05. - 08.01.2014: Jaipur

Click on a photo to enlarge it.


Sun, 05.01.2014: New Delhi −> Jaipur, foggy, 20°C

Neither of us slept very well as we were going backwards and forwards to the toilet all night. I also had stomach cramps which didn't bode well for the first driving day on our four week tour of Rajasthan!

We got up at 8am and packed our stuff together, took our bags downstairs and checked out. We walked the short distance to the crossroads by New Delhi railway station to meet up with our driver and we set off at 9-10am.

We are in a White tourist vehicle that had a number of dents and scratches on it but was clean inside. That changed after only five minutes, when Kirsten opened a bottle of Coke that spewed all over her, the seat and the floor!! Can't take her anywhere or maybe she just wanted it to be "India clean!"

Delhi was virtually empty as it was a Sunday morning and most of the shops in Connaught Place don't open until after 10am. Quite a difference to the way we'd seen it so far but it meant we got through quickly. Thank goodness for that, because I wasn't feeling well at all and was hoping we could drive to our hotel in Jaipur, which we'd been told would be around 5.5 hours, and get there around 2-30pm so I could relax next to a toilet!!

There were 6 toll stations en route which cost a total of around $5 and we drove along three lane motorways where trucks drive in whichever lane they want. Obviously there is no rule for slower traffic keeping to the left (India is like Britain where we drive on the left). It meant that our small car weaved in and out between lanes and, a number of times, the trucks were staggered across all three lanes! So there was much blaring of horns so that everyone knew there was someone coming!

Personally, I think no one listens any more as everyone beeps their horn, all the time! We managed to get through without any problems though and I was looking forward to arriving early as I had the feeling I might need a toilet.

Not so simple! Our driver, Pahrlad, whose nickname is Yadav (no idea why), decided to take us on a detour to his home! Oh no, not what I need! I was hoping he just wanted to pick something up - his English isn't very good at all and we have a great deal of difficulty working out what he is trying to say. This is exacerbated by him always answering Yes to every question, something that took us a while to work out.

Anyway, we arrived at his house and we had to meet the uncles, aunts, brothers, children and so on and so on! A nightmare for someone who is feeling very ill. Yadav disappeared and his brother talked to us who's also a driver for Centre Tours and whose English is far, far better. Then he wanted to take us on a tour of the property where, it seems, the whole extended family live.

After over an hour and when it seemed as if we would not be leaving for at least another hour, I told Kirsten we had to get going and went to sit in the car. We have already noticed that the Indians have no sympathy for people who feel ill - the rickshaw driver on the way back from the Red Fort in New Delhi is a classic example. They have no ramps or aide for disabled people in this country either which points to a lack of collective compassion. Maybe it has something to do with their religion.

Anyway, 20 minutes later, we were back on the road but it was after 5pm by the time we drove into Jaipur. We have a book of vouchers for the hotels we will be staying in. So we told Yadav the name of the hotel on our voucher - Hotel Laxmi. He tried to tell us something which we understood as - the Hotel Laxmi isn't good and there is a better hotel.

Oh no! Now what? Anyway as we drove past the Hotel Laxmi, Yadav stopped briefly and then carried on driving. We didn't understand. He took us to the Hotel Sajjan Nirwas and seemed to be telling us that it would be the same price and no problem.

When we arrived we were shown a room that was very run down so we asked about another room. The man already had a second key with him (that enlightened us somewhat - we shouldn't always accept the first room we are shown!) and took us to the room next door which was a lot better.

So we went back downstairs and Yadav confused us completely by asking which hotel we wanted to stay in! We thought he'd already organised this hotel for us and we didn't even go into the Laxmi so how could we make any comparison? We had no idea whether there was some kind of deal going on here, whereby the drivers get 'commission' for taking them here rather than the Laxmi and how did we know that it was the same standard and for the same price? Were we going to get charged extra?

So we told our driver we would need to see the Laxmi. He said we'd already been! Hmmm!! So we asked him to drive us back so we could take a look at the room. He seemed to understand this and we set off again. Just before we got back to the Laxmi he told us that there was no driver room for him at the Laxmi and he would have to go to a guest house 20km outside Jaipur. But at the Sajjan he would get a room.

Ahhh!!! That's the reason!! Why couldn't he have told us that right at the start??? By now we were back at the Laxmi and we were curious anyway, so we decided to go in and take a look. It wasn't going to cost us anything.

