05.01.2008 - 05.01.2008 22 °C
Jaipur. The pink city of India. Sand and stone. Beautiful yet rough.
The Maharaj still lives in the City Palace - a descendent of the kings that built these magnificent palaces. We are staying in a lovely, romantic hotel called "Shahpura House". It was the abode of a Maharaj (a Haveli), which was now converted into a small boutique-like hotel. The staff all wear Rajasthai costumes, even though many seem to be Nepalese!
It is a shopper's paradise, but everyone wants to push you into buying their wares. Very annoying. If you have a driver take you to a shop, and the shop owner knows, then he adds a commission to the items and gives the driver a percentage. So tomorrow we are taking the auto rickshaw (with Ali Baba) to do shopping in the center city. And Ron will tell him to drop us on a corner.
Today, we had a driver, Papuu take us to the Amber Fort:
This is one of the main places where people can ride elephants, but I decided not to. I love elephants too much to support this tourist practice. One elephant after another, trudging up and down the hill. Some with lotus blossoms and flowers painted on their trunks. When we left I gave an elephant two bananas and petted her/his trunk. It was amazing to be so close to such a great creature.
The Amber Fort is a photographer's dream - interesting angles, intricate details and a delicacy that is rare in royal buildings.
And it is very entertaining to watch the monkeys eating, climbing and romping around. We were advised to steer clear of them because they steal things from you and refuse to give it back until you give them food - and enough food!
Then we stopped briefly to photograph the Palace on the Water (Jal Mahal), which was the king's "picnic" spot.
I told Papuu that the palace is beautiful, but the road where we photographed had a terrible smell - camel dung?
There are camels everywhere...with riders..or pulling wagons, chomping lethargically on shrubs and viewing the traffic indifferently. They learned this from the cows!
The astrological observatory, Mantar Jantar, built around the late 1600's (?) looks like a modern sculpture park. Very strange and fun contraptions which have an uncanny accuracy in mapping the heavens. Ron and I tried to understand the astronomical terms and descriptions for each "machine" but it was way too obscure for us. But here is Ron inside one of them:
On our way back to the hotel we stopped at 2 ATM machines to find one that worked with our cards. Street kids and their mothers accosted us at each stop. When we started giving packs of biscuits, then more would appear from nowhere. Destitute teenage mothers, with naked screaming babies. Heart wrenching.
We went to a "department store" and bought more packs of biscuits to carry with us. We don't want to give money, because many of these beggars are pimped by others for money.
The event of the day: I bought a Swarmandal from a music shop off a side street. Swaarmandal is an Indian harp. The shop worker told me that it was interesting that he sells mostly guitars and Western instruments to Indians, and Indian instruments to Westerners. I responded that we are all fascinated by the unfamiliar and the world is growing smaller. I bargained him dowm from $325 to $260, which was fine, it would cost $450 in the US.