March 2004. My visit to the Rajasthani city of Jaipur was one of the most frustrating experiences of my two-month trip around India. Everything about the place proved to be a long, hot, aggressive, hassle-ridden struggle. Even finding a place to bed down was hard work for my travel buddy Allan and I. Embarking on a wild goose chase around the city, we eventually found refuge at this private guesthouse, but only after the owner threatened to call the police because he thought we were Israelis! In the end… thank god for small mercies… Ashiyana Guesthouse turned out to be a decent enough place and our prickly host mellowed out, even agreeing to pose for this picture.
March 2004. Out on Jaipur’s streets, we found ourselves the recipients of much unwanted attention. In fact, Allan and I could barely walk a few yards without being confronted by touts and scammers. The barrage was relentless, considerably delaying our route to Hawa Mahal, the city’s eighteenth century royal residence. But one pleasant moment was this friendly father and son who stopped us just to say hello, no strings attached. They weren’t selling anything or trying to lure us to some shady jewelry shop. The dad just wanted to practice his English, find out where we were from and have his picture taken with us.
March 2004. When we got to Hawa Mahal, the whole experience felt a little anti-climactic. Partly due to the shitty morning we’d had getting there, but also because of the uninspiring state of disrepair we found it in. A largely glum structure that was visibly falling to bits, we nevertheless scaled its sandstone towers for some fine views over the city, with the ruined fort of Nahargarh nestled in the distant Aravalli Hills. Finally then, we had our reward for the day’s many challenges.
March 2004. Once we’d seen Nahargarh, Allan and I instantly agreed that we had to climb it! So off we went the following day, walking up the two-kilometer footpath that zigzagged up the hill. Along the way there were wild monkeys and a vitriolic old woman who swore and spat at me for daring to smile at her. But it was still an invigorating climb, the views over the city getting more and more impressive as we progressed.
March 2004. When we got to the top the fort was closed, which seemed like a typically Jaipur state of affairs. But we wouldn’t be denied the victory of having conquered it! So we celebrated with some supermarket beers, gazing out over the alleged Pink City. By far my favourite moment of our brief visit, it has stayed long in the memory these past last fourteen years.
For more on that magical, long ago trip, have a look at my other reports from around India.
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