Jaipur: The Pink City
I decided from the start of this travel blog not to bore you with historical details. I figure if you are really interested, you can glean further information from numerous books or multiple other websites. The vast breadth of historical information makes touring India like one big museum with endless wings and exhibits. There is something for everyone; from scholars to shoppers, from poets to prophets, this place has it all.
Jaipur, like all “small” cities in India, is far from small. More than 5 million people live here. Considered one of the best-planned cities by most urbanists, this place still can make you feel like a rat in a maze. The town was painted pink to honor the Prince of Wales in 1853 and the tradition still continues.
Today we travel through the Old City, stopping briefly to visit the Hawa Mahal “Palace of Winds”. Fantastical architecturally, this façade served the many Maharajah’s wives shielding them from view, while allowing them to gaze upon the streets below.
Perched upon a rocky promontory overlooking the city is the Amber Fort. A vast imposing, somewhat menacing structure from the outside, the interior is luxuriously ornate. Multiple rooms in the palace are covered in thousands of tiny mirrors forming a kaleidoscope of refracted light. One of the best features of this place is the ability to take an elephant ride up the steep slope, not only saving a few calories, but also giving one an experience not soon forgotten.
This may sound silly, but my husband and I have a thing for riding on local wildlife. If it can be saddled (and sometimes even if it can’t), we have tried to ride it. Horses, donkeys, ostriches, mules, oxen, bison, and camels, even the occasional dolphin, stingray, and other sea critters have been sampled. These elephants come with a driver and a large platform (saddle) that seems to be precariously held in place by festive straps. For you fellow animal lovers, the elephants are treated well and protected by a local animal rights agency. My husband rode elephants in Thailand at the Surin Elephant Festival and thus thought himself an old pro. What a goofball. I still have nightmares of pitching over the parapet while, lets just call him, "retardo', stands up to take a “wait, this will be cool” picture. With the gentle, turbaned elderly driver suddenly shouting obscenities (you didn’t need to understand the local dialect to know these words were not nice), the entire saddle slowly rotated, throwing us all headlong to certain death. Somehow, the driver was able to right the contraption, but by then we had an entire entourage of onlookers laughing, pointing and taking pictures. Always make you feel good when you are surrounded by stunning scenery, breathtaking architecture, and everyone is taking pictures of you.
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