*Another blog post for India with 2 days left for that country, and I’m already 2 countries behind! Only 2 days until China so I feel like I probably won’t be able to catch up on the blog until after Japan, during our 20 day trip across the Pacific, with the one-day stop in Hawaii. Sorry! Such is the life of a traveler = flexible and fun 🙂
Day 4 – March 15
Our wakeup call on day 4 was much more reasonable, at 6:30 a.m., with breakfast at 7 and on-bus time at 7:30. What’s a time restraint without a SAS kids ignoring it though? Of course we didn’t end up leaving until after 7:45, waiting for kids who were late. Big surprise. Finally we were driving through Jaipur on our way to the Amer Fort. As we drove through the Pink City, there were shops just opening for the day but there was still all kinds of traffic. We drove past a beautiful palace wall that the women of the court used to look through the windows down at passing parades and such. Finally we arrived and made our way to the line for the elephants! Of course the line was crowded by people trying to sell us things and after what seemed like an eternity we walked up the stairs to hop on the elephants. We rode on a sort of pedestal on the back of the elephant, with the “driver” riding bareback on the neck of it. Each elephant was decorated with very fancy colors and patterns and we made our way slowly up the steep winding path to the top of the fort. The wall sort of resembled the Great Wall, but only in look/design because it was absolutely tiny and MUCH shorter. While we walked along, I was suckered into buying an elephant blanket/afghan after I spent a decent amount of time bargaining with this kid who couldn’t have been more than 13. After we spent time going back and forth in price, and after I realized I couldn’t give him the amount of money I wanted to give him and I only had bigger bills to give him the price HE wanted, AND after he threw the blanket onto our elephant from about 15 feet away while balancing on the wall next to the walkway, I gave in and tossed the money his way. I probably paid a little too much for the blanket but it was “Hand stitch, Hand stitch! Good price, Good price!” and it left for a great story. Also along the way were photographers telling everyone to smile and they would see us at the bottom with our pictures. “Jerry #1” told us to remember him and not confuse him with the other “normal” Jerrys. We made it to the top of the fort after the 15-minute ride and after the “driver” complaining about the meager “student tip” we left because “everyone give 100 not 20” (our driver told us no more than 20 each) we made our way through the throngs of people trying to sell musical instruments and more blankets and wall paintings and … you get the picture. Our guides took us around the fort, showing us the special places where the king would take his public audience and private audience, during the vacation time spent at the fort, different tunnels, fountains, balconies and more. One kid from the other half of the tour group (we were split into two groups, each with one guide), brilliant one that he is, was being extremely disrespectful and obnoxious and started doing back flips off random benches. Our guide saw the other group and saw him doing his flips and mentioned if he didn’t stop that he could get arrested. Not 30 seconds after he said that, a guard saw the kid and starting yelling at him and blowing his whistle. I’m not sure what exactly happened after that because the kid briskly walked away but I saw another guard right after, looking for him in the same spot. He didn’t get arrested because he made it back on the bus, but honestly, he deserved punishment for being that dumb and disrespectful. We spent more time walking around through different areas of the fort and then starting heading back to buses. As we made our way down the steep pathways, we ended up at the marketplace area
After a few hours at the fort, we made our way to lunch at the Hotel Holiday Inn. Yes, that Holiday Inn. It was really funny pulling up to such a typical American hotel chain in the middle of India. And of course, the food, yet again, mirrored our overly “American-friendly” tour, which was a little frustrating. I wanted real tastes of India and all I got was less spicy and less exciting. Pasta Bolognese isn’t exactly a dish I thought I’d find in India though, so you can’t blame me for the bitterness. From what I hear though, the “more exciting” food can leave the digestive system a little too exciting. I would have paid the price, but oh well! After lunch, we headed to an Artisan textiles workshop. We were able to see how they make the huge elaborate rugs. A 9’x12’ rug can take more than 9 months to make because of how complicated the tying process is, each little piece one-by-one. Once the design is finished, the rug is finished by burning the back of the rug to clean up any spare pieces of fluff or string and then the front is cut to make sure it is all an equal length. No wonder the rugs are so expensive! We were then herded upstairs to the showroom and awkwardly were given a sales pitch for their rugs. No one wanted to buy one so we had yet another awkward sales pitch encounter, the first being the marble inlay shop. We walked down the hallway and there was a large room of textiles for sale. They had scarves, blankets, clothes, pillows; the list goes on! The prices were very decent and I ended up buying a sari and a cute scarf.
Then we were off to another monument, but everyone was over being toured around structures where we could barely understand our tour guide or the significance of the building. We were all tired, tired from walking and tired of being yelled at and herded around like goats. So the group split up into the people who just wanted to walk around and the people who wanted to have a guide-led tour. Turns out the tour didn’t last long, there wasn’t much to see, and walking around on my own was less stressful and slower-paced. After about 45 minutes, the group met up again and headed to the observatory across the street. It is one of the oldest observatories in the world and was so cool. There were two huge sundials, and all kinds of astronomy objects but hardly any of them made sense because our guide didn’t explain a lot. But I enjoyed seeing all the different ancient tools that were used in the beginnings of the study of the stars. Afterwards, we all grouped together to be counted and a few kids checked out of the trip to go off on their own. Then the remaining people were given the option of going back to the hotel or go to a market. I, of course, chose the market and our bus full of people drove to this 3-story skinny building with a bunch of shops in it, sort of like a small mall but it was obvious we were at another store our guides were earning some sort of commission for bringing us there. They had given us the option of going to the street market but made it sounds almost dangerous but after looking around at this place, and realizing everything was a lot more expensive, we made a unanimous decision for the bus to go to the street market, which ended up being right next to where we had left the other group. That was the market everyone had been looking for but our guides were a little misleading in helping us know where to go. It was actually quite awkward how many situations they put us in that made me feel uncomfortable because I could tell they knew the people trying to sell us stuff.
After time at the market, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and relaxation time. There was a Rajastan puppet show that was put on outside on the lawn. We were still eating during the first show but my friend, Ashlyn and I went out after and they performed for us again. They had funny little puppets and cute sound effects. There was also a boy playing music and singing along with the show. It was so funny because after the show they started playing songs, the first was Waka Waka, the next was Macarena, and the last was a Rajastani song. When they played the Macarena they asked me if I knew the dance so I did the little dance for a verse. After the show, we just headed back to our rooms and went to bed.