We left at 5:00 AM on a foggy Saturday morning. Our driver, Pawan, was in good spirits as usual. Carlos, my colleague from Venezuela was very excited to be on his first road trip in India. It would be just the three of us, but I was grateful for the company. Adventures are always more fun when shared.
The drive to Jaipur From Delhi
I slept for the first two hours. I hadn’t slept well the night before and it was dark and foggy outside anyway. I awoke to the sound of Pawan asking me if we wanted to stop for hot tea. It was daylight out and I felt groggy so it sounded like a great idea. As soon as we got outside I was shocked by the cold damp air! It was only about 8 degrees Celsius, or upper 40s, and I was wishing I had a jacket. Pawan ordered us 3 cups of Chai tea and we watched as they made it in a crude pot over an open flame. I watched him reach into various containers of spices and add pinches of ginger, cardamom and cloves. Since the mixture was boiling, I wasn’t too worried about the use of his hands and quickly forget my concern as I took my first sip of what I can only describe as heaven in a cup. It tasted nothing like our American version of Chai. It was absolutely delicious and I decided right then that I want to attempt to make it myself when I am home for Christmas. He asked us us for 40 Rupees, which is about 60 cents in the US. I gave him 100 Rupees and he gave us a big smile of gratitude. We quickly finished our hot Chai and got back on our way.
I enjoyed the sites of India passing by and asked Pawan to stop suddenly when I saw camels pulling carts of goods right on the freeway, along side semi trucks! As I took my photos from the side of the road I noticed that the camels were painted. In fact most of the semi trucks are decorated too. Indian people seem to enjoy decorating anything important to them!
A couple of hours later we starting seeing signs for Jaipur and Amber Fort. Pawan made a call and soon pulled over to introduce us to our guide. If you read my blog about our trip to the Taj Mahal then you know my concerns here. I immediately asked to see his guide ID and it looked to be legitimate. On our way up a narrow windy road he began explaining that we were about to see a fort that is only 500 years old. He also warned us not to buy anything there. He said the goods are just tourists souvenirs and are very over priced and if you buy one thing they will all swarm you. He said to ignore them and not even say no. “No means it’s negotiable!” I laughed hard at that. It reminded me of several guys I’ve dated!
I was pleasantly surprised to see there were no lines to get on an elephant and ride to the top. The elephants are colorfully painted and ours was an old female named Pinky. We were not allowed to pet Pinky. The government closely regulates the treatment of those elephants. They are only allowed a few trips a day up the mountain and tourists can not pet them because it’s apparently damaging to their skin and health.
The amazing history and beauty of the fort
The Amber Fort itself was spectacular! It was built by Maja Raja, which means very big King. He had 12 wives, each with their own apartment that made a very large square. There were 3 apartments on each side of the square with a big family room in the center. That area had large pillars and a roof so the wives could lounge about and visit. That is the only places where the wives were allowed to talk to each other, and their was a scribe that wrote down all their conversations. Sounds to me like the king was a bit paranoid, or maybe very smart!
There were ridged ramps instead of stairs within the apartments for the wives to use. Their dresses were made with real gold and silver thread and included many jewels and precious stones, so they were quite heavy. The ramps were easier for them to use then stairs.
The view at the top was beautiful. You could see down into the town and the pink walls surrounding it. But the thing that got my attention most was the beautiful blue sky! Finally some blue sky in India! I despise the pollution in Delhi so it made me so happy that I actually cried a little out of shear happiness!
Down in the parking lot we were entertained by wild monkeys playing in the trees and hopping from car to car. One had a little baby she clasped to her breast with one arm as she climbed about. It was so cute!
Dining abd Shopping in Jaipur, India
Around this time I asked our guide to take us down the hill to meet up with a new friend of mine named Valkalp who lives close by. We found him in a cafe. He suggested lunch at a Laxmi, a famous restaurant. I insisted Pawan join us for lunch. He protested but I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I wanted to buy him lunch because he had had a very long day of driving and we are becoming friends. He eventually said yes but then he sat down at a separate table! He finally agreed to sit with us but immediately went back to the van after he finished his food. Valkalp was ordering for us. He asked me what I wanted and I said I wanted a glass of red wine and something with chicken in it. He laughed and then explained that it is a vegetarian restaurant and they also don’t serve alcohol! He ordered us Talli. Talli is an Indian meal that is just a bunch of little dishes served on a circular platter including various foods and condiments that you put on breads and eat with your hands. It was so good!!!!
After lunch we went shopping. Jaipur is famous for gems so I bought myself a beautiful (sundar in Hindi) topaz and silver ring. Valkap made sure I got real pricing, not tourists pricing. I got it for 600 Rupees, which is only 9 dollars! Wow!!!! It was a wonderful day, the kind that makes the tough work days in Delhi all worth it!