We took a public bus from Agra to Jaipur. The bus itself had seen better days; it was probably older than me, was battered and bruised, had no padding on the seats and probably worst of all – had no air con, and our journey was due to take 5 hours. We set off on a very hot and bumpy ride and it was quite entertaining watching the locals jump on to the bus while it was still moving. Thankfully the bus was stationary when we boarded. A short toilet break and a chance to rehydrate gave us a much needed rest, though with the heat outside over 40°C we were keen to get back on the bus purely for the breeze generated through moving.
Arriving into Jaipur around 2pm, we checked in to The Jaipur Inn – a really cute family-run hotel with spacious communal areas adorned with mosaiced walls, rooms decorated with block printed fabrics and a rooftop with views across the city. The sound of peacock calls rang out across the rooftops, reminding me of Holland Park back in London.
Once the temperature had dropped slightly, our guide arranged tuk-tuks to transport us to the centre of the Pink City for an orientation walk. Starting in the Chandpol food markets, we witnessed the madness of Indian trade… fruit and veg stalls teaming with flies, mopeds and bikes forcing their way through crowds of pedestrians, goats and cows blocking the way, monkeys stealing armfuls of bananas, men covered head-to-toe in red and yellow from grinding chillies and turmeric. The pollution and spices we inhaled were overwhelming, reducing everyone to coughing and sneezing fits and trying to cover our mouths and noses with whatever fabric we could fashion a mask out of. Although no longer pink due to the sun, the terracotta walls of the Pink City provided a beautiful backdrop for this buzzing and vibrant bazaar.
That evening, we took tuk-tuks and jeeps to climb the steep hill to the Amer Fort. In the daytime elephants carry visitors to its entrance, but our guide informed us of the maltreatment of these magnificent animals so advised an evening visit instead. A guide led us around the fort, describing how maharajas and the royal family lived in its sandstone and marble walls and mirrored palaces.
Upon the request for a ‘cheap and quick’ evening meal, our guide took us to a ‘thali’ restaurant and warned us of its questionnable hygiene. I reluctantly dug in to a platter of different curries, oily breads and other items we steered clear of including a grey sludgy water reminiscent of a puddle, dried chillies and a lump of sugar. It was pretty rank and I only nibbled a bit, but it’s safe to say delhi belly definitely made an appearance that night.
The next day, we took the opportunity for a lie in and then hired a local tuk-tuk driver to take us back to the centre of the Pink City. He dropped us at the City Palace and we skirted around it, opting instead to visit the Jantar Mantar Observatory to see ancient astronomical instruments including the world’s largest stone sundial. Next we stopped by the Hawa Mahal or ‘Palace of Winds’ for a quick snap, and then back to the hotel to get out of the heat.
Later that evening we all took tuk-tuks to the top of the Nahargarh Fort high above Jaipur, offering amazing views across the city, albeit covered in smog. We gingerly climbed the stepped walls for a better view before making our way back down to visit a block printing shop. I was first to volunteer to have a go at the ancient method and created a cute elephant print to take away. On the way to a nearby restaurant we drove through an entire area that had been plunged into darkness due to a power cut, lit only by candlelight. Just a steamed rice for me that evening – delhi belly still at force.
See ya later, Sophie x