Saturday, December 29, 2007

Medley in the Big City

We had our breakfast before sunrise. The hotel waiter politely accompanied us for our breakfast. Around 7am, our car set off.

Expenses of white granite greeted us when we reached Jaipur. It is said that the granite used to build Taj Mahal came from here. The entire journey was perilous, with near-accidents with goods-laden lorries and granite-laden camels.

We traveled along the only expressway that connects Rajasthan’s second biggest city to the provincial capital. This is also the first expressway that I had seen since stepping foot in India. The road was wide but difficult to travel on as great trucks often whizzed impatiently on it. The speed limit here is the same as Singapore's (90km/h). What shocked me was that some trucks actually traveled against the traffic!

When we reached Jaipur, I started feeling the crowded heartbeat of a large city. We took immense effort to squeeze our way to our hotel.

This was a traditional 4 star hotel called Clarks Amer. Ten storeys high, it looked old but the interiors were ok. The bedrooms were passable.

We had our grandest lunch in our entire tour of India here, but their mineral water cost 120rupees (around S$5). It is better to bring our own drinking water, which the staffs do not object to. There are also no cess charges. To me, that is India’s greatest feature.

In the afternoon we visited Jantar Mantar (JM), an ancient metrological station and Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds, but we were caught in a traffic jam. It was around 3 plus when we reached JM. The guide told us there was insufficient time to visit Hawa Mahal, so I chose JM. Built in the 18th century, JM was built by order of King Jai Singh. There were intricately designed sundials, moondials and astrological viewing stations inside. JM is currently undergoing expansion works. After dalling for around an hour, I reluctantly left the JM. I spent 200 rupees to purchase an album on JM and it was worth every cent. We moved on to Amber Fort where we saw the condensed version of the Great Wall of China and many excellent collections and designs. Halfway through, we saw a palace look-alike immersed in water. Perhaps they did not get their feng shui seen to prior to works!

I asked the tour guide whether any consultants were engaged before building the palace. He said yes. Indian feng shui stresses on the mutual coordination between heaven, earth, wind and water. Interesting!

After that we visited a gem factory and a shopping mall. I had intended to go on a shopping spree, but Jaipur is really too messy. The merchandise here, especially the gems, are really excellent, but they are priced in US$. I found them a little pricey and dropped my intention to purchase two pendants made up of multi-colored gems.

Jaipur may be Rajasthan's capital, but traffic is horrendous and the market square is like a kaleidoscope. If u want to take a good stroll here, it can last you a few days. Many tai-tais of the rich and famous love to come jewellery-shopping here. It is said that many branded jewellery are designed here.

This city is a maze of a mess. The tour agency failed to give us a proper tour of the place. Setting off at 6am, lunch and tour at 2pm, by 6pm I was a dead dog. In the end we returned to the hotel to rest.

I felt secure only when I reached the hotel. India's hotels are scrupulously clean and with no odours. They are of international standards.

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