17th October 2018, Thursday
It was night time as I set foot out of the train and into the streets of Jaipur. I bade farewell to my Spanish acquaintances and left to find my hostel. As I made my way through the train station grounds, through the crowds of tuktuk drivers trying to gain my trust.
I decided that it was time to eat some typical Indian food, something that I didn’t look forward to due to my dislike of spicy, curry-filled cuisine. However, one cannot go to a country and at least not taste their food. So, I went to a buffet and randomly ordered some dishes which didn’t look too spicy. I was greatly mistaken as I “returned” the food at the restroom 15 minutes later.
The Pink City
I figured I ate enough for the morning, so I went outside and caught a tuktuk to the city centre. Buildings painted in terracotta pink all over the place.. I guessed it’s why they called it the pink city. There was one particular building that caught my attention. The Hawa Mahal, the palace of winds, is a 5-story building without a foundation (supposedly the tallest structure in the world without a foundation) used to accommodate regal ladies such that they would have a place to view festival celebrations and passing street activities without them being amidst the general public. Quite a good start for my first “museum” of the trip. I especially liked the facade which was perfectly visible from the wind palace cafe.
Next was the city palace. There was floral patterns and peacocks painted all over the walls. My first thought was “wow these guys are obsessed with Simon Moran… “, a pompous friend of mine I know. Apparently, floral and vegetation patterns and animals designs were popular thanks to their Arabic heritage. Due to the vastness of the desert in the middle-east, flora and fauna (life) was a scarcity and therefore considered a great treasure. Thus the idea that these designs are meant to convey is that of a place of peace and relaxation, a paradise on earth, if you will.
I successfully found some edible Indian food without regurgitating it, and decided that I’ll just wander aimlessly for a while. I walked along the market where they pestered me like crazy to buy stuff that I don’t need. “Looking is free!“, I heard a million times over while they persuade me to enter deeper into the belly of the useless-things-I-don’t-need store. And often times it worked. I mean, how could it not work? I just arrived to India, everything is new to me, and I’m a curious guy. Of course I’m going to follow an Indian merchant inside and let him sell me a bunch of overpriced puffy pants that I will never wear. I quickly learnt that to them, white skin means rich.
Sunny Sun Temple
It wasn’t long until something caught my eye on the top of a hill at the east of the city; I walked along the busy, wide street for what it seemed like an hour, reached the so called Sun gate and made my way up the hill. As I climbed up, the noise dialled down and so did the amount of people. Finally, some quite. The busy streets and yelling merchants were taking a toll on me. The amount of monkeys however was increasing. They were staring at me like I’m intruding on their land. I wouldn’t have been surprised if one of the monkeys yelled “Go BACK to your country!”.
I reached the top of the hill and set foot into the entrance of what seemed like a temple. A 15 year old something boy named Zalim greeted me while spinning a stick, asked to remove my shoes and enter the Sun Temple. He was telling me about the gods that they worship and putting yellow paint on my forehead. He also attached a yellow and red string around my arm for good luck. It was all pleasant even though I don’t believe in any of this. I got to know Zalim a bit, gave him a Buzu sticker, and showed him some moves with the stick. Later his cousin came and greeted me. He seemed friendly like the rest of the people I met till now, only now do I understand that their friendly facade is usually only a marketing tactic.
I managed to escape the pushy seller and made my way down the mountain from the other end. Before I left he told me that there is a monkey temple that I should visit. Why I trusted him, I don’t know, but it was worth the trip. I could hear some kind of chanting coming up from the monkey temple from the distance, however it wasn’t visible due to the neighbouring hills blocking my view. Not long after walking down hill, two kids on a scooter stopped near me and told me to hop on because they were going there. Obviously, I accepted. Three people on one scooter, what could go wrong?
Judgemental Looks from Four-Legged Strangers
I arrived at the entrance of the monkey temple. As the name implies, there were monkeys, a lot of them and everywhere. It was a bit worrying having to cross the bridge with monkey on both sides staring at me. I heard they can be quite aggressive and you shouldn’t try to pet them. I made it inside and I got to have a look at parts of the Monkey Temple. It was pretty cool.
I was offered some sugar with chai tea on my way back. The kids were telling me that there is a tiger in the hills trying to eat some monkeys. Alas, the tiger never made appearance and I decided to go back. Before I could start walking however, I was asked if I wanted a ride. Obviously, it was not free of charge. I haggled with the guy and he told me to hop on the back of his scooter. It seemed to me that the concept of safety was non-existent in this country as he was visibly confused when I asked him why he doesn’t wear a helmet. Nevertheless, I made it home safely, found some fried rice and had a good night sleep.