Saturday, February 12, 2011
Upon arriving in Jaipur we had some time before sunset. We had not arranged with our hotel for a driver to meet us so we waded into the sea of drivers in front of the station and picked a guy that we thought looked trustworthy. Usually we picked old dudes for two reasons. First, they have lost that fire of youth and have much less energy to argue about prices, so it seems. Second, old dudes don’t drive as fast or take as big of risks as the younger guys. So we picked an old dude and went with him. As we got into his rickshaw a young dude approached and they switched places. We briefly considered getting out, but hey, the price was agreed to and this guy said he knew our hotel so we went with it and he actually turned out to be pretty friendly. He asked us where we were from and then said, “you look, see, Indian, Japanese, American, we are like different vegetables, very good for you, vegetable curry” He then asked our names and told us his name was Ari, “aka Handsome Boy” Yes, he actually said that and when I called him “handsome man” he corrected me and said, “boy”. We warmed up to him a bit and when he dropped us off we arranged for him to come back in an hour and pick us up so that we could have some time to eat and take a shower before we tried to take in some sights before dark.
An hour later he was back and he had some grand ideas of going to about three different locations before bringing us back to our hotel, but it was already almost 5 and the sun would go down around 530. Despite telling him many times that we only wanted to go to one place and call it an early night he couldn’t get the idea out of his head that we would go to three places. We also said we wanted to go to a book store to buy a guide book for India, but he refused and told us, “No Lonely Planet book sold in Jaipur, you wait until you are in Delhi” Which struck us as rather odd considering that in Jaisalmer, a town hundreds of kilometers in the desert and with a fraction of the population of Jaipur, there were guide books being sold everywhere. Fishy. In addition every time we arrived somewhere and frequently while on the way to somewhere, our driver would stop the rickshaw, turn around, and give us a story or a warning about where we were. At first I thought, great, information from a local, this might be good. However, it soon became apparent that he was making stuff up, which is probably why he continued to refuse to take us to a book store or admit to the existence of guide books for sale in Jaipur.
First stop was Galwh Bagh, otherwise known as the monkey temple. Yes, there are lots of monkeys there, but also lots of goats. Why not call it the goat temple? I guess it doesn’t have the same ring to it. We ascended the stairs leading up to the temple where we sat watching the sunset and discussing our strange driver. There were a few other tourists straggling about as well. When we had entered the grounds right away three boys ran up to us and said something like, “Monkeys very angry, you need protection?” Of course we said no, little buggers, but it appears some people bought their story. Just a few minutes up the hill we saw a French couple (I know they were French because we had sat near them on the train) being “protected” by a small boy. While their backs were turned he approached a monkey sitting on a ledge and held out his thumb. When the monkey did nothing the boy bit his own finger, then yelled and ran back to the couple saying, “Look, the monkey bit me! I protect you.” The monkeys were everywhere, but they were not aggressive at all except to each other.
After satisfying ourselves that there was no more to be seen we headed back to our driver and insisted on going back to the hotel. Reluctantly he agreed and brought us back. Before we left though we asked again about a book store and got the same reply about no guide books in Jaipur. Weird guy. When we reached the hotel our driver gave us a speech about the next day, would we like a driver for a full day or half day? He could drive us around? So Aya and I had a quick conversation in Japanese about whether it was worth it and did we really want this guy driving us around. We decided he was weird, but harmless and he did actually listen to us even if it took a few times, so we agreed to meet him outside the hotel the next morning.
He was prim and ready, but when we said first we had to change money and then we wanted to go to a bookstore he became upset, I think because he had some grand plan in mind. He brought us to the shadiest looking money changer in the city, but despite that the guy spoke really good English and he and I were having a chat about India and America. Unknown to me Aya was having an argument with our driver in the corner. He continued to insist that there were no guide books and he didn’t know any book stores and she continued to insist there were and that he bring us there (we actually had photocopied some pages of a Lonely Planet guide beforehand and so she was pointing to the exact location of several bookstores on a map of Jaipur while he denied their existence). As we were leaving he appealed to me, I don’t know why, to get Aya to calm down and of course I told him to bring us straight to a bookstore. Finally he relented. Weird.
