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Published: March 9th 2013
The Mubarak Mahal, one of the buildings in the City Palace.
We arrived in Jaipur on Wednesday afternoon. Our hotel there had a nice and quiet garden, so we first had a cup of tea there. Then we wanted to to what we usually do when we get to a new city: walk around, explore and get a first impression of the city. However, we soon realised that this was not enjoyable at all. There was no pavement that would deserve the name, it was noisy and dirty, and not even the shops along the road looked inviting. So we decided to have an early dinner in the nearby Pearl Palace Hotel. It has a nice rooftop restaurant with a nice view of the city. There we had a wonderful dinner and sat and relaxed a while before catching a motor rickshaw back to our hotel.
Our rickshaw driver came to pick us up at nine the next morning (we had hired him for the day, Serpa from Kathmandu in Nepal) and took us to the Pink City, the city centre of Jaipur that is painted in pink. There is an observatory that was built early in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II. We hired a guide, and he
Gate to one of the courts in the City Palace.
explained all the instruments to us. We were amazed by the fact how with what amount of exaction all the instruments work. For example, there is a sumdial that can even measure the seconds. The Maharaja had put so much effort into this observatory because astrology played an important role in decision making (for example when arranging a marriage or in many other cases).
From the observatory, we continued to the nearby City Palace. It consists of many beautifully decorated buildings. Some of them contain museums. For example, in one of them, there is an exhibition of traditional clothing that was worn at court, and there is an armoury. The entire palace was built in the 18th century, just as most of the city of Jaipur. By the way, today the city has some 6.5 million inhabitants.
Afterwards, Serpa took us to the Royal Gaitor, an assembly of beautifully decorated marble temples and palaces. It was shady, incredibly peaceful and very pleasant there, so we stayed for a while. Afterwards, a woman in front of the Royal Gaitor painted a henna tatoo on Mizzi's hand and my upper arm. She was so quick in painting all the nice
The Jantar Mantar, or Observatory.
shapes and patterns! While we were waiting for the henna to dry, we climbed the stairs on top of a wall that runs up the ridge right next to the Royal Gaitor and ended up at another Ganesh Temple. The view of the city from up there was simply wonderful.
When we got back to the bottom, the woman removed the excess henna, and we were "released". Serpa took us to a palace that is completely surrounded by water and then to a shop where we bought traditional handmade fabric.
Finally, Serpa took us up to the Tiger Fort, a big old fort overlooking the city. We watched a beautiful sunset and then left the Fort, looking forward to a drink in the garden of our hotel. But things had gone too well all day...
When Serpa turned on the engine of his rickshaw, it did not sound good. We had to get out of the rickshaw again, and together with some other rickshaw drivers, he started looking at the engine. It was getting later and later. It started getting dark. Rickshaw driver after rickshaw driver left the scene, and so did one tourist bus. How would
The Royal Gaitor, a complex of palaces and temples.
we get back into the city? We started to worry. Finally, Serpa told us that he could not repair the engine right now, but that he would take us to our hotel as promised.
He attached his rickshaw to another driver's rickshaw using a wire. In this vehicle, there were already four people on the back seat (although there is only room for three, at the maximum), plus the driver, of course. Mizzi and I jumped into the "boot" of this rickshaw, so there were seven of us in this vehicle now. We started pulling Serpa. For a while, things went alright, although I had the feeling that we were driving much too fast. But then, the rod system to which the wire had been attached on Serpa's vehicle came off.
No problem. Serpa simply pushed his vehicle past our rickshaw, the other rickshaw driver held out his foot to the side of his vehicle and pushed Serpa's rickshaw with his leg, while of course driving his own vehicle. When we went downhill, Serpa usually got behind us because of course he had no headlights, and when the road went uphill again, he went in front of us
The Royal Gaitor again - beautiful work of art!
so that he could be pushed again.
We continued like this until the bottom of the hill, and Mizzi and I were assuming that Serpa would call another rickshaw for us there that would take us back to the hotel. But no. We continued in the mentioned constellation through the whole town! Even worse, we bumped into the police. The other passengers told us that their rickshaw driver had already been stopped by the police earlier in the day and had to pay 500 rupees because he had exceeded the maximum number of passengers. Now he had to pay another 500 rupees. The fact that he had been pushing another vehicle through the traffic did not seem to matter at all. The driver paid, and then we went on exactly like before!
Finally, when we had the feeling that our bums and backs were falling apart, we arrived at our hotel and were glad to get to bed. I still have a sore bum! But I guess that is the Indian way of dealing with problems: everyone helps together. And Serpa had committed himself to bringing us back to our hotel, so he did, no matter what it
View of the Water Palace, taken on the way up to the Tiger Fort.
The next morning, our new driver Singh(he has an unpronouncable name, Mizzi and I wwere glad he told us that we could call him Singh) picked us up and took us to the town of Pushkar. Pushkar is a sacred city on one of the most holy lakes in India. The legend goes that the Hindu deity Brahma threw a lotus flower to the spot where the lake is right now. There are numerous small and big temples around the lake. Apart from many pilgrims, there are also many tourists, and the whole town has a hippie atmosphere. I loved it from the first moment. Meat, eggs, alcohol and drugs are not allowed in the city. There is a nice bazar on one side of the lake from which rickshaws have been banned (but motorbikes have not), so it is rather pleasant to go for a walk there. Mizzi and I strolled around the little town, had lunch in a rooftop restaurant and then went to the Brahma Temple. Later on, we climbed up to the Serasvati Temple, some 300m above the lake, from which you have a wonderful view of the city. This had been enough exercise
View of the city and lake on the way down from the Savitri Temple
for the day, and we had a nice dinner in a garden restaurant not far from the lake.
Finding our way back to the hotel was a bit challenging because there had been a power cut (which happens rather often in India), but luckily we had our phone with us that we could use as a torch. About an hour later, electricity was back. But we had an early night anyway because we were going to head off for Udaipur the next morning.
And so we did. On the way, we passed the town of Ajmer and had time to visit the Nasiyan Jain Temple. The temple itself is only open to Jains, but there is a replica of the world the way it looks according the the Jain belief system, along with models of all Jain shrines. It was made from 1,000 kg of pure gold! Very amazing.
In the late afternoon, we arrived in Udaipur - but that's going to be the next story.
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