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.

India Day 4: Musical Guesthouses

Not the best day for Natacha, but it ultimately worked out ok.

The previous night was a sleepless one, in a very cheap guesthouse (which our driver recommended), where the heat was sweltering, and the screens on the windows were busted. meaning we slept drenched in DEET with the fan on--and 'Tach was so concerned by skeeters that she slept fully clothed. I don't know if you've ever done this yourself, but your first time out just traumatizes your body. She ate nothing for breakfast & spent the morning sleepingin the car on the way to our next destination, the Rajastani city of Jaipur.

Ramesh our driver told us from the beginning that he was from Jaipur, so we gave him the benefit of the doubt and asked him to suggest a guesthouse that had, for Natacha's sake, had AC, and fit our budget. So.

He took us to a place that seemed servicable at first, so we dropped off our stuff and hung out in the room to relax. Until I realzed the bed was dirty. and had human hair in it.

And there was a docrot's office two floors down, directly above the restaurant. which is one of those tourist grifts they tell you about--the restaurant gives you food poisoning, and you're immediately taken to the doctor. oH but there's more.

Because the hotel was in the middle ofr what seemed to be a parking lot for tour busses. And for some reason, these (parked) tour busses seened to need to test their horns. Constantly. How much are we hating our driver right now?

So, despite the fact that Tash needed to rest in an A/C room, I took us out of there and made Ramesh take us to another hotel. Which turned out to be too expensive, but he got to collect his commission anyway, just for taking us there. And then another. Which turned out to be more than we wanted to pay, but less than the other one, and was clean, comfortable, and all around fantastic. The Pearl Palace Hotel in Jaipur, if you're wondering.

I got Tash settled in to rest, left her to sleep and went to visit Jaipur's charming-but-after-the-Taj-unimpressive City Palace.

Then back to the Pearl, where I had a lovely dinner convo with an 80 yr old British lady named Una, a retired child psychologist who was in the middle of a sort of "These are all the sights I want to see before I die" trip: Petra, Jodphur, Angkor Wat, etc. Natch slept that whole day and night, and after that we knew better than to put our trust in ol' Ramesh.