The Pink City
I had a nice wee sleep-in till about 10am on my first day in Jaipur and then once showered and dressed, I took some laundry to reception and headed up to the rooftop restaurant for some brunch, another veggie club sandwich and I ordered a mixed fruit cocktail (non alcoholic of course) which turned out to be a fruit juice and vanilla ice-cream float, very tasty and refreshing! I then set about my daily ritual of making my to do list and plans for the day with my guide book, the list was the 'City Palace', an old planetarium, the 'Monkey Temple' and 'Amber Fort', the latter I would dedicate a whole day to as it's a little out of town and plenty there. There was a horde of rickshaw drivers waiting outside the hotel ready to pounce on the first tourist out the door and so it was easy to bargain for a driver for the afternoons activities.
I visited the Palace first, home to the Maharaja of Jaipur, whom the rickshaw driver I formed me passed away this April! Only a small percentage of the palace was actually open to visitors as the late Maharajas family actually lives in the palace, but apart from the architecture of the building, the grand meeting room and the royal guards dressed in traditional costume, it wasn't all that exciting! I then visited an old planetarium which was a big garden full of giant futuristic looking sculptures which were used once-apon-a-time to measure planetary alignments and the like. As I entered the gardens there were several people shouting "guide, guide, you want guide?" I politely said no thank you to which once said "without guide is like watching movie with no sound" one of the best lines yet! We zipped past the palace of the winds so I could take a picture of this unique building and headed for the monkey temple which is perched at the bottom of a hill and is a good 15 minute walk to the top. As I got dropped off at the bottom near a couple of shops who's owners were fighting over me to sell me water (which I later regretted declining) and peanuts for the monkeys "for good karma sir!" and was also approached by a couple of little boys who were offering to show me around. I bought some nuts for the monkeys and said no to the kind offer of a guide up the hill but one (who I think may have been deaf but at least it didn't help that I was never really sure what he was saying) was a rather persistent young chap following me anyway until I gave in saying "honestly Im fine, thank you!" just before the actual temple we stopped at a few buildings which was being used as a hangout for a gang of scary looking monkeys who the little boy told me to give the nuts to, you first I told him, a little apprehensive I was but after followed suite. I kneeled down and held out my hand with some peanuts (the kind in the shell) and one by one they would come up very casually (I guess a lot of people buy nuts for good karma!) and grab a few nuts. After this excitement we continued walking up to the temple but constantly stopping for a photo shoot as the little boy loved to get his picture taken, especially wearing my sunglasses, and also taking my picture with my camera. When we reached the top, the temple was nothing impressive compared to the ones in Varanasi but quaint nonetheless but the views were outstanding! I spent a little while at the top but was quite anxious to head back down as I was extremely thirsty!
On the way down we were followed by a group of 3 guys who made me slight nervous as there weren't many other tourists around and they were quite obviously following at a steady pace, turns out all they wanted was a group photo with me! So yeh, really living a celebrity lifestyle in India with all the photos and attention but the most amusing is when you notice people taking pictures of you candidly on their camera phones! At the bottom I made a straight dive for the cold water in the shop, gave the little boy some rupees for his 'guide service' and got back in the rickshaw to be taken back to the hotel. The driver then stopped on the say at a market to buy some fish for his family's dinner and as he did so I had a little wander around watching chickens being plucked and killed right on front of me (was quite gruesome!) and took some photos of the parakeets for sale as pets which was a shame as they were probably just got in some trees nearby! Back at the hotel I rested for a little while then headed upstairs for a Rajasthani Thali (a set meal including your curry, rice, dhal, salad and chapati's) and also indulged in a couple of Kingfisher beers. When I finished eating I sat for a while and caught up on my blogs. The restaurant slowly began to fill up until it was quite full and a girl came over to ask for my spare chair. It was only then that for the first time, I kind of wished someone would either join me or talk to me as looking around I was the only person alone :-( Only a few minutes later, the same girl came over and invited me to join them, yay! They were 6 really nice girls from Finland who were on holiday to visit one of them who had just spent the last 6 months volunteering with street children over here and it was one of their birthdays so they were heading out to a sports bar nearby to celebrate and asked me along. I told them I had no interest in the football match (Man U vs. Chelsea) but would really appreciate the company and was up for it. We still had a few more Kingfishers at the hotel and then squeezed into 2 rickshaws and headed out. This sports bar was part of another hotel but felt more like someone's basement but was fun. They shut at 11pm but the girls managed to haggle with the bar tender and bought, what we later referred to as the 'party bag', a small laundry bag filled with a bottle of gin and various soft drinks to mix with and walked back to the hotel not before having to climb over a wall to get to the street we wanted to be on and getting a little but lost too! At the hotel, the (I think he was the manager) was very nice in letting us stay up on the rooftop restaurant chatting and swapping travel stories and playing music off my iPhone until 4am in the morning! Was a really good night on the whole but knew I would suffer in the morning from the gin which I never normally drink, mixed with 'Thumbs Up', an Indian version of Coke packed with extra sugar but which is a product of the Coca-Cola company.