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Jaipur: Day 1– Ali’s Grand Tour

March 23, 2011

I recently met up with a friend who’s going to India soon and was interested in finding out a bit about some of my destinations, including Jaipur. My response was something to the effect that it was cool buuuuuut… It was raining? We found ourselves to be pretty exhausted by that point? We’d made the acquaintance of a rickshaw driver/tour guide whose presence became both a blessing and a curse? Basically that I was glad we went, but at the same time I wasn’t left with the best overall memories.

Editing the photos for this post served to change that a bit. One of the bustling centers of India’s deserty Rajasthan province with the walled “Pink City” (I’m sure Laura remembers better than me the tale of a royal personality with a penchant for gambling who colored it to match a lover’s rosy cheeks), Jaipur provided yet another unique element to our travels. We rode camels (for five minutes down a highway), we went to a guru to have our palms read (though are suspicions were raised when we saw that he worked out of a jewelry store), we finally saw a Bollywood movie, and we even went to a Muslim wedding.

But first we had another long train ride. And of course, it just happened to be one of the biggest festival times in Rajasthan, so the train was a mad house. There weren’t beds for all the people on the train, and particularly in our car, and particularly in our berth. Parents were doubling up with their kids and a blanket was laid on the floor and a small child was laid to rest there (next to Wayne, mind you, who was afraid the whole night that he’d hastily get out of bed and completely squash the girl).

notice the camel! we passed a HUGE gathering of people with camels, presumably to celebrate the festival, but i wasn’t quick enough on the draw

a new breed of bovines

some musical entertainment to pass the time

When we got off the train, we were instantly approached by this man who offered to give us a ride, at what seemed like a reasonable price, to some hotel that also seemed reasonably priced. Not wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth we accepted, but committed once again the folly of making assumptions in India. This time our assumption was that, after ascertaining the barbaric amounts of luggage we had in tow, no one would dare offer us a ride in anything with fewer than four wheels. Instead we ended up all crammed into one Little-Rickshaw-That-Could.

Our driver introduced himself as Ali and mentioned that he was also a tour guide– if we’d like, he could meet us in the morning and take us around. We could see the Pink City, the Water Palace, camels, whatever we wanted. Seeing as how he’d already been so helpful, we said sure. True to his word he showed up the next morning and we hit the town. First stop was the post office so Laura could ship some stuff home like she’d been talking about for ages, then we went into the Pink City, to this tall minaret in the middle of the city that gave us some good views (further research has reminded me it was the Iswari Minar Swarga Sal, or “Heaven-Piercing Minaret”).

gate to the pink city, that’s actually a little more orange right now

ali and his pride and joy

thar she blows

view of tiger hill from the minaret

ceiling detail

cheesin

next stop: jantar mantar, the old observatory that is now a unesco world heritage site

aries

more street shots

not the palmist we actually went to. ali assured us he had a guru that we should go see if we were interested in that kind of thing. some of his readings seemed to have something to them, but the first thing he said to me was, ‘you will die.’ he also was REALLY pushing us to do mineral therapy to balance our chakras, which seemed convenient considering that he ran a jewelry store.

an old mausoleum, if i remember correctly.

goof

stop… camel time.

critters on the highway. water palace in the background

painted up for the festival

the car in the back is thinking, ‘ugh i should have known if i left at that time i’d end up behind the elephant and the fruit vendor!’

sad sack!

hahahahaha… how uncomfortable does laura look?!

the baaaaby

haha… my face.

back on solid ground

randomly overexposed shot that came out pretty cool

walked by our rickshaw

Ali then took us to a fair trade textile factory. I know this doesn’t sound astoundingly interesting, but it was actually kind of cool. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the labor system in India has some sketchy aspects. Historically women aren’t encouraged to work, and people of the lowest caste aren’t allowed to, at least not alongside people of higher castes. According to Ali, a while back there was a good mayor of Jaipur that started an initiative where single women who are trying to support families and Untouchables in the same situation can work and make a fair wage. The factory we went to operated on these terms. The picture above is of wooden stamps used to make designs on saris, one of which I had the pleasure of trying on. Though the items were a little pricier than what we could have found in a market, we thought it was for a good cause and bought a few scarves.

lots of gold dust in the air


getting wrapped in six feet of fabric

ta da!

went to one last temple

anyone else singing ‘baaaand on the run!’ in their head? it was wedding season so we saw these guys all over the place. not generally stuffed into the back of a rickshaw, but, you know…

We were very happy with our excursion around the town and happy with Ali as a tour guide, but he was beginning to wear out his welcome a bit (and trying to get maybe a little too close to Laura…). We asked for a recommendation for a dinner location, and he took it as an invitation. Finally we had to tell him that the next day we’d prefer to just entertain ourselves, but not before he invited us to his friend’s wedding our last night in town. We thought that was a great reason to hang out with ol’ Ali just once more, and said we’d be happy to join. But more on that later.

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