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Published: February 7th 2011
Thus far, I’m not having a good run with my domestic flights. I arrived at the airport 3 hours early for my flight, courtesy of sharing a car with Carol, who was flying out in the opposite direction, only to encounter a further 90 minutes delay. So I now almost know Varanasi airport as well as I know Delhi domestic airport! The only good news was that my flight to Jaipur had included a 2 hour transit stop in Delhi, which was totally wiped out by the delay, to the point where they actually had to ferry me by cart to make it in time for my flight to Jaipur. On the positive side, I secured seat 1A for the flight which, while having some extra leg room, certainly didn’t offer any first class service!
So I didn’t end up reaching Jaipur till around 8pm, by which time the traffic had subsided. But I thought they’d flown me to the wrong place – the taxi was clean, the traffic all went in the one direction, and gave way to each other, and there was a minimum of the incessant horn-blowing of Varanasi. I found out the next day that this
wasn’t going to last, but at least I enjoyed the 30 minute ride to my hotel in relative comfort.
First pleasant surprise occurred on arrival at my hotel. “Sorry sir, there are complications with your room here, so we’ve transferred you to our sister hotel, just down the road”. I’ve heard all this before, methinks. “But the good news is that it’s a better hotel, and we’ve upgraded you to a suite, all for the same charge”. Methinks, this is perhaps an entirely new approach. So there I was, in a converted palace, in a superb room, all for the princely sum of AUD40 a night. I celebrated with a couple of extra drinks at dinner, which elevated my dinner tab to over 10 bucks!
What is so special about Jaipur? Apart from being the capital and largest city in Rajasthan, it has basically two sections – the new and the old cities. The latter is known as ‘The Pink City’ due to the colour of the stone used almost exclusively in this walled part of the city, and it is this area, along with a couple of forts high in the hills on the outskirts of town,
that hold most of the attractions. While civilised traffic and clean, unpotholed streets are nice, they don’t necessarily make for fun tourist destinations. So it was back to the chaotic traffic, and the incessant horns, as I did the rounds of the old city.
As is my travelling style, I rejected the 50 or so offers I had for both transport and guide services (and that was only in the first hour!) and spent most of the day on foot. So it was back to weaving in and out of the traffic, the people and the produce, but mainly without the animals I had to dodge in Varanasi. I spent the first day basically doing the rounds of the old city, taking in the standard tourist attractions of the City Palace (including museums with a wide variety of Indian history), the Jal Mahal (Water Palace), Jantar Mantar (astrological observatory) and the world renowned Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), along with a variety of temples and gardens.
My second day, I decided to hire an auto-rickshaw for the day (from the dozen or so offers I received!) and settled for an older guy for Rs700 for the day,
including delivery to the airport, which itself had cost Rs450 on the way in. I sensed that an older driver might be more inclined than the younger guys to take me where I wanted to go (ie sightseeing attractions) rather than we he wanted me to go (ie shops, where he would get a commission). In this sense, I was successful, and we had a good day together (and he got a good tip).
First, my driver took me to a series of three adjoining temples on the outskirts of the city, of which I have no idea of their name, but which I enjoyed almost as much as anything in India. If any reader can identify them from the photo, I’d love to know what they are called, and why they don’t get more publicity. He then took me up to the Jaigarh Fort, through which I was able to meander at will for an hour or so (with hardly another soul there), before exiting that fort and making it on foot down the steep pathway to the much better known (and more heavily crowded) Amber Fort. This complex of palaces, halls, pavilions, gardens and temples offer a
huge variety of historical sights for the visitor.
This was basically a leisurely day, but good to get a break from the hawkers and the chaotic traffic for a while. And so now it’s off to Udaipur, home of the famed Lake Palace, and variously described as ‘The Venice of the East’ or Rajasthan’s ‘Romantic City’.
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