India Part 6: More of Jaipur

IMG_5354I talked about the Amber Fort in Jaipur in my last update.  I actually spent three days in Jaipur, so I saw more of the famous palace/fortress complexes in Rajasthan.

Jaipur City Palace

City Palace was built by the Mughal ruler of the region almost 300 years ago.  As with Amber Fort, it contains a few palaces, courtyards and temples surrounded by walls that would have provided protection.  It’s actually still in use for some sort of ceremonial purpose, so I found it to be more preserved than Amber Fort.  However, it was much smaller.IMG_5508IMG_5514 IMG_5515 The photo below is of the largest object made out of silver in the world.  There are two of these in City Palace.  No joke, they’re actually in Guinness.  They’re jugs made from around 14,000 melted silver coins.  I didn’t see anything indicating what might have been put in the jars, but one story I found said they were once used to carry water from the Ganges River (very holy river in India).  You can see the reflection of me taking a photo in the one below.IMG_5519 IMG_5523IMG_5524 IMG_5525 IMG_5527 There was some kind of ceremony going on that day in City Palace.  Vicky said it looked like a foreign dignitary was in town and visiting the palace based on the various outfits and pageantry going on.IMG_5533IMG_5541 IMG_5543 IMG_5538

Jaigarh Fort

This fort rested on a hill even higher than the Amber Fort.  It wasn’t as elaborately decorated as Amber and City Palace, but a description of the place read that it was designed solely for defensive purposes, so lacked any aesthetically pleasing characteristics.  In all the centuries it was used as a fort, it was never taken by an invading army, so the design seems to have fulfilled its purpose.

IMG_5551The langur monkeys were all over the grounds of Jaigarh Fort.   I mentioned in my last post how these guys are more friendly and safer to be around then the rhesus or red faced monkeys.  They also had more humanlike body language and facial expressions which made them a little more creepy to me.IMG_5557IMG_5559 IMG_5549Random Jaipur Sites

When I was in France, I visited a city called Toulouse that was nicknamed the Pink City.  Jaipur is also referred to the Pink City as you can see from the photos below why this is.

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Sun Temple

At one end of the main road in Jaipur was this other big hill with an active hindu temple situated at the top called the Sun Temple.  Here was the main gate at the bottom of the hill.

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The hike up the hill was kind of funny.  There were tons of red face monkeys everywhere.  They were climbing the walls, walking along the path, sitting on the backs of goats.  It was hilarious.  Vicky warned me to be very careful with so many monkeys around, and not to have my phone out or carry anything else in my hands.  At one point, this older western couple in front of us stopped to take photos.  The monkeys began to gather around them thinking they had food.  There was a commotion of some kind, and then the monkeys went a little crazy.  The monkeys started screaming and attacking each other.  I thought to myself, “crap, I’m getting rabies today”.  I was honestly a little freaked out.  They were running all around us, but seemed to be avoiding us as well which was a relief.  We calmly just walked out of there, and Vicky warned the couple not to stop for too long and take photos since it made the monkeys believe they had food for them.  I wish I had some photos of that scene, but it’s probably better I didn’t have my phone out.

We finally reached the top of the hill, and here’s what awaited us.

IMG_5602IMG_5611We were rewarded with some great views of Jaipur from the Sun Temple area.IMG_5607Jaipur Eats

I loved the food in India, and Jaipur was no exception.  One side benefit of having a guide was that I worried less about trying street food.  I really didn’t want to miss out on the Indian street food despite all the warnings I read about.  I trusted Vicky to guide me through the options, and he didn’t steer me wrong.  He and Victor had been to these cities we were visiting numerous times, and between them, they knew of all the good spots to eat.  Vicky also said he could tell by the smell of the oil being used to cook the food if it was going to make him sick.  I think the main key is just to make sure the street food you’re eating is at a place with high turnover, and looks popular with locals.  I think most Americans with our Western sensabilities would have a problem eating at some of the places in the photos below.  But in India, they’re all pretty normal and standard.  Check them out:

Street lassi… A lot of people in the States have probably tried mango lassi.  In India, you can find lassi being served in these tiny ceramic clay cups on the side of the road.  They’re a nice refreshing treat on a warm day.  The downside to them is that everyone throws the cups away when done.  Seems like a huge waste.

IMG_5347 One of the things that I noticed early on in our week long trek through the Golden Triangle was that Victor, our driver, would stop at these restaurants where I would go in one door and eat.  Then he and Vicky would go through another door to a different part of the same building to eat.  I soon realized I was going into the tourist part of the restaurant with the nice clean floor, surfaces, well dressed servers, and overpriced food.  They thought I would want a more Western style restaurant, and not be able to handle a typical hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant just off the street.  Seriously, the prices in these tourist places were near what I would pay in the States for the same food.  Grant it, still relatively cheap, something like $6-$7 for a meal.  But in India, you should be getting meals for around $1.50.  I complained, and Victor started taking me to the real places where we could all eat together, and still get the traditional Indian food.  It wasn’t about the money for me.  I wanted to eat the same food as everyone else.  Honestly, despite the warnings I had about how spicy the food could be, I was totally fine.  I also never got the infamous Delhi belly 🙂IMG_5499IMG_5497More street lassi, although, this time in a bag.IMG_5613

IMG_5620I wish I could remember the name of the dish below.  It was like a potato cake with chic peas and spices.  Really, really, good.  Wow, India had the best street food of any place I’ve ever been on my whole trip.IMG_5619The stainless steel plates and bowls you see in Indian restaurants in the States are the norm here as well.
IMG_5628Jaipur Textiles

This next part is going to seem like I’m losing my mind, but one of the items on my India agenda was to buy a nice rug.  Jaipur is known for its textiles, and I was kind of curious to see what might be available for a cheap price.  I don’t have a place to call home at the moment.  I sold my house last June before I left for my trip.  I also went through a lot to unload most of my possessions.  I would never spend thousands of dollars back home for a hand sewn rug, but in India, such goods can be purchased for hundreds of dollars.  I liked the idea of having something in my future home decor to remind me of my travels, and a cool Indian rug seemed appropriate.

The high-end rugs in Jaipur are hand sewn by two rug makers over a period of six months.  Another person then spends a month trimming the rug fibers down by hand to produce the finished pattern you see.  I fourth person then burns the bottom of the rug in a very delicate way to rough up the bottom.  The effect of this is that you don’t need a rug pad underneath to keep it in place.  The rug shops even have slick marble floors and challenge you to pull the rug.  The weight of the hand sewn material and the roughed up bottom make it very difficult.IMG_5501

I ended up getting a hand sewn camel wool rug for $800.  It cost another $100 to ship home.  I admit, I regretted buying it the next day. In the end, I rationalized it by telling myself that I was buying it for future-me.  Present-me thinks it’s stupid to buy something for a home you don’t have.  But future-me will enjoy it someday when he’s done being a vagabond and has an awesome rug that will remind him of his travels abroad.  Check it out…

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So that wraps up Jaipur.  Although not as crowded or noisy as Delhi, Jaipur is still pretty huge and can get crazy.  It’s home to three million people which is more than the population of Chicago.  Jaipur is only the 10th largest city in India too, which is staggering to think of.  Our group spent three nights there, the longest of any city on our trek through the Golden Triangle.  The palaces, fortress complexes, good food and textiles made there make it a must stop for any tourist in Northern India.

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