Surprisingly, the place was amazing! Once you got beyond reception, each floor had a very nice seating lounge with a balcony view via a glass ceiling into the shopping mall below. The rooms lead off from the lounge area and were well decorated and a very good size. We were quite tired after our day and so didn't check the reviews for the hotel restaurant which is where we went for our evening meal. I put the lack of customers down to the early hour which was not the case, the food was pretty bad and we made the decision not to eat there again. To add to the decision making process as we ate we could see from the window of our hotel into the Holiday Inn restaurant just across the street and it was packed full of people. Holiday Inn in India is a luxury brand, whereas, in most European countries it tends to be a budget brand. Going forward we decided we would be eating across the street.
We meet with our guide at the entrance to the Pink City for 9:00 am. We stood outside the main city wall entrance while our guide told us the history of the city and our driver waited a short distance away. This was, he said the best time to view the exterior of the palace as later the street would be very busy making it impossible to park. Next we drove out of the city to the Amber Fort which is high on a hill overlooking a man made lake. Its possible to take an elephant ride to the top but not something I had any desire to do. The elephants are beautiful and the guide said that there are strict controls as to how many trips the elephants can make in any one day and they are not allowed to work between midday until early afternoon. This is the first time I have heard any consideration for animal welfare outside of the bovine community. Ah well, with our European sensibilities we can sometimes forget that far from being exotic creatures these are working animals in many Asian countries. Its good to know there are some controls in place to ensure the welfare of these beautiful creatures. We spent at least two hours there and again there were the many newly weds in many of the stately rooms posing for their wedding albums. Additionally, we personally had to deal with locals looking to take pictures with us. Róisín hated this aspect of our travels I didn't mind as I said if it made them happy and it cost me nothing why not.
Our driver was waiting for us at the main entrance to bring us to the next part of our day tour which was back to the Pink city and the start of the palace tour. The palace is still partially occupied by a royal family and a very expensive ticket would allow us to access all areas just short of the queens bedroom. We bought two tickets which set us back €70. Roisin loves palaces and as this was a highlight for her I wasn’t standing in the way. Besides, we had traveled from Ireland to this location so thought it best to do it all rather than risk regrets not having done so. There was lots to see and we spent a few hours here before heading to the roof top restaurant for tea and scones which our guide says is a recent addition included in the ticket. It seems very reminiscent of the type of fare you would expect at any English Heritage National Trust venture back in old Blighty. I would have to say the tour of the palace was worth while and we did see many areas not open to the public in general. €35 is a substantial amount to pay for a ticket but it ensures that most locals wont be able to afford entry, which in many places I have been is a stated desire.
We left the palace heading for the central square where we were to meet our driver. The streets were heaving with trucks, cars, bikes, and people. There is a large arched gate that leads from the new part of the city to the old and although it is tall it only fits one vehicle at a time and so there is a woman who stands in the middle and directs the traffic. It is truly nerve racking and I believe if I lived 10 years or more in India I would never get used to this bedlam, at one point there is a stand off between a bus and everyone else. No surprise the bus won. Because of the chaos in the car park it took a while to find our car. Our guide kindly went into pandemonium leaving us safely out of the way of traffic. As has become the norm we are very quickly surrounded by all types of vendors who are selling all types of goods and services from hair combs to tours. We had been told that to acknowledge these people even to the point of saying "no thank you" was to encourage them. In India, we were told that "No" actually means "maybe". I loath to say that to utterly ignore a seller to the point of their non-existence does work and you quickly stop being hassled but I hated the ghosting people as if they didn't exist. We eventually found our driver and saying our goodbyes to another lovely guide we were delivered back to the hotel. This was the end of this tour as we did not intend returning to Delhi with our driver the following morning. Our driver wanted to know if we needed him that evening but no we were in for the night so he could return to Delhi with our gratitude for looking after us for the past few days.
