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Octopussy and Pussy Poo

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We were planning to write up Rajasthan in a single blog entry but, now it comes to it there is quite a lot to say, so we will make it a Christmas Special two part-er! So, first impressions of Rajasthan were good based on the morning train service from Agra to Jaipur, which was very civilised and ran exactly as scheduled, a rare event so far on our Indian travels. Jaipur also seemed more pleasant and orderly than many of the previous cities we have visited. We found a decent guest house on a pretty side-street with lots of flowers to call home for a couple of days, it had a very lovely roof terrace overlooking a small fort - which had a face in it (see pics).

Jaipur city is known as the Pink City, due to the pink (ish) walls of its old town buildings. Our first mission was to find a phone shop to get a new Indian SIM card, this had been v easy to do in Kolkata... But as with many things in India, this simple task proved to be anything but simple. We made the mistake of assuming it would be easier to go to an actual Vodafone shop, rather than a street stand as before, only to be told that our photo was not acceptable to Vodafone because it was scanned (yet we used it to cross borders no problem and got a Vodafone SIM with one of the same photos in Kolkata, but in Jaipur they apparently have higher requirements than in West Bengal or indeed the Nepali border authorities… We think that the lady in the store couldn’t be arsed, maybe we arrived just at her lunch time!) Much trudging about later we found somewhere that could provide a SIM and data/call package, but it took two days and 3 more visits to the stall to get it activated and charged up, we won’t bore anyone with the details but just that - Indian bureaucracy strikes again.

Jaipur was ok, it seemed really nice after Agra and Lucknow, but once we later reached other places in Rajasthan, it moved down in esteem to be honest. It is famed as a great place to shop and is one of the cheapest places in India to buy clothes and trinkets, and we did, we actually did shop, us. We went to a rural womens’ co-operative outlet (where else) and bought new outfits, well, it is the season and all for treating ourselves, plus Rach has had to throw away two pairs of trousers that had worn out and were beyond fixing (the needle and thread had already been to them, honest). Our favourite bits of the pink city were the Amber Fort which has great views over the city and the Jantar Mantar observatory (lots of large instruments for measuring astronomical movements, from sun-dials to far more complex pieces that measure things such as the arizmuth of planets, whatever that is). We were also convinced to visit Jaigarh Fort a couple of km uphill from Amber Fort, as it boasts to have the “world’s largest canon” which we thought was worth a look, except when we get there we discover the complete and caveated claim that it is actually the world’s largest canon on wheels. Well, what a disappointment, tsk.

Tess particularly enjoyed discovering that the Pink City is also known as Pig City as there are many pigs living there, if you know her you will know how much she enjoyed this. Despite this, we ran out of things to see in Jaipur after 2 days and were ready to move on. Before we did we made a trip out of town to the ‘monkey temple’, via a tuk-tuk journey of around 10kms, which tallied with what we had read about reaching the place. We had to bargain hard with the driver and almost didn’t bother with the tuk-tuk as he wanted so much money, (more than we’d been quoted for a full day sightseeing). Everywhere else in Jaipur we had taken buses and we almost stomped off determined to find a bus to take us in the general direction of the temple, when he eventually agrees to our more reasonable offer of 100Rps each way. When we get up there we give him half the fare, as we will only pay the full amount when he actually takes us back. We went through the temple complex, which was interesting, a little like an Indiana Jones film-set, we laughed at the antics of the many monkeys that live there including watching two scrapping and one falling into one of the temple’s pools and having to swim out, finally making our way up to the view point over the city…

From there we notice that the edge of the city is just below and there is a path to reach one of the city gates, why-on-earth, we then wonder, was the long tuk-tuk journey up the back of the mountain to the ‘main entrance’ necessary when we could just have been taken to the foot of the path at this side? Why didn’t the books and websites we had looked at tell us this? Why didn’t the driver just take us there and point us up the path? We considered just going down the path to the city since our driver had been a real arse with us, but Rach had a moment of conscience and decided we couldn’t let him sit there waiting for us (we’d agreed to return in one hour), so we trotted back through the temple complex to the car park. We got there to find the bastard had gone. *#@**~! So, we calmly had a chai from a stall in the car park then returned through the complex (arguing against paying a second time for the ‘camera charge’ as we had JUST LEFT), went back up to the view point, then walked down to the city. From there we insisted on walking all the way back through town to our hotel as we were pissed off with tuk-tuk drivers and would rather walk 6km than negotiate with them, plus, we had time to kill before our night train.

