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Jaipur, India

March 19, 2008

Helen – Our group decided to play hooky today and go into town to see the sights and shop rather than attend the conference.  There are seven members in our group and only six could fit into the rented taxi so Tom and I ventured out on our own.  We walked out to the main gate and thought we would be able to grab a cab there. NO. There are no cabs or three-wheelers outside the resort because we are so far from town.  Not wanting to wait while we ordered a taxi, we decided to take the local bus.  The gate keeper told us to take the #11 and as one came up he put us on and gave directions to the conductor to let us off at Amber Fort.  We paid the 12.5 cent fare per person and commented that this wasn’t so bad.  The bus was the size of the 10 seater van we used the other day except now the seats ran along the sides of the bus and had overhead railings to hold on to.  We took our seats and smiled as everyone looked at us.  In a matter of minutes the bus got pretty crowded and we gave up our seats to an old woman and a young mother with a small child.  We now were getting pretty well squeezed into the back of the bus and after about a half hour they told us we had reached our stop.  As we got off, everyone watched us as we looked around for the fort.  We couldn’t find it and the people on the bus were pointing out of the windows trying to tell us something.  We looked around again, still didn’t see anything, the bus waited, the people pointed, and finally we understood that we were to now take a three-wheeler for the rest of the way.

 The first one asked for $25 but the next young man was very nice and said that he would do it for $5 (200 Indian rupees).  This seemed reasonable since we still had about 7 miles to go. He was also very accommodating and stopped several times for Tom to take pictures along the way.  The first stop was the city gate as we passed through Jaipur.

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Tom – The “Old City” part of Jaipur is known as the Pink City, which can be readily seen from the pictures.  It was founded in 1727 when Sawai Jai Singh II moved his capital here from the Amber Fort.  It is laid out in a grid like pattern replicating sacred Hindu principles.  It was colored pink in 1853 to celebrate the visit of Prince Albert.  It reminds me of when I was a kid and we would call a store and ask if they had Prince Albert in a can (chewing tobacco).  They would say “Yes.”  We would then say, “Well, you better take him out!”

 

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Helen – Driving out of town, we passed the Water Fort; and as the name suggests, it was in the middle of a big lake with the water level just below the window sills!!  When we finally got to the Amber Fort, he asked if we wanted to take the jeep ride to the top since it was a long steep road.  We said no, we would rather walk.  

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Then he drove to where the elephants were; people paid $15 /person to ride them to the top.  We just got out, thanked and paid him and not knowing any better starting walking the road with the elephants.  It was a pretty narrow road, two elephants wide with one line going up and the other coming down, and we walked wherever we found a space (dangerous!!).  We notice that there were not any other walkers but thought they were either taking the jeeps or the elephants. 

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It was pretty messy and smelly and finally near the top someone yells down to us and says, “take the stairs, it is shorter!”  When we got on the steps we discovered the walking trail for the pedestrians and felt pretty stupid for walking with the elephants!  The fort was amazing and had a golden glow in the morning light.  It is painted a pale mustard color and was quite large with an ornate wall around it.  We toured without a guide and just climbed, walked, and looked.  It was nice to be at our own pace and not be responsible for anyone else.  They always have a section at the end where local merchants want to sell their wares and two men were playing their flutes to get the cobras out of the baskets.  View from near the top of the fort –

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Tom – Amber City (Amber Fort) was the capital of the Kuccdhwaha Rajputs from 1037 to 1727.  From the ramparts you can see fragments of an 18 km wall that encircled both Amber Fort and Jaigarh Fort.  There are several contiguous palaces (e.g. Man Singh Palace, Summer Palace and Monsoon Palace) as well as courtyards and gardens within the fort.  The Summer Palace had a room called the Jai Mahal where the maharaja went to escape the heat.  There was an intricate lattice screen on the east and the west side was open to take advantage of the west wind.  There were water tanks on the roof that funneled water through a copper pipe to Khus-Khus mats that covered the west entrance.  So, when the wind blew, it would produce a cool breeze.  The Man Singh Palace had an area that is called the Zenana Mahal where the maharaja had rooms for his 12 wives.  A secret passage circling the 12 rooms allowed Man Singh to enter each private chamber without the other wives being aware of his movements.  Of course this doesn’t even come close to the 2,000 concubines (plus 4 wives) that Shah Jahan had in Agra!

Palace ceiling

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One view from fort toward other fortifications

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At the bottom we hired another tri-shaw to take us back into town to tour the City Palace. 

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Helen – We were glad that we decided to pay the fee and tour it because it had a great museum showing fabulous old palace carpets, old manuscripts which were hand painted, the warrior/weapons room, big crystal chandeliers, royal costumes, and the world’s largest silver urns which were unbelievable.

 

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Now it was time for the bazaar and some shopping.  

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We got fried bread, a hot stuffed something or other, and fresh squeezed pineapple/orange juice from the street vendors for lunch. The bazaar was overwhelming (can you believe I just said that??) and not being able to ask or read for directions we just wandered up and down the streets in a pattern.  

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Street vendor selling freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.

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I had a list of things that I wanted to look for including material, leather purse and shoes, jewelry, and shawls.  

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You had to watch out for the cows!

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We found all the shops but I didn’t find anything that I really had to have except in the jewelry area.  I discovered two little shops where the owners were not “pushy” and bought 4 silver chains from one and a lovely turquoise/silver pendant, piece of turquoise to repair a ring back home, and another interesting chain from the second. I also bought two pashema shawls, and material for a sari.  I also bought two small packets of saffron.  It doesn’t sound like much but I looked at the bangle bracelets, old locks and keys, tried on shoes and much to Tom’s amazement declined on it all.  

So about 5:30 I said I was ready to return to the complex, he shook his head and said he expected me to close the bazaar at 9. He found us a three-wheeler and home we went.  Another view of ethnic village –

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That evening the conference had arranged another outdoor eating event with a DJ and dancing.  We had a chance to talk to the many friends we made and exchange email addresses.  I hope that Alenka and I stay in touch.  We then ate and danced the night away.  I guess the music was a little strange for the locals because they were looking over the wall and from the trees as we danced and carried on.  Tom even jitterbugged a dance or two with me when we could find a beat!!  Back in the room I packed my bags while Tom worked on the pictures and I fell asleep long before he came to bed.

 

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