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Day 144: Pretty in pink

Jaipur Travel Blog

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Amber fort

Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Ed (Netherlands)

Ed's mild bout of diarrhoea two days ago had only been a teaser of what was yet in store for him. During the night he suffered from an attack of nausea as bad, or perhaps worse, as I had had in Agra. When the alarm went off he made the decision to stay in bed and leave exploring Jaipur for what it was. He had already been here on his 2008 trip, so it was not too bad to give it a miss this time around.

So I hopped in to Mukesh' car alone and we drove to the former city of Amber, the predecessor of Jaipur, 11 kilometres north.
Amber was abandoned in 1727 when the new city of Jaipur was founded 11 kilometres south, closer to water sources.

The gardens of the Amber fort
Today the former capital is within the city limits of Jaipur as the sprawling city is expanding further into the valley.
Most of the ancient city has disappeared, but the residence of Maharajah Singh, the magnificent Amber fort, is still standing and has largely been restored. This part-palace, part fortress is built on a hilltop, overlooking the small Amber valley. In front of the fort are some beautiful ponds and gardens, with an impressively steep and narrow road leading up to the entrance.

Ed had recommended me to take an audio-guide for my tour around the palace. Not only would this shield me from the calls of eager touts hoping to get my attention to sell a souvenir/postcard/elephant ride/guided tour, the audio tour is also (unintentionally) hilarious! The information is presented as if the building is talking to you, in distinct (almost mock) Indian English.
The front gate of the Amber Fort, which started talking to me
So when you enter and you key in the number for the first listening point, a booming voice will bellow “Hello, I am the front gate and welcome you to the palace”.

It took me about an hour and a half to walk through the entire fort and listen to all the chapters of my audio tour. I had really enjoyed it.
At the end of the tour I came to a series of souvenir shops and a branch of Barista Coffee. I was impressed, this was the first time I came across well-planned efficiency in India. Normally you will find souvenir shops and restaurants at the entrance, where touts will quickly diminish whatever small interest you may have had in these.
By putting these at the end of the tour, free of touts (who are not allowed inside the fort), it makes much more sense.
Trying to make sense of the audioguide map
“Hey, I'm thirsty, let's have a coffee. I liked the fort, let's buy a souvenir!”

I must say that I enjoyed the Amber fort much more than the previous forts I had visited, the Agra fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Not just the coffee at the end, but also the way any non-staff and non-visitors are barred from the place. At Fatehpur Sikri and even the Taj Mahal, we were frequently harassed by so-called volunteers who wanted to guide us around or take our photos for 'free' (Free in India means that any monetary donation is entirely up to you, as long as it's over $ 10).
Plus that it is a very impressive building as well.

Looming over Amber fort is another fort, Jaigarh, built on a high cliff. Unlike the Agra fort, which doubled a residential palace, the Jaigarh's sole purpose was defence.
Jaigarh fort
As such the fort doesn't have much of the typical palatial frills that most other royal forts in India have.

The Jaigarh is home to the largest cannon in the world, which I decided would be an interesting sight, especially since I already saw the reputedly largest cannon in the world in Moscow, two years ago. Had they wheeled it over? Could either one of these nations be lying and not actually have the largest cannon in the world? Guess what? Neither of them are. While Moscow claims to have the 'largest' cannon in the world, the Jaya Vana cannon in Jaigarh, is apparently the largest *wheeled* canyon in the world. And another fact in favour of this cannon, the Russians never got round to firing theirs. The Indians in fact did fire their cannon... once...

On the way back to Jaipur we stopped at the Jal Mahal, the water palace.
The largest (wheeled) cannon in the world
This former palace used for duck hunting is closed for public (there are plans to open it as a tourist site though), but it is still a nice place to see from a distance, as it sits in the middle of an artificial lake.

As I was taking pictures of the palace I was approached by some street kids and I did something I have never done before: I gave one of them money! I never give money to beggars. In my opinion giving money only encourages begging and I prefer to give my money to organisations that work on improving living conditions for these people in the longer term. That said, I often do give some money to disabled or homeless people who actually do something for a living, like selling drinks or a street musician.
This kid did coin tricks, and surprisingly good ones too.
Jal Mahal, the water palace
I watched his hands closely, but could not see how he did it. He spoke perfect English too. In my opinion he had earned a small tip. I can see him, with his language skills, become a guide or something within a few years, while his friends will still be begging in the street. Let's just hope he doesn't use his magic trick to let people's coins disappear in a different way, if you know what I mean.
Later Mukesh told me that children in India are entitled to free education, regardless of their parents' income or class. So this kid not being in school, was most like sent out by his parents to earn money. There's always two sides to every story. Not sure what is better, a lower caste kid wasting his years in school only to spend the rest of his days either unemployed or in low-income jobs, or this kid being street-smart, perfecting his English and landing himself a job as a tour-guide or travel agent.
Little kid doing some excellent coin tricks (using his own coin, fortunately)
Or a pickpocket. Tough one.

