Jaipur – City Palace, Bazaars…and a bit lost

 

We had decided to be brave and wander around Jaipur on our own without the buffer of Shakti today… He lives near Jaipur so hopefully it was a nice break for him too…

We had been instructed to walk out and get a tuk tuk rather than get the hotel to get one in for us, as it would be cheaper. We found two after a short walk, and they said they would take us into the centre for (after some haggling) 100 INR per tuk tuk.

 

This was our first ‘proper’ tuk tuk journey… For some reason so far I haven’t found travelling in India as scary as I expected to. Although the traffic is in some respects chaotic, the speeds are slower than in England, so when the motorbikes, tuk tuks, buses, cars, trucks, horse and cart or whatever are ‘meshing’ into what seems to be a smaller space than is feasible – four lanes become one, or you cut across oncoming traffic without waiting for it to clear, somehow it seems to work out and (most of the time) I have faith that it will.

We went first to the City Palace where on a 100 yard walk from the tuk tuk to the City Palace we were offered around another 15 tuk tuks. We had read in advance that you could take either a 500 rupee walk around the city palace or be treated to a ‘royal experience’ which also includes access to some private rooms in the Royal Palace (Royal Grandeur Tour, incl cup of tea 25000 rupees)…

We chose the non-guided free version, helped along by a Kindle version of the Lonely Planet (thanks for the loan, Scott)… This turned out to be a nice relaxed way of seeing everything, having some understanding of what we’re seeing and not having a guide which, although interesting, we have definitely noticed means you don’t get time to slow down and ‘take in’ a place, as you are on the guide’s schedule, and they tend to talk and walk at a pace slightly faster than I can handle.

The highlight of the city palace for me was probably the ‘four gates’ representing the seasons – rose for winter, peacock for autumn, lotus flower for summer and ‘green’ for spring. The peacock gate was the obvious gaudy favourite, however, any photo opportunity was slightly hampered by two rotund gentlemen with slightly stretched shirts who had chosen to sit on the little inbuilt ledges either side of the gate, apparently unaware of the constant stream of tourists taking their pictures…

The City Palace felt quite safe and un-hassly (although one gentleman taking tickets asked us if we had an English coin ‘for his collection’ and then went on to say he’d quite like a pound or a two pound coin… We didn’t have any and he was kind enough to show Steve the cricket he was watching on his mobile whilst also multitasking collecting tickets and touting for foreign change… We also fell for the ‘taking a picture with an attractively heritage-costumed gatekeeper’ routine… The kids dutifully posed, and then were rewarded with ‘tip? tip?’… We wriggled round any other over-keen over-dressed folk, although were also caught by several selfie-hunters)…

So, from this place of relative calm and safety, we knew we planned to head to the bazaars, which felt like it may be full of a potential for hassle and difficulty… We consulted the tiny map (we had two tiny maps – one on kindle, one on paper), and strode confidently from the palace and into the street. Almost immediately we were spotted and homed in on by a tuk tuk driver, who was very keen that we left the area. The bizarres are ‘no good’, there’s scaffolding around everywhere worth seeing, and the only place to be is the lake palace, where he will take us for just 150 rupees. His English was great, and his patter convincing, but it did become a little annoying after a while… We kept striding confidently, until Steve decided we had now walked too far confidently in the wrong direction and we now needed to retrace our steps the other way.

Many many tuk tuk-based hassles later we found ourselves pretty much without a clue where we were. A helpful stall-holder pointed in the direction of the ‘market’ and we continued with our pacing. The area was pretty run down and ‘local’ looking, but not in a good way…   We saw a sign for a ‘pure veg’ restaurant which looked significantly cleaner and newer than any other signs around… so we took that as a good sign (sorry) and headed in that general direction… Imagine our surprise when we were led inside and found ourselves in a gigantic shop. We hesitated by some cushion covers and asked prices, some of which were a very reasonable 200-300 INR, some significantly more… Ella and I then somehow found ourselves being shown any number of bedspreads, some of which cost upwards of 20000 rupees. They offered us scarves, trousers, skirts, sarees… We agreed to look at some trousers and Ella found some long enough for her legs and agreed to make a purchase…

