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Published: October 10th 2011
In other countries a long wait at a train station is a dull thing and tedious, but one has no right to have that feeling in India. You have the monster crowd of bejeweled natives, the stir, the bustle, the confusion, the shifting splendors of the costumes--dear me, the delight of it, the charm of it are beyond speech. - Mark Twain
It wasn't such a long wait for the train, but the train stations here certainly are something. Bustling, congested, people sleeping everywhere, dogs napping alongside, lots of trash. Variety of people. I love traveling by train and India is no exception, even if it's a very different experience from what I'm used to. For our first night on the train we were lucky to be in a carriage with a group of French tourists traveling to Jaipur along with us, so there were interesting people to talk to and no worry about missing our stop. A fairly restful night, clean sheets, decent facilities and an early morning. We'll have seven more train trips to go - hopefully they'll all go as well as this one.
We only spent one day in Jaipur, and I have to admit
that I'm glad we didn't stay longer. Outside of some magnificent sights and a few quiet spots we found - including a lovely ayurvedic massage parlor - Jaipur doesn't seem to have a lot to recommend it. Lots of different animals - including our first urban monkeys - plus the usual dogs, cows, goats. Pigs were to be seen out at Amber Fort as well. Otherwise the city felt too dirty and the touts were definitely a bit more aggressive than usual.
Jaipur is known as in Rajasthan as the Pink City because of a tradition which started in 1876, when Maharaja Ram Singh had the entire old city painted pink, a color associated with hospitality, to welcome the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII).
We started the day with a good breakfast at Jai Shankar Pavitra Bhojnalaya before slowly making our way to see the Hawa Mahal, closed today. This beautiful, five-story, honeycombed pink sandstone structure was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawaj Pratap Singh to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city. Lovely to see but distressing to think of spending one's life behind these walls.
Next it was out of the city on our first Indian bus to Amber, a magnificent fort-palace set among the hills. It's an incredible complex of grand halls and apartments constructed of red sandstone and marble, among other materials, with battlements lining the surrounding hills and the town resting down in the valley. The photos really don't do it justice.
Back to Jaipur, lunch at LMB, and a tour of the City Palace. Another amazing complex of courtyards, gardens and other buildings.
In the evening we visited a classy little out-of-the-way ayurvedic massage parlor, Kerala Ayurveda Kendra, the best massage place yet in India - highly recommended.
That night while we waited for the train Clement wandered outside the station and stumbled upon his first - and ultimately his most recommended - mithai paan seller. Look for the older gentleman, dressed in white with a collected, knowledgeable air. Guaranteed deliciousness - or so I hear!
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