So we go down for breakfast at the little cafe attached to Arya Niwas... it was a pretty good meal. You get a voucher worth something like 250 rupees when you check in, and we packed our table with food, and didn't even come close to spending our full 250 per person. After that, we packed all our stuff into Dev's car, payed the bill at Arya Niwas and drove across town and checked in to the Hotel Pearl Palace.
After getting all situated, we head back out and Dev takes us up to the old fort in Jaipur
. I think it's called the Amber fort. And if I understood our guide right, it's not because of it's color, but because of the the old name of the city kinda sounds like Amber. I'm sure you could google it and find out. Anyway, Dev hands us off to another tour guide. Both of the guides he's handed us off two have been quite good, knowing alot about what they were showing, able to answer questions and interact with us on a good level. We hooked up at the bottom of the hill, took a couple of pictures you can see in the pictures section on this page. And then they asked us if we wanted to go up the fort by rented car, shared jeep, walking or elephant. Rebecca perked up at elephant and said that was what she wanted to do. But then we were told it was hot, smelly, slow moving and you get acosted by peopleing trying to sell stuff constantly. So we asked Dev to drive us up in his car, which was nice because we got the AC for a little while longer and we made it right to the door pretty quick... within 5 min I think. They told us the elephant ride is closer to 20min, and going by foot could be 40 minutes. Anyway, the amber fort overlooks a little city that is actualy outside of Jaipur, and it was the original capital of Rajasthan. So it's called the old city. It was the original city that the mughal emporer sat in and ruled from. Jaipur, the pink city, was build later and it was build mostly for the British.
So we got a nice tour of this old fort which was one again a mix of muslim and hindu architectures
. We actually saw a bunch of people from the wedding there. They had taken an early bus from Delhi to Jaipur that morning and were going through a bunch of tourist spots. We chatted with them a bit then moved on. We later found out this was the same emporer as we saw represented at Fetehpur Sikri, which we saw last week outside of Agra, so that was really pretty cool seeing all these ancient structured being connected by a common story that we'd also seen a little of in the movie "Jodha Akbar." Granted, the movie isn't know for being very historically accurate, but I'd say it's a pretty good little introduction to the subject matter. So seeing this dramatized version of this ancient story, and then seeing the ancient buildings where some of the story takes place is pretty darn cool. At the tail end of the tour we actually saw a courtyard where part of the movie was filmed (or at least that's what the guide told us).
Towards the tail end of the tour, the guide starts telling us about how all the artisans in this old city essentialy don't get any respect and all their wares just get bought up, hauled into jaipur proper, and sold at huge markups. This guy was outstanding otherwise, but towards the end he started feeding us these lines that seemed canned and kinda outside the normal level of his dialouge thus far. As we were walking out of the fort, we passed all these vendor stalls trying to sell stuff, but he didn't pressure us into any of these places, so I thought it was all fine
. Then we got back in the car and we both thought the tour was done, so we were going to pay the guy, but then he says his tour isn't done and to wait a bit. And then they take us right into the den of the wolves. This big multi-level building full of like 10 different departments with every type of wares you can imagine, block-printed textiles, hand-woven carpets, marble figurines, metal sculptures, silk paintings, jewelry, leather shoes, and on and on and on. All this crap and a million high-pressure sales men scouring every square inch of the place. This one guy kept suggesting other departments to go to and Rebecca kept saying "sure" for some reason. I managed to get into the wall hanging section, because I've kind got this vision for a little piece of bare wall in our living room, and it could have been done pretty cheaply. But as soon as I told Rebecca what I was thinking she immediately starting expressing her distain for the idea saying it was tacky and ugly. So I had to change my plan at the last minute and find something she would also find appealing, which ended up putting me in the realm of getting something far FAR more expensive than what I wanted. I got it anyway, and then I immediately started kicking myself... and then I was surrounded by and endless stream of these high pressure assholes trying to get the rich american to empty his pockets in any way they could. And in my head it started going around and around on how dehumanizing the whole thing is.... I was suddenly looking at this situation like there are so SO many of these people that just have an endless sequence of scam-phrases that they've learned over the years which ones work on the guillable tourists
