32 days travelling and our first encounter with Bollywood.
24th October 2018 – Jaipur
This morning we were meant to catch another local bus. Turns out we had all acquired a certain taste for the “deluxe” bus and jumped at the opportunity to upgrade again. There we were, sitting in comfort with smug looks on our faces – so much for brushing shoulders with the locals. After about 4 hours, we arrived in Jaipur and raced our way across town to our accommodation on the outskirts. It was like a really rubbish version of the Italian job, except it was nothing like the Italian job and just a bunch of tuk tuks trying their best to go as fast as possible without falling apart.
Once we had settled in to our hotel and filled our bellies with delicious curry, we headed off on a walking tour to explore Rajasthan’s capital. Although it was a long walk, it was a good opportunity to see all the buildings being spruced up with a new lick of paint ahead of Diwali and duck in and out of the bustling market stalls. Things were a little crowded, so it came as a relief when we emerged into the wider streets and got to see all the marigold sellers and monkeys running wild (I still can’t get over how many there were – groups of at least 30).
At the end of the walk we popped into another popular joint that served lassis in terracotta mugs – hipster much? Apparently it’s the traditional way they are served. Must say, it looked good but it wasn’t particularly practical and certainly not a patch on the ones we had in Jodhpur – they were also three times the price. That didn’t stop me chugging down my pineapple lassi in record time or from finishing off my wife’s mango flavoured lassi shortly after. Maybe I have a problem?
Just around the corner was the pretty impressive Raj Mandir cinema. It had a grand old school foyer and the screens were enormous – it could have sat hundreds of people. We watched a screening of a Bollywood movie called Badhaai Ho (which translates as “Congratulations”) and stuffed our face with cheap(er than back home) popcorn and snacks. It was a really enjoyable experience, although I won’t pretend that I understood everything that was going on. We all got the general gist of it – they occasionally switched to English for a couple sentences, which helped. We will definitely have to watch it again when we get back home, just with subtitles this time.
25th October 2018 – Jaipur
Today was pretty jammed packed, and that’s saying something considering our time in India so far. We woke up early to beat the crowds outside the Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal), with its beehive-like structure that allowed women of royalty to watch festivities without being seen from the street. Apparently today was all about getting those Instagram shots and I was merely there to hold bags and take the occasional photograph (if I was permitted to and at my allotted time). I’m exaggerating of course, but I did make myself scarce to avoid getting in the way. We did have a run in with some pesky monkeys whilst eating breakfast on the rooftop opposite the palace – they cheekily made off with some toast before returning for a jar of honey.
Next we briefly visited the City Palace, where the girls did even more posing in front of some particularly beautiful and intricate doors. It turns out I wouldn’t cut it as an Instagram husband, although I didn’t exactly put in the effort to see if I could.
It wasn’t long before we headed to our final pit stop of the day, Amber Fort. Set on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, it was probably my favourite fort of the trip so far. Turns out if you don’t pay attention to the signposts here it’s easy to walk the wrong way and get incredibly lost. We still had a lot of fun exploring and the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) was quite memorable, as were the views from the top. My wife even managed to knock over a big wooden bannister on a step and had to scarper to avoid getting told off for leaning on things that aren’t actually nailed down.
26th October 2018 – Abhaneri
It was another member of the tours birthday today and I felt particularly sorry for them. So far we’d managed to upgrade all our bus rides and today was the day that we finally had to face up to a “proper” local bus ride. One by one we slowly climbed into the bus and dodged the broken glass and endless amounts of pistachio shells that were scattered across the floor. Despite initial appearances, it actually turned out to be a pretty enjoyable experience, although I wouldn’t want to do anything more than three hours. It wasn’t too long before we disembarked (freedom!!!) and hopped into some jeeps to make our way to our next stopover, Abhaneri.
Here we stayed at a really nice guest house, with huge rooms and a cubby hole by the window for you to lay and read books in (or just snooze in our case) whilst overlooking the gardens. The owner was previously a chef at some top restaurants, so the food was incredible. That afternoon we made our way to the famous nearby step-well, Chand Baori (there really isn’t much else here otherwise), where they shot scenes from Batman. I used the term “shot” loosely, as it looks nothing like in the movie, although it was still pretty impressive – I guess you can’t trust Hollywood, eh!
We followed this up with a short walk around the village and watched a local making Diwali lamps out of clay. The birthday girl was given a coin pot as a present, which was later given away to some children (unfortunately it’s not the easiest of things to take travelling without breaking). We also had a quick demonstration from another local entrepreneur of how they made bangles from silicone and paint fragments, which was really interesting to watch. As the sun began to set we visited a nearby temple and tried our best to get a shot of the sun rising out of a pot – I will spare you my poor attempt.
The birthday celebrations continued back at the guest house, where we all enjoyed a few drinks around a camp fire. Turns out I’m a bit of a lightweight, as I really felt my gin and tonic – just goes to show what happens when you practically stop drinking. After some more great food and cake we retired for the night, ahead of our next long bus ride – at least this one would be on a private bus, surely that will be better?
Until next time.
P.S. This was the third birthday in our tour group. Really wish I was able to eat gluten with all this cake being passed around.