Never in my life have I been so popular. The moment I walked off the bus in Jaipur, around 10 men followed me. It was as if I was famous. ‘Where are you going? I will take you, no problem,’ various men shouted at me. I walked away confidently trying to get rid of them all. But they simply would not leave.
I spotted a cafe across the road and suggested to my friend that we sit there, gather our thoughts and decide where to go.
One relentless man followed us in. He would not stop talking to us. At one point he thrust a book in front of us, which conveyed other travellers’ recomendations.
‘Please go away you are making me anxious!’ I firmly insisted. He walked away but did not leave. He lurked outside the cafe. I knew he was harmless; all he wanted was our business but I was not about to let him rip us off.
Thanks to our kind friend in Mumbai and some phone data, we were advised where to go and how much it would cost.
Taking a deep breath in through my nose and out through my mouth, I was ready to face the mayhem once more.
We walked outside and didn’t settle for a price until we were offered a fair one. We got a tuck tuck to our hostel (Zostel) for 50 rupees or 50 pence – even less than expected. It took around twenty minutes to find this tuck tuck. Swarms of vehicles beeped at us and tried to drag us their way. You have to argue, be firm and stand your ground. We laughed as these men approached because it was better than crying.
The same man from the cafe appeared every few minutes hoping we had changed our mind.
At the time I was frustrated. However, thinking about it now, I feel sorry for these men. They are so dependent on getting customers for their survival that they literally beg you to get in their rickshaws. Street vendors are the same; they pester you like there is no tomorrow. All they want is money to bring home. They mean no harm.
Eventually we arrived at Zostel where they had two beds for us in a dorm room – perfect. We let our rucksacks fall to the the floor and collapsed in the air-conditioned common room. It was perfection. They even had a television. Luxury.
A friendly guy from Mumbai started talking to us and said, ‘Come on let’s go to the Water Palace’. We all hopped in a tuck tuck (and were not ripped off, since we were with a local) and arrived.
We were informed by the driver that the lake had dried up a lot in recent years.
The palace appeared to magically float on the lake. It was lovely. We watched the lights flicker as darkness gradually engulfed it.
Children played next to the lake, while adults sat and chatted. It was refreshing to be somewhere beautiful after having such a manic experience at the bus station.
It shows how varied travel can be: one moment you are under pressure to find somewhere to sleep, the next you are relaxing before a lake.
Top tip for travelling in Jaipur: Download Uber and Ola taxi (one of these will work and it means you can avoid the tuck tucks and get straight to your hotel).