INDIA – Part 2
We had a 4 hour drive from Rathambore to Jaipur. The countryside was very interesting. The highways seem to lack any organization, planning or rules! All the transport trucks are decorated and have painted signs, such as ‘honk horn’. The fronts of the trucks and tractors are decorated with Pom-poms and tinsel. The only things more bedazzled are wedding cars.
When we (surprisingly) safely arrived to our hotel in Jaipur we met our new tour guide, VJ. He took us on a tour of the Old City. Jaipur used to be yellow but when The Prince of Wales visited the king ordered the city be painted pink. Each of the streets in the center have 365 stores. We walked through some of the back alleys lined we cubby hole sized shops. They were higher than they were wide and one tiny store may have 6 workers. The sari shops were full as it is wedding season here. Wedding parties all shop together and buy their saris from the same store. The father of the bride and other male members of he family are there as well.
The colours and scents of the street food were vibrant. One food vender that had his kitchen on his bicycle, was cooking up something that looked healthy and smelled amazing. He offered me a free bite but our guide told him it would make me sick.
The next day we started out early to avoid the crowds. We started at the square were some of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was filmed. VJ knows the owner of the actual hotel where the film was shot. The film was a financial help helped as the hotel owner admits his hotel is run down and not a good place to stay.
We followed this with a tour of the city palace. Our tour company had arranged access for us into the private area of the palace. I thought this was a line but we left the swarm of tourists behind and entered the living quarters. We actually saw the father of the prince and sat on some cushions in one of the more casual meeting rooms.
We had told our guide that we would be interested in seeing his palm reader. Palm reading and horoscopes are a very important part of life here and play a huge role in all kinds of decisions – such as who you can marry and in which year. The palm reader was bang on with our personalities. He told us our lucky numbers and lucky stones and gems.
We then headed to a beautiful home of a family who has built a small inn – but rarely has guests. The lady of the house gave us a cooking demonstration and Dave and Bevan tried their hands at making chapatis. ( pita-like bread filled with spice and potato). Dave’s was quite similar to our host’s but Bevan’s was much more artistic-heavier on the flour and butter…. and there was a lot of chapati debris on the counter. I must admit that his was very tasty.
After filling ourselves with our home made lunch we toured a hill side fort and palace.
Afterwards we headed to the countryside to an elephant reserve. We were all happy and relieved to see they were healthy and treated well. Each elephant gives only 2 rides a day. We rode up top the elephants while sipping wine. We chose white wine seeing that the ride was quite bumpy.
At the end of the ride we found ourselves at a beautiful clearing with a campfire and lanterns. We were served cocktails and then a beautiful dinner under a thatched roof tent. We gazed at the stars and thanked them for our luck to be able to experience things like this.
The day was not over – we headed to a gem store to try to fulfill our palm readers advice and wear our lucky stones. It was quite a set up and I have never seen so many jewels in one place.
Things I learned:
-we arrived to JAIPUR, not Judaipur ( which I made up by combining with Jodhpur- our next stop)
– everything can be bedazzled in colourful paint, tinsel and mirror ( including cow horns)
-our van can stop within 1/16 of an inch after squealing tires to avoid semi that decided to come to a complete stop in the fast lane (and did I mention most of these vehicles lack brake lights)
-I will not be sending any of my beautiful and aged relatives to live at the Best Exotic Marigold hotel