India, Jaipur – Days 6 – 7

Jaipur has been such a contrast from Delhi and Agra and that’s such a relief!

As soon as we arrived things started looking up. Although we’d missed the first night of our booking due to the train fiasco, the hotel made sure to keep breakfast going so we could get some food ( ❤ ), they made us feel so welcome which was just what we needed after the stresses of the past few days! We knew we had to try and sort out the money issue first, so looked into the procedure for foreigners who had 500/1000 rupee notes, and it seemed like or best option was to get to an exchange bureau at an airport.

So off we went, pretty certain that we’d at least be able to change about £100 worth of notes. But when we got to the airport, it turned out that no one at the exchange knew what we were talking about. Or at the post office. Or even the terminal manager. The only information that had been given, was to get to a bank. But every single bank we have seen has huge queues round the block, as a 2,000 rupee a day limit has been set on exchanging the old notes. This is obviously causing huge problems for locals, as 85% of the country’s economy was made up of these, now banned, notes. Although the government’s decision will undoubtedly be of huge benefit to the country in the long run, at the moment so many people are struggling to deal with the short term consequences. We can’t imagine what it must be like for the Indian nationals who are in truly rural areas.

Our issue is slightly different; because we do not hold Indian bank accounts, if we can’t exchange our notes, once we leave the country, we are literally carrying (very expensive) scrap paper. After a frustrating few loops round the airport, we were finally directed to the cargo terminal, where there was a small bank. Unfortunately we were limited to exchanging 2,000 rupees each (approx. £24), but still better than nothing! Got to hand it to Kasia on this one, putting all British queuing etiquette to one side, she dived into the crowd and starting started yelling at the bank clerk just as loud as everyone else. With a bit of help from a fellow queuee, we eventually got the necessary forms and documentation and received our new rupee notes. Success!

And finaaally we could check out Jaipur! Highlights of the first day included: A close encounter with a colourfully painted elephant walking alongside my car window, getting lost in the maze that is the Amber Fort, and watching Kasia be slowly engulfed by a growing crowd of Indian children who all wanted to have their picture taken with her. SO many people have asked if they can take pictures of their children with us. We don’t really know what that’s about, but it seems rude to refuse and it’s nice to talk to the locals!

On Saturday we woke early to check out the Hawa Mahal (‘Palace of Winds’) before the traffic rush. The building was designed so that the purdahed ladies of the harem could look out on the town’s festivities without being seen, and is absolutely beautiful. 

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We slowly made our way around the Jantar Mantar, an observatory built between 1728 and 1734 composed of ‘yantras’ including a sun dial that is 90 feet high, and then headed on to the City Palace which was once the residence of the Maharaja Sawaii Man Singh II. There was some amazing and super extravagant architecture to be seen. We finished the day with the biggest highlight so far; the ‘Monkey Temple’, nestled in the mountains outside Jaipur, and a holy place for Hindus. It was a joy to be able to watch the crowds of people celebrating and occasionally being given a hand shake and a smile, surrounded by vibrant colours and happy people.

Jaipur was an absolute pleasure, but now it’s on to Pushkar for the camel fair. Let’s hope we avoid the camel spit!

A & K

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