After an interesting stay in Bikaner, I cut short my stay and planned to move on to Jaipur (the pink city). Usually, I send a message to couch surfing hosts at least a week in advance, but this time as I had to cut it short, I was a bit less hopeful about any acceptance. I got only one positive confirmation from a host (Feeroz Shammi) and even though he had a neutral review I thought to take a chance (part of the adventure).
My journey got delayed because of the heavy fog in the morning. Nevertheless I started my journey by 11:00 am in the fog. The disadvantage is that you cannot cruse your bike. One has to be aware of the road, as the visibility was low. I almost got hit by a peacock crossing the highway. Incidentally, the highways of Rajasthan were perfect for driving which helped me to quickly complete my ride with short breaks.
I reached Jaipur by 5 pm and called Feroz. He received me and showed me my room which was an under construction building. Definitely not a great place to stay, but I was so tired that I didn’t mind continue staying. After sometime he came to me and asked for the advance. I was a bit shocked because ideally couchsurfing is not about money, it is about experience. He told me that ideally the room was for 600 Rs a day and he charged me 400 Rs (I did not buy the story). Finally we settled for 300 bucks and decided to meet later. The room was spooky and not worth 300 at all, but I was in no mood to have a fight or search for a new one. My couchsurfing experience so far was interesting. In the first stay, I did not see my host and in the second I was being charged (adventure continues). Feroz gave me all the pointers for places to eat, places to visit and their timings in Jaipur. After an awesome meal near by I planned for the next day.
The day starts with a super cheap and awesome breakfast at the Indian Coffee House. It looks really old but it serves some awesome food. Top of the list were Keema dosa, Omelette and Banana/Caramel milkshake. Perfect way to start a day and go visiting the touristy places. I usually don’t like to travel as a tourist, but in some places it is inevitable.
One thing that mesmerised me in Jaipur was the architecture of the old buildings and forts. A few on the list were:
Hawa Mahal: (Palace of winds) Essentially it is a wall built for the women of the royal household so that they could see the street festivals while being unseen. The amount of breeze you get inside the palace could be compared to that of an air conditioner, it is indeed an architectural marvel.
Amber Fort: A huge fort between the Aravali mountains. A perfect kingdom where the enemies have to think twice before they attack. The fort has a natural fortress of the mountains which makes it a strategically best place for a kingdom. As the history says that the fort was never attacked because of its strategic positioning. It is worth taking a guide as this fort is quite big and he will also give you some historical significance of the place. Don’t miss the sound and light show, it is one of the best I have attended so far. The fort looks amazing in the night lights as well.
Jal Mahal: Jal Mahal is situated between Amber fort and the city. A typical Rajasthani palace built in Rajput and Mughal style providing the picturesque view of the lake. Unfortunately it is not accessible these days. The rulers in the olden days must have had a great view out there.
Jantar Mantar: Also known as “Magical device” is one of the historical astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh. I have heard a lot about his intelligence and this definitely inspires me to read about him. One such anecdote is the name of Sawai Jai Singh. It is really amazing to see how creative and scientific these instruments where at Jantar Mantar. One thing that intrigues me is that there was not Google then, but still people amassed vast knowledge.
Albert Hall Museum: One of the oldest museums in the state. It has a collection of old art, armoury, musical instruments and lot of carpets and furniture. Nothing really special about the museum except for the architectural heritage structure of the museum. Worth a short visit as it is quite close to the city.
Nahargardh Fort: I realised there are two different ways to go to Nahardgardh Fort thanks to Google Maps. As always it showed me the shortest path, but this time the place was not wrong but the path was really old. It was an amazing feeling to drive my bike on that path. There was minimal grip and I had to be really careful. As soon as I reached the entrance of the fort, I realised that the big tank was from the movie Rang De Basanti. The city view from the top was a picturesque. The fort was nice as well, but less maintained as compared to Amber fort.
Jaigarh Fort: Jaigarh fort was built by Raja Jai Singh and it overlooks the Amber fort. It was built to protect the Amber fort and its palace complex. The fort also features one of the world’s largest cannons which was only fired once. One thing which was interesting was that a secret path connects Jaigarh and Amber fort. I went to Amber fort really late and missed walking through the path, so the next day I walked from Jaigarh fort to Amber fort and back. It was not really a surang (an underground passage) but it was still a secret path from Amber to Jaigarh.
Well I split my visit into two days as they took up the day, especially if you want to walk and explore the place. After my first day visit, Feeroz called and said he would bring some home cooked food. I waited for like 4 hrs and finally slept. He woke me up at 11 pm and we ate some homemade food. It was a tasty food after a long wait. Then we went out riding our bikes to have some chai at midnight. We had discussions about his life, Hindu Muslim culture and many more. He is really a nice person, hard working and he is trying to help his parents while studying. I really like the way he accepted the challenge. Just that sometimes I realise the first impression has an effect for a long time. However nice he might be, being dishonest at the first place just overshadowed his goodness.
Anyway, 2 days in Jaipur were just amazing. I had an amazing stay and it definitely recharged me a bit for the journey ahead. The next stop was Rusirani village near Alwar district, Rajasthan. I always loved the countryside and I was pumped up for the adventure ahead.