India Day 5: Jaipur, Fort, Shopping

EXTREMELY productive day today, travel-wise. Our second day in Jaipur, and the one which Natacha & I were able to enjoy together.

We started in the morning with a quick drive through the Old City of Jaipur. It's called the "Pink City" because like 150 years ago some important British royal came to visit, and the people of Jaipur painted the old city his favorite color, pink. Said royal reportedly really appreciated it. Now, it's clay-brown with pink piping, which is probably more low-maintenance; shows less dirt and whatnot. I can respect that.

Then it was on to the Amber Fort, one Rajastan's absolutely humongous forts. Here, a "fort" isn't just a military emplacement. It's where they kept everything royal-family-oriented, surrounded by a huge wall and defended by arrow-shooting turrets. The forts are big enough to hold palaces, temples, harems, etc., and Amber is by far no exception.

The decor was astounding. We saw harem quarters, a temple decorated with thousands of tiny ceramic-backed mirrors, even an ancient air conditioner,which used running water for coolant. We also saw elephants, which you could ride up the hill into the fort.

And there were monkeys!

Then we had Ramesh drop us off (which is always a "Whew) and had lunch across from the Old City, I got a haircut (about which more later)...

...and like 3 hrs of shopping. We found a great local sari shop with just amazing colors, wall to wall people, and no tourists (except us).

Then it was off to shop for one of Jaipur's famous exports--precious stones.

Later in the day, I took Natacha to a place I knew she'd love: Janter Manter, a centuries-old observatory the Maharaja of Jaipur built. No telescopes here, and sadly, no LaserRock. But they did have really fascinating devices to measure the paths of the sun and stars and the location of the earth in relation to it all. Think "giant sundials" and you've got half the idea.

I liked Jaipur quite a bit. It's the capital city of Rajahstan, but more low-key (compared to Delhi, certainly), with a beatiful old city and few touts except for the autorickshaw drivers. And it wears its history proudly on its clay-with-pink-piping-colored sleeve. I wouldn't have minded staying another day, but our next destination beckoned.