Elephant rides with my Prince Ali

So I believe that today has been one of the best days since I started my trip in India. It all started off with me walking 10 minutes to the main road to get a tuk tuk with the intention of seeing such sights like Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal, Narhargarh and the Monkey Temple (Galta & Surya Mandir).

When I got to a location where there were plenty of tuk tuk’s, I obviously spoke to each in order to haggle a good price to rent one for the whole day. Unfortunately, I was unable to get one to consider my long distance travelling for ANY price as it was ‘school time’. Given that it was only 11am, I was rather confused by this. Another 10 minutes of me waiting as some of the tuk tuk drivers helped stop everyone to see if they would take me, but it did not seem like today was to be my lucky day.

Eventually a random man who had been standing beside me for the whole time (but we had yet to speak) then offers me a lift into central directly outside Jantar Mantar….for FREE!

Obviously because of where I am and how the other locals have been since I have arrived, I contemplated whether this was a good idea and what exactly he was wanting at the end of it. As quite frankly they ALWAYS want something. So after a conversation of me saying ‘Free?’ and him replying ‘Yes, free’. I then decided to find out what vehicle he was planning to take me on. It turns out to be a moped which is one thing I said was the most ridiculous mode of transport for such a country with dodgy driving and dangerous roads. But hey, you only live once. I had no other way of getting there. AND it was free. What’s the worst that could happen, eh?

So I jumped on without a helmet but 5 minutes later he stopped to borrow one for me. About 30 minutes later we had arrived for the most awkward ‘thank you’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘Yeah, sure we can stay friends and if you ever come to England I will take you around and show you everything like Big Ben and London Eye’. You will be correct in assuming that I say this to everyone who helps me out. So the best  thing about not having a mobile, or a number of my accommodation, or even a real email address which I happen to give out, means that I don’t actually have to see or hear from them again. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel bad doing such. But I really would rather not be introduced to their family, stay for dinner and live with them for as long as I would like (which is what they all weirdly seem to offer). I can only imagine what the wife would think!!

The Jantar Mantar was the most bizarre thing I have seen in India. I honestly don’t think that I enjoyed a single aspect of it. It’s a place of astrology and light being brought up by the souls of dead bodies and what not. In my opinion it was like the Tate Modern in London. There’s loads of random, quirky and strange things everywhere you turn….But really what is it all for? What’s the point? How did these numpty’s get their rubbish plastered in a building with a label of ‘art’?

But hey, it’s like marmite. I could easily see that some people were appreciating it. I just happened to not be one of them.

Next I went to the Hawa Mahal. This was a location where the women would gather in the cool rooms and peek out of the small windows to watch the world go by. This I thought was beautiful and just being there and seeing it all put the biggest smile on my face.

It was after here that I found a tuk tuk driver who agreed to take me to my other locations and then return me safely to my hostel for 300 rupees. This is a lot of money for me, which I don’t normally hand out so freely. But the locations of where I wanted to go where completely scattered and very far from each other. My hostel was then to be a 30-35 minute drive from my final location. So at the end of the day, it was a good deal. Especially if you compare it to the 450 rupees he was originally trying to charge me.

He next took me to the Monkey Temple to which I stupidly bought 2 bags of nuts. After getting rid of two ‘monkey protectors’ (10-12 year old boys) I went on my way up a steep zig-zag of a hill in the blarring sun to reach the temple. 5 minutes after having gotten rid of my protectors claiming that ‘I don’t need protecting’ and continuing with ‘Monkeys love me’ it turns out that I COULD have done with some protecting. The monkeys surrounded  me as if they had been starved for weeks and I was the first person to turn up since. My idea of giving one nut per monkey throughout my journey up the hill didn’t work out as I planned in my head either. I ended up literally throwing the bag of nuts at the biggest monkey and jumping out of the way while they were distracted.

The temple at the top was then a tiny thing with young girls who were so welcoming and polite until they realised that they were to receive no money from you. Then I appeared to be completely invisible to them. But it’s nice to be ignored sometimes. It gave me the peace and quiet to just stare at the glorious views across the city of Jaipur. I closed my eyes and took one deep breath in. And out. Ultimate bliss!

My driver then took me on a detour to see the Water Palace, which is just as it sounds. A palace which is placed directly in the middle of a lake. It was built for the emperor and his many wives for apparent love making and fumbling. He then took me to a beautiful graveyard where tombs were beautifully created for the whole generation of a family. It was fantastic to see the effort, beauty and design that went into each tomb. It was clear that each life meant so much to them as a family that only the best was good enough.

Now is where the adventures started to begin. My driver was called Ali. I thought this was rather ironic seeing as since buying my Aladdin pants, I was telling people that all I had to do now was to find my Prince Ali. And then I found him. He taught me to drive his tuk tuk which was fantastic! I must admit that it’s a tad trickier than I thought it would be. But I was soon speeding past other drivers, hysterically laughing with the biggest smile possible on my face, waving at all of the others so that they were aware that a crazy foreign white girl was driving the tuk tuk which was speeding past them in style.

We then went to see his friend Reylah, who later became my friend too. I like to call Reylah my BEF (Best Elephant Friend). She was BEAUTIFUL. And since I had never been so close to an elephant it was the best possible opportunity to be able to stroke, hug, feed and RIDE her! Okay so hanging out with the elephant was free but of course to be able to ride her would cost me a small fee. But this is a once in a lifetime experience. And I’d come this far. So why not? 700 rupees (rather than the original price of 1200 rupees) later and I was having the time of my life. Never will I regret spending the equivalent of £8.60 on an elephant.

I learnt a lot from Ali. He taught me, from having spoken to friends of his who now live in London, that whenever he thinks something is cheap that it’s ‘cheaper than Tesco’. So hiring him for the day was ‘cheaper than Tesco’. And the elephant ride was ‘cheaper than Tesco’. I can only assume that he is unaware of what Tesco actually is and what they sell. But amusing it still was. And catchy. When I went to get some bottled water, concerned whether I was being ripped off by the locals he asked how much I paid for it. I simply replied ‘Ahhh…It was cheaper than Tesco’. And so our friendship blossomed.

He also taught me the saying ‘Why drink and drive when you can smoke and fly?!’ So we stopped off while I looked at some more Aladdin pants as upon sitting on a camel the other week I accidently ripped them ever so slightly. I was horrified when I heard the rip and hoped that it was just my imagination. But ripped indeed they were. And the hole was slowly but surely getting bigger.

While I was doing this, Ali was getting ready for us to fly on his magic carpet. So 1,000 rupees, 3 trousers and an hour and a half of haggling later we flew. We ended up just chilling with his friends and they offered me beers and great conversation. I can’t remember the last time I have laughed so much. I was having a great time. We compared each nationality and how they traditionally act. It was interesting for us to compare our opinions and judgement of how they each share the same noises, excited nods and ways of agreement.

Sunset came and left and eventually I decided that it was best to get back to my hostel to chill out, shower and get some z’s.

Seeing as I have been so below my budget I didn’t see it being as big of an issue to indulge in a bit of pampering and adventure. It’s good to treat myself to the things I want and NOT feel guilty about it. I really feel like this is a completely different ‘me’ than 2 weeks ago and I can’t wait to meet the ‘future me’ in another 2 weeks time.