Where we left off....we had just finished two lovely days in Delhi, and - we woke up fresh for the first "road trip" of the journey. Our itinerary said that this was the day we would be driving from New Delhi to Jaipur in Rajasthan
This famous city is the capital of Rajasthan and has earned universal renown as the "Pink City ", and pink it is, with beautiful constructed palaces, havelis and forts!! Just like all of the websites about Jaipur show, there are indeed tall, rugged men with handle-bar whiskers sporting bright pink and orange turbans. Jaipur (which means the city of victory) was built exactly 273 years back and is 262 km by road from Delhi. Our journey by road was supposed to have taken "five hours" - but if you are traveling by road in India, plan to double that time if you have an appointment to keep. Our trip took exactly EIGHT hours, with two stops. A strong wall encircles the old city and even today has a suggestion of formidable strength, its function of protecting all within is obvious.
The plains of Rajasthan of which Jaipur is the capital once thundered and echoed with clash of swords and the drums of wars. Built in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh-II, Jaipur was the first planned city of its time (the earlier planned city in northern India having been built near Taxila sometime in the 2nd century BC).
Jaipur was planned by Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya, a Bengali architect, in a grid system with wide straight avenues, roads, streets and lanes and uniform rows of shops on either side of the main bazaars, all arranged in nine rectangular city sectors (chokris). The city itself is an attractive creation worthy of universal admiration. I must say that I was duly impressed from the moment we entered the city limits!
If you should ever decide to go to Jaipur, there is a feast in store for you!! There are dozens of beautiful monuments where one can "breathe the fragrance of history". We have now been there twice (another blog in the near future will tell that interesting tale!)...and we have found several comfortable and luxurious hotels, once the proud palaces of kings, beautiful parks, well-kept Mughal gardens, and excursions to nearby places of interest, simply make Jaipur a tourist's paradise. You cannot go wrong by planning a trip to see Jaipur, unless you go in the summer-time - when the heat there will remind you of the famous quote:
Our driver took us the direct route into Rajasthan, right though the middle of a variety of Indian towns and villages. When you travel on the highways of India, one must always be prepared to brake suddenly...you never know when you will come up upon a slow-moving truck, bus, a bicycle rickshaw loaded-down with anything from a shipment of shoes to a variety of plumbing supplies or metal duct-work...not to mention the occasional overturned auto-rickshaw or the ever-present herd of goats. In every single village that you enter, there is guaranteed to be a traffic snarl of some kind. This travel-day was a Tuesday (23 November 2010) and every town and village was buzzing with normal activity...meaning that people were double-parking and taking up both lanes of traffic by stopping to chat or ask for directions. The traffic rules in India all seem to revolve around the idea that the person with the "right of way"...is the person in front!
We stopped at a place on the way called the "Shree Ganapati Resort" - probably not a place we would have stopped-by on our own...but our driver, "Raj" - told us that it was a good and safe place to eat. Here we stretched our legs and got a bite to eat. This is the place where Amy began to take pictures of everything I ate, just so she'd know "what to tell the doctors should I get food-poisoning". No-doubt, I am by-far the more adventurous eater between the two of us...I ordered a local thali - which was pretty tasty.
It was at this lunch that I was once-again reminded of the reason God sent me an accountant to be my wife. The bill for the food came and I glanced at the bottom number and stuffed a fistful of 500-rupee notes into the little leather sleeve that the check came in. Amy caught sight of the money and said... "Hey...how much was lunch anyway?" I said "1,800.00 rupees..." and handed the bill to her. For those of you not familiar with the rupee-to-dollar exchange-rate...that's about forty-dollars American...
She had a shocked look on her face and she looked me right in the eye and asked: "Don't you find that a bit odd??"
Sure enough...she was absolutely right (as usual!). The bill that we had received was fro the table across the way, where a group of loud Ukrainians had ordered just about everything on the menu...and about a dozen Kingfisher beers!! This was not our bill!!
The waiter came over and could not have been more apologetic...I'm sure it was an honest mistake. Our bill ended up being Rs. 620.00 - or about thirteen U.S. dollars, which included some Diet Cokes to go! From now on, I will let A. Suzanne Brubaker, CPA, audit the bill before payment!!
After the long drive, we checked into the ITC Sheraton Rajputana Hotel. Amy was a little nervous when we first drove into town...she saw a couple of hotels and hostels that were....well, let's just say that they were not "5-star" hotels...and began to think that we were going to stay in a real pit. When we came to the front of the hotel...we came up with the second-most-famous quotation of our trip so far (right after "Doesn't that seem odd??" )....our travel arrangements had been made by our good friend Eve, who is a travel agent...and who has traveled extensively in India with her husband, Wally.
When we saw the beautiful hotel....we reminded ourselves: "W.W.W.E.S.?"
"Where would Wally and Eve Stay?" The hotel was fantastic and we have now stayed there twice!!
Here is a link to our Facebook photo album for this part of the journey: