Sunday, February 11, 2007

J-J-J-Jaipur!!!

Having spent 2 weeks in simple and salty Dwarka, it was time for a major shift. It turns out there's no starker contrast to dreamy Dwarka than smelly and desperate Jaipur, capitol of the tourist trap state of India, Rajasthan. After a surprisingly bearable 20 hour train ride without an assigned seat, I was besieged by vulture-like auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) drivers upon my arrival at 4 AM. These guys must feed on green travelers like a cow on cardboard. My chosen vulture tried every trick in the book to steer me to "his" hotel, from which he would recieve a hefty commission, with me, of course, footing that bill. Uncharacteristally, I had made a hotel reservation (the first of this trip), which I was mighty thankful for during this battle of wits with the driver.

It's unfortunate that 95% of the people in a country can be wonderful, genuine, honest people, but 95% of the people who approach you while walking down the street are blood-sucking touts or rickshaw drivers, just dying to rip you off. Many visitors get defensive after dealing with these unscrupulous vagabonds, and cease to trust any local with a friendly smile and welcoming tone. This is a mistake, but one that's taken me years to realize, and something which I have to constantly strive to correct. Of the utmost importance on the sub-continent is keeping a good attitude because if you loose it, you're on a downward spiral my friend.

To be honest, I'd have left Jaipur by now, but I have to stick around until Monday when the Air India office is opened to take care of some ticket-changing business. I had one satisfying day here, and it's best to quit while one's ahead.

Yesterday was spent, among other things, researching pashmina shawls: their price, quality, etc., not because I plan to buy one, just out of curiosity. Basically, a real pashmina shawl comes from the wool of the Himalaya-dwelling goat. There's heaps of imitators: shawls made from sheeps wool, synthetic fibers, or a combination, costing US$5-150 but the real deal will cost about US$300 for a full-sized one. The quality only goes up from there. A pashmina made from only the neck and back fur of the baby goat will run into the thousands of dollars. I'll stick to my $7 imitation, but place any orders in the comments section of this post, or mail me personally.

There's not a lot more to say about Jaipur. It's a good place for shopping if you like getting ripped off, or can bargain harder than a concrete wall. Jaipur is known far and wide as the "pink city" as all the building in the old city are painted "pink, actually more of a fading rusty-orange color. For sightseeing, there's the impressive Amber Fort, a massive palace and former home of the Maharaj (prince), perched overlooking the surrounding hills, 8 km from Jaipur. You can explore all the hidden passageways, take in the extraordinary view from intricately latticed windows, and prance about in the large courtyards.

From here it's on to Agra or Delhi.

1 comment:

shakester said...

yeah, it really is unfortunate that the mental picture of the people of India is dominated for those not from it by the touts and rip-off'ers. I'm Indian, so I can't really know how bad it is for actual 'tourists'
seems like you are having a good trip though