Mukesh dropped me off in the centre of Jaipur, where I visited the Jantar Mantar. We had visited the one in Delhi a few days earlier, but the one in Jaipur is widely regarded as the most impressive of the five observatories Jai Singh built in the early 18th century.
Once again I took an audio tour, this time listening to an old man explaining to his little grand daughter how all the intricate instruments work. The kid must have been a whole lot smarter than me, because even after listening to the explanations I still couldn't figure out what each instrument was supposed to do.
Still, from an architectural and aesthetic point the Jantar Mantar was breathtaking.
Jantar Mantar
I love these seemingly weird and random arches, circles and staircases that lead to nowhere. As I walked around the sun broke through so I managed to see how some of the instruments worked by using the movement of the shadow cast by the sun to measure earth rotation and the likes.
Still, I wonder what they used to do when it rained.

Adjacent to the Jantar Mantar is the Jaipur City Palace. The ticket price included entry to the Jaigarh fort, which I had visited in the morning. For some reason doing it in the order I did was not eligible for any discounts though. Greedy bastards :-(
The hefty entrance fee did include an audio guide though, so for the third time today I donned a set of headphones and listened to the stories of days gone by.
This one wasn't as good as the previous ones though.
At the Jantar Mantar
The descendants of the Rajputs still live in the palace and the information on the audio guide bordered on propaganda, lauding the Royal Family for doing... being... uhm, yeah, for being, basically, because I could not fathom just what these people have ever done to be revered so much. Their ancestors? Sure, they founded Jaipur, fought off neighbouring kingdoms and made peace with the British and later the other kingdoms in order to found a united Rajasthan. So from historical perspective, they can be as laudatory as they want. But the present Maharajah? He has no power whatsoever, no political influence per se and all he does is sitting in his ivory tower collecting hefty entrance fees (not to mention grants from UNESCO for maintaining the palace as a World Heritage site) while people outside are begging in the streets.
City Palace
Nope, I don't have much love for Indian royalty, who claim they have been chosen by the Gods to rule for eternity.

The last place I visited was the Iswari Minar Swarga Sal, the 'Heaven Piercing Minaret', a minaret erected by Jai Singh's son, who famously killed himself rather than facing the advancing Maratha army. His 21 wives and concubines did the honourable thing and committed ritual suicide afterwards. Did I mention yet I have some doubts about the habits of Indian royalty?
The mosque itself is worth a visit though. From the top you have great views over the frantic streets of Jaipur.

I must say that I quite liked Jaipur. The old city is not particularly beautiful (with the exception of the Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar and the minaret), and it is quite crowded with people and traffic.
Iswari Minar Swarga Sal
But what I like is that despite its obvious tourist draw, this is still very much a living city. The shops in the Old City are mainly local shops, where local people do their daily business. There are only a few souvenir shops and virtually no restaurants within the city walls. A very good thing, in my opinion, as  this way the city keeps its own, distinct character.

I went back to the hotel to find Ed feeling a bit better. We played it safe and had dinner in our hotel, staying off the overly spicy food for now.

In the evening we went to the cinema. No Hollywood fare this time, but a genuine Bollywood film. While neither of us speaks Hindi, Bollywood films are generally easy enough to follow. I mean, they are generally not known for overly complex stories.
At the top of the Iswari Minar Swarga Sal


The reason why we picked Jaipur to see a film was the majestic Raj Mandir Cinema, a beautiful pink (obviously) cake-like building and considered to be one of the best places to see a Hindi film. After all, the theatre is an attraction in itself.

Just before we went over we had a nasty surprise though. We had bought the tickets yesterday, but I never checked the tickets themselves. Turns out they had given us tickets for the wrong screening. We had tickets for the 18:30 screening, but wanted to go at 21:30.

As we arrived at the theatre I explained the situation to the doorman and was gruffly told that he couldn't do anything about it, we had to come back tomorrow. I explained that we were off to Pushkar tomorrow, so we couldn't come back was there nothing he could do now? There wasn't.
The Raj Mandir cinema

I asked to speak the manager and the doorman grudgingly got a phone and called a number. I was handed the phone and in a not particularly friendly way was I told that there was nothing that could be done. I could come back to the box office tomorrow and try to get a refund or a ticket to tomorrow's show.
When I once again explained that this was not possible (somewhat losing my cool now) I was told that this was all my fault. If his staff made any mistakes printing the wrong tickets then it is my mistake for not checking it. “After all, you also check your money when you get change, don't you”.
Well, yeah, I had been too busy counting the money to notice I had been given wrong tickets.

Meanwhile Ed was talking to one of the other doorman, who seemed a bit more helpful than the first one.
Buying the tickets for the film
More phone-calls were made and eventually we were given the chance to buy new tickets, for a cheaper section, at half price.
I still didn't agree with the way things had gone, but we didn't have much choice. Besides, 2 Euros is not particularly expensive for a cinema ticket.

