india jaipur - backpacking around the world in 333 days
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REPORT 3 - Oct. 2000

India - Jaipur

Jaipur was our last stop in the golden triangle of India, and we were in no hurry to leave this majestic city. It encapsulates the very best of India blended with a European feel, its wide streets and roads filled with scooters. In the mid 1720s, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II decided to create a city for himself that was both beautiful and practical, and so Jaipur was born. Dubbed the 'Pink City' because the inhabitants painted it pink in honour of the visit of Prince Albert in 1853, Jaipur is a thoroughly modern city yet it manages to retain its historic feel, making it easy to see why it has become the most popular destination in Rajasthan.

The centre of this vibrant city is alive with bazaars and stalls selling everything from fruit to jewellery. We headed there to buy some Indian clothes, our Western styles now seeming out of place. Jon has acquired a taste for bartering (a way of life in India) so with every rickshaw or purchase, a fierce battle ensues. Haggling is a serious business until, that is, you convert it back into pounds sterling and realise you are stalling over 10p!

After our shopping exploits, we set about sight seeing. For convenience we chose to hire a rickshaw for the afternoon, the driver of which gave us a personal tour of the attractions for less than 2. We started at the Hawa Mahal (The palace of winds), a five story sand stone palace built in 1799 by Marharaja Sawai Pratap Singh. It was designed as a place where he could compose his devotional songs to Krishna. The impressive structure is not only a visual treat; you can also enjoy great views over the city from the top.

Just near by, we stopped at the Jantar Mantar. Completed in 1728, it is the largest and the best preserved of massive astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh. Its eighteen large instruments that calculated the movements of celestial bodies make it look like a strange adventure playground. However, each instrument had a specific purpose, illustrating the Emperor's great passion for astronomy. Impressive as the observatory is, our only disappointment was our own lack of astronomical knowledge

Our last stop of the afternoon was the most serene, a place called Gaitor. It had not been in our guidebook, and from the blissful tranquillity we deduced that it wasn't in anybody else's either. Gaitor houses the tombs of the Maharaja Emperors, each one exquisitely carved by the finest Italian craftsman. The tombs are surrounded by marble temples. I was so busy staring at the detail on the ceiling, that I tripped over and stood on the actual tomb, which, by the Guide's reaction, you are not supposed to do!

The next day, we were supposed to visit Amber Fort about 14km away, set on top of a large hill, overlooking Jaipur. However, Jon decided he had seen enough forts and refused to get out of bed, even though the guide was waiting for us! Anyway, we decided to visit the City palace in the afternoon, which Jai Singh built as a home for himself and enjoyed an unexpectedly entertaining afternoon.

The palace is still home to the present Maharaja and much of it is off limits. Along with courtyards and impressive architecture, it houses a textiles museum, an arm and weapons museum and an art gallery, which all helped us to get a real sense of the history and tradition of the city. Of particular interest are two silver urns that were built to bear water from the Ganges. Both hold 9000 litres and are the largest pieces of silver in the world. When we visited the tombs, our guide pointed out the tomb of the 'fat Maharaja', Sawai Madho Singh I, who weighed over 250kg, and supposedly ate 105 chapattis for breakfast. After we saw the huge size of his gown in the museum, we could easily believe it!

When we were about to enter the art gallery loud music and singing started up. We turned the corner and saw a group of women, dressed in saris, dancing and clapping, with a crowd gathered around. It was only when we got closer, however, that it became apparent, these women were really men! There was a group of twenty transvestites dancing their hearts out and obviously enjoying all the attention. It was totally bizarre; a whole Jerry Springer Show just waiting to be written. As we stood watching a man told us that the shopkeepers in the palace pay them to perform outside their shops to draw a crowd, and potential trade. Once Jon got the camera out, they came up to us and all wanted their pictures taken with us. Of course we had to oblige!

Jon & liz
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Hawa Mahal


Jantar Mantar


Gaitor


City Palace


City Palace


A Performer!

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REPORT ARCHIVE
The Beginning 14 - THAILAND Bangkok
01 - INDIA Delhi 15 - THAILAND Bridge Over the River Kwai
02 - INDIA Agra Taj Mahal 16 - THAILAND Chang Mai - The Long Necks
03 - INDIA Jaipur 17 - AUSTRALIA Kakadu National Park
04 - INDIA Camel Safari 18 - AUSTRALIA Ayers Rock
05 - INDIA Mount Abu 19 - AUSTRALIA Great barrier Reef
06 - INDIA Goa 20 - AUSTRALIA Fraser Island
07 - INDIA Mumbai (Bombay) 21 - AUSTRALIA Sydney
08 - HONG KONG 22 - NEW ZEALAND South Island
09 - PHILIPPINES Boracay & Panglao Island 23 - NEW ZEALAND North Island
10 - PHILIPPINES Bohol Chocolate Hills 24 - USA Hawaii Oahu Island
11 - PHILIPPINES Banaue Rice Terraces 25 - USA San Francisco
12 - MALAYSIA Kuala Lumpur 26 - USA Washington DC
13 - MALAYSIA Penang, Georgetown 27 - USA New York
  28 - UK - THE END
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Produced by John Bentham - Copyright 2000/01 Jonathan Enoch & Elizabeth Wigg / John Bentham

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Liz

Gaitor

Jon

Jantar Mantar

Jaipur