On the way he stopped at a gas station and gave us his final appeal to not go to the bookstore. He claimed he couldn’t drive in that area of the city because he had forgotten to bring his uniform and if the police saw him without it he would be fined. Now, I am not sure if this was true or not. I saw almost every driver wearing a blue short sleeved shirt, which our driver did have the day before, but claimed was being washed today. None the less, we told him to just drop us close and we would walk. He brought us there anyways and actually walked up to the bookstore with us, which had a full display in the front window with about 20 Lonely Planet guide books in it. We didn’t even buy a book, deciding it would be better to get one in Delhi (hahaha) and he mumbled something about buying it in Delhi on the way back to the rickshaw.
We were then off to the City Palace which had some cool objects, but overall wasn’t very exciting. There were some amazing gates in the complex, which we took pictures of, but most of the other rooms contained textiles and weapons the most of which we had see similar things before. However, there is on premises the two largest silver objects in the world, but they were much smaller than I thought they would be.
After this we crossed the street to the Jantar Mantar, an observatory build in the 1700’s. This complex is a huge outdoor area in which giant observation instrument were built. It was very interesting and the plaques that went with each object were more than adequate in explaining its meaning. It is amazing how much progress humans have made in just a few hundred years. From the grounds we could see the Hawa Mahal. This is a huge 5 story red stone structure that was built so that the royal ladies could view the goings on of the city without being seen. That wouldn’t be very lady like.
When we returned to our driver and told him we wanted to go there he seemed upset and at first tried to say somewhere else, but we insisted because, really it was right there(we said pointing to it) He relented and in 2 minutes we were standing in front of the building. Unfortunately it was closed so we only got to snap a few photos and then we were off again. As we bumped along our driver was explaining to us a market place in which we could see the traditional styles of weaving and some traditional wares. Would we like to go there? Sure, seems like a reasonable thing to do. Of course we were running out of time and this would be our last stop before having to head back to the hotel to gather our bags, but it seemed like it might be worth it. As we got out of the rickshaw we didn’t see any market, but instead a drab concrete building. There was a man waiting for us who showed us inside while our driver went off for prayers (He was Muslim, it was Friday, even though later her tried to get us to see his guru). We accompanied the man down a set of stairs and he showed us where the fabrics were made. I must admit it was interesting. There was a room with 6 or 7 very large pieces of cloth laid out on tables and various workers working on dying them, stamping patterns on them, and stitching on beads. The work was beautiful and obviously took a long time. After viewing the area he brought us upstairs to his shop and here we got wary. We were the only ones in the shop and the owner and his assistant went through a very long process of showing us various clothes and quoting prices all of which were way too high for us. Eventually we expressed interest in one piece and he quoted a price. It was much too high for me to even consider paying. I told him I was sorry, but we had to go. He said name a price, so I did, at half the price he quoted. He told me he would come down a little; I told him that I seriously could not pay more than that. He said he couldn’t do it. I thanked him and starting heading for the door when he angrily said, ok, I could have my price. We then looked at a couple of Punjabi for Aya’s mom and the whole situation started over again with pricing. This time he laughed and told us we should just go if we couldn’t pay that much. What an asshole. We didn’t ask to come to his shop; we told him we had no money. Our driver and this guy were obviously in some kind of cahoots and when our driver came back we insisted on going back to the hotel. When we finally arrived I gave our driver his money, slightly less than what we had agreed on, and he began to argue with us. Aya took most of the conversation; we had agreed she would do so on the drive back to the hotel. While it was infuriating at the same time it was comical. She told him we would not pay full price because he had wasted our time by bringing us to his friends shop, lying about places, not bringing us to a bookshop, arguing with us, etc. He then appealed to me and said something like, “what is she saying, I don’t understand her, I didn’t lie to you, she misunderstood because her English is bad”. I told him he was wrong, and then Aya told him her English was fine, it was his that was bad and we got out.
When we entered the hotel the manager, who had been watching the whole time, said, “That guy, there is always trouble” Which made me wonder, if there is always trouble why don’t you warn people?! But I didn’t say anything; I was too riled up already and just happy to be done with it all. We gathered our bags after a few minutes, headed to the train station, and said goodbye to Jaipur, but unfortunately not goodbye to bad service and scams.