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Jaipur - The Pink Lady





"I lost my voice in Jaipur"...and so the story usually goes, when I talk about my first time in the Pink City.

Khabutar in Pyar - my Hindi version of "pigeons in love"

We arrived in Jaipur early in the morning, having caught the Shatabdi train, from Old Delhi.
Now that's an experience and a half! No, not the train itself, that was great!
But Old Delhi's station? Pheeew! The people! 
People covered up in white sheets on the platform floors, right in the middle of it all, people on wooden boxes, all sleeping. No, not homeless people, normal people, waiting to catch the train! And then, once trains started pulling into the station, the chai-walas run to fill up everybody's cups with hot, fragrant tea. Right there, I also saw the weirdest job in the world: people sweeping the train racks! One hand-held broom in each hand, sweeping! The train tracks!

The train-ride was brilliant: First Class AC is what you want to go for, for a whopping £12, bottled water and breakfast included! Initially, I had second thoughts about having breakfast on the train. But the smells soon travelled down the carriages and scrabbled eggs sounded perfect.  A group of Europeans travelling with Kuoni turned up their noses, when the waiter came to take the breakfast order -  I'm going to leave you guessing for their nationality. Their eyes opened wide though, when they heard us - the "other" Europeans- ordering everything to our hearts' content,  in Hindi, nevertheless.

My favourite part of the journey was passing through the countryside, seeing women working in the fields, in their colourful sarees, dotting the brown earth with splashes of orange, pink, red and yellow. It reminded me an old Hindi movie posters. These women have such resilience.

View from Jaigarh Fort

First things first: if you are heading to the Amber Palace and want to catch an elephant ride, do so before 11 o'clock. Otherwise it's too hot for the gentle beasts to climb up the hill.

We headed to the lesser known Jaigarh Fort, sitting right above Jaipur city, with it's fortifications visible from Jantar Mantar down in the city centre.
Here you'll find the biggest cannon on wheels, in India, because the Fort used to be the main artillery production place for the Rajputs - the local royals. But there is also a walled garden, sitting on top of this dessert hill, bursting with green and flowers. Throughout the royal apartments you'll see puppet theatre performances, a local customary pass-time.
It wasn't swamped with tourists so we took it easy, climbed up and down stairs and fortifications, run around to catch uninterrupted views over the four points in the horizon and took lots and lots of pictures.

 
Jal Mahal (literally, the "Lake Palace") seen from Jaigarh Fort's fortifications

Down in the city centre, we circumvented the monkeys around Jaleb Chowk, a square, surrounded by old royal buildings, making our way to the Hawa Mahal. Don't let your guard down, these little monkeys will be attracted to anything shiny and will come claim it, boldly. If you want to leave the square, the only way is one of the four gates, where, they wait for people to segregate, so that they can snatch away what they please, easier. Smart, little things!

If you think that the Hawa Mahal is pretty on the outside, wait until you go inside.
Pay attention: Do not miss that, for the world!
In the late afternoon leave the chaotic main road behind you and enter the quite courtyard of Hawa Mahal, from the little alleyway on the back. The contrasting peace and quiet will hit you straight away. Climb up the stairs and visit the rooms were the harem ladies used to peek out at the world without being seen. Why late afternoon? Because you'll feel you are in a ruby, or a sapphire, or an emerald... all of the windows are stained and the sun shines through them straight on the marble floors, so you have splashes of coloured light dancing all around you - no words can describe how majestic that it.

Inside the Hawa Mahal: Gorgeous, dancing colours in the afternoon light
Jantar Mantar - medieval astronomical instruments, in Rajput's Sawai Jai Singh's back garden! 
Jantar Mantar

We stayed just on the outskirts of Jaipur, in Chokhi Dhani cultural village.
This is a resort set out as a traditional Rajasthani village, where we got 3 rooms set around a private courtyard, a "Nohara".
This is a good place to stay if you come with children, because in the evenings, the resort opens up its cultural village with elephant and camel rides, traditional Rajasthani dance performances and my absolute favourite: dinner by the stars, cross-legged out in the dessert! 
   
Our Nohara's courtyard in Chokhi Dhani

Morning prayers to Ganesh ji in Chokhi Dhani

Oh if you are wondering why I lost my voice in Jaipur, here it goes: Walking down the street, I was swamped by people selling me everything they owned, didn't own and would have ever owned. So in my starter's Hindi, all I kept saying was "Bas! Nahi chahiye" (Enough! I don't want it!), and in the time it took them to realise that the gori lady was speaking in Hindi, I was rushing to get away from them, the dust and the noise; in the process - I lost my voice.  

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