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Published: November 9th 2006
.....he he he
We were happy to leave Agra. Though the Taj was stunning, the town itself wasn't anything too special and we'd been spending quite a bit of money on touristy things. The train ride to Jaipur went smoothly. On the way we befriended a British guy. His name is Ben. He's just started his trip of three or so months. We talked about the usual things, the absurdity of our president, the absurdity of our government, and things of that nature. We shared some good laughs and before we knew it we had reached Jaipur. (thanks Ben, for helping the time pass!)
We decided to meet up for dinner at the OM restaurant. The draw to this dining establishment is that it is on the top floor of a hotel and it revolves. I haven't experienced anything THAT exciting since an early childhood trip to Disneyland. So we had a delicious family style meal and stuffed our faces while we twirled around at lightning speed (one revolution in 45 minutes---hold your horses right?). With the semi countoured skyline of Jaipur splattered around us, we were delighted by pleasant conversation and even live Indian music. It was an
expensive evening for our standards, but who can really put a price on spinning around while eating?
So deciding that Ben is fun, we decided to meet up again today and check out the city palace. Max and i enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. Well, i should say, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. I was happy to have finally discovered some worthwhile south indian restaurant in the north, but max was less than impressed seeing as he had some tummy rumbles and just wanted toast. Anyway, i digress.
Our first stop on our little city tour was the Hawa Mahal, which used to house the ladies of the royal household. The basic consensus of our group was that we were all really there to see the "honeycomb thing" which so often graces postcard covers and advertisements for india. The palace was ok. There were lots of neat little windows and a troop of monkeys (which i always enjoy) so that was cool. Max and Ben were patient enough to let me snap my 100 photos and then we departed to actually see the facade of the palace, or as we know it, "the honeycomb thing."
THere's no parking
by the honeycomb thing so our driver gave us five minutes to take pictures. I found a really kind looking man who let me snap his picture, and in the process i almost stepped into a box of cobras. Turns out there was a snake charmer there too, so that was sort of novel.
Our driver then took us to the City Palace complex, but sort of brushed us into the Jantar Mantar, which is an observatory. We had no idea what the hell it was when we purchased the tickets, but we shrugged and had a go at it anyway. My first impression of the place was that it looked like a possible Pink Floyd album cover. There were all sorts of randomly shaped buildings and staircases leading to the sky and sun dials, etc. Had we hired a guide i'm sure the place would've been fascinating, but we had the sinking sun to contend with and were anxious to get to the palace. Later reading informed me that the planetarium contained forms that could chart the time and the sun's annual progress through the Zodiac, and some even calculated eclipses. But all of that was unbeknownst to
us at the time so we just made jokes about how the place needed a paint job and i made Ben pose in ridiculous positions in front of doorways.
We then entered the much anticipated City Palace. I couldn't tell you much about its history, but it was an attractive edifice. The walls were sort of a coral shade, and an inner columned sanctum housed big brass pots and some artwork. One of the highlights inside the palace was a courtyard that had four ornately painted and embellished doorways, most with a peacock theme. I was snapping my usual 100 shots and got yelled at by some french tourists for hogging the doorway. I wanted to tell them to take their agitated 'si vous plais' and shove it, but i resisted the urge. Upstairs in the palace was an arms museum that housed a rather impressive array of knives, swords, hatchets, and guns. Let's just say that upon perusal of the violent weapons used to exterminate fellow humans, i was thanking the universe for having me be born in a time where i don't have to see such combat.
After our city tour we decided to have another
'let's pretend we're rich' beer at a classy hotel in Jaipur that has polo fields. It has been visited by the Queen of England and Jackie O, and seems like a more authentic Raj era building than the hotel in Agra. We munched on olives and sipped cold beers. Good times. Afterwards we dropped ben at his hotel, booked some train tickets and said our goodbyes. (and ben if you ever read this, it was a pleasure meeting you and safe travels!)
Today was quite enjoyable. Our room here is much better and our pace is leisurely. Max and i woke when we felt like it, had breakfast on our patio and spent some time reading. I am at the moment labouring through Don Quixote, so it was a nice chance to knock out some of that. We hired a rickshaw driver to take us to the Amber Fort, which is about 11km out of town.
Construction on the fort began in 1592. Scholars maintain that "amber fort" is Spanish for "a whale's vagina"-----kidding.
