From mass tourism annoyances, men behaving badly through absolute stunning places and our first Holi. Jaipur left us with mixed feelings.
Mass tourist annoyances
We brace ourselves for what we believe will be a – for Rajasthan norms – big city with the typical “big city” inconveniences. Like mass tourism mentality, an overflow of tourists with that typical inconsiderate attitude and behavior ruining places and people for anyone passing by afterwards. In my opinion it shows in the quality and authenticity of the hotels and restaurants. The “tourist” hotel will look good from the outside and pretends to be great, but in reality cleanliness is only just “OK”. Breakfast is mediocre, it is high fat/ carb/ calorie but you won’t get ill from it… just. There is an ensuite… just big enough for one person and no place to put anything and enough hot water for one quick shower only. There is not really a notion of preventive maintenance and upkeeping… you fix something only when it breaks… after a while. What they do have is good accommodation and amenities for the drivers. This sounds harsh, I know, and to be honest it has more to do with my state of mind than anything else. When I am in my zen-modus I don’t really care and would take things as they are. But my illness and especially the long way to recovery makes me anxious and sensitive to stress. Anything which is too busy, any unexpected changes, things I can’t control and the feeling of not being treated right triggers that stress and anxiety. And that is exactly what happened the first morning at breakfast in our hotel… A group of tourists were grabbing piles of food from the buffet, resulting in the rest of the guests having to wait for another half hour for the next refill. The poor staff were not able to keep up and honestly were left a bit to their own devices. To see only when the greedy tourists left their tables, more than half of the food was untouched and ready to be thrown away.
I calmed down during the days to come and we had a great stay at our hotel eventually, with a home cooked dinner on the terrace to top it off.
Persistence at Amber Fort
Definitely impressive, Amber Fort. You first need to slalom your way through hundreds of people trying to sell you something. We knew this was going to be the case. As I was still digesting the breakfast greediness of our fellow hotel guests, we agreed my friend would guide us through the mass. I was not joking about the hundreds of people trying to sell. We counted the number of “no, thanks” my friend had to say before we were left alone and reached our destination: we lost count at 243.
The Elephant Man
Not another of those men! We thought that we had seen it all with our Udaipur guide and the loverboys at the sunset cruise docking area…. Nope. Here comes “the elephant guy”. The opening sentence towards us – correction, towards my blue eyed friend – was “Your parents have taken a star from the sky and have gifted it to you as your eyes”. Big smile on my friend’s face. So I replied “Guess my parents digged in the dirt to find some pebbles and gave them to me as my eyes?”. My mood was going the wrong direction. My friend can only concentrate for a minute or so and while she was contemplating on the approach of this (semi)young fellow on trying to pick up more mature ladies, he continued his mission “I want to go to bed with you. See! (he is showing pictures of Western ladies on his phone). These are women I had affairs with.” I couldn’t help myself “So, the thought of being one of your trophies should make us feel special and honored, so much so for us to throw ourselves at your feet and in your bed?”. By now my friend has done reflecting on the initial move of the stars and looks at me not understanding why there is steam coming out of my nose and ears. She had missed the whole discussion. He starts to move to the order of the day, the package we have and how much it costs… 50% more than we agreed with our driver. I get up and start to walk away while indicating “this is not what has been agreed”. After some back and forth the price drops again. Surprisingly there are no further inappropriate attempts, he was actually quite professional after the negotiation…
There is no way of getting on an elephant elegantly using its trunk. I already had to abort my attempt at the first try, I couldn’t get enough grip and the strength in my legs seemed to be non-existing. I used the raised platform instead. My friend was much braver (and fitter) and succeeded… in an uber-unflattering way… ending up bottoms up and on top of the handler already sitting on top of the elephant. I had a very good laugh though… and caught it on camera to share with her friends 🙂
A bit surprised with an almost empty – except for the monkeys – temple complex. Actually, even more surprised that this is a “temple” complex, it feels more like a zoo or some other attraction. Maybe it is because of an entrance fee, pardon “donation”, which is decent enough for foreign tourists like us. I expect after that fee at the entrance I would be left alone when it comes to trying to milk me for more donations. Nope. At every little shrine or temple – and there are several of them – a guy is trying to lure you in with more or less force. Once you are in, you are expected to give another donation… again… because you have been given a “service”, a blessing… As I work in business and believe in being paid for actual services delivered and linked results, I have a hard time with this principle of paying for a service that is not felt, visible or didn’t generate tangible results.
It all looks idyllic and pretty and I must admit it is a great place for hanging out, observing the animals in this special setting and taking pictures. But, I cannot understand that people would actually bath in these holy sources (which they do) with the monkeys playing around in it all year round. I don’t think the monkey parents tell their monkey kids to not do pipi and other stuff in the water.
And then, around 5:30 PM, it is monkey dinner time served by the monks. The atmosphere flips and becomes instantly hostile. What was idyllic before is now a scary situation through which you need to find your way back to the entrance. Some tourists were as “smart” as to take food with them for the monkeys, who in turn jump onto them and ripped any food out of their bags. Made again great pictures, but happy it wasn’t me.
Nahargarh Fort for sunset
Argh… this was a nice place. We got here rather late and had to be efficient in our sightseeing… but no worries, we are actually quite good at that. The most of the people were already positioned for the sun setting and so we had the place to ourselves. A friendly guard took it upon him to guide us through the complex. It is unfortunate though that after 2 weeks of traveling through India you are conditioned to expect everyone wanting some money for any guidance. As I was getting increasingly uncomfortable, we eloped somewhere in between and continued by ourselves. I loved this place, very nice and elegantly decorated.
The rooftop views are really nice and even the (massively large) toilet has an exquisite view.
We didn’t know what to expect, but you could feel the tension building up to this day. We got ourselves into our Holi clothes and wrapped my friend’s blonde hair into a shawl. We didn’t want her to look like a pink poodle for weeks. I was quite anxious about it, the powder in my face, lots of people, not being able to control my environment, drunk people and the horror stories you read about. Downstairs we see our driver Babu getting ready for his initiation. It was funny to look at it from a distance up to the moment his friends detected us. OK, guess it is time for our Holi baptism. Mmm, that powder feels actually nice and soft and smells like flowers. What was I so uptight about? We first go to the safe tourist Holi to get into it and when we got back at the hotel Babu dragged us to the real Holi parties in the back alleys with an own DJ. Now we understand why Babu wanted to be in Jaipur for Holi… all his friends are here
See more pictures – including beautiful City Palace, Pana Meena Kund stepwell, Pink Palace, my henna tattoo…