The journey from Agra to Jaipur was long – five hours to be precise – and made me realise just how big a country India is, as on a map it looked like we’d moved no distance at all.
The coach trip was filled with all kinds of ridiculous sights through the windows – a glorious mish-mash of cows napping in the middle of highways, a toppled over lorry, the loud sound of trumpets, warthogs picking their way through piles of old vegetables and the occasional camel.
But finally, we made it to Jaipur, the first planned city in India and also known as the Pink City. This is because the king painted it pink in 1876 when Queen Victoria came to visit, as it is supposedly the colour of hospitality. She apparently loved it and it has remained pink ever since.
The first thing Natasha and I did in Jaipur (after a delicious Masala Chai tea, of course) was head into the city for a cocktail and take a look around the beautiful city palace – which was amazing. We were then taken on a walk around the city and were shown the spice markets.
For the first time I felt truly immersed in Indian culture, surrounded by women wearing beautiful saris, hearing locals haggle prices, and the smell of strong spices hitting the back of my nose. There was so much to take in and people seemed more welcoming than they were in Delhi.
After climbing some steps to take in a beautiful view across the Pink City, we then took a rickshaw around Jaipur, which was insane. Our rider at one point took a phone call, cycling a carriage of two people with just one hand, and later hypocritically shouted at a driver in a car who was driving while on his phone…
We then went to watch the sunset from a rooftop bar, which will certainly be a moment of the trip to remember (at least until it poured it down).
The Amber Palace
First thing on Monday morning we headed to the Amber Palace – also known as the Amer Fort – and climbed a few hundred steps in the beating sunshine. It’s been 35 degrees Celsius, feeling like 42 degrees in the humidity!
Overlooking the beautiful Maota Lake, the fort is renown for its architecture, although on a lesser level than the Taj Mahal. It has both Hindu and Muslim elements but my favourite part was finding out the king who lived there had a special room called the ‘Pleasure Palace’ which he used to entertain his 12 wives…
Thoroughly sick of the heat, we retreated for lunch at an air-conditioned buffet then Tash and I visited Jaipur’s observatory, which contains a sun dial which is accurate to two seconds.
We finished the day in a very relaxing way – with a ridiculously cheap but great massage then we went to watch a Bollywood film with the group. Called Saaho, it basically seemed like an Indian version of James Bond and although I didn’t understand most of it because it was in Hindi, it was great to experience an Indian cinema. It was cheap, beautifully old-fashioned and Indians weren’t afraid to cheer, clap and even have a bit of a fight during the three-hour film. We’ve been listening to the soundtrack ever since. Though it did make me laugh that a health warning appeared in the corner of the screen every time someone smoked or drank alcohol.
Our visit to Jaipur ended with rooftop yoga on Tuesday morning, which was very fitting for our visit to India. Next, we will move away from the city to the small village of Tordi.