After a 14 hour bus ride from Jaisalmer to Jaipur I’m surprisingly alert. I’ve booked a night at the Holy Cow Hostel who offer a free pick up service. A quick chi and a phone call later sees John Travolta pick the Danes and myslef up in his pimped out tuk tuk. However, during the 10 minute wait for John T to arrive, a drunk man riding a bike rikshaw pulls up and starts mumbling something to us in Hindi. He wants me to get onto the back of his rusty bike. I decline. He gets angry. I can smell the alcohol. He’s pissed and slurring. A group of legal tuk tuk men surround him and tell him to go away. I’m saved. John Travolta turns up and whisks us away. Welcome to Jaipur!
The Holy Cow Hostel is a long way from the tourist attractions such as the Pink City but is quiet, clean and has WiFi We settle in and find a packed mini bus to take us into the Pink City. Friendly locals tell us when to get off. Jaipur is heaving. Jaislamer relatively relaxed compared to this. The bus drops us off in the centre of a roundabout. We enter the Pink City via one of its five gates. It’s actually true, it’s pink…ish. It looks an orange pink but I didn’t say anything to the locals, as polite as I am, I don’t want to point out the obvious.
There’s a huge array of shops. We navigate our way through the open plan grid system until we reach the Palace complex. Tourists, both Indian and international surround various attractions. It’s midday and hot. We opt for the Jantar Mantar. Jai Singh’s fascination with the sun and the stars culminating in beautifully erected concrete monuments that tell the time in a variety of ways. I suddenly feel very stupid in this field as I have no idea how any of the monuments work, or even what the point is.
When inside the grounds, a group of private school children descend upon the three gora’s. They laugh, joke, make fun of us and practice their English. We pose for pictures. The sun beating down I feel a little harassed. Casper has a child thrust into his arms and a photo quickly taken. Sometimes, I feel like a I am part of a freak show. We leave not taking in the full beauty or significance of the attraction we paid 200R to get into.
Jaipur has a mass of fresh produce stalls selling all types of food. There are also touts. Everywhere. Trying to find elaborate ways to part rupees from your wallet. Strolling the streets we meet a guy who states he is studying English at university. He invites us for a chi at his place. An invitation we accept. We spend a fair amount of time discussing culture from both England and Denmark. He explains his fathers business and asks us if we want to come to his factory where we can see how the clothes get made. We accept. A short tuk tuk ride later, we arrive at a textile shop. Yes, that’s right, a shop. We have passed dozens of textile shops and didn’t buy anything, why does he think we’ll buy from this guy? Why does he spend all this time talking to us. I’m tired of this, this guy was just touting us for commissions. What a long elaborate ploy to trick us into buying clothes. We don’t need clothes. We leave not buying anything. Obviously. We all decide to leave Jaipur and hunt down some tickets at the train station. The Danes head to Manali tomorrow, I head to Bundi in two days time, I’m going to give couch surfing a go. I will spend the next two days staying with a guy called Nitesh and his family. Nitesh runs a school for slum children. I’m excited but cautious as I’m a couch surfing virgin. I’ve hardly explored the Pink City, but it’s too much. The treatment of tourists sometimes infuriates me. To be blunt, touts piss me off.
Heading home to the hostel, we take a mammoth walk to a mall. Inside is a replica of any mall you’ll see in Europe or the USA. It’s clean and quiet. Security only let the rich Indians and tourists into these places. Although we are dirty from a days walking, we’re granted access. We find a Converse shop selling genuine Converse trainers for 1000R. Bargain. I buy a black pair. India proof colour scheme yaar. I buy some Adidas sandals too. India offers shoe shops in every town. Usually a mix of cheap fall apart shoes and fake brand names are on offer but the malls offer the real deal. Some brands offer little discount compared to UK prices and Adidas is one such brand. I pay £30 for my sandals in hope they will withstand some hardcore abuse over the next 6 months. Ironic really, as we haggle the tuk tuk ride home down, from 100R to 80R.
Tonight I made contact with Charley. The internet was quick and so was the rate of our conversation. A 45 minute conversation flew past in what seemed like 5 minutes. I wish I could give her a big hug. Words can’t describe how much I miss her.