ready for going Full Tourist! We had arranged a driver and a guide to take us to as many sights as we could handle. There are so many, so we needed help. Breakfast, and as a nice surprise, Saheed (who lives in Jaipur) stopped in to give me some lovely flowers, and wish us Happy Journey, before he was heading to Jodhpur, to start the second Nevermind Tour. Our driver and guide arrived, and we headed for the old town, The Pink City. Founded in 1726 by Maharaja Jai Singh II, the old city is painted a pink colour and all buildings inside the Pink City walls must be of this colour. It is crowded and bustling, both with tourists and locals. The city was designed by a Bengali architect, and is based on the block system. There are 9 in total, 2 for the palaces and state buildings, and the rest for the public.
Our first stop, was the Wind Palace, Hawa Mahal, which is really just a facade, with 953 small windows. This was for the women of the palace to observe festivals, while adhering to the strict rules requiring their faces to be covered at all times. It really is an amazing piece of architecture.
The Wind Palace, was very stunning, and has no foundations.
Through the old town, and out one of the seven gates, we head up to the Amer Fort. On the way, we stopped to see the man made lake below the Fort, that is also called the Amber Fort, it is yellow. The water level is very low, it doesn’t rain much here. Having paid for a guide, we got VIP treatment, and pushed to the head of the long queue, we didn’t feel that good about it, and apologised to the people who had to wait. This is India remember, money is king. Amer was the original settlement, until it’s population grew too big. This is when Jai Singh moved to Jaipur, about 10kms away. The Amer Fort, is surrounded by a wall, just like the Great Wall of China, only 22kms long, and has a Fort atop the hill, Jaigarh Fort, which is where the soldiers lived. The royals lived in the Amer Fort, which was amazing. A lovely mix of Hindu and Muslim art and architecture. There are lots of areas, amazing designs to cool and reflect colour and light. A must see.
Amer Fort is truely beautiful. The colours and marble carvings are intricate.
The pictures really do not show the work involved in creating this place.
Back down to the Lake Palace, Jal Mahal, which was also built in the middle of a man made lake. It was built just for music and to enjoy the views. It is a five story building, and apparently, when the lake is full, only the top level is above the water. It has been renovated many times, and was currently undergoing more. It dates back to the 18th century, but the dam and lake go back to 1596AD.
The Palace in the lake. Hard to believe it is 5 stories high.
When going Full Tourist, it is essential to have much Carpet Bagging (this is not said with negative feelings, it is a part of how India works), and as much as we didn’t want to, we couldn’t get out of it all. Since Jaipur is the centre of stone cutting, polishing and cottage industry, we were swept into a Jewellery maker to see how they do it, and “have a look”, “no pressure”. It is the way of India, but it is all done with gentle and polite conversation and great hospitality. Now we are hardened to this, and can usually say thanks, but no thanks. Not today. The man showed us lots of beautiful gems, and one in particular, The Star of Jaipur, which has great energy and heeling properties. Good for spreading the Chi through your body. It’s my birthday, so Will decided to buy a ring for me. Bloody hell, but thank you Will. It was a Funtime Carpet Bagging, and on the way out, we were once again back to hard faced bastards, and did not check out the art and textiles. Phew, this was going to be a costly day.
Next was a lunch break, and our guide Vishan, knew a guy, who had a nice restaurant. Of course! India, again….ha ha ha. Anyway, this place had mutton, so we were super happy. Yay, meat, frickin meat. We ate, then we took off back into the Pink City to see two more World Heritage sites. First was Jantar Mantar, which is an observatory, full of ancient instruments for astrological observations. This totally blew us away, as when Vishan described to us how they worked, the time was accurate to 20 seconds on one, and 2 seconds on the bigger one. These things are over 300 years old.
We were totally blown away by this ancient technology that could tell time and plot the stars.
We moved on to check out the Albert Hall Museum, which houses some clothes, art and items from the generations of Maharaja’s. The needlework was so fine and intricate. So many hours of work. Then onto the City Palace. This is currently occupied, so only a small part of it was open to see. Again, there is a beautiful mix of Hindu and Muslim art (from the Mughals). All the colour on all the buildings we’ve seen today, is made from leaves, fruits, vegetables and stones, and none has been touched up or renovated. Some of it is well over 400 years old and the colour is still vivid.
India, is and has always been, colour and chaos. Just wonderful.
At this stage, our poor brains were getting fuzzy, and overloaded. We somehow managed to get out of the Art Bagging, and said a very clear NO to the Elephant activities, and begged to go home. It was great, amazing, beautiful and interesting, but we’ve had enough. Home Vishan, and thank you so much. After a rest on our bed, the traffic was stupidly crazy coming home, we had a late dinner and hit the sack. Absolutely buggered, but satisfied.
What an amazing and super day. Vishan did a great job telling us about these monuments.
Today, Thursday, is a day of rest awaiting our trusty Indian motorised camels. We had a lazy start, a late breaks, a lazy coffee, then a lazy stroll to check out a modern style shopping mall just around the block. It looked very fancy online, and I was thinking, yet another crazy contrast to India. On the way, we had to cross the crazy busy road, but we have totally got this shit! First, find a small break in the traffic to get you started. Take little Geisha girl type steps, three or four, while always maintaining eye contact with oncoming traffic. Move into the small gaps, as you see them, stand still as they zip past you on all sides, go to the middle. Repeat as required to reach the other side….simples!
Some great photos of old in our hotel, while we relax with coffee.
The Mall was underwhelming, and although it looked like a modern shopping plaza, it was a bit dysfunctional. They tried, and Will was happy enough to find some more SD cards for the GoPro. We didn’t stay long, and trundled off back towards home, and stopped mid street for Chai. For a dollar, we got two little paper cups of soothing Chai and two big bottles of water. A couple of Indian men gave us their stools and insisted we sit. We did. It was nice, on the edge of the busy road. Back at the hotel, I checked my phone to find a message from Lalli Singh, saying the guys had arrived on our bikes. We rushed downstairs to see, and only one was there. Only a short wait, and Amit and Tony (not his full name), arrived on the other bike.
Contrasts and more contrasts, this is India.
After the paperwork is done, they show us the tools and spare parts provided, give us a run down on the bikes, how to travel, and security. Their advice was “Shanti Shanti”, take it easy, calmly. Perfect! Tony gave our bikes and our journey a lovely blessing, and then we shared some lunch. They were wonderful men, and shared some of their stories with us.
Bikes, a blessing, and now we are excited. Check out the new Himalayan for Will.
So, we are set! We have bikes, skills (somewhat) and technology. We also have some wonderful contacts if we get stuck. So tomorrow we go! Excited much?
Will has gone all native to test ride my bike. Tony is showing us the spares and tools.