An uninspiring capital

Jaipur Travel Blog

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I decided to brave the train station ticket queue for my onward journey to Jaipur.  Held my ground with the locals and didn't let anyone jump ahead of me as the persistently tried to. I got to the front to the mocking of everyone else as I was in the wrong queue.  Oh well.  Quickly sorted out a ticket when in the correct place.

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.
  The best was a kid of about 7 who backflipped his was down the whole carriage, gave a few songs to the beat of his box banging and then contortioned his way backwards through a hoop.  Pretty good and was justly rewarded from a lot of the carriage.

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.
  However with none of the tourist sites jumping out as anything special, I decided to let the sites come to me and booked myself on a city tour for the day.  Surprised to find that our coach was 75% Indian and only 7 westerners on the tour.

  • 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).
      A genuinely impressive collection of sun dials (plotting time to within 2 seconds), mapping of stars and zodiac signs.  All within pretty grounds.  Outside there was a genuine snake charmer playing his flute to a dancing cobra.
  • 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.
      Now in complete disrepair despite its in tact ramparts. 
  • 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.
      The fort is vast with ramparts along the ridges of all surrounding hills as far as the eye can see.  The entrance to the fort up along a ramp that is now used for elephant rides for tourists.  The main guards of the fort now cheeky monkeys who will run off with anything left unattended. The palace within is excellently preserved with a number of gates, private residencies, secret passages (for the maharaja to sneak between his wives) and pretty buildings to host visiting dignitaries.   

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.

 I agreed a fee with a tuk tuk driver to chauffeur me around for the morning starting with Iswari Minar (heaven piercing minaret).  Sadly it was closed for refurbishment so had to settle for photo from the ground. 

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.

  3 other structures nice in their own right. 

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.

  We moved on to have another drive by the Hawa Mahal.  This time on the opposite side of the road and able to stay a bit longer to get a better photo than a coach would be allowed.  A quick stop at the Royal Albert Hall (could hardly see it for the amount of pigeons) before returning to hostal.

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.



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photo by: oxangu2