After falling asleep on the train I thankfully woke up a big before getting into Jaipur, I was shattered and maybe feeling a little ill. Had eaten a curry earlier and after nearly finishing it I noticed that the chicken was still pink and red… ugh.
Was mobbed by rickshaw drivers as I got off the train as is the norm but one guy called Raj offered me 25RS to wherever I wanted to go which sounded like a good deal. Having sorted nothing ahead of time everywhere decent seemed to be full so literally thinking "screw it" I asked Raj to just take me somewhere nice knowing full well he'd get paid commission. That's the thing with India, the rickshaw drivers are in with the hotel and restaurant owners who are in turn in with internet café's, shops, markets and even ATM owners. If you come to this country naïve you will get screwed over repeatedly. The room was crap but at this point I really didn't care, and after managing to negotiate the price down, took it. As Raj seemed like a decent guy and spoke good English (more than you can say about a lot of rickshaw drivers) I organized a cheap tour for the next day. Shower was pathetic and the bed felt like sleeping on a plank of wood but you win some you lose some and I was only there for 2 nights.
Headed out with Raj the next morning and as I headed out the hotel I couldn't help but think the place made me uneasy, though I couldn't put my finger on it. Had a cup of chai and then headed into the main city. You can immediately see why it's called the pink city - the main city gates and street walls are all an orangy pink. Raj ranted about how Jaipur fashion had become strongly americanised and that to see the real Rajasthan clothing and tradition you needed to get out the city. For the 3rd time that week the annual Pushkar camel festival that was currently on was mentioned to me. If I'd had the time I would have gone as it sounded quality but sadly it never happened. Saw an amazing observatory that was apparently the most advance in India. Built 240 years ago it had sun dials and calendars accurate to just a few seconds, seriously trippy stuff. Also saw a couple of old-school abandoned temples that apparently not many people knew about and on the way had a go at driving the rickshaw. It's surprisingly easy, it has handle bars like a bike, you accelerate by twisting the right handle toward you and change gear by squeezing the left clutch handle and twisting it up or down. There is one pedal - the brake. I didn't trust myself on a proper busy India road as I'm not sure how my insurance holds up to accidentally killing someone, but bombing it around all the backstreets was a good laugh. Raj came across as a proper Indian playboy as well as a bit of a nutcase. Married (arranged) at 14 to a 10 year out he was now 23 and had 3 kids. At the same time he claimed to have slept with over 50 women from all round the world and supposedly had proper girlfriends in Russian, Japan and Israel who were coming over to visit him at some point. I wasn't sure how much to believe. Curiously he found English girls the hardest to get with.. ha.
As we were supposed to be seeing sunset from Tiger Fort, a hue fort overlooking the whole of Jaipur Raj said we had to briefly pop back to his office and change to an actual car. When we got there he invited me in and downstairs into a dimly lit backroom behind a jewelry shop where I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. There was a medium sized group of people there and they invited me to sit and eat with them. When people started bare faced lying to me I started to get a little paranoid. People were telling me they'd been to England, even Newcastle yet when I pressed them for details they couldn't give any that weren't obviously made up. You seem to find this a lot in India, dodgy characters will attempt to befriend you by pretending they've been to, or have a friend from the part of England you're from, 99% of the time it's blatent bulls*** and is usually a precursor to a scam.
Anyway when one of them said we would talk after I'd finished eating about a potential business deal I zoned out and decided to get the hell out of there. I made an excuse that I was feeling ill (which was only half a lie) and left to head back outside. In my slightly paranoid state I half expected to be blocked and robbed so the fists were clenched ready for a possible fight or flight moment, thankfully though I wasn't. When they came out looking for me I asked Raj to take me back to the hotel against their constant insistence that I come back inside. f*** that. Eventually he did and it was 'conveniently' round the corner. A few days later and after chatting to other travelers about it I think I may well have been lined up for the classic Indian gem scam, where a person or group of people will attempt to overwhelm you with their hospitality and generosity to then propose a far too good to be true deal involving getting you to self-import (worthless) gems back to England, to a shop from your region that doesn't even exist in order to make thousands. It may have all just been genuine hospitality but I definitely felt the best thing to do was just get out of there. Raj tried to persuade me to get some sleep and then come out later and get drunk and go to a 'dancing girl club' which I'm sure would've been hilarious but the slight remnant of paranoia within me rejected the proposition.
After all that I ditched tiger fort and did monkey temple instead - a temple on a cliff overlooking Jaipur absolutely infested with moneys - hence the name! The climb up was pretty epic and there were people everywhere. Not for the first time in India I got the proper festival vibe. People everywhere, piles of rubbish, people playing instruments, makeshift tents, everyone saying hi to you mixed in with the smell of wood smoke. All that was missing was a stage and crates of strongbow. I also think they should add monkeys to British music festivals, it definitely adds a whole layer of hilarity to the whole thing. Eventually got to the top and the view was incredible, could see the whole of Jaipur and as the sun had just set lights were slowly being turned on. There was a funky Hindu shrine at the top and an elderly women and young man invited me to sit with them. I wasn't sure whether they were meditating or praying but it was definitely a little surreal.
The next day I used the internet for the first time in a while and double checked my waitlisted ticket to Udaipur the next day and had a seat in AC2, good times. Indian trains usually have 5-7 different classes ranging from 1st - luxury, to 2nd - a complete unreserved free for all. I won't even attempt to go into the reservation system, if you ever come to India try and learn it all before you get here, it saved me so much hassle. Also got my ticket down to Mumbai sorted at Jaipur station for the 12th of November.
Like my experience with most things in Jaipur so far the internet café was a bit dodge as well - they refuse to let you use it until they photocopy your passport. Like hell I was giving them my passport so they eventually settled for a crappy photo ID card. I may be jumping to conclusions but knowing this place it wouldn't surprise me if they had an ulterior motive of some kind behind obtaining scans of peoples passports. Jaipur is an amazing city I just seemed to have ended up in the dodgy area as I'm sure is present in most cities. On top of all this the PC was kind enough to infect my camera with a virus so that for a couple of days I was pretty sure I'd lost all my photos but thankfully managed to sort it out in Udaipur. Headed to Jaipur station that evening to get my first proper overnight train since getting to India.