Arriving in Udaipur at 6am, we were glad at first to have booked a place to stay a few days beforehand, we’d decided to treat ourselves too to a place with a pool. The tuk-tuk dropped us off at a place that on the internet had looked amazing, very clean and with lovely traditional decor. Walking up to the hotel along a narrow alleyway we both started to think that this place might not be quite as advertised. But undeterred (you can’t always judge a place by the outside, especially in India) we carry on up to the entrance. We have to wake up the ‘receptionist’ who is asleep on the floor of the lobby and wait for him to put away his thin mattress and blankets (this was not such a shock to us as many hotels in India have staff sleeping on the floor like this). After 5 minutes it transpires that he cannot find our reservation. Eventually he says that everything will be alright and points us in the direction of a badly lit sitting area. Tess sits down on a worn out sofa and Rach sits next to her. Immediately there is a horrible cry of ‘Urghhh, I’ve just sat down in shit!’ from R. And indeed, Rachel’s trousers (and left hand which had reached around to see what the wetness under-arse was) are covered in a horrible, smelly brown poo! Immediate trouser change and hand scrubbing follows. As R does her best to remain calm and sort out the mess, Tess checks out the pool. It definitely does not look as inviting as the pictures online suggested – lots of crap and general mess surrounding it. We decide unsurprisingly at this point, that we do not want to stay here. We demand that Rachel’s trousers are washed and that our deposit of 800 rupees is refunded. We are told that the manager will not be in till 8am and that we’ll have to come back then, he also mutters about it being ‘the cat that comes in’ so R was somewhat relieved that at least it wasn’t human poo.

So, pissed off, we go to find another gaff. Two minutes down the road we bump into a guy who tells us that he has a place just a minute away. Now usually we don’t follow strange guys who offer rooms on the street, but we liked him, and there’s no harm in looking, so using our gut instincts we decide to follow him. Turns out that we made a great decision. His place was simple but with an awesome roof terrace with brilliant views over Lake Pichola and the Lake Palace. And at 250 rupees per night for a room (£2.50), rather than £20 at cat-poo towers, a deal was struck. The guy’s name was Manu and he was from the desert town of Jaisalmer, a blonde (really) Indian camel man who was quite comedy. We immediately liked him as he offered us free chai and he told us about his camels, family and general dreams of one day owning a bar/hotel in Goa. Our initial nightmare start to Udaipur was looking up.

Before we got down to checking out the local area, it was back to the first hotel to get our deposit back. Some arguing with the manager ensued as he insisted we should see the room before deciding not to stay there (!), but eventually he agreed and he emailed the intermediary company to sort this out. So happier and cleaner (R was in the shower quicker than you can type the word ‘poo’) we go to see what Udaipur has to offer.
Udaipur is very pretty, it is famous as the set for the Bond film Octopussy and its lakes surrounded by lovely white buildings and green hills is very nice indeed. Ten minutes into our relaxed, pleasant stroll Rachel shouts ‘I think a bird just crapped on my head!’ And sure enough, a massive, bright green bird poo is splatted on her head. Tess is laughing, R is almost crying again at the unfortunate-ness of it. Tess tries to remove it with a paper napkin but it’s just too big, so it’s back to the room for Rach to clean head under tap (as Tess sits by the lake soaking up the views). Rachel then spent the remainder of the day with eyes peeled and secretly praying that the old mantra of things coming in threes would not apply to poo incidents.

Despite this grim start, we really loved Udaipur, it has a great mixture of glamour and chilled-out slightly hippy vibe. The lakes, palaces, rooftop restaurants and intricate temples made it a joy to visit. Not to mention the relatively clean streets and lack of annoying hustlers and tuk-tuk drivers. We visited the beautiful City Place and from there took a boat ride on Lake Pichola to Jag Mandir Island which had excellent views of the Palace and city and spent an extortionate amount on beer (500 rupees) on the island but it was worth it for the setting. Here we met a lovely Aussie couple, Siobhan and Tim who we spent the rest of the day with sipping beers on a rooftop until sunset (and way beyond).

The rest of our time in Udaipur was spent visiting a small art gallery where we were shown how the areas famous miniature paintings are produced, another boat ride to Nehru Island on Fateh Sagar Lake and a cable car ride to an excellent viewpoint and an evening at a traditional folk music evening at the Haveli next to our guesthouse, which was very amusing for its puppet show and strange looking dancing ladies in amazingly coloured dresses. We had also noticed that lots of restaurants and bars advertise daily showings of Octopussy which Tess, as Bond fan, was particularly excited about this, so one evening was spent watching the film looking out for the places we had visited.

We liked the place so much we stayed a day longer than planned and because we liked Manu, we asked him for contacts he had in Jaisalmer, since that’s where he is from. He gave us details of people he knows in our next 3 stops of Pushkar, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. We were never tied to anything but it was a good to have a starting point for our onward adventures in the Desert State... (To be continued…!)

Posted by TessAndRach 06:45 Archived in India Tagged jaipur udaipur

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