Currently in our room in the city of Pushkar. Emily and Ethan are out checking out a temple before we head to our next destination. I elected to stay behind because I’ve something weird going on with my stomach – a bit of the traveller’s bug I think. I’m sure it will pass with lots of water and bland food. Ugh.
Anyway, maybe I can finally get caught up here (will add pictures later). Back to the day we saw the tiger…
June 16. It was about 5 or so hours to Jaipur, which is also known as The Pink City. I incorrectly assumed that the entire city was pink, but it’s really only the old part of the city that has all of it’s buildings painted a dark salmon color. It’s pretty cool and we liked the vibe of the old city. It’s surrounded by a huge wall with “gates” that serve as passage ways for cars, etc. The old city is filled with shops, selling clothing, jewelry and trinkets of every variety.
When we got into town, we went straight to the guest house. It was a welcome relief from the last place. The decor was beautiful and the staff were pleasant and inviting. We dropped our stuff, then had Khan take us to the old city to find a place to eat dinner. Ethan had read about restaurant that sits atop the old city wall that had good food. We pushed our way down the crowded sidewalks, saying “no thank you” to every shop owner who tried to lure us in. As we got closer to the restaurant, people instantly knew what we were looking for and guided us to a narrow and steep staircase with the restaurants name at the entrance. Apparently, it’s a very popular place with tourists.
The food was pretty good. Emily and Ethan really liked their food and I was beginning to realize that Indian food just isn’t my favorite. It doesn’t help that I’m sensitive to textures and that my stomach can’t handle dairy or anything spicy. Really limits my options to plain, bland food. We ate and talked about how Jaipur reminded us of Thailand *sigh*. Soon enough we’ll be back in the place that spoiled us rotten with it’s insanely cheap prices and overly nice people.
After we ate, we decided to walk around and browse the shops. As we were walking, a younger Indian man popped out of his shop and stopped us. He said “Can I ask you one thing?” We said yes. He said “Why do tourists ignore the Indian people?” I immediately told him it was because we didn’t want to buy anything, thinking that he was upset that we didn’t go into his shop. He said “No. Let me explain. I saw some tourists earlier that looked lost. They had their book, but I asked if they needed help and they just said ‘No’.” We explained that the tourists were probably scared because of the things they have heard about people being led astray and finding themselves in a bad situation. We explained that it wasn’t that they didn’t want your help, they just are scared to trust people. He understood, but then explained that they only way to get to know a place is by talking to the people. We agreed. Then he invited into his shop for tea.
Khan had just finished explaining that we were not to be taking drinks from strangers, but this guy seemed genuine. We knew he would try to get us to buy stuff from his shop, but we sat and talked with him anyway. He told us about the school system in India and about how the shops will stay in one family for generations. It was really interesting stuff. Then he asked if Emily and I wanted to try on some saris or “Indian sexy dresses” as he called them. A sari is 18 feet of fabric that you essentially wrap around your body and it ends up looking really cool. We told him upfront that we couldn’t buy them, but of course he pulled out all the stops to try to get us to buy them. It was hard to leave him with nothing after he had been so nice, but we can’t buy stuff from every person that is nice to us. Ps. We all drank the tea and were fine obviously.
We headed over to this place that I can’t remember the name of after we finally escaped his shop. I think it was a palace, but it was closed. Instead we checked out a temple nearby then sat and made conversation with some passersby as we waited for Khan. We were all exhausted so we called in a night fairly early. We wanted to rest up for what would be another long, hot day.
June 17. We had breakfast brought to our room, which was fantastic new experience. It was more omelets, so it was bread and bananas for me, but still great. Our first sight for the day was the Amber Fort Palace. The palace sits atop a big hill over looking a lake and has two forts sitting on higher hills right behind it. It was pretty amazing to see as we drove up. Khan told us we could take an elephant to the top, which would have been cool, but it only sat two people. We were bummed, but you can also drive to the top and that was free! On the way Khan told us we had to stop to see something, but his explanation was very good. When we got out we were not expecting to see a huge swimming hole flanked by a never-ending maze of stair cases. It looked like one of those optical illusions where the stairs never end and it was incredible. Apparently, there are more of these and even some that are several times bigger and deeper. There were a bunch of locals swimming, but Khan said the tourists never swim because the water would make them sick. Not surprising.
