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Long route home Our trip all the way home, trying to catch no planes and stay on the ground like civilised people. It's taking us via India all the way to Europe from Japan, the furthest of the Far East...


INDIA | Monday, 20 September 2010 | Views [744]

Camels!  We're on the way to the Thar desert and although the landscape hasn't yet changed there is a different feel in the air here in Rajasthan.  Jaipur, our first stop, is known as the pink city, number one in a collection of three coloured cities.  The pink was originally intended to camoflague poor quality building materials, and it's clearly apparent now that they were poor quality as the city is very much fraying at the seams.  Still, the city is exotic in a new way for us, more middle eastern than south asian, giving us a sense of movement for the first time in a little while. 

The touts have a nice new trick too, accusations of racism if you turn them down or refuse to talk to them.  Sometimes the spiel is that they just want to talk about your country and their country and why don't we go to a nice tea shop they know and chat?  We called a couple of guys on this and explained why we thought it was bullshit and a bad image to be giving of India.  Sadly, we're firmly on the touris trail once more and that means incessant touts.  One of the strangest was a man who got Em to write out a note for his girlfriend, citing a bad hand, then wanted to thank us by showing us a non-tourist priced shop, which we turned down flat.  Being on the tourist trail means that the hotel is nice though, one of the best we've stayed in a while, which is nice. 

Strangely, the highlight of our time in Jaipur was not a big sight but the cinema, an Art Deco masterpiece.  We went there to see DaBangg, which roughly translates as Bad Boy, starring Salman Khan.  The days of Bollywood inferiority are much gone, the film was well shot and stylistically excellent for the action sequences.  The song-and-dance spectacles are still there, though somewhat diminished and the whole film was a bit hamstrung by the format which required frequent humour and superfluous romance - not unlike hollywood crap.  It was quite an experience, the whole crowd cheering at various points and singing along to the songs.  Not knowing the language was an advantage there as the babbling apes couldn't get in the way of the film.  It was easy enough to follow, ludicrously over the top and very entertaining.  There appear to be no age-based ratings though, and it was very violent for the many little kids in the audience.

The sights are all ancient (well, modern-era or at best renaissance, strictly speaking), as is usual in India.  We saw not one but two forts, a strange astrological predictor and a palace.  Pictures will save me having to write a few thousand more words, but here's a quick rundown on what they were like.  The Jantar Mantar (try saying it fast - very pleasing) is the astrology device.  As you will see, it's enormous.  There are four more spread out around the region, each serving up redundant archaic superstition in incredible complexity.  Essentially they are huge sundials.  The one in Delhi was often used by the British as a sign of the decay of Indian culture as it had fallen into disrepair by the time they got there, which certainly had nothing to do with funds being sent to fight/pay taxes to the Brits.  Of the two forts, Amber was easily the more dramatic, perched on a commanding cliff face.  The surrounding walls called to mind the great wall of China, which gave us happy memories of earlier on the trip.  We had the misfortune to suffer a rainburst while we were there and ended up running back to Jaipur with our tails between our legs.  The city palace was a bit of a letdown after Udaipur, as was the Hawa Mahal.  Both were beautiful, but also characterless.  The giant silver urns you can see are the world's largest, used to carry water from the ganges to England on a royal visit.  That's largely unthinkable nowadays, of course.


- Skip the city palace, much better in Rajasthan and do the two out-of-town forts instead
- Sunder Palace and Pearl Palace are both sumptuous places to stay
- touts are very nasty in this city, don't fall for the racism card
- Niro's restaurant is pricy but good

Tags: desert, fort, rajasthan


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