Saturday, March 28, 2009

India: The Road to Jaipur

Our "deluxe" bus from Agra to Jaipur had the usual dents indicating its prowess in Indian traffic negotiations and an almighty crack in the front windshield. It was supposed to be air-conditioned. At some point, presumably when the air-conditioning failed, small fans had been attached above the side windows, but those didn't appear to be working either. Fortunately the windows could be opened and, although it was hot and sunny, the breeze remained relatively cool. The seats were much more comfortable than on our previous bus journey, a good thing for a 5-hour journey.

On arrival in Jaipur at dusk, we phoned our hotel and were told to wait for a driver with a card bearing my name and a secret password. On no account were we to go with anyone else. (No-one else approached us so there was no problem.) The tuktuk driver who arrived with the card hurtled out of the bus station right into the path of an oncoming bus, which caused Michael to wince, but apart from this initiation we had an uneventful ride to our hotel.

The candy-pink Pearl Palace, an amazing bargain at about $15 a night, is tucked into a dusty alley in the warren of streets surrounding the old city. It's a little way from the centre but transport is never a problem during our stay as there are always a few tuktuks and taxis outside, anticipating the steady flow of guests.

Our room, though small is nicely decorated: there's a frieze of red, green and gold flowers on the ceiling, a scalloped arch above the bed, and a bay with side windows overlooking the quiet courtyard of the adjoining building. High on both the outside and inside walls are a pair of small, semi-circular arches set with coloured glass in jellybean colours. there a mirror in an ornate wooden frame and two paintings of women in saris, one smoking a hookah. To hang our clothes there's a set of hooks; two inner ones which are simple knobs, two outer ones which are elephant heads, their trunks forming the hooks.

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