Our first impression of Jaipur was good. The city had paved roads and cool forts and temples on the outskirts of the city. As our bus entered deeper into the city our feelings started to shift. Upon arrival at the bus terminal we were hounded by crowds of rickshaw drivers that chased after the bus banging on it. Luckily there were several tourist police awaiting our arrival at the terminal - I guess it's become a big problem. We witnessed a few rickshaw drivers get a good smack on the hand with a police stick as they tried to cross 'the protective line' where the new arrivals were.
As we walked out of the bus terminal in search of our accommodations we were hounded by the zealous rickshaw drivers. Even though we repeatedly said that we were not interested the rickshaw drivers still followed us asking "Where you go? Where are you staying? I will take you there for cheap". We actually had to turn around and yell at a few of them so that they got the message.
The rickshaw drivers were after our hotel accommodations. They wanted to get a hefty commission from the hotel that we stayed at, so they followed us around with the hope that we'd choose their hotel. We weren't having it! We knew that we'd be the ones paying that hefty commission in the form of higher nightly rates. One guy actually had the tenacity to follow us into a hotel when we enquired about its pricing. He made a gesture to the manager insinuating that he had brought us there… we couldn't believe it!
We finally sorted out our accommodations and got a very good room for a very good price ($9 per night). It was like a small apartment with a massive open bathroom, cable television with twenty English stations, two ceiling fans, an air cooler (cheap version of A/C), a couch and two beds… and room service was super cheap! We were very thankful that we found this room as an intense illness was planning to visit us…
There are so many unique types of street foods and hot beverages that we would love to have tried, but the risk of 'Delhi-belly' was far too great. We already had agitated stomachs and the hygienic practices in India are atrocious, so we played it safe and ate at nicer restaurants… we figured it was worth the few extra rupees. We found a great South Indian restaurant near our hotel and had our best meal in India, a platter with various curries and flatbreads. It was so good we returned the next night and had the exact same dish!
We spent the first day doing a walking tour through the old 'pink city'. The old city is enclosed by a large wall with several gates and it is known for its many bazaars and shopping alleys. It has the potential to be a very cool area but it was just so filthy, polluted and congested. The 30-minute walk to the old city was a true test of patience. Every two steps we were confronted by a new rickshaw driver asking us "Where are you going? Come with me… very cheap." If it wasn't a rickshaw driver it was a street vendor saying, "Hello…sir, mam…hello! Buy my it's very cheap... hello, sir!" It got so irritating. We were told that Agra and Varanasi were the worst places for touting but Jaipur was worse than both combined! In fact, we didn't find Agra or Varanasi to be that bad at all.
It wasn't all bad though. We did find some bargains at the bazaars and even caught a snake charmer outside of the city palace. It was something Nicole was really looking to, although the cobras seemed to be either half dead or very sedated. Jaipur has its charm and we can see why some people enjoyed their time there.
We spent the second day exploring the Amber Fort. When we first laid eyes on the magnificent fortress we were speechless. It is one of the most impressive buildings we've ever seen. The photos will tell a much better story than words can describe. While in the fort we were approached by several Indian tourists wanting to take pictures with us. We were even interviewed on camera by a local television crew (somewhere in India we are on a television program about Amber Fort). It was actually quite comical.
Enter the sickness. It could have come from anywhere, but we think it was from the heavy rains. We were trapped about 200 meters from our hotel when the furious rains hit. The streets were instantly flooded and we had to walk through them. I can't begin to tell you how disgusting the water was. The sewage drains were overflowing, cow patties were floating alongside garbage and various toxic chemicals could be seen separating at the surface. We had flip flops on… you do the math.
Long story short, we were overcome with powerful fevers, cold sweats, uncontrollable shaking, mild hallucinations, a lack of appetite, headaches and severe diarrhea. We had already purchased our train tickets to Jodhpur the following morning but had to forfeit them and stay an extra day in Jaipur. We were not happy, but thankful for the cable television and private bathroom. The illness passed about a day and a half later and we found a cheap bus ticket that left the next morning.
We couldn't get out of Jaipur quick enough. We ran into some travelers on our bus that had a similar view of Jaipur and were also happy to see it in the rearview mirror.
But on the bright side, we loved Amber Fort and it will be a highlight of our India journey!
September 2, 2009