The Sights and Suits of Jaipur

After what was a pretty crap night’s sleep – jet-lag, Glen’s sniffling, noise in the halls – we got up at 7:30, had breakfast (me and my stomach were a bit over Indian food, plus I’m having so many carbs I’m feeling guilts) and then met Mr Singh at 9am to go sightseeing around Jaipur.

The streets of Jaipur were pretty quiet at this time of the morning, what with most of the shops still being shut. The paths in front of the shops, however, had all been swept. Jaipur is a planned city and as such looks a bit more like a city I’m used to. It’s still chaos but there’s a bit more order to it and it’s not as disorienting as Agra or the outskirts of Delhi.

Our first stop was the Hawa Mahal, which was a fly-by visit. We pulled up in front of it in the car and Glen and I jumped out to get some photos before getting back in. It’s where the king’s harem would sit and watch the bazaar below without being seen. Despite being five storeys high, it’s only one room deep. A beautiful building.

Amber Fort

We were then taken to the Amber Fort, getting out of the city and into the countryside, where we could see the ‘Great Wall of Jaipur’ that cuts along the hills. There are a number of forts along the way but we were going to what is the most popular one, the Amber Fort.

Mr Singh asked if we wanted to go by elephant but not knowing how they’re trained, how they’re looked after or anything about their well-being I wasn’t keen. Apparently they only do five rides a day each, and there are 120 elephants, but I’ve since heard they’d not suited for Rajasthan weather and they’re not well looked after. Nevertheless, it was a thrill to see elephants wandering about.

Mr Singh drove us to the fort entrance, gave us the standard tourist warning, and in we went. It was busy with tourists but there were areas where they didn’t congregate and because there are so many walls and nooks and crannies, you could find these moments of quiet that were really lovely.

Glen and I climbed to the top floor and poked our heads out the window to Christine below. The three of us then stopped and had a coffee and tea – really good coffee apparently – before leaving the fort to find Mr Singh.

On the way out I was again called Ali Baba, something the kids at Fatehpur Sikri had called me. I asked Mr Singh about it and apparently he’s a famous movie star in India who has a beard. For some reason I, as a white guy with a beard, remind people of him. At least I know now.

One striking thing I’ve noticed on this trip is occasionally seeing young men holding hands. At the fort there were three all holding hands, and at other times there have been two. While I’m pretty certain they’re not gay, it’s such an unexpected thing to see, this way of men showing their friendship. It’s really nice.

After the fort, we stopped at the Water Palace to take some photos. This is a palace set in an artificial lake that, when the water is still and the light is right, creates an impressive display. The water and the light were not right when we were there but it’s still an interesting building and would make a great place to visit – or stay.

Tailor-made Clothes and Knick-knacks

With some sightseeing done, Mr Singh then took us to a textile shop. We saw how they did the block printing, which was cool, and then were shown into the shop, which sold tailor-made suits and shirts, saris, table cloths, bed linen and scarves.

Glen and I immediately started choosing fabric for new suits, which was fun, as the cost for getting a tailored suit was very reasonably. I was a bit uncomfortable having to take my shirt off in the store, but that’s not uncommon for me, and I caused a bit of a fuss by having one shoulder higher than the other, or one arm longer than the other. Anyway, we chose our fabrics – 100% kashmiri – and then they said they’d be ready by Sunday.

I also chose fabric for four fitted shirts, and then also a tablecloth and a bedspread. It was easy to get swept up in wanting to buy lots of beautiful things. Christine also did very well and we came away with bags of stuff. I’m not sure how we’re going to get them to Mumbai and then home. Might have to buy another suitcase as Glen and I only brought carry-on. Glen and I will go back on Sunday to have any last minute alterations made to the suits.

And Judi Dench had also been there. (There was a photo on the wall of her with one of the staff.)

After we’d spent a lot of money but were happy with the value, we went to a souvenir shop. Christine bought a few things and I resisted buying a singing bowl. I love them but they’d only collect dust on a shelf back home.

From there we were to the big outdoor observatory – Jantar Mantar – and looked at these centuries-old instruments used to tell time and the movement of heavenly bodies. The geometric shapes made it look like a cross between an Escher painting and a giant child’s building blocks. It was hot and open to the sun so we didn’t stay long. We also skipped the City Palace, having been saturated with history for a while. Instead we sat at the gate and ate a pomegranate. Delicious.

By then it was about 3pm so we opted to go back to the hotel and chill for a few hours. In the evening Mr Singh drove us to a restaurant where we ordered and ate far too much food. I’m really looking forward to getting back into the gym properly and working off all this eating.

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