Tuesday, December 11, 2012

NEVER GET OUT OF THE BOAT! India 2012 part 8

It's hard saying goodbye. These gents took care of us at Fort Madhogarh.
Morning came quick. We showered, dressed and made our way up to one of the fort's towers for breakfast. Toast, omelettes and chai. The view was perfect. The sun set evenly on the land below. On one side of the fort you could hear the playful screams of children. On the other side, some sort of heavy machinery, pumping furiously. One side was completely silent. We had 360 degrees of sonic bliss. I left the breakfast area early and took photos of the unfinished floors of the fort. It was bare gray concrete, broken furniture and unfinished walls. Very relaxing. Our group leader told us to meet him downstairs. Our vehicles would be waiting for us to go to Jaipur. We paid our bills (the hotel staff meticulously accounted for every drop of beverage) and headed to the front of the fort. We didn't want to leave. This place was magical and we all held a great fondness for our stay here. 

Walking the unfinished parts of the fort.

The other side of Fort Madhogarh.

The other other side of Fort Madhogarh.
Breakfast. Fort Madhogarh style.

We packed our gear on the top of our vehicles and left the comfort of Fort Madhogarh behind us. We were on our way to Jaipur. Our driver had a most fashionable haircut. He reminded me of the bassist for Interpol, Carlos D. Thankfully he laid off the horn. What a welcome relief. The journey to Jaipur was short, only an hour long. Once we reached the gates of Jaipur, you felt like you were thrown back into time. There were carts being pulled by animals and people selling fruit in the street. Pigs and docs floundered lazily in the streets. The gates to the city were extraordinary but it was rocky terrain. We zipped through this tiny two lane road that was cut through the mountain.  Once we got into the heart of the city, the honking and fast pace of India hit us hard. 

Our first stop was the Amber or Amer Fort. Our drivers careened through these amazingly tight alleys to get us there. We had to stop a few times to let a cow or bull through. There was barely any room for our car. The people in our group joked that we we would have to take the same way out. It was impossible. I did see cars that were heading in the opposite direction. How they got through, I'll never know. 

Our drivers pulled up a huge and steep driveway and beckoned for us to get out. It was suicidal as cars whooshed by us at high speeds. 

The Amber Fort had elephants that you could ride on. Visitors flopped around on colorful blankets. Intrepid Travel discouraged their travelers from riding them as they viewed this as animal cruelty. I could see why. The elephants were walking on stone blocks.  This is very unnatural terrain for them and causes distress to their feet. These elephants had to walk a long way to get to the top of Amber Fort. We stayed away from them.

Our group split up for a few minutes near the fort entrance. There was a small band playing music on the second story of one of the buildings. They sounded great. After taking in the sights, we met our Amber Fort guide under a huge tree. He asked if we first wanted to visit the Shila Devi temple. If so, we would have to remove our shoes and leave any item made from leather with him. These were not allowed inside the temple. We removed our shoes and belts and went inside the temple. There you could pay homage to the goddess Kali. You could ring a huge bell that was hanging from the ceiling before offering prayers. The temple was very small. I overheard someone saying that the temple brought in thousands of visitors. We collected our shoes and headed in to the main entrance of the fort. I felt bad. I accidentally left my leather belt on during the temple visit. 

The fort was beautiful. It was nestled in the mountains and had nice views of the city below. Things got a little hazy for me here. I don't recollect what our tour guide looked like or what information he shared with us. I just have my pictures to remember the fort by. There was some sort of altercation in one of the courtyards. I guess some visitors were in an area that was off limits. An argument ensued and three unformed guards came out swinging plastic pipes. The offenders were quickly ushered out and we went back to our guided tour. My favorite parts of the fort were the areas that looked like they were going to crumble right before my eyes. There were many areas like this.

Amber or Amer Fort 

The entrance to Amber Fort. 

The courtyard outside of the Amber Fort. 

We thanked our tour guide and made our way to the exit. A boy approached me with a small instrument. I bought one after haggling with him over the price. It turned out to be a toy. I accidentally broke it while trying to play it. 
As we were making our way to our hotel we passed an amazing sight. It was a palace in a lake called the Jal Mahal. We pulled over and took a few pictures. It was a shame that we couldn't visit. I guess it takes hours to get there.

Jal Mahal. Jaipur.
We ate at this cool restaurant. It was half indoor/outdoor and had a gal who did Henna while you ate. As we entered, I saw a musician playing a ravanahatha for the diners. The ravanahatha is a classic Rajasthani instrument. One that I would see many times during our trip. I pulled out my ukulele and we jammed for a minute. The musician let me play his ravanahatha. It was difficult. It's similar to a violin but you hold it to your chest and play on one string. The bow has small cymbals or bells attached that keep a beat while you play. One of the waiters came along and jokingly said that we should have a contest to see who played better. I didn't have my small amplifier with me so it was hard to hear what I was playing. The gentleman really knew his instrument. He did a little dance with these insane movements of his head and started to sing. I threw my arms up declaring him the winner. Ate some delicious dal, rice and naan. 

Right before the duel. Not sure what's up with that look on my face!
As we were leaving we passed a turban museum. I really wanted to go but we didn't have much time. We needed to get to our hotel.

Just so you don't think I was making it up!
The name of our hotel was The Wall Street. It billed itself as "A Business Hotel." It was probably the most modern hotel we have stayed in so far. They had wi-fi, but only in the lobby. We unpacked and I went down to the bar to grab a drink. I ordered a Carlsberg. Finally something other than Kingfisher. Tasted the same. They were playing really bad dance music in the bar. I felt a little embarrassed and headed back up to my room.  

Our group met downstairs for our orientation walk. More like disorientation walk. Jaipur rivaled Delhi in terms of chaos and dust. Cars were blaring their horns, risking life and limb to gain an inch down the road. Minutes into our orientation, I was already lost. Thankfully, this was our group leader's hometown so he really knew his way around. We walked through the one of the famous gated entries into the city. Jaipur is called the pink city due to the color of these gates. They were intricately painted with designs. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at a yogurt shop. So delicious. The yogurt was scooped into terracotta cones. You were invited to smash the cones in metal trashcans after you were done. 

Fireworks were everywhere!

On the streets of Jaipur.

This bakery looked good!

The cinema! Jaipur style.
Jaipur nights.
Headed back to the hotel to crash out. As I was heading up to my room, one of the hotel staff said to come back for the midnight brunch. I passed. 

5 heads are better than one. Outside of our "business hotel" in Jaipur.

No comments: