India (4) – Jaipur

After a quick, and rather uninspiring breakfast, we were picked up at 8am to visit the Amber Fort. Whilst we were in the car, our guide for the day explained to us about the elephant ride at the fort, and told us that we had to make a choice of elephant type – young and quick, middle-aged and average speed, or older and slower. Like with curry spicing in restaurants, we went for the safe bet, and chose medium! In the event, it turned out to be almost irrelevant, as the elephants follow one another up the hill to the fort, and rarely have the opportunity to overtake each other.

Each elephant can take two people, so we split up – Marcel and I on the first elephant, and Arie on the second. Of course we tried to take photos of each other, but sitting sideways, encumbered by photo backpacks and swaying around made it a challenge.

The fort itself is huge, and it took us a few hours to look around it. The guide was very informative, but a little hard to understand, so much of the information about the fort, the maharaja and his 33 wives (12 official, 21 unofficial!) passed me by.

As a bonus, we had a wildlife photography opportunity at the end – bats in the underground tunnel between the Amber and Tiger forts. With very little ambient light it was hard it was hard to focus, so the end results weren’t too great (Marcel’s are better).

After the fort we stopped briefly to photograph the water palace, so named because it is in the middle of a lake. There weren’t too many viewpoints available, and we were quickly distracted by a young boy who wanted to show us his magic tricks – very impressively done.

The next stop was a co-operative handicrafts centre, where we were given demonstrations in block printing and carpet making.  The visit really highlighted the contrast between our expectations (everything must be washing machine and tumble dryer safe) and the daily lives of those working in the factory, like the hard labour of the carpet washers below.

 It also housed a large textiles shop, where I modeled a sari. Quite comfortable, though I doubt I could ever figure out how to put one on myself. After a lunch break, we visited another textiles shop (with yet another sari modeling session), where Marcel found some scarves. Something to watch out for on his blog, when he does his next model photo shoot.

We were all beginning to flag a little by this point, but our day wasn’t over yet. We had a stop at the observatory, where we were shown a number of sun dials and other confusing but impressive looking astronomical and astrological implements.

Then for the almost final stop – the City Palace, with a textile museum, which was quiet interesting, though frankly the content was of less interest to us by this point than the air conditioning! Before we dropped, one final stop, this time at a jewelry shop, which we passed through as quickly as politesse allowed, before returning to the hotel.

Finished for the day, Marcel and I decided to relax with an ayurverdic massage featuring a full body massage followed by a ‘let’s drip hot oil on your forehead’ experience.  Extremely relaxing, and I nearly fell asleep.  Rounded off the day with a late dinner – palak (saag) paneer, one of my favourites.
Tomorrow we’re off to Bharatpur, some 4 hours drive away, where we’ll visit the Keoladeo bird reserve.

Arie’s posts of the day: India. Paleizen tocht in Jaipur.  India. Jaipur (2)
Marcel’s post of the day: Jaipur

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