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Round the World Journey

Jaipur and the Golden Triangle

IRELAND | Monday, 18 September 2017 | Views [168]

The rickshaw driver did not turn up at 4am as promised but fortunately I soon found another one to take me to the station.  The journey was in chair class which was not as good as First class and without refreshmenets unless you bought them.  I saw another peacock in the sugar cane fields which was pleasing.

Jaipiur is a large and busy city but with a higher standard of living than Delho and Agra. There is still poverty but many more well stocked shops and a host of colourful bazaars. We set off after a short rest in the heat of the day whcih was forecast to get to 30 degrees. We walked through bazars before reaching the Hawal Mahal palace with more than 365 windows and viewing galleries for the court ladies to watch the mughal parades. The City Palace howecer was even more imoressive despite modest surroundings and walls. Top of the list was the Diwan i Khas audience hall and even more stunning the Chandar Mahal with 4 ornate gates representing the seasons. By now it was 3pm and so hot we decided to retire to the hotel for the afternoon and save some energy for the Amber Fort tomorrow.

We made an early start and took a tuk tuk to Amber fort passing lumbering elephants walking on the road towards our destination where they formed convoys taking touriss up the hill to the entrance. We prefered to walk having heard stories that the elephants are not looked after as well as they should be.  I didn't get far inside before a guard as usual took me in hand and then his more senior boss insisted on showing me around. This has its pros and cons - the pros being that this guard spoke good Englsih and genuinely knew a lot about the incredible palace comple and its history. it included a Summer and Winter palace, ventilation and heated toilet. It also include the usual hareem and apartments for courtiers.  The con was that I had to pay a tip, the size of which apparently disgusted my guide but then again tipping is not allowed so why should I be exploited.

A passageway took us 1.5km higher up to Jaigarh Fort which had far less of the palace features but was clearly a defensive stronghold and apparently never successfully taken. The views however were stunning looking down to Amber and across 21km of impressive walls that protected the old town.

Our rickshaw stopped on the way back to see the Jal Mahal Water Palace on a lake just outside Jaipur.Back in town we stumbled into a 300 year old temple and a primary school.  I also saw the impressive exerior of a building apparently designed for couriers and the royal astrology complex. Unfortunately the Govinder Deviji temple was closed so instead I made it to the Albert or City Museum which housed an impressive collection in a beautiful British/ Indo desighed building. the collection included a princely collection of porcelain from around the world, artifacts from the Raj, an armoury and collection of colourful books.

We set off the next morning to catch the train to Pushkar via Ajmer enjoying the air conditioned chair class waiting room. There seem to be about 5 different classes of waiting room which mirror India's caste system. We negotiated a taxi ride to take us the 11 or so km from Ajmer to Pushkar enjoying the views of Agmer's lake. The scenery in India is generally flat but here we found reasonable sized hills if not moutains. Pushkar is a pilgram town with its own lake which Hindus are encouraged to bathe in once in their lifetime at least. Ghandi's ashes were scattered here. Holy men following ascetic practices mingle with tourists (many Israelis for some reason). cows and dogs.  Its not a restful place but it was nice to find a cafe overlooking the lake and watch the pilbgrims. We were awsre of the local scam - you are given petals and then invited to say a prayer and release the flowers on the water in return for a less than voiluntary donation. I refused to say the prayer and upset my hosts no doubt by refusing to male a large offering.  I said a prayer instead to the Lord.

A rickshaw took us 8km to visit a Shiva temple complex up in the hillls. This was an old site and iintersting as much for its location taking us out of the town and through the countryside, as for its ancient architecture. at one time the complex was probably bigger but not all that remains is a simple building or two and a shrine. The hourney was terribly bumpy but interesting.  We also saw a couple of temples in Pushkar itself - some ancient with beautiful sculptures. At neither sites were we allowed inside the complex.Non Hindus pollute the site apparently.

After breakfast we set off early back to Ajmer and visited the Muslim Sufi Mosque and Medrassa which thronged with brightly clad pilgrims. It was a large and cokourful site with petal offeriings to the Sufi saint - no photos allowed. From there we made our way through the busy narrow market places to an older templex complex that had beautfiul sculptures dating back to the 12th century. It is now a place of rest and relaxation with familites asking me for selfies. Must be the power of my white cricket hat!  We a;sp vosoted a more recent Jain temple with huge model of the planet according to Jains.  

We struck lucky with our first class coarch ticket which allowed us into a sleeping car with clean sheets and most importanntly air con. After 4 hours we arrived at Jodphur and negotiated not without difficulty a ricksaw ride to the Karan Heritage house which is actually a private house belonging to a former member of the royal family. It is a huge house with former temple and the kind owner kindly explained that no alcohol or tobacco is allowed.

After breakfast we walked up in the morning heat to Jodphur Fortress. From below it did not look to be as inviting as Jaipur but up closer we saw how magnificently bult this fortress is.  The huge battlements founde on massive blocks towered high abover the city and are formidable. This defensice strength contrasted with the opuluence and delicacty of the palace quaters with its magnificent treasures including elephant howdals and palaquins, silks, carpets and metalwork.

From the fotress we could see the old Brahmin (blue) city and made our way by rikshaw there. In truth it was less inviting than it looked from afar - some lovely crumbling heritage buildings but also a lot of rubbish and fllth. Blue apparently reps insects for which at least I am grateful and also the priestly colour.  Another rickshaw took us to the mausoleum of Jaswant Thada with it white marble tombs impressive but scarcely meriting the local title of the 'Taj of Jodphur'. 

A quick coffee in a colonial style hotel led to the purchase of a couple of lovely hand painted Mughal style drawings which I shall treasure. From the air conditioned restaurant we braved the fierce heat again and wandered the market and stopping for lunch before heading over to a modern palace designed by a British architecct in the 1920s and still lived in today by the royal family.  The Umaid Bhawan Palace fuses Indian and British styles and looked amazing from the ramparts of the fortress and impressive enough still up close.

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