Something good is coming out of not being able to sleep. I am now getting used to, and looking forward to, waking early (it is currently 5 am) and sitting at the window with a cup of Tetley (this seems to be an upper class 3 star hotel!) watching the sunrise and early morning activity in the streets below – very mystical and peaceful.
After a lovely breakfast on the rooftop we were collected by our faithful Sukhvinder and our guide for the day, Krishna. We drove through the city, stopping at the Hawa Mahal on the edge of the city. Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan and its current King is currently studying at Oxford Uni. Note to self; trip to Oxford on return to introduce myself as potential mother in law?
We stopped off to look at the Jal Mahal which is a palace in the Man Sagar lake and just beautiful. It was fascinating to watch the water buffalo swimming past. The Indian government and a business are trying to get permission to turn the palace into a hotel. A good location for a wedding methinks; will mention this when I meet the King in Oxford.
The drive to Amer Fort was spectacular and the city wall, which encircles the whole of the Jaipur old city, was impressive and astounding. The colour of the bougainvillea bushes was beautiful. We jumped out of the car at the entrance to Amer Fort and were literally jumped upon by the hoards of hawkers who are a force to be reckoned with! We were introduced to a”Sonia” who was the 27 year old elephant who would take us up the steep climb to the fort. There are 127 elephants and all female (!!) and each elephant is only permitted to carry out 5 climbs a day and end at 11.30 am. We clambered on and I quietly congratulated myself for wearing trousers and making such an elegant climb into the seat. A very British older couple were on the elephant in front and the man yelled out asking where we were from! When we told him he looked so happy as though we were neighbours and explained they were from Guildford and had just completed the South Downs Way – now there is something rather surreal sitting on an elephant in Rajasthan in the heat of the morning discussing a National Park in the U.K. His wife was trying to get his attention but the man wasn’t having any of it. Our elephant man explained that Sonia had a particular “party trick” that when you said “Sonia – up” she would lift her trunk up (rather sad really) . Well the man in front found this amusing and proceeded to call out “Sonia – up” the whole way up the hillside. One of those moments when I was secretly wishing Sonia had a trunk full of water and would just douse him in water! We disembarked (again rather gracefully I thought!) and entered the fort.
Krishna was a superb guide but was slightly difficult to understand. It is about 26 degrees during the daytime and after almost 4 hours of cultural overload we were exhausted. Krishna was a very pleasant and charming man and told us so many facts and would get very excited when we commented how impressed we were. We entered a stunning small prayer room made entirely of marble and Krishna encouraged Hannah and I to have a bindi which we eagerly had (and no tip required!).
One of the main things I find slightly irritating here is the tipping. You only have to talk to someone and they expect a tip. There were some smart, handsome and impressive guards at the entrances to some of the buildings and they asked if you would like to have a photo taken – to then be asked for a tip! The rather British side of me came out -!can you imagine the guards at Buckingham Palace doing that?! I accept it is a different country but I find it quite distasteful.
We walked down the hillside to be followed the entire way by one of the numerous “photographers” who produced an album of about 10 photos he had taken of Hannah and I on the elephant. He wanted 25000 rupees! Well, he just would not leave us alone whilst we waited for Sukhvinder and I was even running around cars trying to escape. We got into the car and he was running down the hill banging aggressively on the window! Krishna told me to give him 300 rupees; the man gave us the photos we didn’t want and ran off.
We said our goodbyes to Krishna (giving him an enormous tip) and Sukhvinder dropped Hannah and I off at a local bazaar for a couple of hours. After a dodgy start, I have nailed the haggling and am now quite good at it! Hannah is not good and offers to pay the first price but we have a little tactic now and are doing quite well! I couldn’t understand why some of the children were pointing and laughing at me until Hannah told me to get my little mirror out and I discovered my bindi had begun to run in the heat and I was resembling Jack Sparrow out of Pirates of the Caribbean with red dye running down my face and around my eye! We decided to call it a day!
My feet were aching (I am desperate for a pedicure in return) and we found the car and returned to the hotel for another cold shower.
Hannah came up trumps again by finding a fantastic place to eat on Trip Advisor, Peacocks – just fab, fab, fab and only a short walk from our hotel. The walk did involve negotiating to cross a busy road which we did by clinging on to each other, closing our eyes and just running. (Eeek I am forgetting my Dad will be reading this blog – love you Dad – don’t be angry!). We enjoyed the best meal so far and were treated by a three piece band who were fantastic. Great end to yet another great day!
Except ……………….. box number one of the Imodium opened and I hope all is well for our trip to Udaipur in the morning?!?!
Love and bottoms