We arrived in Jaipur on Saturday the 20th. Known as the “pink City”, Jaipur is the largest city in Rajasthan and is the 10th most populous city in India. The city is made up of the walled “Old City” and the newer city that expanded outside of the walls. Within the walls of the Old City the law still dictates that all buildings be painted pink making this interesting in the sense that most of the buildings are pink but although alike in colour there is still an interesting diversity that is not drowned out by the sameness of colour. Hope this makes sense.
Jaipur also has cleaner air than most if not all of its smaller counterparts and we think this can be credited to the wide use of electric tuk tuks versus the air spoiling 2-stroke engine smoke belching motorized tuk tuks. There may still be some hope for these smog filled Indian cities. We stayed at a great budget hotel, Hotel Sweet Dream, close to the city palace with a beautiful rooftop terrace with a water feature any water feature loving person would want, great service by their primarily older male staff, excellent food and reasonably priced cold beer. A family group was on the terrace celebrating their daughters 5th birthday and out of nowhere the young girl came over to our table and offered us birthday cake. There was a two piece band playing Indian music and that combined with the cake made our evening complete.
We arrived in Jaipur mid afternoon so we visited the City Palace and left the remaining sight-seeing for the next day. We took an old original pedal powered rickshaw to the palace and the poor old bugger doing the pedalling was probably in his forties but looked like he was 85. We had to reassure ourselves that this is how he makes his living and it is a very good thing that both of us have lost a fair bit of weight over the past 8 months so hopefully he wouldn’t drop dead before getting us to our destination. We were told not to pay more than 20-30 rupees. We gave him 100 rupees. The City Palace is a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture originally built by Jai Singh II but enlarged and adapted over the centuries. The palace is private and is still in use by the current 18 year old Maharajah and the entrance fee and on-site curio shops are used to help feed the rich and send the young King to college in London. Oh, and also to help maintain the castle. Limited pictures because photos weren’t permitted inside.
Sunday morning we had our driver take us up to Amber Fort, a beautiful example of Rajput architecture that rises above the city on a rocky mountainside. Amber was the former capital of Jaipur state and the construction of the fort began in 1592 and houses an extensive palace complex built from pale yellow and pink sandstone and white marble.
Our next stop was Jaigarh, rising high above Amber Fort and built in 1726. The walls surrounding he fort are over 20 km in circumference and offers extraordinary views of the Amber and Jaipur 11 km’s away. After Jaigarh we made a pit stop to photograph Jal Mahal, a water palace in the middle of Man Sagar (lake) before heading to Galta Jai, AKA the “Monkey Temple”.
Jaigarh and Jal Mahal
After several attempts to find Galta, our driver who has thus far assured us he knows all the spots and how to get there and only ever seems to answer “yes sir” whether it is a question, statement or observation ( there will be a section soon on our experience driving with “yes sir” for thousands of km’s), we found the parking lot in front of the small, very steep road that supposedly leads to the monkey temple. At the parking lot several stands sold peanuts which we had read somewhere will help keep the pesky simians at bay so I bought a big bag although I only wanted to get a small bag but Joyce vehemently stressed that it will save our bacon when faced with the maniacal macaques and we then proceeded to get a good glute workout heading toward what was on a National Geographic special on the National geographic channel some time ago. Not more than 10 minutes into our climb we encountered some of the holy hairy beasts and within a matter of seconds, a large one spotted me holding a big bag, yes a big bag of nuts and proceeded to attack me. I looked left, he moved right and did a quick switch and proceeded to climb up my legs and back while, fruitlessly I might add trying to grab my nuts. I swung my bag, the monkey backed off knowing not to screw with me, I looked at Joyce with a slightly evil eye and we proceeded un-accosted for the next 1/2 hour of thigh burning hell. We reached a fork in the road, you know the story, the intrepid traveller takes the road less travelled blah blah blah so we turned right eyeing high upon the mountain top what must be the famous Monkey Temple. Upon reaching the temple there was a sign. “Sun Temple”. There were no monkeys around, there was some restoration work going on and a few old ladies were sitting around the entrance chatting and drinking chai. Hello. Is this the monkey temple? Yes? No? Any monkeys? No. Hmm..Where are they? In the back of the mountains they said so we descended the precipice, slight exaggeration, and found our way to the other direction, turn left. So now we are looking at the monkey temple, about 750 feet below us which means a descent of 750 feet and then when we’re done an ascent of 740 feet before another 750 foot descent. What to do but do it! As we approach what looks like a rather small temple compound and not many monkeys we of course get approached by a temple priest with an eye for naive foreigners who must show us his temple and bless us and tell us they rely on donations and yes this is the entrance and we ask why are there only one pair of shoes at the entrance when we saw several tourists hiking down in front of us and we realized, duped again! We removed our shoes and were respectful and respectfully declined his blessing and dropped 100 rupees into his scam tray, sorry, and then proceeded to get ripped off at the real entrance to the temple. 50 rupees for a camera, 150 rupees for a video camera, no charge for an iPhone which takes great video and photos and they can be posted on FB instantly if you have 4G on your phone. This is a very big complaint we have in India so far. No charge for a smart phone, a small charge for a camera and a huge charge for a video camera. It doesn’t make sense this day and age. So, we finally turn a corner after the entrance and we are confronted with a sight out of sci-fi heaven. Wow! Narrow cliffs surrounding water pools, monkeys, ghost town temples further down and not one monkey gave me a hard time. Sure, a few eyed my bag of peanuts so I proactively threw a few to them but aside from the one earlier non temple monkey who doesn’t know the meaning Karma all was calm and the monkeys were well behaved.
Galta, the Monkey Temple