Birthdays and Bollywood - Jaipur

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December 20th 2011
Published: December 30th 2011
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The Amber Palace
20th December ’11 Madhogarh to Jaipur

After waking up and opening my cards and presents from Looci and Andrea which was a lovely way to start the day, thanks! We reluctantly left the fort, walking down the hill as the transport today was an enormous bus! It took about 4 hours to reach Jaipur – partly as the bus was so huge it was awkward trying to get it along the narrow country roads. We entered Jaipur through the ruins of a deserted palace entranceway which then led into the town. It was a huge sprawling place teeming with people, cows and pigs! We really don’t remember seeing pigs in India before, they certainly never have pork on the menu and are apparently kept to eat the rubbish and there does seem to be less litter around nowadays than previously but never the less there is still a lot!

We reached the Amber Fort which I did remember especially the painted elephants which were taking visitors up the Fort. Intrepid won’t use them as the elephants are apparently not well treated, but at least I got to do that 25 years ago before anyone bothered about such things.

The Amber Palace

Before we hiked up to the fort we visited the loo – one cubicle with a door and 3 squats side by side in a line and a terrible smell! After a bit of hysterical laughter, a quick squat and we were done!

Although it is always referred to as the Amber Fort you cannot actually visit the fort itself as it is still in use but really it is because there is treasure hidden in there and only one person knows its location – the secret is passed down from father to son within this one family. Even the Maharajah does not know its location but is taken to it once a year and allowed to take out only what he can carry in his two hands.

The palace (none of which I remember) was amazing again and very similar in style to the others we have visited – fabulous stonework and a beautiful mirrored durbar hall. We wound our way up and down narrow staircases, through corridors and out into open courtyards with a myriad of small rooms. Along secret passageways through which the selected Queen of the day would have been taken to spend the

The Amber Palace
night in the Maharajah’s room. The wives would all be in the courtyard below and unbeknown to them would be numbered and the Maharajah would then choose his number for the night!

The 1st wife each day would choose which of the wives would be the favoured one for that day, she then wore the special dress which was richly decorated with jewels and adornments and weighed 50 kgs! As she could not possibly walk in it the corridors and passages have special stone ‘wheelchair ramps’ which the servants used to push her around and up and down the palace.

After visiting the palace it took ages to get through all the traffic to reach our hotel – the Heritage Haveli where we were staying for 2 nights. We ordered lunch which took 1 ½ hours to arrive!!! In the meantime we found our lovely rooms and spent ages looking at all the historical photos that lined the corridors. There were plenty from the Raj era with lots of stiff necked Britishers posing with the various animals they had killed and lovely ones of various Indian nobility.

Then it was time to go out on our ‘orientation’

The Amber Palace
walk, as we were staying well out of the city centre we had to use tuk tuks first and it was another mad fairground ride of a journey where we narrowly missed several cars and bikes! We were then orientated around the Raj Mandir (cinema) area and given 10 minutes to explore or should I say dice with death and play with the traffic!!

We then went to a typical Rajasthan restaurant for tea – well I certainly got a surprise there! The place was decorated with balloon, a Happy Birthday banner, the waiters’ fired party poppers and a big chocolate and cream cake with my name on was brought out! Everyone sang Happy Birthday and I blew out the candles, it was lovely and the cake was delicious. The meal not so – it was a thali and everyone had a big round silver tray with 7 small silver bowls on it. We were then given various blobs of sauce stuff and the bowls were filled with various types of curry and weird stuff! Strangely the one that Evelyn reckoned looked like sick turned out to be the only one that tasted nice! Well the potato lumps did

Birthday Cake!
anyway. You also got rice and chapattis on your tray and then ate the lot with your fingers which was the bit I did like.

After the meal we tuk tukd back to the hotel and arranged with Imran (the driver) to meet us the next day at 11 am, as we at last had a free day we wanted a sleep in! For anything between 2 – 8 hours of sightseeing the price was 600 rupees (about £7.50).

21st Dec ’11 A free day in Jaipur!

Oh the bliss of not having to be up at the crack of dawn! I had a pot of black tea sent up to the room so it all felt very decadent and then off we went. First stop was the post office to get stamps for the postcards. It was a huge old building with about 20 counters but just like England only 3 of them were manned! We joined the scrum at one of the windows and managed to get our stamps then had to go back out on the street to find the one out of 4 post boxes which we needed. That done we headed to

Birthday Meal
Mc Donalds for breakfast/lunch and had our first non curried food!

The Lake Palace was our next stop which appeared to only be a lake palace as a dam had been built close by and it was now half underwater. We had thought there would be boats to go in and see it but there wasn’t, so we strolled along the ‘promenade’ being offered fish food and giant poppadums. The painted elephants from the fort then started parading along the road which was quite a sight. We took some photos and then the next stop was the Palace of Winds in the old city.

The Palace of Winds is one of the iconic sights in Jaipur, it is just like a many tiered pink cake full of little windows. Usually it is just photographed from the outside, but we discovered you could actually go in and as the streets nearby were packed with stalls selling various textiles, shoes, bags, jewellery and bangles, so we parked up and set off to do a bit of shopping too. What a mistake the prices were sky high, the shop owners really pushy and the harassment constant, mixed in with trying to

The Lake Palace
avoid pot holes, piles of rubbish, pigs, cows and broken bricks it was all a bit stressful.

We managed to find an alleyway with a sign saying entrance to the palace so we ducked up it and went around the back of all the shops, round a corner, up another tiny alley where we were intercepted by a jewellery store owner and ended up spending 10 minutes looking at very expensive silver jewellery before managing to escape saying we needed time to think and finally found the ticket counter!

We then made our way back to the tuk tuk by a very circuitous route in order to avoid all the stalls and the jewellery shop where we had said we would think about buying things! We then went to the City Palace and Observatory area as tuk tuks weren’t allowed to enter into this section we left ours and walked in.

We both recognised the Observatory with its very distinctive astronomical and mathematical structures. We were both still amazed at how they designed and invented all these highly advanced and accurate things so long ago. I had to have my photo taken with the structure for locating

The Palace of the winds
Sagittarius in the heavens!

Once we left the Observatory we walked over to the palace entrance – outside of which was a snake charmer!, looked in and then decided we just couldn’t face another palace! Rather than go back to the tuk tuk and have Imran ask us why we were back so soon we just sat on a bench and watched the snake charmer!! It was a bit scary when the guy took the cobra out of its basket and let it head towards a group of tourists, particularly when he went to get hold of its tail to pull it back and missed, he then had to leap up and chase after it!!!

We headed back to the tuk tuk and when asked how the palace was we just said great! By then we were Jaipured out so we just said take us to the KFC for tea! We then met up with the rest of the group at the cinema.

The Raj Mandir is one of the biggest and grandest cinemas in India and often hosts film premieres. It was all very opulent in a kind of faded 1920s style. The auditorium was huge

The Observatory
inside and our seats were up in the balcony. The film we were going to see was a Bollywood blockbuster called Desi Boys and I have to say it was one of the highlights of the trip for me!! You could easily follow the plot, but the experience was all the more bizarre as it was filmed and set in London but with an American twist on things. The best thing was the audience participation, when the stars first appeared they were whooping and cheering. They clapped, cheered, booed, whistled and joined in with the songs – it was exactly what I have always wanted to do back at home, so I did too! It was excellent, we all came out as high as kites vowing to buy the film when it is out on dvd!

Next stop Ranthambore still in Rajasthan

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The Raj Mandir - Desi Boys!!

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