Rajasthan: Elephant Rides and Gem Heists
May 18, 2008
Jul 20, 2008
Sarah, Carrie, and I woke up early and caught a bus to Jaipur, Rajasthan. We didn't really have a solid plan, just thought that we'd see some cool things and have a few days of adventure before going to Nepal. Sarah had also been emailing a friend named Sunny she met in Rishikesh who lived in Jaipur, and he promised us a good time. Tickets weren't too bad for A/C and the road was the nicest we'd driven on yet.. Little did we know that the day would end in an awkward and pathetic attempt for our "friends" to get us involved in what we decided to call a "Gem Heist". From the first look at the guys, I thought there was something sleezy about them. It didn't help that there were about 8 shady and aggressive rickshaw drivers surrounding us as we walked, and they seemed to know Sunny and Bharat. Then the tourism police tried to tell us the people were not safe (though what they really wanted was for us to stay in one of their government hotels). Finally, we decided to give the friends a chance since they had waited at the bus station for us for an hour and seemed very nice to Sarah. We grabbed some food across the street from the bus station and introduced ourselves. They seemed nice enough, but were embarrassed and frustrated with us that they were seen being interrogated by the police. "It's bad for my family's reputation," said Sunny. After a bit, things settled down, and we jumped in "Bella Chow's" car, had people in the street push start it, and checked into a decent enough hotel that only cost 500 rupees (about 11 or 12 dollars) for the three of us to share the big bed. Then we went to Sunny's family's elephant farm to have a ride. The place was in the next town over, called Amber. According to Sunny, it was the original capital of Jaipur, and the first city in the state to be strategically planned. In the 1700's, it was painted entirely pink to greet a prince of England. There were some really awesome military forts in the rocky hills surrounding Jaipur and Amber, and something like 400 Hindu and Muslim temples. There is also a palace in the middle of a big lake. There were about 12 elephants in the stable out of supposedly 21 total, including one adorable baby elephant. We interacted with the elephants for awhile. The baby got it's nose in my mouth while I was taking a picture of her mom. According to Carrie, I showed a spider-monkey reflex to the dirty wet snout that made a laugh. We had some roti and garbanzo dish with the stall boys, then they saddled up an elephant for our ride. Five of us rode the elephant into the rocky hills a little ways where we passed by lots of cricket matches, a Muslim graveyard, and cute kids yelling hello and goodbye to us. We had tea when we got back, and walked up to this small Hindu temple overlooking the city. It was a really nice view of Amber where the sunset would have been perfect without the clouds. A Sadhu man lives on the hill by the temple, and hasn't been down for years. The village brings him his food. When we returned, the elephants were being painted with brightly colored paint for a wedding. Dinner for the night was supposed to be a "surprise". He said he'd told his "brother" about us and really wanted us to meet. We had a mojito that cost more than our hotel at this other fancy hotel restaurant and waited. Sunny's brother was much shorter and older, and in my opinion, carried no resemblance to him at all. Some other guys joined us, and one smooth-talking guy proposed we bring diamonds into the US and Nepal, and get paid an easy 10 grand. He was a sleezeball in his warming-up conversation, asking me if I had "got sexes" from any of the girls on the trip (very inappropriately in front of the girls I was with and people I had just met, but we laughed later about the way he phrased it), and trying to justify the horrors of the diamond business by saying that people never look at the good side; which is "when you hold a sack of diamonds and it's worth 3 million dollars." They paid for the expensive drinks and dropped us off for dinner at a pretty shitty place (when we informed them our parents weren't rich and we weren't interested). The next morning, we decided that everything Sunny told us (that it was his brother's business, and everything about him and his family) was a lie and decided to bounce back to Delhi instead of roam around and wait for them to run into us at the market and try to find a better scam to get our money. All in all, we had a great day, and felt okay about leaving without saying goodbye. We scammed the scam artists and got free elephant rides, taxi, drinks, and dinner.