Day 143: The wind palace
Jaipur Travel Blog› entry 193 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Ed (Netherlands)
From Sawai Madhopur it was a relatively short drive to Jaipur. Jaipur would mark the real start of our trip around Rajahstan, the state of Maharajahs. Like most major cities in Rajahstan, Jaipur was a small kingdom ruled by a royal family. The city was founded in the early 18th century, though the lineage of the royal family can be traced back to the 12th century when the capital city was located at the nearby city of Amber.
When the British arrived they left the system of the small city-kingdoms of Rajahstan mostly intact as it proved far more easy to add Maharajahs to their payroll, offering them virtual immunity and a guaranteed income from taxes, than to try and conquer each and every kingdom.
To this day the royal families of Rajahstan are revered by many Indians, even though they no longer have any power nor any claim to tax money.
Jaipur is dubbed the Pink City, after Maharajah Ram Singh ordered every building in the Old City to be painted pink to welcome King Edward VII. To this day local law compels all citizens in the Old City to preserve the pink façade on their buildings.
We arrived in Jaipur just after midday. At first sight this was just another big Indian city: dirty, noisy and with lots and lots of traffic. Perhaps now is a good time to mention the traffic in India. I thought I had experienced some bad traffic before, in Egypt or Mexico or Iran. Yet all these pale in comparison with India. What sets India apart is the sheer insanity of many of its drivers, coupled with added obstacles like potholes, unmarked speed bumps, pedestrians or cows on the road (and the way said insane drivers deal with these situations)
I mean, in Iran I have experienced some hair raising moments, but I always had the feeling that the drivers knew what they were doing.
As we drove on one of the main thoroughfares towards our hotel a deadly accident happened right in front of our eyes. A motorcycle overtook us at outrageously high speed, while a few hundred metres in front of us another motorcycle rider decided to cross the road. Neither one was paying much attention to the traffic. The rider who passed us tried to show off to some girls riding a tuk-tuk in front of us, while the person crossing the road stopped in the middle and only paid attention to the oncoming traffic on the other half, seemingly assuming any traffic on his side of the road would simply swerve around him.
When I learned to drive I was taught to always look far ahead and anticipate what happens with traffic around you. As the motorcycle overtook us I saw the other one trying to cross the road and I knew what was going to happen seconds before it actually happened.
The two motorcycles crashed into each other at high speed, flinging off the riders. The one crossing the road had not been wearing a crash helmet, the rider who crashed in to him had, but only in the way many Indians wear helmets as some weird fashion statement, perched on the back of their head with the straps unfastened. Mukesh told me the next day the newspaper had reported both men had died in the accident. Such an incredibly stupid and easily avoidable accident.
After we had checked in to our hotel Mukesh dropped us off in the Old City.
This interesting structure was build in 1799 as an extension of the nearby royal palace, to enable the ladies in the royal household to watch city life. They would sit behind tiny veiled windows, observing the life in the streets pass by, without being seen themselves.
The palace has an impressive, honeycombed façade which is one of Jaipur's most impressive sights. Inside the palace consists of small, bare rooms and narrow corridors. Both Ed and I loved the place. Besides the excellent views over the city, we also had plenty fun wandering through all the staircases and corridors, getting stopped regularly by Indian tourists who clearly felt we were the most interesting and exotic sight here.
We hadn't really eaten since breakfast, so we decided for an early supper at a tiny restaurant, Ganesh, which sits atop the city walls of the Old City.
The food was excellent, even if all three dishes we had ordered looked (and dare I say tasted?) the same.