happnin' jaipur, india - R.I.P Sony Vaio, long live holiday

Yolanda’s bit
16.12.99 We decided finally to stop in Rajastan before Bombay. Unavoidably, the best way is taking a bus to Delhi first. Again. Leaving at sunset arriving before sunrise. Somehow it didn't seem that bad this time. The plan was to take a express train to Jaipur but the ticket office only opens after train departure which was useless. We let ourselves be conducted -warning "we don't have any money for you"- to a travel agent who sells us a bus trip to Jaipur and entertains us till the time comes.

The bus trip to Jaipur turns out to be two buses and a taxi car (probably due to overbooking) in which a Belgium young couple and us are made to wait on the first normal bus for about half hour with the rest of passengers -mainly Indian- then told to move to a smaller bus just for us four and after further waiting transferred to a taxi with no explanation and no extra fare.

The Belgians were super fat so it didn't make it too comfortable. They were quite friendly though and shared with us their Belgium chocolate. They didn't stop chatting and eating. It was a seven hours trip and half way the driver stops and picks up a fifth passenger. An Indian with a suitcase. He turned out to be quite a pleasant companion-guide to Jaipur and told us a lot about it and about India. He spoke about corruption in India. How poor people will never develop because government wants them to stay poor. Labour is so cheap and India being overpopulated, competition is hard. Then talking about all sorts of scams suffered by tourists from Indians. He warned us about buying gems in Jaipur for which it is famous but you can end up buying lots of fake stuff for a lot of money. He was a gemologist himself.
The Belgians fell in the trap a while ago for a friend who wanted gems to make ayurvedic remedies with. The shop had a doctor who convinced them they needed this and that and this other gem and bought the whole lot of vulgar glass at whore's strand of hair price.

As we entered the town the Indian bloke explained a few landmarks like the floating castle of such and such Maharaja which you cannot visit and it's half out half in the water in the middle of a lake. The wind-castle full of holes in its architecture made the wind blow through and so keep the castle always cool. It was the Queen's castle. On this road I saw the first huge painted elephants walking just at arm length distance from us! Indian bloke helped us arrange rickshaws to our respective hotels and off we went to the "Evergreen".

It was OK, staff quite unfriendly and the place not the cleanest but the garden restaurant with swinging chairs was nice. As soon as we unpacked Miles plugged little Vaio on to discover it was broken. Sure it was when that travel agent tripped over Miles's bag. Super bummer!
No more web site. We'd have to just enjoy the holiday for a while.
We found out it would take four to five weeks to clear in customs and lots of trouble if we sent it to UK to have it repaired. We'd have to wait for help from Sony in Bombay maybe?

We took some time sleeping again. We did a half day organized tour of the old "pink city" and its highlights. We went with a couple from Manchester who were rushing through a few places on their way to Goa for Christmas. The Astronomical Observatory was very interesting with all these very old crazy ways of measuring time, the position of the sun and all other planets and astrological signs. Probably one of the most ancient systems. Also went to the Ambar Palace of which I most liked the mirrors circular room. We were all enclosed there in the dark and 2 candles were lit up and moved around in a circle. The reflections on the little mirrors disposed in geometric patterns covering the walls of the cupola-shaped room were like a night full of moving stars. Also I liked the door which made the elephant noise and then the tiger noise and the beautiful materials: marble, perfumed sandalwood, thousand mirrors and colorful crystal mosaics.

We were then taken to one of these "India Emporium bla bla" where they sell all typical crafts and stuff from the region. They gave us an interesting demonstration of how they prepare the material and the whole process of block printing. Then they tried to sell us carpets, table cloths, saris, jewels, statues,... They tried hard. I asked if they've got magic carpets, the answer "yes, if you've got a magic purse".
Last it was Ganesh -elephant god- temple where a puja (offering ceremony to Ganesh) was on. It was packed with people bringing presents (food, flowers, money) and came out with exchanged presents given by Ganesh (food, flowers). I joined the women's queue and got some quite inedible sweet balls and an orange flower.

Miles’s bit
Back to Delhi,, Urrgh! The journey by bus didn't seem as bad as the one up the mountain. Arrived early morning for a train to Jaipur, which we couldn't get, tickets for. The ticket office was closed until after the train left so we found one of the many travel agents nearby who just happened to have a Bus leaving in under one hours time. 2 hours later, barely awake we were whisked off in car to the "bus stop".
We hung around on the slowly filling bus, a couple of other euros turned up. Then we were taken off that bus and loaded onto a smaller bus (with the other 2 euros) and driven a few miles out of Delhi. We were then transferred in to a passenger mini-van and crammed in with 2 grinning euros (who turned out to Belgian and even had some chocolate) and driven the few hours to Jaipur.

Thoroughly exhausted we then shuttle about in Rikshaws finding a hotel with free rooms, which we do, then we crash out in a big way. I inspected the Vaio after the dumb travel agent had tripped over it earlier - it was dead. Bad news. It got me down a bit.

Jaipur is one of the 3 biggest cities on a popular tourist circuit so we did the tourist trail for a couple of days. We visited a huge marble palace up on the surrounding hilltops and a quite interesting ancient astronomical observatory with a 50-meter high sundial - accurate to 20 seconds! Also plenty of camels and elephants. One of the impressions of India I started getting by now was the huge number of people. There is such a large volume of people everywhere all the time. When you're out driving through the streets of a city you feel that the whole population is out there with you going from A to B . Then you realize that this must be just a small visible part of the people moving about and that there is a whole load more people you can't see all over that place…it's a bit claustrophobic.