Tuesday, September 10, 2019

India: Part 9 - Jaipur

We piled into a big van early in the morning for a five-hour drive to Jaipur. Rest stop for bathrooms and chai. And a camel sighting.

Upon arrival into Jaipur, we checked into our lovely hotel. I would definitely stay here again.

My room was off this little courtyard. I had a small twin bed, and we joked that it was a little nun's room.

Time to start exploring Jaipur - back into the van we go.

Jaipur is known as the pink city - pink city gates all around the center. Other cities in the Rajasthan province have colors (Jodhpur is the blue city, Udaipur is the white city). If/when I come back to India, I'd like to spend more time in this area.

First stop - learning about hand block printing! That NY Times link covers that subject well. I found it so fascinating. Basically these are wooden blocks with designs carved in. You dip them in natural dyes and create patterns all over fabric. But to add multiple colors, you have to stamp over an existing print with a different block, meaning you need to be precise. But most of this is done by hand. It's an incredible art.

Here's a demo.

And the finished print! But then imagine doing this all over a large fabric - sheets, a tablecloth, etc.

All the dyes - natural, plant based.

I found this whole place so fascinating.

The shop next door is full of their beautiful textiles. Definitely on the tourist path and you'd probably find a slightly better deal somewhere, but I didn't care. A few people in our group ordered some custom pants and shirts, delivered the next day to our hotel. I stuck with blankets and wished I'd had room for more. Of course you can find this stuff online in lots of places, but it's just so much more fun to go to India and pick it out yourself. Thank goodness they take AMEX.

After shopping, we went on a bit of a walking tour through Jaipur. The bus took all our stuff back to the hotel, so we were hands free.

There are seven city gates, I think from the early 18th century.

That night Parik managed to get tickets for us to see one of India's biggest movies ever that opened that weekend - Shankar's 2.0. It cost around $80 million to make, it's so over the top and ridiculous, and what an experience to see it at one of India's most famous theaters, the Raj Mandir. It's very opulent inside.

The lobby was a bit dark, but you get the point.

This group of ladies was quite dressed up for the occasion.

And then another group of ladies found me really fascinating for some reason, and they all wanted to take photos with me. Mark in my group snapped this, but it's quite dark and blurry. I took photos with them for several minutes - group photos, individual ones, even engagement style type photos. So hilarious. And better than the usual 'selfie, selfie' request.

Here's a little snippet of the film. It's about killer mobile phones.  Everyone cheers and yells and claps during the whole movie. And it was quite long, I think I left at intermission. But such a fun experience.

View from my hotel room, over the front courtyard.

Day two in Jaipur - swung by the Palace of the Winds or the Hawa Mahal. I'm sure you've seen it on Instagram if you follow any travel influencer. Our driver pulled over, we hopped out of the car, spent just a few minutes, and went on our way. None of this fussy Instagram posing for the perfect shot, thank goodness.

It was designed for all the royal ladies to be able to watch what was going on, without having to show their faces, cause they weren't allowed to be out without covering up.

We drove a little to the outskirts of the city, up to Amber Fort. There are a few forts up here that you can visit, but we only did this one, which is part of a UNESCO site covering several forts in the Rajasthan area. It has many gates and lookout areas, including tunnels and paths to go up to the next fort should danger approach.

I think we had to park far away and take a jeep to the bottom of the fort. From here you can walk up the rest of the way or take an elephant. But please, please don't ride the elephants. The climate here is too hot for them and many of them are partially blind. They may seem okay, but they have not been treated well.

There's a big caravan of elephants and plenty of other people doing it, but just don't.

Okay, getting into the fort. It's made up of several courtyards, palaces and gardens.

For a few minutes no one was in this area, so Parik yelled at me to run up to snap a photo. It's one of my favorites of me from this trip.

The detail is just incredible all around.

I think this area was the royal private residence, lots of ornate stuff here and the Palace of Mirrors.

Who's got time to make all this?

Very stylish Japanese tourists.

I love this blue stuff.

They dress so cool.

On the way back into town we stopped at Jal Mahal, the lake palace. It's not currently open to the public, but I hear there are some development plans in place for it.

Jaipur is also known for gem polishing. Gems end up here from all over the world to be cut and polished. We quickly stopped into a place to see this in action while we sipped some chai. A few people in the group picked up some jewelry and gemstone eggs, but I'd already spent all my money on textiles.

Then we popped over to Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory from the early 1700s. It's a collection of huge structures that are really accurate, even today. One of the sundials can give the time to within 2 seconds.

It's definitely worth a visit.

More afternoon shopping. Stationary and other paper goods are so beautiful, especially since it's wedding season. For a gift you buy a pretty envelope and fill it with cash. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the streets.

Lots of construction going on in the city center. I think some of this is for a metro line.

Flowers up on the roof.

We tried to get one of the famous lassis of Jaipur, but it was sold out for the day. Oh well, more time for textiles. I think we did end up settling on ice cream somewhere that was kind of mediocre.

Time to say goodbye to Jaipur and move along!

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