Royal Palace Festival Room
We had been traveling now for a few weeks and usually with plenty planned for each day. At this stage, and as ironic as it may sound, we needed some rest and recreation. We had one day left in Jaipur and we were going to take this opportunity to get our parcel home. So the next morning, after breakfast we hired a tuk tuk using the Uber app to bring us to the local post office (yes, Uber has every vehicle available on demand). The driver seemed to have difficulty reading google maps and so stopped a number of times to get directions. We eventually did get to the local office and there a helpful staff member told us we needed to go the GPO (General Post Office). He also printed out a copy of the customs declaration form we would need to fill in and attach to the parcel. So out we go again and Uber for another tuk tuk which was another 200 rupees (€2.30). Similar to Dublin, the GPO is surrounded by government buildings. The GPO is beside the courthouse where many fully robed barristers stand on the street or the entrance to the court buildings waiting to get their turn and doing last minute prep with their clients. We were dropped at the GPO but it wasn’t clear where the entrance was so we walked the grounds from back to front until we found the entrance and went inside. There were a number of counters and we picked what seemed the most appropriate. We stood in line and kept a respectful 2 meter distance from the person in front of us. This gap was quickly filled by a courier who waving his hand implied he was jumping in quickly to ask a question. But no he proceeded to remove from his bag around 10 small packets which all needed to be discussed and postage applied. I am fuming and try to channel my inner Zen, telling myself to stay calm, its not like we have an appointment to keep or a flight to catch, we have all day. We get to the counter and the attendant decides this is the time to take a little coffee break. We wait very calmly and patiently and the attendant returns and point at another desk for us to go to. Off we go and queue again and when we get to the desk we are handed a customs declaration form and told to stand aside. We look around for a pen but there are none. A very kind gentleman waiting in line lent us his pen and also waited patiently for us to complete the form. This was the last kindness shown to us in the process of trying to post this parcel. We filled the form and went back in line, whereupon, we were directed back around the corner to our original staffer. Again stood in line but then we are being taken aside by security and directed outside to the side of the building. I wasn’t sure what we had done to be so ejected from the building, although Zen was struggling I hadn’t actually blown my top yet. Just outside the main entrance and to the left of the doorway there was a small group of men wrapping parcels. I thought to myself that clearly security had made a mistake and not noticed our parcel was very well wrapped being secured with an entire roll of heavy duty tape in full consideration of the long and arduous journey ahead of it. We returned to the queue again refusing to be worn down. There was a group of young men just ahead of us and one in particular noticed our parcel and told us we needed to go outside to have it wrapped. I pointed out that the parcel was wrapped and the young man explained that in India wrapping meant stitching our parcel into a sack before handing it in at the counter. We went outside again and made our way to parcel wrapper. He took a look at the parcel then looked for a reasonably sized piece of sacking to cover it. Before he got to work I asked how much this service would cost. Remember we are outside a government building with our wrapped parcel, being told we need additional wrapping by a man standing in the flower beds with various lengths of sacking and a needle and thread. He paused for a moment looked at Róisín and myself and said 500 rupees. Well bye bye Zen. I took the parcel and walked away. Our next move I hadn’t figured out yet but this was definitely an extraction of urine on a grand scale.
I sat on the wall outside the building to calm myself. The young man who had advised us earlier, approached as he was leaving the building and asked what the problem was and was shocked at the fee we were being asked to pay. We had spent five euros so far on tuk tuks and we were being asked to spend another five euros to wrap a wrapped parcel. We needed to spend more to get back to the hotel. We still didn't know the cost of posting this parcel but I had reached end game. We would try another way on another day, for now we were heading back the hotel.
The Royal Palace in the Pink City
To lighten the events of the day we decided to go to see the new Spider man movie as Róisín and I are such fans of all things Marvel. We did the entire cinema experience with McDonalds first, presenting everything you can do to a chicken burger (no beef). Then we took our place among the teens and young adults to enjoy this cinematic masterpiece. Nice end to our day we returned to our hotel to pack and prepare to travel the next morning. It wasn’t possible to book an Uber for the following morning as the search would only start 20 minutes before our departure. we decided the best course of action was book in the morning. The Uber app was definitely getting us the best price as the App doesn’t discriminate between foreigner and local. All Uber transactions in India are cash so its hard to guarantee you can get a driver but we knew we would save on the inflated hotel prices. This may have been a mistake an the old adage of `You get what you pay for` which constantly screams back at me when I remember our traumatizing journey to Pushkar but that's a story for the another day.
Hi, I'm Olive and I am the writer of this blog. I am traveling the world with my 22 year old daughter, Róisín, who has just graduated University. I wanted to document this journey because it is unusual for a woman of 58 years old to go on adventure that most students do on a gap year. I will try to share my insights into this epic journey with you along the way and maybe inspire more people my age to go on these crazy adventures too.