. I mean, they don't give a damn about us as human beings... like what kind of impact buying a $500 rug is going to have on my life. They just want you to walk on it and touch it, and have their men unroll dozens of them so you feel guilty for having them go through so much effort to show whatever it is... and if you start turning them down they've got all these little verbal and non-verbal acts they go through trying to push buttons... and all they want is for you to make an impulse buy... and uninformed purchase for something that you may or may not need... they don't care. They just want you to open your money belt and poor it all out. Oh!! And the lies!!! The gigantic pack of lies!! The neverending stream of bullshit pouring out of their mouths in everything they would say. Like "buying here will benefit the local artist when buying in town will not" when the price, selection and quality is almost exactly the same as what we saw yesterday. Or this other one "look at that stamp on the wall, that means the goverment of rajisthan has given us a seal of authenticity" or some BS like that. or "this is the finest quality in all the world" it just went on and on. Rebecca wanted to look at some shoes, and I'd reached me limit. I broke. I so completely snapped it was ugly. I just stormed out in a huff and left Rebecca inside to do whatever it was she was trying to accomplish. Then some guy comes outside to get me saying that the miss wants to talk to me and I go inside and Rebecca wants my opinion on a pair of leather jhutis that I'm 100% sure are probably 20 times they price they should be. And I'm pissed as all hell.... I wanted to grab them out of her hands and throw them right in the face of the salesman standing next to her. I even imagined doing it in my head. But I don't believe in violence, so I tried to calmly tell her that I'm not in any position to offer an opinion right now. And then.... and then some idiot from the store gets in my face trying to sell me overpriced mens shoes..
. and it's not like it was a first, I'd already said "No" to this guy 5 times already. And it hit me even harder.... the lack of respect is so severe that they won't accept a single "No"... they won't even listen to you when you tell them "No" to their face 4 or 5 or 6 times... they will keep doing whatever they can until you empty your pockets for them. So I was already on edge and I blew up at this guy, I shouted "NO!" into his face and I think everybody in the room stopped and looked at me. I walked back outside, and there was no way I was going back inside, I didn't care how much Rebecca wanted a stupid pair of shoes.
I guess Rebecca got the hint, and came out shortly, and we got in the car. The guide for the fort told us his job was done now (I guess he's not don't until he pawns you off onto the professional con-artists) and he said "Are you happy with my services" and I said "Up until this last part, yes" and I gave him a tip that was half or a third as much as we had planned on giving him. He was great, and if he'd just let us go, we would have been very generous with our tipping for providing such an excellent tour. But holding on until we got dumped into the den of wolves and I was pissed, and not feeling very generous. I'd just been scammed and I knew it... AND the situation broke me and caused me to get angry, which I don't like to do. Understand, I realize that getting agry is still my choice and you can't really blame other people for that choice, so I know that
. Which of course made it all the worse, because I'd read about all this before we came and I should have known better, but I just made a bad decision by agreeing to walk into this place. But I did, and I gotta face the consequences for that one.
Anyway, we got in the car and I was in a mood. My quiet, mood which means I'm really chewing on stuff up in my head. And Rebecca and Dev made plans for lunch of some little food place in Jaipur. I'm honestly not hungry at this point, so I told them do whatever they want. So he takes us to this little place on some road in Jaipur. I got a picture of it somewhere, it's pretty sketch looking, but we saw little signs all over that they were trying to be sanitary, and there acttually lots of westerners eating there, which is always a good sign. I just sit there waiting for Rebecca's thali to come, and she's sweet and ordered a couple of Naan for me. When it finally comes I break off a little and nibble on it. It's actualy some of the best naan I've had on the trip, crispy on the bottom, chewy on top. I didn't think I was ready to talk yet, but I try to explain to Rebecca why the last hour has gotten to me so much. I'm not sure she understood, but she was loving and attentive anyway, so it doesn't really matter. She's really something special and I'm so incredibly lucky to have her at my side.
