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Elephants and pink sandstone

Jaipur Travel Blog

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The water carrier dance

We are not covering huge distances by Australian standards but the roads and drivers are so bad that 275 kms takes many, many hours.  There are no driving lanes marked and the roundabout rules are confounding.  Roundabouts were a legacy of the British but the rules differ dramatically.  It seems that anyone wishing to get on to a roundabout has right of way over those who are already on it and it sometimes seemed that it was just better if we didn't watch the road ahead!  We are seeing camels now pulling huge wooden agricultural carts though we are told that they ( the camels) don't like this new innovation.  Donkeys are everywhere in carts and so are water buffalo.  We knew that the cow was a sacred animal to the Hindus but are surprised that water buffalo don't fit into this category.

Fancy facades at Jaipur

On the way to Jaipur we visit the city of Fatehpur Sikri which was the Mughal Empire's capital from 1571 to 1585 before it was abandoned for lack of water.  The red sandstone is remarkably preserved and the carved decorations in the palace so intricate.  We continue on to Peharsar and the Chandra Haveli for lunch.  It is a small remote village in semi-desert with narrow streets in the sand.  After a superb lunch in the cool of the haveli we are able to walk through the village and observe village life and the owner of the haveli asks us not to give the children money or gifts as they do not want to teach them to beg.

These elephants have the day off
  We pass the school where the children are out in the grounds and the streets and some of them follow us laughing shyly and ecstatically when one of our party photographs them and shows them their pictures on his digital screen.  The women folk in saris cover their heads and often their faces and we do not photograph them unless we have their permission.  There is one pump to supply water for the village and many are lining up for water which they carry off in pots on their heads.  In one house's walled yard the men are weaving a carpet on the loom while one of the women is washing their clothes in a concreted depression in the ground.  All the manure from the animals is collected and made into a slurry then dried in round pats, then stacked and stored for fuel or house rendering.
These elephants don't!

Jaipur is up in the mountains and the city has the perfect terrain for defence, plus walls were built to enhance the natural crags.  The walls and houses were built of the sandstone which is pink hence Jaipur is known as the Pink City.  In the late afternoon we arrive at our beautiful hotel Shahpura House where we are greeted in the first courtyard with a garland of french marigolds,  a bindi (blessing mark) is dabbed on our foreheads and we receive a glass of juice.  The rooms are just massive and shout of the grandeur of the 1950's.  There is a swimming pool and we are left to our own devices for dinner. 

Another day in paradise and we visit the Old City and the City Palace.  First we head to the Pink Fort and are taken up the mountain by elephants!  Tourist touts call for our attention and take photos telling us to remember their names ( Remember me, I am Ali!) and they will have our photos ready  for us when we come down.

some of the detail
  We wander through this palace with another local guide explaining it's history, it's Muslim architecture and showing us the cool spots and the views.  Down below we see some off duty elephants swimming in a pond.  The guide tells us that when the British left in 1947, Jaipur was surrounded by trees and jungle and indeed there were tigers there that proved to be dangerous if one didn't make it into the walled city before the gates were closed at dusk.  The population in India exploded and the trees were cut down by the poor for firewood, the jungle was no more and the climate changed to a dry place.  Once it was realised what had been done trees were planted but the uneducated continued to cut them down and now water is perilously absent from lack of rainfall.

Again it is 40oC and we are reminded about the vendors.

in the palaces
  Last price is best price and we get photos from two different guys of us on elephants.  At the City Palace the Maharajah is in residence as his flag is flying and here we walk through the weaponry store, the art and carpet collections hundreds of years old.  Two monumental silver vases are displayed and they are listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest silver vessels made out of one piece.  Made for the Maharajah just after the turn of the 1900's when he sailed to England for King Edward's coronation I think and he wanted to take water from the Ganges with him for ritual purposes.

Over the road at Jantar Mantar is the observatory built by Jah Singh in 1728.  It is so hot that I can barely walk out in the heat to look at the world's largest sun dial, the 12 separate structures that align the signs of the zodiac.

The local guide explains a detail to me
  The other Alison (from Manchester) climbs the huge steps of the sun dial with her brother for a photo but next day is bitterly disappointed with the picture as it looks like any concrete parapet she is leaning over and her calf muscles are killing her!

Next stop is at a carpet shop where Mike ( our oldest person at 73 years from Devon) buys a beautiful red carpet to be shipped home.  We had learned our lesson in Morroco and expressed no interest whatsoever in the carpets lest we be hounded across Jaipur.  Most of us really wanted to "karee darri" (go shopping) at the colourful shops we saw from the bus but Atul was very reluctant to let us go as he told us that when past tourists went to them they were ripped off, bought shoddy goods that fell apart, shrunk, faded etc.

Dinner was at a restaurant where a group of dancers and musicians entertained us.  The food was very good but again quite pricey.  Another night in the wonderful hotel!

hannajax says:
wonderful review of jaipur. more photos please! from what you write, and the few photos - i imagine it is more beautiful than i envision.
Posted on: Oct 12, 2006
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The water carrier dance
The water carrier dance
Fancy facades at Jaipur
Fancy facades at Jaipur
These elephants have the day off
These elephants have the day off
These elephants dont!
These elephants don't!
some of the detail
some of the detail
in the palaces
in the palaces
The local guide explains a detail …
The local guide explains a detail…
This guy wanted a photo and then s…
This guy wanted a photo and then …
Love this green door
Love this green door
One of the record holding silver w…
One of the record holding silver …
Lunch off the beaten track in a pr…
Lunch off the beaten track in a p…
Jaipur
photo by: oxangu2