There was a friendly mother and her 16-year-old daughter sharing our dorm room in Jaipur, Zostel. They were very keen to have us accompany them in their booked AC cab for some exploring. The duo had come from Mumbai for a couple of days as a treat.
We jumped on board and drove around the bustling Pink City that is Jaipur. They explained to us how the impressive city gates were tall to allow elephants to pass through them. The lady reminisced about her grandmother, who had a pet elephant they used to take for walks and paint in different colours.
Jaipur’s city’s architecture includes a mix of influences from Mongolia, Islam and Hindu. This is because there were no battles in the town between different groups. Instead the king incorporated all religions into city life peacefully.
Our first stop was Janta Mantar – the observatory. Here we bought a composite ticket to allow us into most of the main attractions in Jaipur (1,000 rupees £10). Rather pricey but worth it. If you have a student card this is much cheaper.
We used a guide who was excellent. He explained how the intelligent king of Jaipur built the observatory 300 years ago. Many tools had been made in two parts in order for people to walk between each section to take measurements. For example, the even hours could be measured on one tool and the odd numbers on another.
Sun dials were pointed towards the Northern star at 28 degrees. The sun cast a shadow on the apparatus showing the local time to an accuracy of 20 seconds.
There was equipment for each star sign which was used to read horoscopes.
Our guide explained to us how the days of the week were derived from the planets. He also showed us how to read our palms.
The first finger represents our mind, the second courage, third heart and fourth creativity. This all links with the planets too. Our guide had a PhD in astrology.
To think that 300 years ago mankind built these scientifically sound devices to tell time with such accuracy is phenomenal. In addition, the skill and strength needed to build such large pieces of equipment is impressive.
On the way to the next attraction (Hawa Mahal – temple of the wind) we saw a snake charmer in the street. An art which is dying in India.
Our new friend taught us the three monkey pose. It symbolises: not to hear bad things, not to see bad things and not to say bad things.
In the fort we watched a puppet show about a snake charmer.
Next the driver took us to Amber Fort, which was my favourite attraction in Jaipur. It was situated in the scenic hills and provided fantastic views.
The king of Jaipur lived there with his 12 wives. Each one had a bedroom and he had secret passageways to each room, so they did not know what he was getting up to.
We returned to the hostel just in time for an organised sunset walk. We took a tuck tuck with everyone to Nahar Garh Fort. From there we climbed to the top of the hill for around 1km. It was a nice hike (I have missed exercise). Consequently, I raced up.
Looking over the sides of the mountain I could see families sitting on their rooftops. Ladies hung out washing to dry. Small colourful squares fluttered in the wind like birds. Tracing their movement downwards I saw children guiding string. They were playing with kites.
On mounting the top, we climbed a wall to watch the sun sink over Jaipur city. Nearby there was a huge sand dune that kids were running down. I could see houses packed together in the city.
We could look directly at the orange sun due to city pollution dimming it’s usually harsh rays.
As the sun vanished, lights began to flicker on.
We walked back down the hill and then to the hostel. Strolling through the streets in the dark there was so much to take in. I looked all around me.
A barber shop had its metal shutter half down; looking inside a gentleman sat having his beard shaved. There were two seats in the cramped shop. Next door there was a hardware store selling plastic pipes, sand and tiles.
Outside people were huddled around street food vendors waiting for their dinner. Steam rose from the stalls bringing the aroma of edible delights to my nostrils.
It was noisy as always. People shouting and horns incessantly beeping.
At the hostel I spent some time hula hooping and then enjoyed a fabulous Bollywood dancing lesson put on by one of the hosts.
We all got in a sweat and walked to Pandit kulfie for an almond ice-cream. It was divine. It tasted like Chai tea.
That night I slept like a baby.