If you read my last blog post here on my time in Udaipur, you’ll already know that I’d woken up the morning we were leaving for Jaipur, and it was Illness – 1 Annmaree – 0. Talk about the worst timing! I Whatsapp’d Jo who was in her own room, telling her I didn’t know if I could fly, as I’d been up since 4.30am, spending most of that time in the bathroom – sorry if TMI! ;o)
I popped an immodium hoping that might at least give me some sort of insurance policy, swallowing it, then sprinting to the bathroom to bring that plus the entire contents of my stomach back up. OMG not fun. But I soldiered on! I packed my bags, head downstairs, got into our cab and hoped for the best. Laying my head back on the car seat, I willed the journey to the airport to go reaaaally fast, and the moment we pulled up, I dumped my bags with Jo and ran towards the airport bathroom. I allowed myself all of 10 seconds to feel sorry for myself, whilst I stared down the toilet bowl in the cubicle. I had a little cry, wiped my mouth, and went to check in.
Call it a miracle, but that was more or less the end of the illness. THANK GOODNESS! We landed in Jaipur, pre-paid for a tuk tuk, and made our way towards our hotel. By this stage, my whole body was aching like I had the flu, I guess from dehydration and whatever bug I’d picked up. All I wanted to do was take a shower and lay my head down on a pillow.
Arriving at the hotel, we were shown our rooms: windowless boxes in the basement, with external toilets and a bunch of mattresses on the floor, where the staff sleep during their breaks. Yes, you read right. Here’s the thing in India, the staff often come from villages hours away by train, leaving their wives and children so they can work seven days a week, with minimal breaks, to make money to send home. They have no staff quarters, so they either sleep on the floor, or on the sofa in the hotel reception area. This was a common occurrence throughout our trip.
As understanding as we were to the staff’s situation, the last thing Jo and I felt like dealing with, were external bathrooms and the knowledge a bunch of strangers were sleeping outside our rooms on mattresses. This was definitely our first moment of the trip where we really craved some home comforts.
We considered moving to a Sheraton hotel, just so we could rest and be certain of having a hot shower, but in the end, we upgraded to rooms with our own bathrooms, and I ended up staying in bed the entire day, aching and weak.
As much as I felt like I was wasting the day, it was so necessary to recuperate and regain some energy, something you need a lot of whilst travelling around India.
The following day, still a little weak, but feeling human again, I was determined to get out and about in Jaipur and see as much as I could. We started the day our usual way, cappuccino’s in a western style cafe, where we always allowed ourselves 1-2 hours to start the day slowly, chit chat, and enjoy our coffee.
Jaipur, also known as the Pink City, has some beautiful architecture inside the old city walls, so we jumped in a tuk tuk and made our way in that direction. Walking towards the entrance of the old city, we literally stepped over a man who was face first on the floor and most certainly not moving. Jo and I are pretty certain he wasn’t alive! These surreal moments happen often in India, and even when you’re there, stepping over a human being that doesn’t appear to be breathing, it’s still hard to connect with the moment and think THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!
Inside the old city of Jaipur you’ll find shop after shop, which are really trying to target the tourists. I’m going to be honest, it gets unbelievably tedious with the relentless ‘hey lady, you want shoes?’ ‘hello madame, come and see inside my shop, I have nice sari’s, pashmina…’. The most patient person would start to lose their shit. Our shells were starting to harden, and yes we may have been a little short with some shop owners, and we know they are just trying to make money to take home to their family, but it’s exhausting when every 20 seconds you find yourself saying ‘no thank you’, ‘i’m just looking thanks’, ‘no i’m not interested’.
I think this is why we loved our regular coffee breaks, it was the only way to hide away from the barrage of noise, questions, and general intensity. So we did exactly that after an hour or so of being inside Jaipur’s old city. We found the Wind View Cafe, and ascended to the top of the building, enjoying a moment of peace, whilst looking out at the gorgeous pink Hawa Mahal (in the photo above).
