I am remiss not to have mentioned it before but it really took a village of help in order for me to be able to get away from home and the kiddos for 11 days. My husband took this on without question, have I mentioned lately how fantastic he is? I also had several friends and family who helped take care of the girls while I was away. They were taken such good care of and had so much fun I don’t even think they really missed me all that much! So a HUGE thank you to Sarah, Nancy, Erin, Ali, Kim, all the giggling polka dot ponies who took Charlotte in for camp and of course Greg!
From Agra we kept our driver with us and he took us to Jaipur. The road has recently been re-done and it was good to get out of the cities and see a bit of the small towns along the road side. On the way our driver shared with us the 3 keys to driving in India;. a good horn, a good break and good luck! During the 3.5 hour drive I made a list of all of the things I saw: camels pulling flat beds of goods and or people, trucks with packed overflowing with goods, a truck bed with several tractors, brick making in fields, crops – mustard, beets, potatoes and more, tractors going the wrong direction on the highway, there were small towns or villages every 5-10 miles, bulls tied up in front of homes of businesses, cows roaming, bamboo scaffolding rickety holding up buildings in progress, dung patties a plenty, toll stops every 30-45 minutes, at the rest stop that had decent bathrooms we also did some shopping, many motorcycles with 2-4 people on them (generally men wear helmets- woman and kids do not), hut style houses, some brick homes – some colorfully painted and plastered, roadside restaurants with outdoor seating, as we got closer to Jaipur there was lots of stone work for sale – carved decorations you might see at the gates and in gardens and home of the wealthy, many people carrying sacks on their heads, roadside markets with fruits and other goods, herds of goats and a few herd of sheep, the nicest buildings seem to be the schools, little speed bumps to slow traffic as you approach and pass through each town, some cars jam packed with people – we saw one car similar to an Isuzu jeep that had 20-25 people in and hanging on the back of the car. Quite a lot to look at!
Driving into Jaipur we noticed that the roads were better kept, there seemed to be city service that were improved from our previous cities in terms of trash collection and cleanliness as well. Once in the city we made our way to our hotel which was a lovely old palace converted to a hotel. It is one of the few nice hotels within the city walls and I would highly recommend it. The Samode Haveli was quaint and charming and the service was great. We ate several meals at the restaurant there and were very pleased, they even had live music at dinner to add the the atmosphere. I had to laugh as Nadia and I actually got table side Indian tech support logging onto the wi-fi network on our phones. After a quick check-in with tea, we dropped off our stuff and were out to see some of the sights with our guide Gautam Jopat, yes he’s on facebook and we would highly recommend him! We started at the Jantar Mantar a world heritage site with ancient clocks and instruments to tell the seasons and astrological signs. From there it was a short walk to the City Palace where there is actually a royal family living there. It was honestly not the most exciting site, but we’d seen some pretty spectacular ones so not too surprising that it paled in comparison. There were many workers preparing for a wedding there that evening, but unfortunately we were not asked to attend. We did a bit of shopping and returned to the hotel for a nice shower and dinner.
The next morning was our elephant ride!! This was another highlight of the trip, I took a video which mostly features the shrill excitement in my voice as we got on and started our ride. Way too embarrassing to post here but I have to say is was quite a fantastic experience! Disclaimer the elephants are checked out by a veterinarian each morning and are only allowed a specific number of trips and the elephants seemed well taken care of and happy. (I did feel a little guilty about it after the fact) Mid-ride there were people running on top of these walls that were about 6 inches wide and 30 feet off of the ground taking photos and then they developed them and had them ready by the time your were done touring the fort. Also while I was taking a couple of shots with my iphone the neighbor elephant driver asked for my phone and took a couple of pics for us too! These were taken by Gautam for us with my camera:
The elephants took us on about a 10 minute ride up to the Amber Fort. We once again had a very informative tour and enjoyed all the lovely details. The screens you see in many of the forts and palaces were built so the women could see out without being seen. The patterns so pretty and the view from the top of the hill just gorgeous. There is an ancient wall built on the surrounding mountains which we were told is second in length to the great wall of China.
One of my favorite shots above from the trip, this lady was taking a break from sweeping in the Amber Fort. We saw many people sweeping, in the monuments, on dirt roads, the thing is we didn’t really see them sweeping the dirt into a container to be removed – just sweeping with handmade brooms.
After our tour we went to lunch, then went to a fabric store where we saw the block printing in action which was neat – I bought a new beach blanket and some napkins and placemats with an elephant print of course.
After a bit more shopping we headed back for an afternoon of relaxing at the hotel where Lisa and I took a private yoga class which was great. Another nice dinner at our hotel before waking early to catch our flight for the last leg of our trip.