Jaipur is a jewel in the fabric of India

Trip Start Oct 26, 2007
Trip End Oct 26, 2009

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

After a few fraught days in Delhi, I hooked myself up with a car and driver, and we set out to explore Jaipur, the PINK CITY, so called because its prominent buildings are washed in the colour.. although I personally think it's more ORANGE than PINK!  In fact, the city reminds me a lot of Marrakech's kasbah.. another orange walled city, where all the buildings are the same colour.  There are many similarities.. the prehistoric nature of the scenes.. like fires lit under cars so men can see the broken axle that needs fixing.. dogs and cats nursing their sores at the side of the road... horse and carts competing with scooters and motorbikes..

I like Jaipur.. in fact I love it!  The beautiful textiles that are made and available here are something to see. I am reminded of my friend Kate, whose love of India is great, and her knowledge of the country and its history is also great.   I feel my blogs are lacking coherence! And I hope to get to a point where I strike the right balance between detailed personal experience, and factual hisorical points.. but for now, given how difficult it's been to find cafes, and to quanitify my thoughts, I'm settling for what comes out at the given moment.  Suffice to say Jaipur is jolly nice, especially as compared to Delhi.  My Hindi language skills are virtually non-existent, although my habit of learning how to say HELLO and THANK YOU wherever I go, has helped me fake it 'til I make it, in most places I go.  I've only had two days in Jaipur, and will head out to Agra tomorrow, home to the Taj Mahal.  I managed to pick up a new camera, a Canon (couldn't find my precious Panasonic Lumix anywhere) in Delhi, so I will try to upload photos and update soon. 

Some random scenes from India so far:
*Women gossiping at the sides of the road, back on their haunches
*Decorated trucks, tinsel, baubles, painted ornately
*Incredible poverty
* Crumbling cement and brick adds to the incredible dustiness everywhere.  The dust has got into my DNA I think
* Mangy dogs roaming the streets
* Tatooed camels and elephants, camel's coats shaved, like show horses
* Camels are soft stepping, graceful in an awkward sort of way!
* Men in rubber flip-flops working on construction sites
* Men peeing against walls everywhere, or wherever they chose to relieve themselves
* Women working on construction sites in their beautiful sarees
* Cattle in the most unexpected places.  The middle of the road, hovering by street stalls, poking into dwellings, shops
* Piles of dirt, rubble, stones, slabs of rock everywhere
* Pigs! hairy pigs, black, gray
* Motorcycle helmet vendors on roadsides, it seems a big business
* Fruit and veg stalls abound
* I'm surprised at how many people smoke, people buy cigarettes individually
*  Roads!  No one "speeds".  The roads in Jaipur were good, road from there to Agra was great.  Road from Udaipur to Mt Abu was horrible, being rebuilt by villagers.  Worst roads were in Darjeeling.
* Buildings built around trees!  holes cut in the tin roofs.
* Auto rickshaw drivers who say they know where you want to go, but don't! 

I spent two nights and three days in Jaipur, at another B&B recommended by my friend Kate, Nana Hi Kaveli.  It was a lovely, restful spot, although it has taken me a while to get used to the noises, day and night.. temple singing from 4:00am!  Celebrations, festivals, possibly weddings, late into the evening.. weekdays are as likely to be loud as weekends!  Your senses definitely get a workout in India.  My sense of TASTE has been delighted, as the food is delicious, without exception.  I have been eating dinner at restaurants recommended by my travel guide.  One night I went to a place that featured traditional dancing, where the young boy in a turban who moved like a breakdancer - only more gracefully and upright! - asked me for rupees for watching him dance! and this was on my way IN to the restaurant!  There's a money-making gimmick everywhere, and you cannot fault anyone.. but it does get tiring.  On the one hand you don't want to begrudge what amounts to 50cents, but on the other you don't want to be passing out money to every child or beggar that holds out their hand.  It's a tough one. 

I spent some time in a really seedy shop, that had an internet link.  The old proprietor looked quite fearsome, but as I spent much time there over three days, he looked forward to my visits and reminded me how changed people become when they smile.

Mr Singh my chauffeur was a gracious driver, and made sure I stopped at all of the places of interest along the way out of Jaipur to Agra.

Places I visited:
City Palace Museum -Home to the rulers of Jaipur since the first half of the 18th century.  The sprawling complex is a blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture, with open, airy Mughal-style public buildings leading to private apartments. 
Jantar Mantar - an observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh II between 1728 and 1734, teh observatory has been described as "the most realistic and logical landscape in stone", its 16 instruments resembling a giant sculptural composition.  Some of the instruments are still used to forecast how hot the summer months will be, the expected date of arrival, duration and intensity of the monsoon, and the possibility of floods and famine.  It was an amazing sight. 
 Jaigarh - "Victory Fort" watches over the old capital of Amber.  One of the few surviving cannon foundries is located here, as well as the largest cannon in the world!  a 50-tonne Jai Van, cast in 1726. Ironically, despite its size, the cannon has never been fired.
Amber Fort - The Fort Palace of Amber is huge, and the ramparts of the fort follow the countours of a natural ridge (I have some photos, you might make out the ramparts)  This citadel was established in 1592 by Man Singh I on the remains of an old 11th century fort, but the various buildings added circa 1621-67, are what constitute its magnificent centrepiece.  Everywhere you looked, there was some impressive marble work or decorative building.. it was stunning.

There's so much to see and do in Jaipur.  So much of India has stunning buidings, and history.  It is an incredible country, and will take more than one visit for me to fully appreciate or understand even a spec of it!

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