Cloudy in Jodhpur, hazy but fine in Jaipur, 31°C
The alarm went off at 4:30am, we packed and went downstairs at 5am, carefully stepping over the sleeping night staff on the floor, We jumped into the waiting auto rickshaw ( AR ) and headed off to the train station. As I have said before the streets are pretty light on people early in the morning, but the animals are far more active at this time, so the only traffic we encountered were a few frisky dogs and some wandering cows. There were also a couple of brief pauses when passing a roadside 'shrine' where a series of hand signals by our AR driver took place as a sign of prayer to the relevant gods whose statues were there. As always we were thankful for any devine intervention from the gods to keep us safe on the roads. We arrived at the railway station at 5:10am for our 5:55am train. As expected the station was pretty chaotic but after passing through the security scanners we could see that our train was on time and would be pulling up on platform 1 which was right next to the station building, So we sat and waited, and watched the locals, and the Chai Wallas ply their trade.
Chai in India is a form of herbal tea made mainly from milk with spices added to give it flavour. Every Chai Walla seems to have a slightly different recipe, and it is served from a large steel urn being carrying by the walla, into paper cups for a few rupees a shot. They are incredibly co-ordinated to seemingly be able to hold the earn and the cup, pour the chai, and take peoples money all at the same time.
A train pulled in at about 5:30am and we could see that it had our train number on the side, so we walked down towards the back of the train ( we had been waiting about 1/2 way along the platform ) to try to find our carriage. As you would expect we couldn't see it in that direction so we started walk back towards the front of the train to find it that way.
At this point we had the scam that annoyed me the most on the whole trip, and really made me feel quite disheartened about travelling in India.
As we were walking along the side of the train a man came up to us and asked if we needed some help. We showed him our tickets which had the carriage and train number on it and he said "Oh, that is not your train". I told him that I could see the train number on the side of the train, and he again repeated that it was the wrong train, and our train would pull in once this one had left. We believed him at first thinking he knew better than us, but after a few minutes we decided to just double check and ask someone that looked like they worked there. We found a man with an id badge around his neck and showed him our ticket, and he pointed to the train in front of us and said our carriage was right up the front of the train.
We can only assume that the 'helpful' man who told us to wait for the next train would have found us after our train had left and helpfully offered to drive us to Jaipur for the appropriate fee, seeing as we had missed the only train today. I could not believe that someone would intentionally try to make us miss our train just to make a few rupees.
We found our carriage, and our seats and sat down. We had tickets in the Chair Class seated carriage, which had individual airline type seats and was clean and tidy. Our allocated seats were separate from each other but after a kind french couple offered to move their guide to my seat Liz and I were seated across the aisle from each other.
We left on time at 5:55am and headed out across the plains. The train trip was largely featureless until we got the Sambhar salt lake. This lake produces 10% of India's salt requirements, and is the largest salt lake in India. We passed through the towns on the edge of the lake where the salt was extracted and processed, and then across part of the lake itself on a causeway. It was a pretty impressive sight in a largely featureless landscape.
We pulled into Jaipur at 11am and walked through the terminal and out to the prepaid taxi booth ( fighting off the AR drivers and taxi drivers who were offering 'super cheap' prices and telling us how expensive the prepaid booth was ). We found that it was a lot easier to use these prepaid booths to avoid having to haggle over the price, and you also knew that the job would go to the next in the queue. We paid the 210R for the taxi and jumped in ( although oddly enough once we were in the car our driver seemed to swap 3 times). We headed back out into Jaipur ( 6 days after we had been through this part of town when we got off the Metro during our stopover ) and were dropped at Hotel Sweet Dream ( 5590R for 3 nights including breakfast ) and went up to our room. Nice room with a big bathroom and a very forcefully blowing wall mounted AC unit.
We asked at the desk for the nearest hospital as I was due from my next Rabies shot, and we were directed to the Amar Jain Hospital which was about a 10 minute walk away. We found the hospital, got directed to a room where a man was sitting quietly at a desk with no one else there, showed the man what we had, he prepared the injection and stuck it in my arm, and when we indicated that we would pay he just waved us off so we left and headed back out on the street. This whole 5 minute episode took place without a word being spoken. Ah, the power of sign language.
We walked back to the hotel at 1pm and headed up to the roof for some lunch. On the way we bumped into the owner of the hotel ( who we had meet on Monday ) and he was chatting to us about where we had been, and if everything was ok with the room etc.
After a lunch of Pakora we headed back out into the heat and walked to Sanganeri Gate and up Johari Bazaar Road.
So a bit about Jaipur. This is called the "Pink City" as, legend has it, the city was ordered to be painted pink by the ruling family as a welcome to the Prince of Wales in 1876 ( pink is the colour of welcome ). They call it 'pink' but the buildings are painted in varying shades of colour, most of which I would describe as earthy or peach coloured. The old part of the city was planned in a grid layout, on the plains below the old Palace at Amber, and the streets are laid out in a large grid pattern of main streets, with smaller alleyways criss crossing the blocks between these streets. Each main street is a bazaar ( or shopping street ) and each one specialises in a different trade ( i.e. jewellery, or motorbikes, or medical books etc ). At the centre of these streets is the City Palace, and around the perimeter if this old city is an enclosing wall. Of course over time the city has grown beyond the wall and the newer area of city to the south and west has no grid to it and is the usual snake nest of streets going in all directions.
Our hotel was located just inside the south wall of the old city, near the New Gate.
We walked up Jahari Bazaar Road, around the massive road works for the new Metro station which were happening in the middle of a major intersection and headed to Hawa Mahal. Hawa Mahal ( Palace of Winds ) is the most famous building in Jaipur and it was designed as a 5 storey high, 1 room deep, gallery to allow the women of the Palace ( which it backs onto ) to observe the comings and goings of the city without being seen. The windows on the building have small openings that make it easy to see out, but hard to see in.
We took some photos from the front of the building and then we walked around to the back of the building and bought 2 tickets to go in (200R ea ) and joined the crowds inside. It took a while to get up to the top of the building due to the narrow ramps and passageways, and the single stair that serves the top floor.
After a look around we headed back to the front of the building facing the street and went to a cafe across the road for a drink, and to admire the view from their roof top deck. After a while we walked back to the hotel and arrived at 5pm ( the journey from the cafe to hotel was 1 block south and 1 block west and took about 1/2 hour ).
We went for a wander at sunset and took some photos of the traffic chaos going through the New Gate. There were traffic lights, and traffic police on duty, but it still seemed to be a free for all. We stood on the footpath to take the photo below, but notice the lights on the left of us; these were, motorbikes, AR's and even cars that used the footpath as an extra lane.
Back to the hotel at 7:30pm for dinner on the roof ( 1100R for, you guessed, 2 beers and 2 curries )