Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Jaipur, India 7/5 - 7/8

After dealing with the Agra traffic, we were on our way to Jaipur, Rashistan.

Our driver rode his ass.
See a closer view of our interactive map.
See an even closer view of our interactive map.

There are two popular stops between Agra and Jaipur: Fatehpur Sikri, a giant abandoned city and Chand Baori, one of India's largest stepped well and only below ground temple. We chose the lesser traveled sight and saw the well. It’s located in a rural village not far off the highway with no one trying to sell you souvenirs.
That white dot on left is Quarup.

Once at the Royal Heritage Haveli Hotel in Jaipur we were ready to relax and we couldn’t have chosen a better hotel to do that in. Our room was gorgeous! No sooner that we arrived in Jaipur, the monsoon rains arrived too. Good thing our awesome hotel offered a delicious set dinner menu.

See our video on YouTube.

By the time we dragged ourselves out of the hotel room, the rainfall had stopped and the sun was quickly drying up every last puddle. It was getting hot - and fast. By the time our cab driver got us to our first stop, Amber Fort, it was very hot. We bought the audio tour and a couple bottles of water. The audio tour wasn’t worth the two bucks but the water was.
Making friends on the way up to Amber Fort.
Too bad we gave up on the boring audio tour
before it was over because we'll never know
the significance of this beautiful room.

A common activity for tourists at Amber Fort is to ride an elephant up the hill to the entrance. We decided to save our money because our next stop of the day was Elephantastic. Rahul, the owner provides tourists an opportunity to spend a day with the same elephants that tourists ride. Unlike the abused elephants that Q saw in Thailand and Laure saw in Cambodia, the elephants in India are well treated and cared for by their owners and regulated by the government. 

No, we don't need an elephant's help to get up this hill.
We live on a steeper hill than this.

We arrived at 1PM and joined Belinda and Cathy (two Aussies) to learn how to care for elephants. We prepared their lunch while Rahul's mom prepared our lunch at her house. We also painted an elephant's trunk in the traditional style, went on an elephant ride, and gave an elephant bath in a local swimming hole. Here are a few more photos. Our day with Rahul and the elephants lasted for almost 8 hours and it was fantastic... no, no, it was ele-FANTASTIC.
Lunch is served.
Perfecting the wrapping of the elephant's nutritious lunch
Almost two hours of feeding.
Rahul's mom's delicious homemade lunch.
Laure learned to climb up the trunk.
And so did Q. We're ready to join the circus!
Testing our artistic skills on a moving canvas.
Believe it or not, turbans keep you cool and comfortable in hot weather.
Royal treatment.
Bath time for the elephant...and us.

Saturday we hired a private driver for the day and visited several of Jaipur's sights. We saw Jaipur City Palace (yawn), Jantar Mantar Observatory (interesting), and Hawa Mahal "Palace of Wind" (beautiful), all before lunch. We took our Lonely Planet Guide book's and Rahul's recommendation and stopped by Ganesh Vegetarian Restaurant for lunch. It's located on the roof of a few tourist shops in the old city and worth the extra effort to locate the stairs up to the roof. It was delicious and best of all it was very cheap.
Laure found the little bit of shade under Jantar Mantar's sundial.
Exploring the interior of the Palace of Wind.
The no-frills, open air kitchen at Ganesh Restaurant.
You'll have to trust us that the food at Ganesh to die for.

Before returning to our hotel to enjoy the pool, we stopped by Ladli. It's a non-profit organization that provides street kids with education, vocational training, and in cases of family abuse or forced prostitution they offered housing. We learned about the street kids being left behind as India races ahead to become an advanced country.
Q meeting the talented young lady that made several of the cards we bought.

Before heading to the airport, we made one last stop, Galwar Bagh, a.k.a. the Monkey Temple. With the a local young local kid tagging along we bought some nuts, which we handed out to lucky monkeys. Just as we're ready to head out, the kid informs us of his "helping" fee. We reluctantly give him half of his asking price of four US dollars. As we're walking out somewhat annoyed, a little girl (with the encouragement of her dad) puts her hands together and whispers "namaste" to Laure, whose heart melted instantly.
Another luck monkey.
"Where can I get a pair of those cargo shorts?"
A sacred pilgrimage of the Hindus
Here are a few more pictures from our adventure in Jaipur.

The best part about arriving in the airport early - a Cafe Coffee Day bended coffee.