Thursday 15 March 2012

Screw-you-over-ville. Also known as Jaipur.

"No no! Just one more!"

"Seriously, we're not going to buy anything. You're not going to get any commission, so you're just wasting your time and ours."

"Look. This is money city. You buy or you get in trouble. Your hotel? Mafia hotel. Around here? Mafia. You have to pay. Everyone wants money."

"Okay, just leave us here. Here's your money. Bye."

He dropped us at the Monkey Temple and sped off, his previously very cheerful face was now angry and threatening. This is why I didn't like Jaipur.

And it wasn't just him, it was everyone. It was a bustling pot of everyone seeing how much they could cheat everyone else. Fake smiles, calculating glances and cruel and threatening comments when they were snubbed. We turned down three shopowners' offer to view their wares, and were invited to the rooftop where we 'could jump off'. Charming. One resident overheard and apologised to me as we walked on on their behalf, but he seemed to be the only person in the entire city with a heart. Well, I stand corrected. We met a Korean girl, who's name was Hee-Jin (I hope that's spelt correctly!) and she was staying in the hotel next to us. The owner refused to allow the rickshaw drivers on the premises, because (and I quote) 'They have no blood in them. Only commission.' He gave us some great advice, and was very friendly. Still, our hotel was clean and the owners and staff were cheerful enough.

I should explain about the 'mafia'. I've done some research since, and it seems that a group of the rickshaw drivers, a couple of hotels and some of the shops have gotten together in a sort of consortium, which dictates the prices of everything, and keeps business within themselves. As far as I can tell, they don't walk around with hidden knives to slash you if you insult them, and there's no Don sitting in a smoky room doling out archaic 'justice'. Wow, flashback from The Godfather.

Luckily though, no Gem Scams, though I was royally screwed over when I purchased a couple of shawls. It seems every single time I trust someone in this country I get taken advantage of and my money is taken. I'm trying not to turn into one of those people who refuses to trust people, but over the last couple of days, I've felt quite bitter and am starting to treat people from the outset as if they're out to screw me over. Hopefully a good nights rest will help me relax a little.

So, the good parts of Jaipur. The Water Palace, the Wind Palace, the Monkey Temple, City Palace, Amber Fort and especially Jantar Mantar were amazing. Fantastic carvings, beautiful architecture, and great stories behind all of them. The composite ticket, available at the Wind Temple, City Palace, Amber Fort, and a couple of others, allows entrance into said for Rs 300, while City Palace demands a further Rs 300. We didn't enter the Water Palace. Also good to see is the Royal Gaitor (cenotaphs of the Maharajas) which ask for a comparatively paltry Rs 30, though are really only good for 15 minutes or so.

Royal Gaitor

Water Palace

Rickshaw tours will happily take you around. But after our experiences, we recommend you do not take one. Walking tours will take you around the old city easily enough, and you can actually catch a bus to the Monkey Temple (we did).

We grabbed a bus from Jaipur to Pushkar, and after spending a day here, we are loving it far more than Jaipur. It's more like Hampi, with it's religious vibe, but with bands marching through the street, playing devotions to the gods, shrines everywhere, and the presence of the lake ever there, with entrances to the ghats every few metres.

A warning. And I will put this in bold. DO NOT ACCEPT FLOWERS FROM ANYONE IN PUSHKAR. We read it in our books, we didn't click when they were thrust into our hands for free. 'Hurry! Hurry! Festival is almost over!' we were told, and followed a group of others into the grasping hands of the priests, who internally cackled at our naivety, and sat us down at the lakeside for a prayer. It was intensely spritual, and I enjoyed it a lot. Blessings for the family, Aya, good luck, good karma, all that jazz. Then I was pressured once more into giving money. Boy oh boy do I wish I had Aya's strength. She flatly refused no, walked away from them in disgust and left them confused and upset in her wake. She enters looking cute and innocent, a perfect target for them, and left a furious and rather scary Japanese woman in her prime. I wasn't nearly as strong, letting 300 rupees leave my pocket and warning the guy (Aya and I were separated) that he wasn't going to get money out of my girlfriend.

So yes. No flowers. If you want a prayer, the priests will be happy to give you one. One of them was incredibly nice and gave us an explanation of a couple of the ghats for free, without asking for money. If you can find one who doesn't ask, that's great. Also, insist on putting the charity money into the boxes provided, not into the hands of the priests. If you want more info on this, google is your friend.

Well, that's about it. A few helpful hints to followers then. Hotels in Jaipur are seperated into two main sections: north west of the train station (walkable) and on M.I. road (the main one), near the old city (not walkable from the station). If you stay north west of the station, we liked our one, it was Rs 350 per night, talked down from 400, cleanish, spacious, very uncomfortable bed, and an okayish rooftop restaurant that does room service. It's name was the Hotel Vaishnavi. Next door was the hotel with the good owner I was telling you about. The rickshaw drivers will try not to take you there, they have rooms between 200 and 800 rupees, and our Korean friend said it was very nice, but I can't comment on it personally as I didn't see the rooms. It's name is the Vinayak Guest House. The Copper Chimney has raised it's prices since the Lonely Planet review, and the food is the worst food I've had in India so far. Lassiwalla is incredibly, and serves an incredibly tasty dish called Aloo Takiya, which is like a giant hash brown. Served with a chick pea spicy sauce. Delicious. I had two they were so good. The correct Lassiwalla is the red sign with 'since 1944' on it. Many fakes are next door. Finally for now, do not buy anything from the bazaar without looking around first. Shawls that cost Rs 400 on one street cost Rs 150 on the next.

Pushkar reviews will come tomorrow or the day after! Thanks for reading!


1 comment:

  1. I love that you always thank us for reading when readin is always such a pleasure. lbx.