Jaipur – its pink, pink and it makes the boys wink! (well kind of, it’s pink due to the terracotta colour of a lot of the buildings but I’m afraid it sounds much more romantic than it really is). Yet the so-called ‘Pink City’ has a lot to offer; sights to see, markets to shop in and beautiful people…but, of course, it’s still got that bonkers quality we’ve all grown to love about India.
You will be bombarded upon arrival at Jaipur Junction station – but that’s fine, we’re used to that now aren’t we? Again we had a wonderful train companion to pass the time and to help us sort our ride to our hotel. A lot of people here really are so helpful and kind so take confidence in the wonderful folks out there and forget the others.
We really, really, really recommend staying at Krishna Palace, Durga Marg, Bani Park. It is sooooo gorgeous! It was the one place we decided to treat ourselves to in India, it’s a little more pricy but your paying for a clean, well-kept 4 star quality hotel so it’s definitely worth it – and once again the food was amazing.
The first place we decided to visit on the tourist trail was Jantar Mantar – a collection of architectural astronomical instruments. This UNESCO world heritage site is very impressive and if you have an interest in astrology (like I do) you will love it.
There are five other sites just like this one (one is located in Delhi) but the Jaipur one is the biggest and the most well preserved. It has been described on the world heritage list as ‘an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince (Maharaja Jai Singh II) at the end of the Mughal period’ and it is fascinating!
Opposite Jantar Mantar is Jaipur’s principal attraction, City Palace. We didn’t give it a visit, again due to the price (300R), but FYI- it is part museum and part royal residence. It includes a vast array of courtyards, gardens and buildings (so maybe worth a look if you fancy it)..
Awar Mahal (The Palace Of Winds), however, definitely worth a look. It is a five-storey pyramid shaped palace which is very picturesque and oh-so romantic.
I liked to see myself as Princess Jasmine from Aladdin as I wandered through the intricately carved walkways and peered out of the stained glass windows.
It is beautiful and the view from up top is even better. You can see Jantar Mantar, Nahargarh Fort and from up there you may even see a monkey or two…just ya know, monkeying around maybe.
Our next tourist spot was the Albert Hall museum, which features a range of works of art that showcases the talent and skill of local artists as well as the huge British influence. There is pottery (a lot British – including Royal Doulton), intricate paintings of Indian religious figures and clay figurines showing the vast range (and impossibilities) of yoga positions. It’s interesting and the exterior really is quite a sight to see but it maybe a bit overpriced for what it was (150R). It was pretty funny saying I was going to the Albert Hall in India though, hehe.
But it was after going here that we unfortunately experienced our first bit of racism. We spotted a young Indian couple sitting in a park nearby, so we thought we’d sit in the shade and just relax like they were. We lay down in the grass, just as the other couple did and after about 10 minutes, the park guard came up to us and told us to leave. He didn’t speak English, he just motioned for us to get out and then looked over to the Indian couple sitting nearby and started laughing with them. We were clearly the butt of a very unnecessary joke. We were very disheartened. Prior to that we also experienced teams of teenage boys sneaking closer to us just to stare at me. To say I was feeling a bit like a walking target was an understatement.
But then Babu came along. We had bumped into him before we left for the Albert Hall, walking down the street from our hotel. An elderly gentleman approached us to say hello but unfortunately, due to our previous experiences of people approaching us on the street, we were a bit unsure of his friendliness.
It pains me now to think of that and Babu even told us later on that, at first, ‘we seemed snobbish’. I was devastated by this statement afterwards but it was probably true as everyone else who had approached us in the street, had wanted something from us, so naturally we were wary.
But luckily (and thank the lord for this) we bumped into him again on our way back. At this point we were feeling pretty low after our experience in the park but as we recognised him this time, we were much more open to his conversation. He also reassured us, he wanted nothing from us apart from our company for a chat. At this point I felt awful – he was clearly the loveliest man in all of Jaipur.
He invited us into his home and his workplace ‘Fairyland School’ and our hearts just instantly filled with love for him. I felt so humble and grateful to have met such a beautiful person and to think of his kindness now, still fills me with joyful tears. We had, had a hard day, and his openness and wholeheartedness lifted us in a way I could never describe.
There were moments I could feel myself tearing up as I drank my tea, especially when Babu explained that he is 70-years-old and feels very lonely. He lives with his brother, his sister-in-law and nephew and runs a primary school of about 100 students from 3 years old to 12 but he never married and now really regrets it. But as a result he loves meeting new people from all over the world and happily invites people into his home whenever he can, so he can learn more and have new conversations.
His English is impeccable after years of reading comic books, he has the friendliest nature, has a wicked sense of humor and is brutally honest – I adore him.
We had cups of chai made with a sugary crystallised substance called Jaggery, lovely snacks, a gorgeous home-cooked meal, we talked about star-signs, our lives, our journey so far, our families – it was wonderful and so unbelievably uplifting.
After we left him we felt elated. I had a spring in my step once more and vowed to buy him and the children some presents the next day. We found a stationers and bought them coloured pencils and very randomly a plastic skeleton model for Biology studies. I have a feeling Babu loved the skeleton more than the kids did ;).
We went to visit the children during school hours twice and I’ve got to say – I could have spent all day there.
The children were so excited to see us and we soon had crowds and crowds of them around us, each wanting to show us their workbooks for maths, general studies, Hindi and English. I have never felt happier, it was so fun playing with them and just having a giggle.
And then we made our new best friend Mike! The friendliest dog in all of India!
There really are dogs everywhere in the cities, some are very cute, most are very placid and unphased by your presence but of course we cannot touch them, just in case. So to play with Mike, really was a joy. We are huge dog-lovers so Babu’s house was wonderful. He has 5 dogs, 4 taken in from the streets and cared for Babu due to their health problems or issues. He really does have a heart of gold.
The lesson I learnt from our time with Babu was to always be open to new people and new experiences. If people want something from you and you’re not interested in just say no thanks, but always be open to others. Just smile at people, if they smile back and wave – thats great, if they don’t it’s no biggie. You are going to have tough days like we did, but don’t let those days allow you to typecast everyone you meet. There are incredible people out there and the longer I spend in India, the longer I realise how chock-full it is of warm, generous, wonderful people.
So now I have something to ask of you my beautiful travel buddies…should you ever go to India, please drop into Bani Park in Jaipur and just go and say hi to Babu and enjoy this wonderful man’s company! You will make his day and I guarantee he will make yours (if not your entire trip)!
And if you’d like to add him on Facebook, I’m sure he’d love that too, just look up Pervez Ahmad and tell him you know Emma no 1 (we met another Emma at our hotel who we brought along to meet Babu too and strangely not only did we have the same name, we were also born in the same hospital – small world).
Remember to check out http://Facebook.com/gohemiantravellers and @gohemiantravels on Twitter – I’m posting photos and advice tidbits all the time! I want your feedback too sweethearts. (I’m currently just working off my iPod Touch, so will add some other pics soon).
Love and yummy cups of chai Em xoxo