India - Day #7-8 - Jaipur
02.10.2007 - 04.10.2007 35 °C
Well yesterday we arrived in Jaipur and for the first time our hotel pickup didn't arrive. We waited palming off the circling brood of rickshaw and taxi drivers, salivating at the chance to take us for a ride. Eventually we picked the bloke who spoke English the best and made it to our hotel.
Jaipur is a very busy city, 2nd to Delhi it seems so far. Even in the evening it was hot and dusty.
That evening we headed down near the old city where the markets are and had dinner at the Copper Chimney. It was a bit touristy, but I think we were craving that a bit. The food was very good. It was also quite popular with the locals.
I was gazing out the window, when a small white car pulled up and out jumped some local women who preceded directly into the restaurant. I did a double take as I looked back at the car and saw two fat sikh's still sitting in the front seat of the car parked out front. They had a pre-meal on the dash board of the car. I mean plates, side dishes the whole sha-bang. Then casual as you like, one produced a bottle of beer from below the dash and topped up the others cup. Then in the same fluid motion, out came a bottle of whiskey adding some as a mixer. After a few minutes, they straightened their white robes, readjusted their turbans and sauntering into the restaurant to join their female companions. I wasn't game to take a photo, but it was priceless.
After that we were pretty knackered so we just headed back to the hotel via an internet cafe.
Next day, we enjoyed our complimentary breakfast in the massive hotel restaurant. We were the only ones there, but the huddle of staff chatted about cricket to us for a bit. They rave on about Ponting a lot
We stepped it up a notch and piled into the old town markets, attempting to follow the walking route suggested in the Lonely Planet. The hard part is none of the street names are written in English, so by some miracle we fluked the right street. The markets are much more organised than any other so far. Each little shop has a number allotted, so if you ask for something specific (like a battery recharger) they'll blurt out some shop number, and if you can make sense of the numbering order, you might just find it.
Each street or section seemed to specialise. So you'd find a street of fans, or irons or similar electric appliances. Some were dedicated to marble work, which was quite amazing. There'd be some marble shops taking a electric circular saw to slabs of marble, others chipping away with chisels, while final touches were made with sand paper or other rocks. The end results were spectacular but just a little heavy to stow in your backpack.
We had the usual toute tussles, like one guy insisting he just wanted to practice his English, but eventually pointed to his car nearby in case we wanted a day trip somewhere. Its relentless !
Some guy we talked to took us to his shop upstairs above the markets and showed us gem cutting. There were bags of raw gems lying around. I was looking for a wrist wrap or similar but eventually bought a kinda silver bracelet (which one end fell apart one day later LOL - they might be good silversmiths, but they might wanna work on the glue).
There wasn't too much we wanted to see in Jaipur, but we took a walk to the Royal Palace but didn't go in. We were warned it was pretty average and full of trinket shops, and didn't feel like paying a fairly rude entrance fee for that. During that time we were constantly tailed by this old man on a peddle rickshaw, pointing out obvious landmarks and insisting he was fit and ready to take us anywhere. His persistence wore us down and we let him take us (squashed together on a hard narrow seat) to the next temple near by, which was closed. To his defense he did mumble something on approach about it only opening after 5:30pm. But he still had no problem taking us there. Needless to say we weren't keen on any repeat trips. So we jumped a ride to two vibrant young guys in an auto-rickshaw to take us to some further sites.
They were all excited and told us we were good luck for them as we were their first for the day. We saw the Water Temple, which was half submerged after damn was built by one of the rulers. It looked quite cool. Then we were off to the Monkey Temple, but they suggested to Moghul village on the way, which turned out to be some markets, so we asked them to just keep going. We decided it was still too early in the day for the temple as its best by dusk. So we diverted to some food area. They took us to a pretty authentic Hindi place. The food and lassi's were great.
The drivers often have a tendency to consider you their ticket for the day and will wait for you no matter what you do. We had told them we didn't want their service further, cause I was unimpressed with their game playing - they were trying to slyly stretch the price out from what I had agreed on. It was next to impossible to lose them. There is simply no point trying to get another ride with them near by cause they will all start talking to each other and scheming. We had to walk way down the road and cross over just to get another ride.
Eventually we landed some old geezer with tufts of hair poking out his ears like Yoda. He was also the only driver ever that did not beep his horn. That ride to the Monkey Temple made us realise just how important it is to beep. If people ahead of you don't hear you coming, they just swerve in front of you.
We pulled up at the base of this dusty rocky hill. You could instantly see a few monkeys milling around. We bought only one bag of peanuts from the two on offer. As he swung his hand back with the rejected bag of peanuts a sly monkey grabbed it and bolted for the hills. It was kind of fortunate we had seen this up front, cause we were prepared now
We hiked up this windy path to the top temple and gazed at the spectacular views and hordes of monkeys below us. The sun was a bit too high still and we didn't really bother waiting for sunset. Instead we trekked down to meet our simian greeting party. The monkeys had all swarmed onto the path and I fed them while Scotto took some photo's and camera video. It was very cool indeed. They are very gentle but cheeky as. One would hold my hand while happily receiving more peanuts with his other hand. At one point I just looked away for a second, and he instantly made a snatch for the bag. Luckily I had a firm grip and scurried off empty handed.
Upon arriving back down, sure enough sitting with our driver was our first driver who'd taken us from the train station to the hotel. He had given us his mobile phone number (yes, many have them here surprisingly - its a huge market) and was trying to make us promise to call him for any further trips in the city. We had got up late and just taken the next available. So now he was there at Monkey Temple and he wasn't happy. He gave his upset and disillusioned face and told us that he "would never trust another tourist again!". This almost made my blurt out in hysterical laughter, but instead opted for the "well yes, I guess now you know how it feels pal".
That night, were thinking about having dinner in the revolving Om restaurant, but instead we headed for the Rambagh Palace Hotel, the only 5 star hotel in the city to checkout the Polo and Steam bar. It was a fair drive, but we were amazed by what we encountered. The place was epic. The Steam bar was a full train with engine and carriages just inside the hotel gates. It was empty, surprise surprise, so we kept on walking through the magically lit gardens up to the main hotel. There were fountains and it had the British Colonial look. We ventured around the side, and up some marble stairs into the main ground where two musicians were sitting on a small podium in the middle playing authentic Indian music (drums and sitar). The rest was just decadent and elegant. Waiters all dressed up with flowing red turbans, table and chairs on the grass surrounded by the facade of this amazing sultry lit hotel.
After a wander around, we thought we'd have a go at having a drink here. We ended up having a full meal and being waited on hand and foot. The prices were comparable to decent Sydney restaurant. So not outrageous at all. Everybody was friendly and chilled, right down to the security guards.
We had a very early train to catch the next morning so we headed back to a little internet and then crashed.
ps. Don't forget you can see Scotto's blog on http://scottness.travellerspoint.com/.