Even at the ungodly hour of 2am when the tuk tuk pulled in front of the hotel, I could tell we picked a good one. The lobby was ornately decorated with antique Indian pieces and the entire ceiling was covered in tiles, mirrors, and splashes of color. We were led past the cozy lounge with comfortable leather sofas and retro colored marble Tiffany-styled lamps on our way to our spacious room. A gaudy peacock mural welcomed us from the far wall and a dozen or so trinkets and statues rested on the antique shelves and tables. This hotel certainly wasn’t lacking in character or decor.
Jaipur is the capital of the state of Rajasthan and has had a history of wealth and a booming population. In 1876, a maharajah had the old city painted entirely pink (color of hospitality) in order to welcome the Prince of Wales. Residents and shop keepers are required by law to continue this tradition by keeping their facades painted pink, thus giving Jaipur the nickname “Pink City”.
We ventured into the old pink city via a grandiose gate and explored the organized streets, each dedicated to the sale of a different category of products. We started down Bapu Bazaar, specializing in bolts of fabric, jootis traditional shoes, and perfume. Another street took us past stalls with shimmering jewelry while another placed us in the center of elaborately embroidered saris for sale. This street was particularly colorful with saris in every color imaginable and every surface bedazzled in sparkles and gems. The women and husbands (with the wallets) sat on the cushioned floor of the store front while tailors spread bolts of fabric on the floor in front of them.
Once out of the mayhem of the markets, we visited the Hawa Mahal, a five-story, pink sandstone building from the 1700s. The structure features honeycomb-like architecture, which provides great viewing points of the old city from tiny stone screened windows. Apparently the builder created this to allow the women, who were normally forced to stay inside, to get a glimpse of outside life. We continued walking, but were starting to fade, so we rushed past the palace and the ancient observatory and instead made our way down the gold bangle market to our final destination of McDonalds.
In Hindu religion, and Indian culture, cows are considered sacred animals and are not consumed as beef. Therefore, McDonald’s replaced the Big Mac with the Chicken Maharaja Mac, which has all the same ingredients, even the special sauce, except for the chicken patty substitute. After pigging out, we headed back to the hotel to rest and read.
Lacking the motivation to see any more touristy sights today, we decided to throw on our running shorts and go for a jog around the neighborhood. Apparently we caused a bit of a stir as people came outside to watch us and a group of women were confused by why you would want to run around. Exercise is not really a big thing here in India so we probably looked like fools, but it helped us clear our minds and feel somewhat productive.
For the rest of the day, our stomachs felt queasy and we had mild fevers, which seems to be a constant trend here. Unlike Vietnam, I don’t know if my stomach will ever get used to Indian food. Luckily our room had cable TV and room service so we were quite comfortable.
Again, we woke up feeling sick and tired, so we rested all morning watching movies. At lunch we made an attempt to go outside and at least get some fresh air, so we walked down the main road to the Dunkin Donuts (hoping that would be easier on my stomach). On the journey there, over 18 rickshaw drivers harassed us to jump in. Byron and I made a bet before we left, he said 6 and I said 9, but we were both way off.