Eventually we escaped with a promise to come back and look at the bedspreads again (which seemed genuinely good quality, and some were nearer 40000 rupees. The gentleman selling to us insisted that this is a ‘co-operative’ and that ‘80% of the profits go to disabled and homeless women’. That seemed a hell of a claim, and we’ve not been able to verify it yet…

India day 5 (Jaipur)-20

When we finally made our way up another two or three flights of stairs, past jewellery, joopi (shoes with turned up toes), and all manner of other things we didn’t need, including a two foot high metal elephant (which must have been a weighty piece, cos when Ella tripped over it, it took a fair amount of skin off her leg and left her with a promise of a bruise to come), we finally made it to a clean-looking restaurant. This was the first time we’d seen south Indian food on the menu (which is fair enough given we’re in north India), so Ella happily ordered a dosa, and we had various other things mostly involving paneer… This turned out to be the best food we’d had so far, and very reasonably priced too…

As part of the deal struck downstairs in the cushion area, since they wouldn’t accept a price reduction (what with money going to those less fortunate n all), I had instead had the bright idea of asking for a moment’s wifi time to get a map up on the phone, as well as some directions to get us back on track towards the bazaars.

So of course, we utterly retraced our steps back to where we had last turned around sure we were heading the wrong way… We hadn’t been far from the bazaars at that point as it turned out… As far as we know we reached Johari Bazaar in the end… Apparently Bopu would have been better, but I couldn’t say if we made it there or not. We walked past many many kettle-vendors and the like, which was quite pleasant as we clearly weren’t in the market for a kettle. Similarly those selling Indian-wedding-gear (we saw a groom getting dressed up in his finery) also weren’t hassling us in any way as for some reason we weren’t looking like target market…

We made it as far as some clothes shops, via a jewellery stall where Ella picked up some earrings for 100 INR. We were doing the usual skirting past, looking in the door/window, and trying not to get into conversation, when a chap with a bit of patter blocked our path. I’d managed to dodge him and was well on my way when Ella saw something she liked. The first line I heard from him was something like ‘come on in, happiness is this way’… He then proceeded to unravel about 20 different trousers and skirts in an attempt to show something Ella might wish to purchase…

He moved swiftly and determinedly and with no apparent pause for breath onto pashminas, bed covers, nice dress madam, etc… If we showed the least bit of interest in anything he would say ‘pack em up’… After a purchase of two skirts, accompanied by a price reduction he told us ‘I make no profit madam’ (I offered to walk away as I’d rather not do that to the dear man, but he seemed happier to take a deal than not), the skirts were packed up and then not returned to us, so I felt a bit stuck, whilst they continued to show us pashminas etc… Ella decided Aunty Ness would love a pashmina, and one was duly purchased, with accompanying reduction and followed swiftly by a bed cover set, significantly cheaper than the one we had previously seen…

Eventually we were allowed to leave.

cropped-india-day-5-jaipur-24.jpg
Walking past the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds).  We also got some selfie-hunting hassle (polite) at this point.  How we can be more interesting photographically than this guy I have no idea.

After more wandering around the bizarres we hailed a tuk tuk to take us back to the hotel. The chap didn’t seem to have heard of the hotel, but agreed to take us anyway. I’d taken the card of the hotel to show (Shakti’s advice, thank you!) and he asked me to read it to him… We set off in the vague direction, and it seemed we’d walked a lot further than we thought as the bazaars seemed never ending. He stopped a couple more times to show the card, then eventually got his phone out and asked Steve to put in the address.  Steve then proceeded to direct him using the phone, until we found ourselves back in an area we recognised.

I gathered that perhaps the driver wasn’t able to read, or not read in English, but it was good to see how this could be worked around…

2 thoughts on “Jaipur – City Palace, Bazaars…and a bit lost

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s