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Published: February 17th 2016
My last stop in the state of Rajasthan would be its capital city, Jaipur. Apparently this was India's first planned city and now has a population of about 7 million. Indians call this the pink city due to the colour of stone used for many of the buildings. Much of the city was painted pink in 1876 to welcome the visiting prince of Wales, as pink was considered the colour of hospitality. Bev and myself had a general ticket for the short train journey from Ajmer. There was nowhere to sit, so instead we just remained standing at the end of one of the carriages and looked out at the passing scenery from the open doors. The train made a few stops and then arrived at the junction in Jaipur. Suddenly a massive crush of people begun. People were pushing to get on the train, while those who had to get off, us included, were trying to push the other way. Yelling, screaming, children crying, shoving...the Indian train experience realized. Bev managed to get out first and then I powered past those going the other way, almost losing my backpack in the process. Once we were off, we took a quick
moment to compose ourselves, then just laughed about the situation. We ended up trying to take the metro into the city center, but since it wasn't completed yet and only a few stops existed, we just used a rickshaw. The rickshaw swerved left and right through the insanity of Indian traffic, and we found ourselves in front of the Jaipur Zostel. After we checked in, I quickly found Dylan and Oli who were in the common area. They had managed to return their motorbikes without any issue, although Dylan had a little spill less than 100m from the shop. He and his bike were fine but I was kind of happy I hadn't been on the bike with him. They would be going to Rishikesh the following night, and were intent on not doing a whole lot between then and now. We all decided that on this night, we would get some ingredients and cook in the hostel kitchen. Everyone pitched in and we got together to cut vegetables and prepare a pretty basic pasta dish. It was the first time I had something "home cooked" in a very long time. Somehow Oli had stubbed his toe and seemed to
crack his big toe nail quite badly. Since Bev and I are nurses, we quickly dressed his wound with steristrips and a bandage.
It was off to explore Jaipur the next morning. Bev and myself, along with an American guy named Peter who we had met the previous night, took a rickshaw towards the monkey temple outside of the pink city. Upon arriving we looked up at a hill and saw multitudes of rhesus monkeys roaming about. Many other animals could be seen as well, such as dogs, pigs, cows, goats. Many sadhu's were seen going up and down the walkway. Bev had bought a kilogram of bananas and was eager to give them to some of the monkeys. Almost immediately, she found herself with three monkeys climbing all over her. They seemed pretty gentle and were rewarded with bananas. They seemed afraid to climb on me or Pete though and we wondered if it was because we were guys. We carried on upwards and had a few goats join us on the walk. Further up we found a Yogi Sadhu who claimed he was the son of Shiva and showed us different marks on his body signifying the
number three. Bev entered a small temple and was blessed Hindu style. We reached the crest and then climbed down towards the actual monkey temple. We all had lots of fun taking different photos along the way. Once inside the temple there was literally hundreds of monkeys that could be found everywhere. I became very jealous of their climbing skills. There were many religious Hindu rituals going on there as well, as Hanuman, is considered the monkey god. We spent quite a bit of time there and on our way out we noticed two large groups of monkeys were agitated and began to attack each other. Someone there explained to us that there were two monkey troops fighting for the territorial rights of the temple. They viciously growled and swiped at each other and the overall noises produced were quite intense. Many troops of monkeys attempt to take this coveted area, and why wouldn't they? It is after all a place where humans beings worship them and give them plenty of food. Following this unique experience, we climbed back up and down the hill again. We briefly adopted a stray dog that we named Rufus. On the way down two
dogs attacked him and he retreated back behind us. We shielded him and let him get past them. Maybe he just used us because once we got to the bottom again he simply disappeared. We also saw what appeared to be a six legged cow. The cow looked to have two under developed legs coming out of its back. Only in India.
We decided to walk back to the pink city and experience all the sights and sounds of Jaipur. We passed through many blocks and you cannot go literally a minute without seeing something that makes you turn your head, and on occasion, blows your mind. I guess that's India. We reached the pink city and then spent some time walking through the many bazaars. We saw shops selling anything and everything. We even saw a stand where someone was selling and fitting dentures, right there on the street-side! When we returned from the hostel, I think all three of us were pretty mentally wiped. Luckily the common room in this Zostel was incredible and a joy to spend time in. In what has become a favourite activity here in India, it was close to dusk and that
meant having to choose a good place for the sunset! We took off towards the Nahargarh fort which overlooked much of Jaipur. We split two rickshaws with Dylan, Oli and myself in one and Bev, Peter and this couple from Malta in the other. The road twisted and turned as it made its way up the mountain. Once we reached the fort, I decided that I didn't want to pay the admission fee and instead went along the side of the fort in search of some good views. Jaipur was sprawled and I even saw some sand dunes in the distance, reminding me that even Jaipur was taking up a space in the Thar desert. On the way back Oli sat in what can closely be described as the trunk of the rickshaw, and a guy on a motorbike literally tailed us and had a conversation with him as the two vehicles sped down the road. Only in India. Once we got back to the common room, everyone was hungry and we all ordered some thali. Dylan and Oli soon after left to go to the train station and onward to Rishikesh in the north. I bid them farewell and
thanked them for letting me hitchhike on the back of the bikes through a good chunk of Rajasthani scenery. We all knew there was a big chance that none of us would ever see each other again, but I let them know if I ever made my way to Australia I would give them a shout. That night the hostel played a Bollywood movie named three idiots. To the shock of most Indians, I know absolutely nothing about Indian actors or movies.
Another full day in Jaipur awaited and I woke up quite early. Much to my surprise, I was becoming more of a morning person. I guess that's to be expected when you live in a dorm. Bev and I ate from the free breakfast provided at the hostel and then found a city bus that was headed towards the Amer fort, a few kilometers north of the pink city. This was one of Jaipur's most famous forts, and we walked the outside and inner courtyard. We decided to save some money and skip the palace portion of it. Instead we walked along one of the outer walls and found a quiet area to enjoy this Unesco World
Heritage site for a brief moment. Rajasthani forts are impressive in a way that few sites can be. We descended back towards the entrance and then were met by a staff member from Eleday. Eleday represented an elephant farm and we had talked about going to see and spend some time with Asian elephants for a while. I've been lucky to see both Asian and African elephants in the past, but Bev had never really seen or interacted with one. So, although it would be somewhat pricey by Indian standards, we decided to just go ahead and check it out. Bev was quite concerned about the ethical treatment of the elephants, but based on some reviews they seemed ok in that regard. We arrived outside one of their small farms. We met Mateen, who would be with us for the experience. He explained loads of info about Asian elephants, as well as info about the farm itself. There were three elephants there at this time, all of them females. They all had intricate paintings on their faces, as they sometimes took part in festivals and celebrations. These ones seemed to be very calm, and continued eating the hay provided by
their caretakers. We got to touch them, feed them, wash them, paint a few designs on them, and even go on a short bareback ride around the grounds. I did think they were well cared for from what I saw, and we were assured that they didn't work everyday. Of course there was no exact way to be sure but sometimes you just have to go by feeling. It was a pretty cool day overall and then we returned to the hostel. That night we went for a short walk through our section of the pink city.
By the next day, we had only until the afternoon left in Jaipur. We walked out to the bazaars and roamed until we reached the central park area. Along the way, we witnessed people and animals going about their days. Of course we had multiple situations where we would turn our heads and exclaim "only in India!" We then returned to the hostel, ordered some food and then took a rickshaw to the train station.
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