My last day or two in Pushkar was spent at a gentle pace. Time trickled by as I spent lazy lounging hours in the rooftop cafe or wandering around the market. I became a creature of habit, with a morning ritual of yoga with Ricky (getting more handsome by the day) followed by Italian coffee and banana porridge at the lovely Honeydew Cafe. It’s a good job I had train tickets and hotel reservations pre-organised as it would be tempting to ignore the world outside Pushkar and slob out for weeks there. It was time to wake up and head onwards to discover the land of the ancient kings and it was well-worth the effort.
Next stop was Jaipur, the Pink City. I’d been pre-warned about the crazy traffic and the difficult-to-navigate streets by other travellers so took some advice and booked a driver for the day. For little more than the cost of a Starbucks coffee back home I got taken from place to place in a funky little auto rickshaw, driven by Ali (a cheeky, flirty young man with a big smile). Ali drove like a madman on speed (just like all the other drivers in the city, except his stereo was louder). Riding in an auto rickshaw is like a bumper car ride in a fairground, with the additional adenaline-boost of real traffic to play with. You have the choice of being terrified or doing things Indian-style (leaving the gods to worry about your fate and enjoying the ride). It’s kind of fun once you get used to it.
Jaipur has so much to see and visitors are spoiled for choice in terms of beautiful buildings. Our first stop was the City Palace to see magnificent courtyards and grand halls. There was a lovely display of amazingly intricate textiles, including outfits made for a 500 1b Maharaja (rumoured to have been in the habit of eating 150 chapatis for his breakfast alone) and some horrible-looking weapons which used various creative methods to kill people (plus the odd tiger no doubt).
Next we visited Jantar Mantar, an 18th century observatory designed to chart the stars and measure time and distance. The science went a bit over my head (which isn’t hard) but I was impressed by the sun dial that was more accurate than my dodgy wristwatch I bought on the market and the huge constructions which looked more like modern sculptures than scientific objects.
We got to the Amber Fort as the sun was getting low and joined the crowds climbing up the old stone steps to the beautiful building above. It’s festival time in India and the queues for the temple were crazy, but as always it was fascinating to join the crowds and let India hit the senses from every angle. No queues for the fort though, and it was great to wander around up there through the maze of rooms and corridors. My favourite bit was a room built for the Maharaji with inlaid flower patterns in silver and white. I wonder if they’ll come over and do my bathroom? I have developed an obsession with the doors of India, and am photographing them at every opportunity. Rajasthan is providing a fantastic door fix, ranging from palatial to rustic and every one beautiful.
I then popped in for an appointment with the local ‘guru’ who freaked me out with some scary observations about my health, mental state and family, tried to sell me a 6000 rupee pendant with a gem that would ‘unblock my throat chakra’ (apparently I’m a mess and need unblocking…. a description that made me feel like an Indian toilet) and advised me to start learning to say ‘no’. I followed his advice and said no to the pendant, paid him for his time and retreated outside to the rickshaw for a recovery beer.
Jaipur has been an adventure! Next stop Agra… no prizes for guessing what I will see there.