Rebecca wasn't done shopping for the day, and she wanted to find a bag in this style that she saw last night. So Dev took her to some textile place and I refused to go inside. I was a little better, but I knew much more of being looked at like nothing more than a walking money belt would probably set me off again. So I just sat in the car while Dev took her inside, and there were actually ruins right across the alleyway with a bunch of birds flying around. Just sitting and watching the birds was nice. But then Dev came back out and tried to ask me about what was up, which I dodged. And we actually got to talking about the tourism business, and meeting people from all over the world, and all the jobs we've had. I can't compare to him at all.. he talked about being a bicycle rickshaw driver (which he said was a very wierd world... like the wierdest thing he'd done) and a job cleaning dishes in the restaurant, and all sorts of other jobs. He said he'd had "so many jobs! but I've never done the begging or the thieving" and that pretty much summed up Dev right there. He honestly cares that his clients have a good time and end the tour with a smile on their face, and you pay him whatever you think the tour was worth. I'd honestly recommend this guy to anybody going to Jaipur or anywhere in Rajasthan actually... and just know that because you stop someplace, that doesn't mean you need to go inside... and if you do go inside, that doesn't mean you need to actually buy anything. Give your money to the people who have earned it. As soon as you feel pressure for a sale, just walk away. Otherwise you'll have buyers remorse immediately and that could have a negative impact on the memory of your trip. And nobody wants that.
Dev and I sat talking for awhile why Rebecca shopped, and while I was sitting there, it dawned on me that this is what I really want in my trips..
. a human connection, a sharring of stories and experiences. That's is what is important to me, and it's one of the reasons this trip to India has been so AMAZING. Because Rebecca and I haven't hardly been isolated (like we were in China) at all. We've been in and around people the whole time, and there are conversations going on all the time about people and places and politics and economy and movies and personal histories and preferences and just whatever. And it's all been simply fantastic. Sure we're picking up some touristy things to take back home and either add to our wardrobe or hang on the wall. But that's not why we're here... we're here to meet people and experience the Indian way of life, and we've seen SO many facets of indian life while we've been here. It's really something else.
After Rebecca's shopping, we went back to the hotel to relax. Rebecca crashed and I wandered around and took pictures for awhile. I just sat on the scenic viewpoint on the roof for awhile breathing the lightly poluted air, listening to the birds and watching the kites. It wasn't a kite festival, but the evening wind was up and in Rajasthan there is something about watching these cheap little paper kites that was good for my soul. Then I went back to the room to do some computer stuff and rest before we went out to see Chokhi Dhani.
Chokhi Dhani (google it for more info, they've got a web site) is a like a little theme park. The theme is old rajasthani villiage. So there is a place to eat food like they did in the olden days... on plates and bowls made of pressed leaves (see the pictures), and there are stages all over the place with Rajasthani girls dancing, and a marionette show and there are elephant rides and camel rides and ox carts rides
. And a little cave/tunnel thing to walk through, and an imitation villiage with mud huts and people dancing around fires and stuff. Then there is this wierd waterfall thing with a loudspeaker playing dinosaur sounds from the Jurassic park movie, and a big Tyranosaur sculpture made of carved wood I think. I'm not sure what all that is about, but all the performances are pretty good, and the whole setup and style of everything is really pretty spectacular. I highly recommend this for anybody going to Jaipur. The web site makes it look like they have lodging there too, but I'd have to look into that more to see if it's a good deal or whatever. We spend about 3 hours there, I didn't take many photos, mostly videos, which take a little longer to process and post. But I'll get something up eventually.
After Chokhi Dhanhi, it was pretty late, so we rode back to the hotel to get out 3 hours of sleep before needing to get up and be at the airport to fly to Amritsar tomorrow.
We woke up this morning and got all our stuff packed because we've moving over to the other hotel today. The owner of Hotel Pearl Palace put our names at the top of the wait list, when somebody checked out early this morning we got the call that a room was open. It was one of the larger family rooms too, which means that there are 4 beds that can either stay seperate, or be pushed together to form 2 king size beds in the room.