We board a “local” bus for our three hour journey to the pink(ish) city of Jaipur (3+million). It is monsoon season and we have been very fortunate with the weather thus far. The rain arrived on this bus day and naturally the bus did not have windshield wipers. No problem mind you, the driver just jumped out and wiped the windshield with his hand when we stopped at the toll booths. Suddenly, we felt much safer!
We arrived in Jaipur to absolute chaos on the roads. Once again we were treated to a visual overload of six vehicles across squeezing into four lanes, people hanging out of buses, auto rickshaws an inch away from the side of our bus, camels and cows obstructing traffic and cycle rickshaws leisurely pedaling seemingly oblivious to the traffic jams around them. Kids jump on and off the bus to make a few rupees by selling water or food items. Interestingly, road rage does not appear to exist.
Jaipur is the capital of India’s Rajasthan state. Established in the 17th century, the King had the entire old city painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales in 1876. It has remained law that all buildings must remain pink. Not really pink; but what the heck, the idea is kind of neat.
Our initial reaction was ‘oh no’ we are not going to like Jaipur; however, we warmed quickly to the feverish pace and before we knew it, the Jaipur vibe penetrated our blood stream like hookworm to exposed feet in Pushkar.
Four main shopping bazaars (really long streets) exist within the pink city. Each bazaar caters to different crafts. The chaos, colors, odours, sounds, tastes are completely indescribable. Picture South Edmonton Common (Edmonton, AB) or Bernard Street (Kelowna, BC). Only imagine the walkways are littered with garbage, they are in disrepair, a man sits sewing in front of an old Viking sewing machine next to a woman selling fruit from her perch on the dusty and dirty concrete.
A bit further a man cooks food in a large vat of oil out in the open. Bus, car, truck and motorcycle drivers have their finger glued to their horn, rickshaws spew black soot-like, lung clogging smoke and suddenly a cow walks towards you! Who knew, cows like to window shop.
Also, let’s not forget the men’s urinating wall right next to the entrance of The Gap or Funktional (cool store on Bernard in Kelowna)!
India loves “Ola”, a local taxi ride service similar to “Uber”. We wanted to visit Amber Fort, but it is a long ride in a shockless, spine crushing, hot, dirty auto rickshaw. We download the Ola app to our smartphones, request our first ride and soon we are cruising in a white (feels like 80% of the vehicles in India are white) Suzuki complete with air conditioning and a non-English speaking driver. Bollywood tunes playing on the car stereo and life is good.
We arrive at the spectacular UNESCO listed 15th century Amber Fort. Made from pink and yellow sandstone and beautiful marble, Amber Fort clings to the rocky hillside overseeing what was once the capital of this region. The city completely surrounded and protected by stone walls snaking up and down the rocky slopes. Elephants carry tourists up the initial climb to the gate entrance but we did not want any part of what appeared to be completely unnecessary and cruel to such a beautiful animal. Tourists hungrily snap selfies while perched upon the gorgeous beasts. We look away and we enjoy the walk to the gate while imagining the events that transpired to build such an amazing structure.
Inside is a series of courtyards each with a character of their own. Incredible views of Maota Lake, surrounding countryside, fortress walls and intricate carvings exist. There are columns, elephant carvings, sandalwood doors, latticed galleries, frescoed arches and a multimirrored room all beautifully designed and put together. Not even the annoying touts on the walk in or out could ruin the experience. Oddly, our $10 CDN per person admission fee did not include free toilets. Huh!?
We finished the day taking in the Bollywood movie “Jab Harry Met Sejal”. India’s version of “When Harry Met Sally”. English subtitles unavailable, we went for the experience of attending a Bollywood movie in the famous Raj Minder Cinema (Destination Berlin’s Top 10 cinema’s in the world). An experience unlike attending a movie in Canada, national anthem is played, folks bring crying children, folks receive cell phone calls and they have conversations from the comfort of their movie theatre seat directly behind you. The tub of salted popcorn was a piece of paradise and Mark skipped out at the intermission (yes, an actual intermission with curtains closing and everything) to sip chai tea in the lobby while Christine returned for part two and to watch India’s studly Shahrukh Khan.
While waiting, Mark gets approached again by two younger Indians wanting a selfie with a white boy. Only this time, it had to be reciprocated.
An action packed two days, it feels like there are no words in our vocabulary to properly describe the feeling of this Jaipur experience.
“Fortunate” may be the best descriptor.
…Christine and Mark