Wednesday and Thursday December 19-20, 2007 - Jaipur, Rajistan, India
We traveled from Agra to Jaipur and stopped along the way at Fatehpur Sikree, an old mosque and deserted royal city. It was located slightly off the main road and a small grubby town has grown up beside it, probably specifically to hassle tourists. The mosque was quite impressive but after the Taj Mahal, everything else seems a little run of the mill. They had a special tomb in the center made of white marble. The rest was made of sandstone. To enter the tomb your head must be covered. Our shoes were already off because we had to leave them outside with the shoe minder to enter the complex and walk around on the cold stone in pigeon dung. The head covers were available at the entrance to tomb and they were basically green plastic fruit baskets turned upside down. The place was interesting, but only for men. Sheree was walking around the outside being hassled by little boys selling post cards and trinkets. We bought some post cards and gave away a few pens and made some friends. The boys we more pleasant to talk to, but the problem with buying anything or even giving something away is that it just feeds the desire of the hassler to hassle more. They followed us around for about another 45 minutes until we left.
We finally reached Jaipur. The drive through the countryside was again really interesting. Our driver was an excellent driver and got us there safely. We think that is no small task. Once in Rajastan, we saw the color everyone spoke of. All of the women wear very colorful saris, even flourescent colors, with glitter and sparkles. It was fun to see the women working in the fields or even carrying construction materials on their heads with their colorful clothing. It seems that women do much of the heavy work here. We see them with huge bowls on their head carrying mortar, water, sand, bricks, manure, firewood and other things. Sometimes with a babyon the hip. It must be a hard life. We checked into our hotel (Hotel Rajastan Palace) and then headed out to see the pink city and Royal Palace. The old central city of Jaipur is painted a kind of orangy pink. During the reign of the Maharaja Singh II they painted the entire city pink in honor of a visit of a British prince. It has since remained pink. The walled city and the interior buildings were quite ornate and are still being used. The reigning royal family still lives in about two thirds of the palace and the remainder is a museum. One of the former Maharajas was a huge man of greater than 6' 6" and about 500 pounds. They had some of his huge clothing on display in the museum. He had 108 wives as well. We guess a man that big needs lots of everything. The shops in the streets outside are filled with color and the shop owners are just as pesky. We also visited the observatory. It is an astronomical observatory built a couple of hundred years ago. There are about 2 dozen large devices that track planets, the sun and the moon. There is also an incredibly precise sun dial. It is calibrated to the minute and you can see the exact time and set your watch to it. It is however, off by half an hour. Why? Because India has chosen to do its own type of daylight savings time, a half hour. This kind of demonstrates the entire indian spirit. Go your own way and do it differently whether it make sense or not.
The next day we visited Amber Fort, about 12 kilometers outside of Jaipur. It was amazing. The fort has miles of walls extending across the surrounding mountains and there are several significant fort structures built in different eras. We visited the most recent (about 300 years old). There were two ways to get up to the fort, which sat about half way up the mountain, by elephant or walking. We opted to walk because Sheree has discovered she is not fond of elephants. Even walking beside these huge animals is intimidating. There faces were painted and they looked pretty sad, as if they were unhappy about hauling tourist around all day. There are also animal rights groups that are trying to raise awareness about their treatment to help improve the conditions. We had to dodge huge elephant poops, pee, and hope not to get sneezed on. We saw several people get slimed by elephant sneezes. It was really gross. The fort was really beuatiful. There were rooms with mirrors, carved doorways, sculpted marble and more. The gardens were just dirt and could have made the place more beautiful with a little restoration. The whole place is under restoration, so maybe they will get to it. It had lots of interesting detail and numerous labarynths throughout. These were mostly in the concubine area so the Maharaja could find his way to the concubine of his choice while confusing anyone else. We also ran into a snake charmer outside the fort. He pulled out a basket with a cobra inside, played his flute/horn and the snake reared up, spread its neck and creeped Ted out (not snake fan). It was cool to watch... from a distance.