When we entered the theatre it turned out it was far from full. The cinema holds a staggering 1184 seats, yet only about 100 were occupied. I didn't understand why it had taken the best part of half an hour to get this sorted. Why does everything have to be so overly complicated in India? We had bought the tickets at the box office yesterday. But this was the pre-sales box office, which was now closed. It was still possible to buy tickets for tonight's film, but at a different box office, only meant to sell tickets from one hour to show time.
Inside the Raj Mandir Cinema (picture taken with Ed's camera phone)
So for that reason we were not able to exchange our existing ticket for a correct ticket. Unbelievable.
While you could still argue that it was partially our own fault for not checking the tickets, I am pretty sure that if you show up at a cinema in Holland with the wrong tickets (unused) and 90% of the seats are still available, they don't make such a fuss and will exchange the tickets for you.
But I guess that requires some sort of initiative and out of the box thinking, and I know from working with Indians that people here are taught to follow rules very strictly. If it's not in the rule book, it is not possible.

Anyway, on to the film itself. Perhaps it is best to copy the plot from Wikipedia:

The film is about bike gangs in Mumbai. Neil Nitin Mukesh plays the character of Nandu, a fighter who pummels his opponents in the ring blindfolded.
Ed doing his best One Shot Nandu impression (frankly, his acting was better than that of the guy in the movie)
Deepika Padukone plays Pinky Palkar, a dancer who is blind but ambitious and dances with roller skates on her feet. He teaches her to see and she teaches him how to love. But what price will they have to pay for their love?


The film was enjoyable, despite its flimsy (and rather predictable) plot. I particularly liked the music. Normally I'm not a big fan of Hindi music, but the music in this film was mostly in the melodic rock mould, exactly my type of thing.

All in all a very enjoyable evening. I'm glad we were given the chance to see the film in the end.

halilee says:
I'm thoroughly enjoying reading your blogs! :) Thank you!
Posted on: Oct 10, 2012
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Amber fort
Amber fort
The gardens of the Amber fort
The gardens of the Amber fort
The front gate of the Amber Fort, …
The front gate of the Amber Fort,…
Trying to make sense of the audiog…
Trying to make sense of the audio…
Jaigarh fort
Jaigarh fort
The largest (wheeled) cannon in th…
The largest (wheeled) cannon in t…
Jal Mahal, the water palace
Jal Mahal, the water palace
Little kid doing some excellent co…
Little kid doing some excellent c…
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
At the Jantar Mantar
At the Jantar Mantar
City Palace
City Palace
Iswari Minar Swarga Sal
Iswari Minar Swarga Sal
At the top of the Iswari Minar Swa…
At the top of the Iswari Minar Sw…
The Raj Mandir cinema
The Raj Mandir cinema
Buying the tickets for the film
Buying the tickets for the film
Inside the Raj Mandir Cinema (pict…
Inside the Raj Mandir Cinema (pic…
Ed doing his best One Shot Nandu i…
Ed doing his best One Shot Nandu …
The Amber fort
The Amber fort
The Amber fort
The Amber fort
Jaigarh fort
Jaigarh fort
Jaigarh fort
Jaigarh fort
Inside the Amber Fort
Inside the Amber Fort
Inside the Amber Fort
Inside the Amber Fort
Inside the Amber Fort
Inside the Amber Fort
looking out from the Amber fort
looking out from the Amber fort
Amber fort
Amber fort
Snake enchanter at the Amber fort
Snake enchanter at the Amber fort
Ferocious looking cobra!
Ferocious looking cobra!
Mukesh and his brother
Mukesh and his brother
Jaigarh fort
Jaigarh fort
The largest (wheeled) cannon in th…
The largest (wheeled) cannon in t…
nozzle of the largest (wheeled) ca…
nozzle of the largest (wheeled) c…
Jaigarh fort
Jaigarh fort
Amber fort, seen from the Jaigarh …
Amber fort, seen from the Jaigarh…
Jal Mahal, seen from the Jaigarh f…
Jal Mahal, seen from the Jaigarh …
Streets of Jaipur
Streets of Jaipur
Needless to say this office of the…
Needless to say this office of th…
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Strange astronomical instruments a…
Strange astronomical instruments …
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Starway to heaven
Starway to heaven
Apparently these old instruments w…
Apparently these old instruments …
Scorpio, my zodiac sign
Scorpio, my zodiac sign
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Measuring the rotation of the earth
Measuring the rotation of the earth
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar
City Palace
City Palace
City Palace
City Palace
City Palace
City Palace
City Palace
City Palace
Getting artsy at the City Palace
Getting artsy at the City Palace
View form the Iswari Minar Swarga …
View form the Iswari Minar Swarga…
Jantar Mantar, seen from the Iswar…
Jantar Mantar, seen from the Iswa…
Hawa Mahal, seen from the Iswari M…
Hawa Mahal, seen from the Iswari …
City Palace, seen from the Iswari …
City Palace, seen from the Iswari…
Streets of Jaipur, seen from the I…
Streets of Jaipur, seen from the …
Iswari Minar Swarga Sal
Iswari Minar Swarga Sal
Flower market
Flower market
Inside the Raj Mandir Cinema (pict…
Inside the Raj Mandir Cinema (pic…
Inside the Raj Mandir Cinema (pict…
Inside the Raj Mandir Cinema (pic…
Jaipur
photo by: oxangu2