The fort rises above a reflective lake. Outside is the usual barrage of touts and beggars. There are also elephants that cart
people up the hill, but it's kinda sad to see them because their kept in poor condition. I guess a lot of them suffer from dehydration and sunburn because they're not allowed to bathe and drink as much as they should. Poor guys. It's kind of a weird thing in Rajastan though. It's not uncommon to see any of the following animals: elephants, camels, horses, goats, pigs, cows, and dogs. It's like the circus meets the city.
Anywho. The Amber fort was cool. The Jai Mandir (Hall of Victory) is a mirrored collection of pillars and ceilings that used to be illuminated by candlelight each evening; a sight which i haven't seen, but am sure was beautiful. As usual, we forewent the guide and wandered haphazardly through the labyrinth of halls and stairs, through the 12 chambers for the kings wives and to various lookouts and back. Unfortunately, like most of the other palaces we've seen, it could use a face lift. It seemed that work had begun on this process though.
After the palace we went to Lassiwalla, which is a little corner cafe that we heard had yummy Lassis. (for those who aren't in the know,
a lassi is a yogurt based creamy beverage). To cut down on plastic waste, which is a huge problem here, the establishment served the lassis out of terra cotta cups. I watched in moderate horror as the guy scooped up the yogurt and more or less mixed the thing with his hands. After getting over the initial worry of dysentary and the odd feeling of drinking out of a flower pot, i thoroughly enjoyed my lassi. It was creamy and sweet and the perfect afternoon snack.
Max actually agreed to let me do some shopping. I promised my friend Marisol that i'd bring her back a sari, so for the first time i stepped into a sari shop and had a look. It is a hard thing, picking out a sari. The women here wear them so well, as i'm sure Marisol will as well. The colors are so freaking vibrant and it makes the women just look stunning. However, to me, up close the fabric looks really cheap. I was having a hard time picking something out. Then i just reached for a purple one and said i'd like to try it on. The man gave me a
quick sari tying lesson and outfitted me in the most brilliant orchid purple. One look in the mirror and i was sold. The fabric does look cheap, but even on a whitie like me it is striking. So, along with a sari for marisol, comes home a sari for me.
11/7/06 AMERICAN DAY
So, being that it is election day in the states, Max and i decided to take a break from India and celebrate capitalism, consumerism, and straight up gluttony. We reserved today to spoil ourselves and to patronize evil restaurant chains. We had a big breakfast at our hotel. Spent the morning reading. Then we went to Dr. Vinod so and so for a detailed astrological chart print out and palm reading. Turns out that max is going to get married in 2009, so maybe that bodes well for me? But he's also going to have two illegitamate children by another woman so maybe i shouldn't hold out. He's gonna live to be 89, but i'm only gonna make it to 86---too bad for me. It was not really worth the money, but a fun exercise in projection none the less.
Then we went to
McDonalds. Some memorable menu items: The Veg Pizza McPuff, The McAloo Tiki, Paneer Salsa Wrap, and my favorite-- the Vegetable Maharaja Mac.
From there we found a coffee shop where max indulged in a latte. We had made an evening appointment at an ayurveda massage center for a body type analysis and oil massage. In the analysis, a doctor basically asks you a bunch of lifestyle questions and determines which energies are predominant in your being. From that information he recommends food and activity that keep your energies in balance. It's hippy dippy stuff but i'm actually interested in pursuing more study in it, so it was kinda fun. The massage was interesting. Typically the massuese will leave the room while you undress. Here they just watch you and help you put on a diaper type thing to hide your bits. They start with your head and begin by massaging oil (really gross smelling and thick oil) into your scalp. THen they heat more of the nasty smelling oil and pour COPIOUS amounts of it all over your body and massage you. It feels kinda good but kinda gross as well. There's bizarre little farting squishy noises due to
the oil excess and it's all a bit weird. I was hoping that they had a shower i could utilize afterwards, but your supposed to let the oil soak in your skin for an hour. I left feeling nasty, and looking it too. My hair looked like i hadn't washed it for years, and i laughed when max came out of his massage with the same sort of look. We both agreed we felt pretty gross. But hey, it was an experience.
To cap off the night we went to Pizza Hut. I was tempted to break my travel vegetarianism and order some pepperoni, but in the end we stuck with veggie lovers. The crust was buttery and delicious anda nice taste of home. By the end of the day we felt disgusting and overfed----ah....the american way.
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