The first impressions of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is very good: a modern airport; an orderly taxi rank; a broad, tree lined main avenue; hanging flower baskets on the street lights; vehicles all moving in the right direction; white marble temples; glass clad business towers. That is where it ends. The rest of the Pink City is a great chaotic mosaic of grand palaces, colourful temples, recklessly driven vehicles, shops with wares spilling over into the streets, food carts, rubbish heaps, putrid sewers, monkeys, lazy cows, fresh cow patties, flower decorated shrines, ancient trees and people. This is India as one imagines it.
We were fortunate to arrive in the city on a hot Friday afternoon, just as the city started to come to life for the evening. After checking in at our very basic hotel, we venture to one of the large and lively market streets. Our senses overload. We stare into every little incense filled shop, stocked with everything imaginable. We eat deep fried potato pastries from one of the food carts, much to the amusement of some of the locals. At the flower market, we are decorated with colourful bloom necklaces. The family is a selfie magnet and we stop every few meters for “one photo”. Shop owners start to pull down their shutters by the time we finally meander our way back through the dark alleys. A wondrous evening.
The next morning we learn that we cannot enter the historical Pink City. Jaipur has been placed under army curfew over night. There was a clash between the police and the residents of the neighbourhood we explored the previous evening. A couple of vehicles and the police station were set on fire, gunshots fired and numerous people injured. There are roadblocks everywhere, hampering our plans to visit the historical royal palaces. After spending the morning admiring the architecture of the large Amer (amber) Fort complex that is situated on a hill a few kilometres outside the main city, the boys and I go for a haircut. The cheapest one yet at INR 150 each (A$3) – unfortunately it shows.
That evening we discover that the roof-top restaurant above our hotel has the best vegetarian Indian cuisine we have ever had. Truly exceptional. The owner (also head chef) guides us through the menu and we eat there twice more, expanding our palate with new and delicious flavours and textures.
Three days after our arrival, we leave Jaipur at 00:05 by train following another white knuckle tuk-tuk ride to get to the station. Our world has expanded yet again.
– Jarik –