Representing “welcoming” and “hospitality”, Jaipur’s buildings were painted pink to impress Prince Albert whilst he was on his tour of India in 1876. Since then, it has become law for the buildings within the old city to be painted this colour. If you refuse, you will be sentenced to death. Just kidding – but it is the law!
We pulled into the city just before lunch, having been serenaded in the jeep by a playlist extending the far reaches of Bollywood film classic soundtracks. I was surprised that Shazam knew these songs; I was equally surprised at how much I actually enjoyed some of them.
Not long after settling into the hotel (and noting that my hotel room and bathroom reeked of that stagnant drain smell), we commenced a walking tour of the bazaars in the old city. It’s safe to say that every spice in the world was available for sale – little wonder why the V.OC. had their sights on India for the spice trade. Cumin, nutmeg, coriander seeds, cardamom, chilli… literally, all these spices were demanding to be smelt at the same time! Chronic sneezing followed. It was a fascinating experience exploring the markets, of which I enjoyed seeing only locals taking part – a truly genuine Indian market experience.
Pulling around for a lassi served in terracota cups at the famous Lassiwala on Agra road, we then headed to the cinema! There’s a sense of occasion walking into an Indian cinema. The floors are specially carpeted, the ceilings and walls are decorated with gold-lining, whilst the walls themselves are painted mint and pink (cause,why not?) And if that’s not enough, there are chandeliers, ornate bouquets of flowers, and a popcorn stand which sells everything from cake to samosas.
Inside the theatre, the screen has a velvet-red curtain which is raised before the show, and lowered for the interval (They do interval breaks). I’m told Indians typically get really involved and cheer or boo during the movie as they get involved with the characters, but our film choice was Raazi – a story about an Indian girl who spys in Pakistan. Safe to say our crowd was not very vocal, given the tension between the two countries. A great movie none-the-less, of which I’m sure I’d have enjoyed even more had I had the luxury of knowing what was being said other than the odd English “Cool” or “Nice”. I also realised whilst watching the film, that Indian body language is really hard to read – trauma and hilarity look almost identical. It took a lot of effort to follow what was going on.
In true movie-date style, we stopped at the McDonald’s on the way out. I’m happy to report that the Fillet ‘O Fish is still on the menu in India, though the beef options have been cut and replaced with the McSpicy Paneer amidst other Aloo- options. I am still yet to see someone order a Fillet ‘O Fish anywhere in the world; I imagine the staff would break into an ignorant panic should they ever receive an order for it.
The following morning’s stop – the Amer/Amber Fort (both are correct apparently). It’s a big fort on the hill, with magnificent inner gardens and courts. It is also one of the many, many, many forts in India – every town seems to have one. So it could be that his one is as spectacular as the others. But what the other forts might lack, is the enslaved elephant brigade used to bring lazy westerners to the top of the fort. I think it was the smug look on their faces as they breached the top gateway that did me in – I imagine it’s the same faces they wore back when human slavery was common practice. Ironic in some sense I suppose.
We visited the Instagram-ous (Instagram famous) stairwells shortly after our fort tour. We’ve all seen the stairwells on instagram and social media, so I was as taken back as I would be should a friend show me a photo they took of the Eiffel Tower. I did have my attention stolen by the creatures in the water in the bottom of the well however – several colossal sized barbel circled the shallows, whilst slightly smaller eel-like creatures were breaching the surface and diving down straight away into the darkness. There was also a terrapin basking in the sun on the side step. I still wonder how these creatures got into the well in first place, though I suppose they were put there to intentionally keep people from swimming. I mean, I wouldn’t swim knowing those things were in there.
After the briefest of stops past the underwhelming water palace, we trodded through the old town’s markets (some trod in cow shit during said trodding) before being dragged around the jewellery stores by some of the girls amongst us. The market roads are divided like supermarket sections – you pass through the spice section, then the car-parts section, onto the elaborate stone sculpture section (?) and then, just after the bakery and aircon sections, you find the jewellery part of the road. Jaipur is famous for its jewellery and precious stones (amongst other things), so I suppose window shopping counts as an activity worthy of ones time, and not necessarily succumbing voluntarily to a tourist trap.
A lesser-known activity definitely worth doing other than jewellery shopping however, is the Jantar Mantar – an 18th century park fitted with numerous sun-dials and astronomical structures which determine different fascinating and sciency things. The accuracy of these things to tell the time is unbelievable, especially given that they were made more than 2 decades ago. The park also contains the largest sundial… in the world! It’s huge!
After a brief disruption from another selfie with some locals (see below incriminating shot) I returned to being in awe of the intelligence of the Indians and the accuracy of the astronomical devices they had built as I left the park. But it was then that I saw an Indian man intentionally relieve himself behind a free and public toilet, causing me to lose my train of thought…
The final event for the day was supposed to be a viewing of the Hawa Mahal – a high-walled palace built to allow royal women back in the day to see what festivities were happening on the streets. But alas – we, the tourists, had become the real site again! Just as we were admiring the wall with its little shutters, one of shutters popped open and a camera shot out and started taking photos of us. The paps had found us again! As a result, it was my duty to ensure that I get a photo with this man too. The photo I captured of him giving a thumbs up keeps me smiling still.
After a dinner at a local fast-food indian styled restaurant (where I may have caused a fracas over a naan bread that I had ordered, but which didn’t arrive), I headed back to my stinky drain-smell room to retire for the day.
Perhaps it was the smell that kept me awake, but I somehow found myself down the YouTube rabbit hole. At 2am, I struck gold – a Michael Jackson ripoff, entitled “Indian Thriller”. What a time to be alive. https://youtu.be/x81iip6psks