Today started out with a real treat, suggested by a friend of mine who had lived in Jaipur:brunch at the RambaghPalace.The RambaghPalace used to be the home of the maharaja of Jaipur, but is now a super-deluxe hotel.Considering the astronomical cost of spending the night there, normal folks like me couldn’t possibly hope to set foot inside the Rambagh, except for the fact that for a mere (?) $30 you can eat brunch there, surrounded by sumptuous luxury, and fantasize about what it must be like to stay or live in such a palatial atmosphere.
Rambagh Palace: even the bathrooms were grand
Smiling, gracious, uniformed staff greeted us at every turn, opening doors for us at the merest blink in their direction, inquiring if everything was to our liking (Is “yes” an understatement?), pressing us to more food and drink, and answering our uninhibited questions at the end of the meal (Are those real flowers fitted into those delicate glass bubbles with the tiniest of openings?Yes they are.Have many famous film stars, celebrities, and politicians stayed here?Yes, they have, including Shahrukh Khan.Is that delicate floral scent coming from the thousands of tiny flower buds placed into those pools and fountains in geometric patterns?Why yes, it is.)The only ridiculous thing about the experience (unless you count such unabashed but tasteful extravagance as ridiculous, of course) was this:We arrived at the gates of the Rambagh in a standard, junky auto rickshaw, and were told by the slightly embarrassed guards there that we’d have to dismount and walk up to the palace, as it was too posh a place to have a rickshaw sputtering up to!Caught off guard we agreed to do so, and walked through the verdant gardens, passing women in matching grass-colored saris who pruned silently, and peacocks sunning themselves on the vast expanse of lawns.
Rambagh Palace: flower arrangement
After breakfast we went back into the heart of Jaipur and visited the Jantar Mantar, a 300 year-old observatory/park filled with numerous, gigantic instruments that measure time and the zodiac.By that time, however, the heat of the day was cranking up, fogging my brain somewhat, so I don’t think I was able to fully appreciate the site.
We briefly debated visiting the nearby expert astrologer to have our horoscopes done, but as he turned out to be out of town it was a moot point.Instead we threw ourselves once again into the melee of the arcaded bazaars, to admire and haggle over bandhani dyed saris, jootis (leather, pointy toed shoes), and more salwar kameez suits and shiny bejeweled bangles.
Midafternoon I met Anand again to make the drive back to Delhi, which turned out to be hours longer than I expected.This was due to two unforeseen factors:a late-afternoon/early-evening downpour of rain, which severely reduced visibility and slowed us down, and the horrific congestion and unending traffic jams outside Delhi.
In the best of times, it seems that driving in Delhi (or elsewhere in India) is an adrenaline-producing thrill ride, with near miss after near miss keeping you on the edge of the seat (unless you determinedly stare at the interior of the vehicle or some other neutral blind spot, that is).In the worst of times, driving in Delhi is enough to inspire people to throat-choking rage, as happened to Anand and another driver when they wedged their cars so close together that neither could move forward.The other driver jumped out of his car first and stomped over to Anand, shouting and gesturing for him to get out.Anand just barely managed to squeeze himself out of the car, as his door was only inches away from the road barrier, on which the other driver had perched and was belligerently shaking his fists and waving his arms about.I seriously thought that the two men would come to blows, as they were practically beating chests and working themselves up into hysterical anger, but some traffic policeman pulled them apart and hustled them back to their respective vehicles, and we all continued to inch forward at a snail’s pace in the dreadful traffic snarl.
Oh, and just to prove the point that driving in India really is a free-for-all, what do you think happens when you are driving on the highway and traffic is really bad in your direction?You do what we and a few other ballsy drivers did:you pull across to the other side of the highway where traffic isn’t as heavy, and continue on… driving into ONCOMING TRAFFIC.ON THE HIGHWAY.
Come to think of it, probably the most dangerous activity I’ve engaged in in India is driving.It’s certainly not for the fainthearted, who should stick to metros and the train system.
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!