We also stopped at a Hindu Temple where I sat in the shade and made conversation with one of the priests, while Emily and Ethan toured the temple. Then it was up to the palace. As soon as we got there, we had swarms of men asking if we wanted a tour guide. Tour guides are fine and all, but we really like to explore places at our own pace and be able to just sit in silence in the shade if we want. We said “no, thank you” so many times. The palace was really cool and it was easy to envision what it looked like in it’s hay day. There were an endless number of rooms and secret passage ways. It would be easy to get lost in there. At one point a security guard started following us and pointing things out. We knew he would ask for money and he did when we left his guard area. We felt bad, but we hadn’t asked for his help or really even acknowledged that he was there because we knew this would happen.
It was starting to get blisteringly hot so we headed out of the palace the same way we came in, only to be turned back and sent back through the palace to the exit, which of course took us by the gift shop and art museum/shop. Khan was patiently waiting in the parking area and had the a/c blasting. Thank God. On the way back to town we stopped to take some pictures of a palace that the same family that build the Amber Palace had built in the middle of a larger lake. Khan said it’s where they went when it was too hot. It was really cool, but the lake was full of trash and kind of ruined the view. It really saddens me that the most populous country on the planet has this much pollution.
Khan took us to a restaurant with air conditioning – very sub par a/c, but at least it was somewhat cool. The prices were higher of course, but the food was good. Then he told us he wanted to take us to a textile factory. Another scheme just like the marble makers. We still wanted to see how it was done even though we knew we’d be pressured into buying stuff. First they showed us how they made the patterns on the cloth using a stamping technique. One person stamps one color/pattern and then next person stamps another color/pattern in the white space left by the first pattern. It was really cool to see and we even got to try the stamps ourselves, making an elephant. Then they showed us how they made camel’s wool rugs, which looked like a hideously laborious and time consuming process. The guy told us that a 9 x 6 rug can take up to 3 months to make depending on the design. Then they took us to the shop where they had fabrics in every color and pattern imaginable and said they color tailor make a shirt or pants in about 2 hours.
I ended up finding some pants that I like that would be really useful for our trip, but we didn’t get them until the very last second. They tried everything they could to get us to buy more stuff, but we held strong and left with just my pants and the little elephant stamped piece of fabric (which they wanted money for, but told us was free at the beginning). It was too hot to do anything else and the last thing we wanted to do was best done in the evening, according to Khan. We chilled in the guesthouse for several hours then headed out to our last sight in Jaipur – The Monkey Temple.
The temple is up in the hills and the road to get there was dizzying. Khan parked and told us it was free, but as soon as we walked in a man approached telling us we had to pay. We said “It’s free!” Then he changed his charge to a “camera/mobile fee” of a little less than $1/person. So annoying. We paid for one camera and vowed not to use the other ones. The templed reminded us of a creepy abandoned theme park with its run down exterior. There were two temple buildings and a large pathway down the middle. We wanted to see inside one of the temples so we headed inside and were immediately greeted by one of the priests. He showed us through some hallways and then into a tiny little shrine area that you could not stand up in. There was an offering plate with several 100 rupee bills in it and I knew immediately that he would try to make us pay. I guess he blessed us or something and tied some string around our wrists, them promptly asked for 200 rupees each. About $3. Ethan was appalled and asked “Why didn’t you say that before we came in here?” The guy kept saying the same thing over and over and I told Ethan just to leave him some money and we’ll leave. He quickly dropped his price to 100 rupees, so Emily paid and Ethan paid 100 for the both of us. The guy looked at me for my share, but having no bag or pockets I looked back and said “I have nothing.” He was not satisfied, but we just got up and left.
After that frustrating encounter, we headed toward the monkey area. We didn’t realize it, but these monkeys are actually looked after by the Monkey Guy. He’s been on a Discovery Channel show I guess and is now “famous”. It was feeding time, so the monkeys were going nuts over their mangos and chapati bread. I really don’t like monkeys and the place was filthy with monkey poo and other unknown substances. My skin was crawling. There is a large pool that the moneys hang out in and drink from and another higher up on the hill that the locals like to swim in. We walked up the stairs along the pool and watched the monkeys fight over bread and carry their tiny little babies around on their tummies.
It was a neat place, but it was definitely weird and we all left with a strange feeling. We asked Khan to take us somewhere inexpensive for dinner and somehow we ended up at the same we had eaten lunch. We didn’t want to make him take us somewhere else, so we just ate there. Back at the guesthouse, we tried to do some planning for our trip after India, but Emily and Ethan didn’t last long and were fast asleep by 9.