Our night train to Jaipur in 3AC was mostly uneventful (thank goodness!), punctuated only by a devastated young man crying on the phone to the girlfriend he just said goodbye to and a massive pounding in my head. At 7:30am we arrived at our destination and luckily were swooped away out of the chaos that is every Indian train station by the family at whose guesthouse we would stay at.
This family guesthouse was the best of all our travels so far. The family was so genuine and welcoming you couldn’t help but fall in love with them straight away. Scandalous daughter Pritti started the guesthouse, but after shocking her parents by having an affair with a married man and running away with him to Delhi, her brother K.P. moved home to take over the business. K.P. lives at home with Momma, Papa (an 81 year old retired typewriter mechanic) and Vinisha, his unmarried sister. Monisha, his other sister, runs another guesthouse in Bikaner, and still another sister lives and works in Dubai. We learned all of this and much more while alternately sipping chai and rum in the sitting room and watching a hilarious Indian soap opera about various gods and goddesses. The women of the house are also top notch cooks who served us a mouth-watering home-cooked dinner of palak paneer, stuffed green peppers with cumin/turmeric/raisin potatoes, another curry, endless chapatti and pappadoms, rice, gulab jamun, barfi and of course, chai! After stuffing us with deliciousness, Vinisha decided to dress me up in one of her momma’s saris and Ryan in a “safa” turban, and do an impromptu photo shoot. HI-larious.
Ryan, Charleli and I explored the city the next day in a combination of autorickshaws and local buses. Our first stop was a Jaipur Institution, the Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar (LMB) Bakery, where we stuffed our faces with Indian sweets and savoury dishes in preparation for a full day of touristing. Jaipur, “the Pink City” is actually very picturesque with fantastic architecture (a lot of it pink) and excellent shopping (although we didn’t indulge). It’s also extremely busy and simply trying to cross the street was a somewhat – no, no COMPLETELY – terrifying experience.
We eventually made our way to the City Palace complex in the heart of Jaipur. This massive complex, built between 1729 and 1732 includes the Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal palaces among other buildings. It used to be the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur, and now houses a museum but most of it is still a royal residence. Snake charmers and puppeteers greeted us as we entered and we spent the rest of our time admiring the beautifully ornate architecture that surrounded us on all sides.
Our next bus was more like a van, but a tiny van filled with about 45 standing men, women and babies. One of the babies took an instant dislike to me and cried every time he looked at me. He must have been able to tell I was a Ginger and have no soul. The tiny bus took us to the Amer Fort about 11km outside of Jaipur. The fort was built by Raja Man Singh I in 1592 and is of course, dazzling. Before I get to the fort though, I can’t forget to tell you about the ladies out front with scales! Scales to weigh yourself! For money! I can’t imagine why I would feel the urge to pay someone to tell me how heavy I am while touring an Indian Palace. But to each their own!
The fort was a total maze! Thank goodness one of the maintenance crew showed us the route or else we would have been lost in its depths for all eternity, at least until we found the bright red Café Coffee Day randomly placed in one of its dark corners. On our way out of the main palace area, and after getting our photo taken by Indian tourists a couple dozen times, I had to turn the tables and ask to take a photo with a group of about 12 girls when they passed us wearing blue “Winter is Coming” shirts. Turns out they were a part of a school group of 130 kids touring the fort. I don’t think they even knew the significance of the phrase! There must have been a sale on Game of Thrones paraphernalia.
As the sun started to set, we walked up the steep hill like suckers (we were passed by others resting their legs as a golf cart drove them to the top) to the nearby Jai Agarh Fort, still part of the Amer Fort complex. and with an awesome view of the fort below. The place was overrun with langurs, which I didn’t mind, but also with annoying young men who kept following and trying to touch me, which I did mind. At the prime photo spot, Ryan was complimented by a guy on his growing beard and also asked if the man could put his arm around me for a photo. Oddly enough, I can’t remember what his answer was!
Back in Jaipur City, we ate dinner at the Lonely Planet recommended, but highly disappointing Ganesh rooftop restaurant, and then, to satisfy our extremely strong ice cream craving, hired an autorickshaw driver named Bundu to take us to the not even remotely close McDonald’s for a McFlurry. Bundu must mean rally car driver in Hindu because Holy Jeebus was that the fastest, most terrifyingly awesome and fun in a crazy scary way rickshaw ride. He even had handles on the roof that came in very handy and which Ryan christened “Holy Shit Handles”. As fitting an experience as any for our last night in Jaipur!