The first thing we did was go for a quick trip to India’s own “Albert Hall’ – which is in fact nothing like the English one, it’s basically just a very aesthetically pleasing museum, and I have to confess that it
|Sabah and I outside the Albert Hall, in the days before I’d realised how|
touristy and out of place my sunglasses made me look
was easily one of the least interesting things we saw, despite its architectural merit.
This was, if you like, our pilot trip – to test the waters of what it was like to get a rickshaw on our own, with no obliging national volunteers to shout at the drivers for us. It was a definite success, and made a dull Sunday more interesting at least, but more importantly, set the stage for our gradually growing confidence to lead us on to bigger and better things (read: City Palace and the markets).
Over the 12 weeks of our placement, easily our favourite haunt was the Jaipuri markets – reportedly some of the best shopping in India – and once we got over the fact that the shop owners state a ridiculous first-time price for everyone, not just unsuspecting English tourists (which, we often indignantly insisted, we were not), we even began to enjoy haggling (myself perhaps more than necessary). We all bought more stuff than was reasonable, and particularly to begin with, paid more for it than was strictly necessary – but in the end a) “more than is strictly necessary” in India means paying £1.20 for a bag when you could have got it down to £1.10 and b) who cared because nobody bought as much as Sabah did. There was one shop in particular that we just couldn’t stay away from – and towards the end every time we visited, we insisted that it was our last visit, but right up until the penultimate day in Jaipur we just kept getting drawn back. (And not until the last week did we realise that two of the shopkeepers were twins: no wonder they’d kept looking confused when we insisted that “last time” they had given us a different price; we only ever saw one of them at a time!)
The galta mandir (monkey temple) was one of my favourite things that we visited: we ended up going twice because we missed the most significant section of the complex the first time (doh). Despite the infinite grandeur of the temples we saw, the best thing about it for me was, of course, the monkeys (I don’t know what it is about monkeys and our innate need as humans to take copious amounts of photos of them).
City Palace was another amazing place, which we luckily went to visit before we started to tire of Islamic architecture (which, although it is in my opinion much more beautiful than Christian architecture, does all start to look the same after a while). Far and away the best thing about our visit was the lovely old man who let us have a go at carpet weaving; closely followed by the slightly less lovely old man who invited us to have a go at snake charming (and then encouraged us to pay him, sneaky). Even so, quite pleased with the photo ops.
The weekend that the boys from Delhi came down to visit, we did the perhaps more typical touristy things: went in the Hawa Mahal and rode up to Amer Fort on elephants (very surreal).
Amer Fort definitely offered one of the best views that we saw in the whole time in India, and I was of course happy to end my trip having ticked “ride an elephant” off of life’s to-do list.
Last of all, luckily enough for us, we did manage to find the time in our busy(ish) schedule to make the trip to Agra to see the one and only Taj Mahal. It certainly didn’t disappoint – although I was left with a slight “hey, it looks exactly like it does on the telly” feeling, but not in an especially bad way.
Essentially, we were incredibly lucky to be staying where we were: Jaipur is one of the most fantastic cities I’ve ever been to – despite the poverty, and the rubbish, and all the trappings that Indian cities tend to bring with them – and I’m glad we were a part of it for those 12 weeks.