Tired of being harrassed by the tuk-tuk drivers outside of our hotel, and wanting an air-conditioned vehicle to see Jaipur in the 43 degree (105+ Fahrenheit) heat, we called a driver who had politely given us his card while we were waiting at the train station.
600 INR (about $15) for a 3 hour AC tour of the city (he told us on the phone).
By comparison, the tuk-tuk drivers charge 400 INR (about $8.50) for the same.
When he showed up, he showed up with a non-air conditioned van.
But we didn’t know that until we were already moving down the road, windows open.
The main reason we called him was for the air conditioning.
So we negotiated down to 500 INR for 4 hours for the afternoon with no A/C. Whatever.
On our tour, we had only a couple of stops planned in advance. The rest we thought we would ask the driver who had told us at the airport he knew great sites to see in Jaipur.
The unique architectural wall where the women would sit behind the stone lattice work from within the amber city and watch the goings-on in the street below, and the Amber Fort, high on a hill above Jaipur.
Because it had been so recommended by lots of people, We wanted to see the amber fort by riding an elephant to the top.
The write-up about the Amber Fort (which we got from the hotel where we stayed in Jaipur) said that the elephant rides were available from 9:00-11:30 and again in the afternoon from 3:30PM-5:00PM.
We got to the foot of the hill by taxi of the Jaipur Amber Fort, only to have the taxi driver tell us that the elephant rides are only available in the morning. He would be happy to take us to the top for an additional 300 INR, or we could take a jeep for an additional 400 INR.
We didn’t go by taxi or by jeep.
It was a little about feeling like we were just being hit up for more money, but more it was about our overall experience in Jaipur.
We just felt pushed to spend more, and just generally pushed, everywhere.
The taxi driver told us that we would be able to take a nice tour of a textile factory, which would be low-pressure and we could decide what we wanted to buy.
We took a tour of the basement. We did get to see people sewing beads into clothing in the basement.
On the main floor, we got to see them stamping out textiles and see how they make patterns on cloth from different stamps, inked with different colors.
It’s all done by hand, the colors are all natural dyes from plants, and are set into the fabric using salt.
This was actually a pretty informative and interesting tour.
But then were taken to an upstairs showroom. We said we really didn’t want to buy anything… They said okay.
Then, it rapidly evolved into a very high-pressure sales environment.
We could have walked out, but ended up negotiating and mildly overpaying for a bedspread and tablecloth.
It was our choice to buy of course, and it will be a good memory of our time in India, but the experience was not quite what it appeared to be at the outset, and they placed prices on things as starting points for negotiation that were way out of line with what’s available in the market.
Of course our driver gets his commission for taking us there, and it became quickly apparent that he had partnerships with quite a few places he wanted to take us.
This is standard fare all around the world, and we might have actually been interested in going some other places, if we had felt like we would be negotiated with fairly, and if he had done what he said he would do by bringing an air conditioned vehicle (because even though it was relatively cheap, he didn’t do what he said he would do, and the whole reason we called him in the first place).
As it was, we decided that we didn’t want to visit more factories or shops, but just go to visit the cenotaphs (like small temples as gravemarkers) built for the past royal ladies of Jaipur.
The cenotaphs were our favorite part of our half-day tour. The entry fee was low, we were the only people there, and the cenotaphs gave us an experience of seeing something that for us was really unique.
It’s amazing to think that these kind of markers are actually somewhat common, and that so few Indians or tourists actually come to see them.
After our short tour, it was time to go back to our hotel.
I think we let our guard down a little in Udaipur, with how nice and mellow everything felt.
In Jaipur, we just ended up feeling like visiting ATM Machines, which how often we felt hit up for just a little more money.
Overall, Jaipur was nice enough, but actually felt pretty average, and I don’t know that either of us would really go back. I’m glad to have seen parts of it, but could have missed Jaipur altogether to have spent another 2 days and saved money by staying in Udaipur.
Ah well. India’s a big place and there are plenty of places we’re missing this time that may be just as nice as Udaipur. We will see those places whenever we return to this country.