(Back to March 2015) After 14 days in Jodhpur, we move on to discover the more prestigious Jaipur, less market town, more business city.
Note that Jaipur and Jodhpur are two towns of the Rajahstan, situated 7h from one to the other.
With its 3 millions inhabitants, Jaipur isn’t a behemoth contender, like say Mumbai or New Delhi. It is, nonetheless, the capital city of Rajahstan. Its sister city is Port-Louis, capital city of Mauritius.
Our very first trip by train in India. Very cheap, we get a bunk with clean sheets, a blanket and pillows.
Every 20 minutes a food vendor passes by, chanting his monotonous « Tchaï-Tchaï-Tchaï-Tchaï-Tchaï », « Byrianiiiiiii-Byrianiiiiii », « Sam’ssaaaa » and the unforgetable « Colewaatt - Colewaatt - Colewaatt » !
(Respectively Tchaï, Byriani, Samossa, and cold water)
Arrival in Jaipur: It’s raining dogs and cows (courtesy to India), and every single tuktuk driver is trying to squeeze out 10 times the usual price the hotel gave us. We were quite thankful for our water proof equipment during our 15 minutes walk.
Thanks to an app (we have talked about in our article on Budget in Indias and Asia), we managed to find a decent room for 300Rs/night (4€).
After two days of rain and tasteless meals in a few so called "best in town" lassiwala (Lassi vendors), we face the painful fact that savory meals aren’t a given in India.
We think back fondly of the meals in Jodhpur or in the train even. Unacceptable! We leave our hotel for a new one closer to the active part of the city, not far from the fortified walls.
In India, you kinda expect to walk amongst 2000 or even 4000 years -or even more, as in Pali- old alleys. Pali, Jaipur, however is a (relatively) new city, built in 1093 by the Maharajahs of the Rajput clan. Yes, similar to Jodhpur!
It real historical interest came later one though, in the form of a striking royal palace and astronomical observatory, built thanks to the initiative of the Maharajah Jaï Singh II.
A brilliant man, living during the second half of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th. He’s interested in all form of astronomy present in all the philosophical and religious currents, as far back as the Greeks.
Jai Singh II decides the best way to spread science is to build a Jantar Mantar (big astronomy observatory) in Jaipur, after various successful tries in other cities of India.
Yantar Mandir (literally "Amulet’s Temple), is commonly known as the Jantar Mantar of Jaipur.
These observatories and first and foremost amazing universal calendars. Even today, the date and hour can be easily read (for the knowing eye) thanks to the evolving shadows projected by the Sun or the Moon on the graduations.
Different tools are needed depending on the solstice you’re currently in.
Pros: Precise down to a quarter of a minute
Cons: You can’t wear it at your wrist. Also, during overcast weather (like we experienced), you can’t read anything.
The Yantra Mandir as seen from the Hawa Mahal heights.
Hawa Mahal or "Temple of the Winds" (Link would be pleased, but to avoid amalgams I’d rather name it the Breeze Temple) is a stunning thinly chiselled structure.
The idea here was to reproduce the pattern of a lace curtain, with more than 900 artfully crafted small openings, allowing the wives and courtesans of the palace to spy on the streets below without being seen. Reality TV is not new!
The royal palace of Amber is a technological wonder: its position, orientation and antechambers all serve the purpose of maintaining a constant ideal temperature all year.
The hydraulic system is nothing to scoff at either. A savant pulley system coupled with clay pipes would make water storage on the roofs possible, providing running hot water to the whole palace.
Built according to the traditional Moghul architecture, the rooms get progressively more private after a succession of small exquisite courtyards.
Vintage mirror decorations.
Another striking feature, although less pleasing, is the Coffee Day Café, right before the fort exit, selling snack with an outrageous unspoken 35% taxation on all its products.
We spoke about the historic side of the city. However, even when trying its hardest, Jaipur fails to entice us for several reasons.
First, and I need this one off my chest, it is NOT pink (sorry Delphine), but rather orange and yellow!
The place has a kind of cold atmosphere to it. Everything is more expensive, and everyone is trying to squeeze as much money as they can from you.
A snake charmer habit maybe?
Also, to put it bluntly, we’re tired of bad food.
Lucky us! We found the Green Restaurant! There I got an quick nan bakery training. Delphine gets a banana lassi as a present, and we befriend the cooks.
They tell us even the locals are fed up with the overpricing policy: they can’t even find a properly priced tuktuk anymore, the drivers usually waiting for tourists paying 3 to 10 times what Indians can afford!
As you may have guessed it, we kept walking!