Jaipur City, India: Snake Charmers & Chaos, But Pretty in Pink
We’ve been in India for three days. Three days that have opened my eyes to what feels like an entirely different world. On our second evening in Delhi we met with our G Adventures tour group; the eight of us that will be led by a local guide, from the country’s capital, to Kathmandu in Nepal. Now, we’re arriving at the Pink City of Jaipur, and what we see continues to surprise us.
Feeling ridiculous rolling into Jaipur in a large purple G Adventures tour bus, we gaze out of the window into the narrow dusty streets, and we’re met with curious stares from men, women, and children alike. They crouch in their doorways, some gathered in groups, passing time, and others simply observing the goings on around them. A handful of women in dark clothing that signify their status as coming from a lower class, named the ‘Untouchables’, sweep litter out of their small oddly-shaped houses and into piles at the side of the road. We’ve quickly learnt that there is no such thing as a road-sweeper in Northern India. To leave piles of rubbish lining the streets is common practice for its residents.
Travelling to our accommodation we’ve already spotted pig pens attached to the sides of some of the terraced houses, despite our city centre location, and cats and dogs roam the streets freely. We’re staying in a heritage hotel, which only heightens my feelings of guilt at our luxury, while the bustling crowds outside the gates make do with basic living. Our tour guide takes us on an orientation walk, which involves walking through a rotten-smelling meat market and alongside hectic roads bordered with the slouching frames of frail ladies, selling vegetables and herbs off of blankets on the ground.
In the space of ten minutes Dave and I have already counted eight different animals; wild monkeys, dogs, cats, cows, camels, elephants, goats, and pigs. I have to cover my mouth and nose with my shawl as my chest rattles from fume-filled grey air and asthma combined. It’s difficult not to stop and take pictures of absolutely everything, but I try to be respectful of the fact that these are people living their everyday lives, not items on view in a museum. While there’s chaos, litter, bonfires, and a clear sense of poverty all around us, Jaipur is charming and pretty with its matching pink and terracotta buildings.
After finishing the walk with a nail-biting tuk tuk journey amongst the constant beeping cars, trucks and scooters, the group heads to a restaurant for dinner, then to bed for an early night.
Amer Fort and a snake charmer
The next morning Dave and I wake early, feeling refreshed and excited to visit the Amer Fort, also called the Amber Fort or Amber Palace. Making our way out of the centre of Jaipur, with it’s numerous pink buildings that give it its name, ‘The Pink City’, there’s a rare feeling of calm that will be gone by the time the sun rises fully.
First, we make a pitstop at a beautiful floating palace, called Jal Mahal, which seemingly hovers on Man Sagar Lake.
Then we make our way out to Amer Fort, which turns out to be a gigantic royal palace made from yellow sandstone. In the morning light we admire the stunning palace, and are quickly joined by an Indian man who sits next to us on the pavement, before unveiling none other than a cobra – yes, a cobra, from his hat!
Naturally, the entire group jumps back a couple of meters in panic, but snakes don’t tend to frighten me very much so I’m the only person that steps forward to get a closer look. I should probably mention that at this point I’m not actually aware of how dangerous a cobra actually is! The young snake charmer gestures that I sit on a mat beside him, while he uses a wind-instrument to enchant the snake with a tune. I willingly oblige and enjoy the performance, before giving the little snake a quick pat on the head and then tipping the guy for his work. The rest of the group looks at me like I’m a crazy person, of course.
Sundials, markets and puppet shows
The rest of the morning is spent taking in the incredible detail and attention given to the creation of the Amer Fort, before visiting the world’s largest sundial, and spending a couple of hours being hustled into shop after shop at a central market. The second most memorable part of the day comes when we’re confidently approached by a young student that gleefully recites every single English city to us, in alphabetical order. What a guy.
That evening, we’re taken to the hotel that played the location for ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, for an alfresco dinner, a live puppet show, and some traditional Indian music and dancing. The highlight of the evening is when Dave gets selected to play the role of a horse on stage…
It’s been an incredible couple of days, and the next morning we’ll be back in our purple bus and off to the most eagerly awaited part of our trip, the glorious Taj Mahal, in Agra. Visit the next post for all the details, or subscribe to Aimee’s Compass below to know when new posts go live!