India : day five : Jaipur
We landed in Delhi just as the sun was coming up. The drive from the airport took us through chaotic streets filled with bicycles, tuktuks, trucks, cows, dogs, people, cars and the odd camel pulling a cart. Our hotel Shanti Home was an oasis of calm amongst the madness and heat. If you ever find yourself in Delhi this place is really really amazing, and has a great rooftop dining area. A brief trip to visit Humayan's Tomb and Lodi Gardens, before quickly retreating from the heat and crowds.
Thursday morning bright and early our driver (Sohan) arrived and if was off into the madness of Delhi's rush-hour traffic. Cars, trucks, cows, people, bikes, all heading in opposite directions, with horns blasting continuously. Sohan weaved through back streets and down dirt lanes, past markets full of caged chickens and tropical fruits, and safely made it to the 'highway'. We travelled all day, through tiny villages full of brightly clad women, past trucks festooned with colourful decorations, and overladen bicycles, before arriving in Agra. Our hotel was large and non-descript, but the Taj Mahal was stunning. So much more impressive in real-life, with the late afternoon light highlighting the delicate marble detail, making it appear like a mirage.
Friday morning (after another yummy Indian breakfast) we bid farewell to the tourist laden Jaycee P and headed off toward Jaipur. A brief stop at the utterly serene open mosque Jami Masjid, where we made wishes in Salim Christi's tomb, then it was on toward Jaipur. Once in Jaipur (Sohan's home town) we visited a traditional jewel polisher and a block-print textile shop both of which proved interesting. Then it was on through Jaipur's old town to our home for the next three days the Royal Heritage Haveli. Owned by the royal family and managed by the affable Pradip, this is a complete sanctuary on the outskirts of Jaipur.
Yesterday, we rode elephants up to the Amber Fort and spent an informative, albeit very hot and sticky, hour touring the fort. The mirrored Jai Mandir was one of many mind-boggling and impressive aspects of the fort. Late afternoon saw us wandering the heaving streets of the Tripolia Bazaar. Hot, crowded, pungent (not in a good way), and noisy we abandoned the crowds after an hour and made for air-conditrioned comfort of Sohan's car.
And today is day five - it's late in the afternoon, thunder is rolling in, bringing with it a cooler breeze, the promise of rain, and the melodic chanting from Ayyappa Mandir. Tomorrow we head to Udaipur.
ps: we've put extra images up on flickr if you're interested.