An afternoon spent inside the sari market in Jaipur was truly amazing! It is Aladdin’s cave, but with sari’s. A labyrinth of narrow alleyways, where you are literally squishing past mostly women, is home to stall after stall of sari sellers. I have never in my life seen so many beautiful fabrics and colours. We were on a mission to purchase sari’s, so we could take photos in them at the Monkey Temple in Jaipur.
However, as I’ve probably mentioned many times already, NOTHING is simple in Jaipur. We ended up following some shop assistant around the sari labyrinth in search of sari blouses, the little cropped tops you wear under your outfit. He took us to half a dozen shops, and each time he’d show us something that was exactly what we HADN’T asked for. We’d give him the benefit of the doubt, and in the end, we just had to be a little short and tell him ‘no thank you, we’re leaving’ and walked away. Thankfully a couple of helpful shopkeepers pointed us in the right direction of the sari blouse sellers and we eventually made our purchase.
By late afternoon, we called it a day. It was time to find a restaurant for dinner, sit on our butts, and relax!
The next morning, we were up early. The staff in our hotel really were fantastic, and any request we made, they tried their best to help us with. I’d asked if someone could help us tie our sari’s and the staff arranged for us to go to the neighbours house so the women there could get us ready. I was ready to pop next door at 7am. I was still waiting at 8.15am. Again, this is India, and they work on their own time schedule. When I finally went next door, the family were lovely and it quickly turned out that I hadn’t been sold a sari, but instead a piece of fabric that wouldn’t be long enough. Nothing was surprising by this stage of the trip.
One of the women offered me a choice of her sari’s, what a lifesaver, and so kind too! I chose out an orange and pink sari and she went to work carefully wrapping and folding the fabric to perfection. Some time later, Jo and I were both ready, our tuk tuk turned up and we drove towards the monkey temple.
Now this moment was an experience. I think Jo is still having nightmares, wondering why I made her go through with it! Ha! We pulled up at the walking track, where there was rubbish every which way you looked. There were also goats, cows, pigs and monkeys traipsing around in the rubbish. A man and a young boy approached our tuk tuk asking if we’d like to buy nuts to feed the monkeys. ‘No thank you’ we both said. I love monkeys, but I’d already seen the size of some of them and I was not comfortable getting too close to them! The young boy offered to be our ‘monkey protector’. We declined, but he also declined to listen and walked alongside us as we started on the path towards the temple.
I quickly felt grateful for our young monkey protector, as Jo and I jumped and squealed when a monkey came within a metre of us. Our little friend kept assuring us ‘don’t worry, I am monkey protector, these monkeys are my friends’. I’ve never felt so reliant on a child in my life! We navigated our way past the tiny kids that lived in huts on the track, as they ran towards us, trying to block our way, saying ‘bindi! you want bindi?’. I confess I had to give a kid of around 4 years old a stern ‘NO!’ complete with finger point, because I literally could not get past her!
We finally made it to the temple, where we encountered one of the worst smells of our lives. That, the monkeys rushing past, and the people that lived on the temple who were illegally trying to ask for money from us, meant our morning was one of severe intensity.
Jo and I both took turns standing to face the water in front of the main temple, and pose in our sari’s to capture the moment. The smell was deep in our nostrils by this point, and we were almost ready to give up on it, when I stepped out one last time, and Jo manage to press the shutter button at the exact moment a monkey strolled past. This is my favourite photo of my entire trip in India. What the photo doesn’t capture, is the rubbish floating in the water, as I spent a very long time editing it out. So please, if you visit the temple in Jaipur, expect the unexpected, you may get lucky and visit when there’s no smell or rubbish, or you could get the same experience we did.
Back up the path with our monkey protector, we slipped him some money and head back to the hotel to change, before yet again jumping in a tuk tuk to stop for lunch. Then on to some shops for a quick look, a stroll around Amer Fort, a quick hike to the top of a hill to catch the sunrise, and finally sitting our butts down again, to relax and have dinner.
Jaipur was intense, it’s very noisy, very dirty and very chaotic. But I urge you to add it to your itinerary as there are so many amazing sights to see in that buzzing city.
We were on the move yet again, this time waking early to head to the train station and catch a train to Agra. Next stop: The Taj Mahal.
To Be Continued….