Jaipur. Of all the world famous sights and sites in India’s Golden Triangle this was to become my favourite. I began to fall in love with The Pink City as we drew into its centre, past the beautiful Palace of the Winds and on towards our hotel, The Bissau, a grand old merchant’s house in an inauspicious side street. It was comfortable enough, with an ancient but serviceable swimming pool and within walking distance of the city.
Along the street camel carts and tuk-tuks jostled for position and cows wandered unperturbed amongst the teeming traffic. As yet we’d had no chance to wander unsupervised, to peruse the street stalls or to take a ride in a tiny, noisy, careering tuk-tuk and we couldn’t wait. Paratha, though had other plans. On no account were we to fraternise with locals, eat anywhere other than the hotel or purchase anything other than in an outlet of her choosing.
With our co-conspirators Steve and Jane we announced that we wouldn’t require a hotel dinner that evening as we’d find a restaurant of our choosing somewhere in the town. Paratha baulked, telling us that ‘nowhere would be open’. We said we’d take a chance then we set off together to explore the delights of Jaipur, exiting the hotel and taking care to step over the sheep’s head that lolled in a puddle by the roadside.
Jaipur was not closed. It was as open as it is possible for a city to be, a riotous conglomeration of traffic, stalls, shops, shrines, animals and commerce. Steve and Husband declared that they’d like to visit the barber’s, a swanky, gleaming grooming parlour for men where Jane and I sat, enthralled while the men were liberally daubed with foam and shaved with terrifying cut-throat razors, swathed in hot towels, trimmed, primped and burnished, after which they must have felt wonderful in the searing heat of the afternoon.
We explored the colourful streets, marvelled at the goods on offer, bought things. We got our white-knuckle tuk-tuk ride, screeching with pleasurable terror as we tore round roundabouts and buzzed along in clouds of noxious fumes. As evening drew on we went to the jewellery quarter where items were sold by weight, and like a child in a sweet shop I was spoilt for choice, buying earrings and necklaces, still my beautiful and much-loved, favourite accessories to this day.
Later we found a restaurant and had dinner together, just the four of us, enjoying local cuisine and a cosy, non-hotel ambience.
Next day we were due to tour Jaipur’s Red Fort, accessible by elephant-and who could argue with that?