The room we were showed was the same standard, or at least there was no difference that we could see. So we went back to the Sajjan so that Yadav could get his room. On the way we went through our book of vouchers, telling him the names of every hotel in each town, to ask whether he had a driver room. It seemed as if the only problem he had was this first one.

Fine! Good that we've got that one sorted out. It would've been far easier if he had explained it all before we went through that rigmarole and it would be a lot better if he could speak English! We had been assured that all of the drivers working for the company speak very good English and Yadav had already told us that he'd been a driver for Centre Tours for 15 years. Realistically, his English should be far better and we were left struggling with a communication problem!

We finally got into our room at 6pm, a great deal later than the expected 2-30pm. Kirsten was hungry so we went up onto the Rooftop restaurant at the hotel. It was extremely cold up there but we didn't stay long. Kirsten had rice and a naan bread and I just ate one of the pieces of bread hoping it wouldn't shoot straight through me.

Back in the room we both had hot showers and got straight into bed even though it wasn't even 8pm. There is no heating in any of the rooms in any of the hotels as most of the year it is too hot! (Maybe the 4 and 5 star hotels are different, we wouldn't know!). Neither of us had any extra fat to burn off as we'd already lost weight, so we needed to get into bed to keep warm. Kirsten worked on the computer for a while and I tried to read a bit.

We were both hoping that we wouldn't have a problem when leaving here in three days time. We didn't want to be charged any extras. Kirsten had already told Yadav he should tell Bill in the office about the problem with driver rooms. He said Yes but that doesn't mean he understood!!

Mon, 06.01.2014: Jaipur, smog but sunny, 22°C

Jaipur is known as the "Pink City" and the most popular theory is that pink is the colour of hospitality and it was painted pink for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1876 (the future King Edward VII) The city is painted every 10 years but the colour is more of a Terracotta colour than pink.

After breakfast - Kirsten had a cheese and tomato toasted sandwich which she said was all right but not as good as in Agonda Beach, and I had a chapatti bread as they had no naan but it didn't taste very good - we went downstairs to meet Yadav and drove to City Palace, a complex of courtyards, gardens and buildings of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture.

We paid 300 Rs each which includes the fee for a camera only to find out that there are signs up at every building saying "Photography Prohibited!" Maybe we should ask for a refund for the camera charge!

Lonely Planet describes City Palace as "impressive" but we didn't agree. We found out that the best parts are not part of the general entrance fee and it would cost an extra 2,500 Rs per person to see them. A total of around $45 US each. That seemed off the charts compared to all the other entrance fees and when we asked, we found out we would only be able to see the ground floor anyway - there are seven floors! So we made do with the general area.

There were only two interesting things - two huge silver urns, 1.6m high, said to be the tallest vessels in the world, that transported Holy Ganges water to England when the Maharajah visited; and some clothes worn by Madosingh I who weighed 250kg and was 1.2 m wide! (As wide as the aforementioned urns!) Apparently he had 108 wives - gross!

We nearly got into trouble leaving one of the "Photography Prohibited" buildings when a security guard asked Kirsten to show him her last photo. She switched on her camera and I could tell by her demeanour that she had taken a photo inside, even though she's not allowed. Oh No! Of course, the first photo on the screen was the illegal one and he pointed at it and said "There!" I saw it too. Kirsten quickly switched to thumbnails to try and get out of it and confuse him. Another security guard said it would be a 500 Rs fine. I just pushed her outside to get us out of there and, once out of earshot, told her that if she does that in Myanmar, we'll get arrested!

She said she'd just taken it surreptitiously and complained that they should allow photos! Anyway, it turned out later that the photo was blurred anyway!

We walked around the corner to the Goving Dev Ji Temple. It was packed with people singing and dancing and laying flowers in front of a shrine. This happens seven times a day apparently. We returned to Yadav who had said we would drive to Hawa Mahal even though this was just around the corner.

But when we drove out he went the wrong way. He thought he was taking us to the Water Palace. Another misunderstanding! We are going to have to double and triple check everything but then he just gets even more confused! So we did a U turn and returned to the parking area again.

We walked around the corner and went inside the Wind Palace - 50 Rs each. There was a steep sloping concrete walkway inside that took us to the top of the building for views over the city - but there wasn't a view due to smog!

Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace) was built in 1799 by the Maharajah for his wives and the ladies of the Royal household so that they could watch life and the processions of the city through small holes in the walls. (The Maharajah's wives were not allowed to go outside or have any contact with the outside world and were not to be seen by the public.)

Around the corner from the Wind Palace was a lot of scaffolding against one of the buildings walls - scaffolding which consisted of bamboo canes held together by rope! I said it looked like the wall was supporting the scaffolding!

We had spent 4 hours sightseeing so far but then we drove out to the Monkey Temple - Galta Ji. This was quite a trek - we walked steeply uphill and then steeply back down into a valley. There were hardly any people around and we enjoyed the peaceful walk.

On the way down, we were stopped because we had to pay 50 Rs for the camera and Kirsten went inside a small temple. Apparently this was the Monkey Temple. She was given a red dot on her forehead and a "health band" for her wrist and was then handed a donation bowl with a 1000 R note in it as a hint! She gave him 10 Rs and he complained! Little did he know that he was complaining to the wrong person - his complaint fell on very deaf ears!

We continued downhill, past some very loud Indian music blasting from a hut which disturbed the peace and then had to stop at the top of a number of steps to let dozens of monkeys go past - at least 70! Further down there were two different snake charmers with live snakes who wanted money for photos and we finally arrived at the main complex.

Galta Ji Temple - 360° Panorama
(move mouse over panorama and click on the arrows)

This site is one of the most important for Hindus and people come here to bathe in the pools as part of a cleansing ritual. It is normally packed with crowds but there was virtually no one there. Apparently, when it gets too cold to bathe, the site is changed to the Govind Dev Ji Temple where we'd seen the crowds singing.

All of the buildings are very run down and badly in need of maintenance. There were other entrance fees to go inside. We didn't pay because the fees certainly do not go towards maintenance here!

On the way back up the steps to return, we watched three men feeding bananas to the monkeys - they had three large bags full. Kirsten was taking photos and got bumped aside by a cow who was aiming to get the banana skins thrown on the floor by the monkeys!

We took a short detour to the top of the hill to go to the Sun Temple for a quick photo and then walked back down to the car. We showed Yadav our map and asked him to take us to a restaurant called "Little Italy" which is recommended in the Lonely Planet.

It was early for a meal but we shared Cannelloni filled with spinach and Spaghetti Alfredo. We regretted this later as Kirsten got diarrhoea again from 9pm to 3am. My diarrhoea started from 3am onwards. Great timing!!

Tue, 07.01.2014: Jaipur, smog but sunny, 18°C

We had arranged to meet Yadav at 8-30am to go to Amber Fort, but after another night of Delhi Belly that wasn't going to be possible. Kirsten was going to go down to tell Yadav we wouldn't be going - somehow she'd managed to sleep through my sickness and diarrhoea and was the stronger of the two of us, although not by much. But then she had to dash to the toilet again so I went downstairs.

After speaking to Yadav I talked to the man at reception whose English was very good. I spoke to Dr Panicker (very apt name) on the phone and he said he would come to our hotel room to see us at 10-30am.

Dr (don't) Panicker's English was excellent. He gave us a quick examination each and ordered me to bed for the day as my blood pressure was 90/60. Kirsten's was actually normal at 120/80 but hers is normally higher than that, which meant it was low too!

We were given lots of different tablets, with written instructions for how many and when etc. He also included what each tablet was for, and gave us rehydration sachets. We would need to provide stool samples (two plastic containers provided) and were told to give them to our driver to transport to the hospital. (Oh God, poor Yadav!) The results would be emailed to us as it takes 3 days.

He also wrote down a list of what we should eat (plain rice, bananas, clear soup, and no spices!) and said we should eat three times a day, starting in one hour as we needed to take the first set of tablets immediately.

Diagnosis:- Acute Gastroenteritis. We would still get diarrhoea for up to 2 days but we must eat, and drink 4 litres of water a day.

The last time I was this ill, was 17 years ago when I got Amoebic Dysentery in Pakistan. Similar symptoms from a similar Country. It took me months to get rid of it, I lost 10 kg in weight and I also ended up with Bronchitis because I was so weak! We needed to get rid of this episode of Delhi Belly ASAP but we still didn't know where we had picked it up in the first place!

