Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jaipur

Upon arriving in Jaipur, we picked out a hotel to try from our book, across the street from the bus stand and less than 1 km from the train station. Since it was so close we decided to walk instead of taking up the touts on their offer of 40 rupies to take us anywhere in the city. Three km later we found directions from someone with decent English and hopped a bus to the bus stand. We then walked all over creation looking for our hotel before again finding directions from someone who pointed out to us that based on the address, out hotel was clearly incorrectly placed on the map. Ugh. We eventually found it and checked in, before taking a cycle-rickshaw (that took forever) to the Jantar Montar. Our rickshaw driver demanded 3x the agreed upon rate when we got there, insisting that we'd misunderstood him.

We got a tour of the Jantar Mantar as recommended by Lonely Planet, and he showed us all the stuff, including the largest sundial in the world, lots of smaller sundials, and a few instruments for determining the precise location of the sun in the zodiac, and the altitude and azimuth of the sun. The whole thing was geared very strongly toward astrology and our guide did not like that we don't believe in astrology, and Josh didn't like that our guide did. Mary hadn't properly read up on the site ahead of time and was disappointed that it was all so new (1700s) and didn't feel like it really had much bearing on navigation, early astronomy, mathematics, or old records. So she found it kind of disappointing too. The Indians were great mathematicians and astronomers way back in the day (after all, they are the ones the Arabs learned "Arabic" Numerals from), but other than a passing mention of this in the museum at Akshardham, you wouldn't know it now. At least you wouldn’t as a western tourist. They should put together a museum on these ancient roots. Maybe someday.





(This is the big one)

Anyway, after that slightly disappointing stop we went to the expensive and highly recommended LMB restaurant nearby. We decided to get the Rajasthani Thali because it was so highly recommended. It was like a $7/person 12 course meal (compare with spending less than $10/day for all meals for both of us most of the time). We asked for it less spicy when they said we had a choice, but it was still exceedingly spicy... though not too spicy for Josh, or even for Mary these days (all you folks who used to go out to spicy food with us would be impressed by what Mary can eat these days). However, Josh found he could hardly eat it because his stomach was upset, though he ordered milk and was able to drink that. Mary also had to stop eating early due to an upset stomach.



We now think that the upset stomachs, abdominal cramps, and lack of ability to eat much of the spicy food lately actually had nothing to do with travelers diarrhea, but instead is just our digestive tracks not being able to handle spicy Indian food 3 meals per day, 7 days per week. Disappointing, but eating boring Western food a couple meals per day has cleared up the problems beautifully and quickly.

Our hotel keeper convinced us that the bus (all day) was not a good way to get from Jaipur to our next destination (Udaipur) and that we should take the train (all night) instead... Giving us a second day in Jaipur.

Next morning, we started out eating roasted cashews (from LMB) and bananas in our hotel room, and then went to the City Palace to see a bunch of maharaja stuff. Josh especially liked the armory where we got to see lots of exotic weapons that we have been hearing Jamie refer to in D&D for a while, but have not been totally able to picture. We also really liked the way they spelled out words with the weapons in some displays. No photos allowed, unfortunately. Mary especially liked the fancy audience chamber with its enormous chandelier and exquisite gold, red, and blue floral paintwork still in excellent condition. Unfortunately this was another no-photo zone. Possibly the coolest thing about City Palace the day we were there, however, was that there were elaborate decorations going up all over for the wedding that evening of one of the relatives of the maharaja. Normally at these sites it is up to you to imagine what it was like back when it was in use and had it's wood/fabric/whatever that isn't there anymore because it doesn't stand up to the elements. So it was really cool seeing the wedding prep work.









We ate what turned out to be a crazy-expensive (for what it was) meal of bad/boring American food at the museum and went into the "friends of the museum" section, which claimed to be a place where you could see local artisans doing their traditional work. Yeah, not so much. Pretty much your regular street vendor trash and trinkets.

After, we climbed the iconic Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds, a strangely thin, wide, and tall building.




From the Hawa Mahal, we caught a very full bus up to the Amber Palace on the hill. From the road we walked up the last bit of steep hill to the palace. According to Lonely Planet, there was also the option of taking a jeep or riding an elephant, though we didn't see these. Perhaps they were ways to go from the city to the beginning of the walk, since that's where we saw the elephants. Anyway, we weren't going to take either option since we are too cheep to spend $3 on a jeep ride, and while the $11 elephant ride sounded like a bargain, Lonely Planet urged us not to do it on account of the poor treatment of the elephants.

We skipped the guides and audio tour since we weren't in the mood, though in hindsight it seemed like a good place for such a thing. We enjoyed poking around on our own (it's quite a maze!), and found part of the old water system to bring lake water up to the Palace, in addition to a lot of beautiful buildings. We snacked on some western style pastries (brownie and nut cake) and had a milkshake at the cafe. It was expensive, but worth it.



Part of Water System from Trip of a Lifetime 3 - 102PENTX



Amber Palace from Trip of a Lifetime 3 - 102PENTX


The bus back to Jaipur was exciting. It was full in a way that made the full buses we've been on before seem roomy. The conductor was often riding practically outside the bus, holding the rest of us in. He ended up taking Josh's bag from him and storing it in the "trunk" of the bus. If we'd known that was going to happen, we probably would have spent the 3 dollars on a tuk-tuk. But it was totally fine.

In the evening we dropped into a couple watch shops, including the World of Titan show room. Titan is a big name in watches here in India and Josh is looking for a nice watch.

Finally we started looking for dinner and were tempted by some amazing looking kabobs on the street, but refrained. Instead we found our way to one of the Lonely Planet recommended restaurants, Handi, which turned out to be associated with one of the kabob sellers we'd been salivating over. We split a big sampler plate of varied tandoori and kabobs--our first meat in 2 weeks! And after all the boring food from earlier in the day we were even able to eat it. It was incredible.

After, we walked back to our hotel, picked up our luggage, and went to the train station for our overnight train to Udaipur. We were in an AC chair car, but it was not the same as the AC chair car we took to Agra. It seemed to be a second-class AC chair car, something we hadn't realized existed. It was a long night.

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