An uninspiring capital
Jaipur Travel Blog› entry 26 of 33 › view all entries
Train to Jaipur an express service and with no seat reservations it was every man for himself. Fortunately the train was pretty empty and got myself settled in a seat a class above what I had been used to. For much of the 2 hour journey, the carriage entertained by a procession of kids trying to eek out some loose change from the more affluent captive audience.
Able to start working the touts to my advantage on the promise of a lift to my hostal for 10 rupees (I had been advised it should be 30). I was ready for the hard sell and had an answer for each of his attempts for a tour of Jaipur for tomorrow, a trip to the shops for souvenirs and his attempts to put me off my chosen hostal. He dropped me off at the correct place disgruntled with my rebuttles.
Jaipur, the 3rd corner of the Golden Triangle (with Delhi and Agra) that is a must for any visitor to India and is the capital of Rajasthan.
- 1st stop - Birla Mandir - a modern Hindu temple with pretty stained glass windows and marble decor but nothing of real interest
- 2nd stop - Hawa Mahal - apparently the most famed building in Jaipur. Within the walls of the original boundaries of the Pink City, has 5 storeys of bay windows that is quite peculiar. However no parking allowed so had to jump off the coach to take a photo whilst still moving.
- 3rd stop - Jantar Mantar and 1st real stop. An 18th century observatory designed by Jai Singh II himself (maharaja that founded Jaipur).
- 4th stop - City Palace & Museum. Built in the 1720s it still houses the current maharaja and family. A number of historic buildings across two main courtyards and several exhibitions of textiles, armoury and art gallery. Many of the buildings still containing original chandeliers. The royal guards in authentic uniform of white trousers, blue blazer, red turban and some excellently cultivated moustaches. Also houses 2 silver vases that are in the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest that gained infamy when Madho Singh II had them carted to London filled with Ganges water because he didn't trust Western water !!
- 5th stop - Nahagarh fort - stood high on the hilltop above Jaipur.
- 6th stop - Jaigarh fort along the ridge from Nahagarth, much better preserved and pretty impregnable fortifications. Tour didn't really show much of the fort other than its famous cannon (Jaivana) that is the biggest cannon in Asia and the biggest cannon on wheels in the world. Apparently it needs 100 kg of gunpowder to fire a cannon ball that has a range of 35km. It didn't protect the fort from Indira Gandhi when she surrounded it in 1970s and took all the forts treasures.
- 7th stop - Amber fort & palace - by far the most impressive of the forts it looks golden in colour. The seat of power for the Rajput maharajas from the 11th century until Jai Singh decided to build Jaipur in 18th century.
A rushed trip around the main monuments but good value saving a whole raft of tuk tuk fees. Amber Fort, the City Palace & Museum, and the Observatory the only really worthwhile visits
2nd day in Jaipur aimed at mopping up the rest of the main sites.
Onwards to the Royal Gaitor. Originally listed on yesterday's itinerary, we never made it. Located just outside of the original Pink City walls, it is the cemetary for the ruling Jaipur maharaja family. The complex split in to two main courtyards that is hidden at the back of the Jaipur valley with towering hills and temples above.
The 1st courtyard holding the cenotaphs of the deceased maharajas of the 20th century. This courtyard dominated by the infamous Madho Singh II (died 1922) who had "a gangantuan appetite for women" and reputedly fathered 125 children between 4 wives and over 50 concubines ! His meusoleum reflects his larger than life character with a large white marble cenotaph with inlaid carvings of elephants and tigers.
The 2nd courtyard much older and containing 5 structures for the ruling maharajas of the 18th and 19th centuries and is dominated by the cenotaph of Jai Singh II who founded Jaipur in 1720s. The other 4 structures still grand and reflecting the white marble precedent that Jai Singh II set.
The tuk tuk driver then insisted on throwing in a couple of free additions. A museum that turned out to be a shopping mall. It was the high end of the market and I was a little affronted that the shop owners didn't even try and coax me in to buying knowing they were way out of my price range ! By the time we had got to the floating palace, a fog had descended and the lake was missing, never mind the hotel in the middle.
Had a reunion with Nina (from Annapurna trekking) who was finishing her trip by meeting up with friends looking to buy stones to export back to shops in Slovenia. Found a rooftop terrace and caught up for the past 5 weeks getting some good tips for Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer I am heading towards, before leaving her to her mafia looking buddies.
I remain unconvinced by Jaipur and an surprised how it had managed to become an essential stop on the India travel route. Maybe it covers a broad range of history and sights for those with little time. It is also a lot cleaner than anywhere I've been so far in India. Maybe it is not so bad, but I am ready to move on.