03.10.2007 - 03.10.2007 35 °C
We start our day in Jaipur by making our way to the Old City, a rectangular grid of streets containing markets and tourist sites, all built in a distinctive orange-pink style. Because I've been concentrating on temples and forts, I realise I've hardly any shots of the bustling markets and bazaars, an integral part of all the towns we've visited. This seems as good a time as any to rectify the problem, and there's no shortage of material to shoot...
(Recently I've found myself delaying the shot until there's at least one Rajasthani lady in the frame - the brilliance of their saris add an extra splash of colour to the picture!)
We eventually hunt down the Hawa Mahal, a palace famous for the windows that adorn its exterior. It's currently being renovated but the scaffolding make an interesting shot nevertheless:
The rest of the afternoon is spent snaking our way through the city to Jaipur's Lake Palace and Monkey Temple, negotiating with a never-ending procession of touts and conmen.
That evening we decide to venture further afield to a bar mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide called "Steam". It's obviously located in the ritzier part of town as the taxi ride there has failed to dislodge any of my fillings on account of the roads being smoother! Eventually we pull up, pay the driver, and wander along a lengthy, dark driveway, the end of which is patrolled by an armed guard. Are we in the right place? Is this a bar, an embassy, or a military barracks? Our minds are put to rest when the sentry waves at us - "Please enter gentlemen. Welcome to the Rambagh!"
This is the Rambagh Hotel, the only 5-star hotel in Jaipur. "Steam" turns out to be a converted steam locomotive complete with dancefloor, bar and tables, but it's empty, so we walk along the tranquil, manicured lawns in the cool of the night until we reach the hotel, a palace of gleaming marble and crystal. The front lawn contains diners seated at small tables being served champagne by waiters wearing full Rajput regalia. The English style bar contains a marble fountain. For the first time since my arrival in India I'm feeling under-dressed!
We sit down and order beers and nibblies followed by Rajasthani specialties, the waiters answering to our every whim. I feel as though I've been transported back to the days of the Raj! The entire night sets me back about $AUS45.
Afterwards, we rickshaw it back to the chaos of the city centre. In one night we've experienced both extremes of India!