After the doctor left, we both went downstairs and asked Yadav to take us out to get 16 litres of water and lots of bananas. We had boiled rice and clear soup for lunch - so bland it was difficult to stomach!

At 3-30pm there was a knock on the door and I went to the reception. The doctor had phoned and wanted the samples. I had the embarrassing duty of saying that I had mine but was waiting for the other one!! (I had to say it in front of all the newly arrived guests!! Oh boy!) Then I had to fetch my sample and give it to one of the hotel staff, telling him to keep it upright - sorry! Too much information!

(The report came back three days later - E Coli and it also confirmed that the tablets we had been given have a very good clearance rate for this problem. Kirsten never did manage to "perform" but we knew that we both had the same thing so it didn't matter.)


Wed, 08.01.2014: Jaipur to Pushkar, sunny, 18°C

We had a bad night - no diarrhoea, but still couldn't sleep. Maybe the tablets have a caffeine type substance in them but it was also very noisy overnight. I'd managed to pack our bags last night so we just had the rest of the things to pack up and went downstairs at 9 am.

Kirsten paid the bill for our meals but they wouldn't accept one of the notes because it had a slight tear. I was outside putting our small rucksacks inside the car when she came storming out! She really wasn't in the mood for something like that. Yadav swapped it for one of his.

Apparently, ripped notes really aren't accepted but he will just go to a bank and get it changed. He drove us to Amber Fort because we didn't want to miss out on it and we needed to get to the next hotel tonight. So we were hoping we would manage to see it without any accidents!

One of the draws for this particular fort is that you can take an elephant ride up to the entrance which is quite a steep walk. First though, we spent a great deal of time just watching the elephants, some of whom are painted, and watching the other tourists getting on. It costs 900 Rs for two people and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

We've been on elephants before and had forgotten how much you get shaken around. We laughed at others trying to take photos whilst being jostled around so much, particularly on the larger ones. Ours was medium sized so it wasn't too bad.

Unfortunately, the first part was spoiled a bit because of the number of hawkers shouting at us to buy something, or to look at them for photos which would be expensive no doubt. They should leave us alone to enjoy the ride which would only last 15 minutes anyway.

Our elephant was called Rupa and was 35 years old. We were sitting sideways on a cushioned seat going up the path and she kept overtaking other elephants in front of us which meant we had less time for the ride! Probably because the driver said he didn't have the 100 Rs change - we'd given him 2 x 500 Rs notes - so I'd taken one of the 500 R notes back and said I'd get change at the top! It was just a trick to get more money of course, so the "driver" pushed the elephant up the hill faster and on the way, a 100 R note appeared!

You can't win here. The number of times people have tried to rip us off or cheat us is now far higher than in any other country we have visited. It's even worse than Vietnam and it was so bad there, we'd said we'd never return!

Amber Fort was built in 1589 and was extended several times over the following 150 years. It was built using pale yellow and pink sandstone, and white marble and is huge! It is more like a Palace, divided into 4 sections, each with its own courtyard.

We spent 2 hours inside and the most interesting part was the Mirror Palace, covered in mirrored mosaics and coloured glass. Helen found the Royal Toilets interesting!

Amber Fort: elephant ride and royal toilet.

There were even some fairly decent public toilets inside, an important issue for tourists when out sightseeing. We walked back downhill to the car park to meet Yadav but he wasn't there and neither was our car! We phoned him up - another misunderstanding - he was in a different car park at the top of the hill! But he said he would come and collect us.

We drove through the busy city of Jaipur and out onto the toll road to Pushkar. We stopped at a place that is obviously used by all the drivers so that Yadav could eat. We stuck to bananas and snacks that we hoped we could keep down and struggling to drink the quantity of water as per doctors orders.

We arrived at our hotel at 5-30pm which is on the outskirts of Pushkar so a lot quieter. The room was large, had clean sheets and thick bedding (it's cold at night!), balcony, fridge, TV, and a large bathroom with 24 hour hot water. We're here for three nights. Perfect!

We went to the hotel restaurant and Helen had some fun with the menu. Here's the video.

The special: fried aborigine!

The temperature dropped steeply at night and we went down to around 4°C but we have our hot water bottle with us! We had overheard one person saying that most of the group on her tour have colds and are sick. Not surprising when it is so cold at night.