There was only really ever one title for this post. Jai-PUR! must be said like Jai HO! from Slumdog Millionaire. My cultural reference points are a bit luddite, I’m sorry, but once I’d thought of it, I couldn’t say Jai-PUR in any other way. This must’ve really pissed off our guide Sahaj but what can you do – dimwit Brit conflates magisterial Rajasthani city with soundtrack from Average White British Movie about India because she can’t think of anything better. At least I didn’t call it Jai-Panjabi MC.
So Jaipur is pink, right? WROOOOONG. It’s all sorts of shades ranging from salmon through coral, ending at Elastoplast Fabric Dressing Strip. What it ain’t is straight pink. To make up for our collective disappointment at it’s unpinkness, we found the pinkest restaurant in India in which to lunch, complete with pink turbaned flunkies.
Turbans are a Rajasthani thing. They’re a signifier of the Rajput caste, warrior people and the group from which all Maharajas of Rajasthan have come. There’s a fair amount of Maharaja-worship still going on here, understandably so. They were demoted and un-hitched from the Privy Purse by Indira Ghandi in the 70s but, until then, enjoyed the sort of lifestyle legends are built on. Check out the Sheesh Mahal or Palace of Mirrors in Amber Fort, built by Raja Man Singh in 1592:
Blingsville or what. From the outside, it’s basically a MASSIVE BUILDING on a hill:
But it’s at night that it comes alive. We had dinner in a beautifully lit restaurant, high-up in the Fort, where Jamie had her first proper gulp of wine and ended up dancing around the restaurant with her hair tied round her face (as did I, in solidarity).
Jaipur ticks the Big Crazy Hectic box nicely, but – crucially – it’s way less polluted than Delhi so is actually nice to walk round. The sari shops are bonkers. This street was like Diagon Alley but for sparkly rainbow fabrics. Each shop was stuffed with ladies sitting cross-legged, being shown bolts of sequinned fabric and skeins of jewelled silk. The quality ranged from Maharani-opulent down to Hang-Nail-Fire-Hazard-Nylon but, at a distance, everything looked utterly mesmerising.
The girls got heavily into the bangle stalls and the essential oil perfume stalls whereas I – a closeted, Ocado-only, anaemically middle-class, sensorially deprived foodie – was carried away by the fruit and veg stalls and the beautiful jars and packets in the grocer’s shops.
It being India, we had to get up close with elephants at some point. There are elephant rides on offer up to the Fort but it’s hard on the animals’ feet and the mahoots are pretty rough with them. Outside Jaipur though there’s a sanctuary for former working elephants where you can ride them on soft terrain, wash them and even paint them. Naturally our kids went nuts for it.
Probably the highlight of our three days for me was the City Palace, home of the most recent Maharaja and Maharani. It’s a bit like our aristocracy in the UK: they’ve still got the title but they’re cash-poor and have to pimp out their homes and their property to make money (and justify owning them in the first place). Bits of the palace are generally open to the public and they’re Maharajatastic:
I was particularly taken with this huge silver urn, the largest solid silver object on Earth and made of 14,000 melted down silver coins. It was made so that the former Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II could carry Ganges water with him on his state visits abroad, including the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. Dude can’t travel without that Holy Juice:
The palace visit was also the place I realised we’re going to be doing a lot more days out with just the girls. It was HOT and while ornately decorated state rooms are fascinating if you can think about who lived here, why and how, they’re just HOT BORING ROOMS to a 3 year old. Hence John John in these pix:
He was more keen on the pigeons outside though:
Can’t beat flying vermin and gravel to keep a kid happy.