Through the eye of an elephant

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Asia » India » Rajasthan » Jaipur
August 26th 2015
Published: November 21st 2015
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We were both woken out of our deep sleep by the young indian guy who changes the bed linen on the trains. "Jodhpur" he says. Looking around us, the cabin was almost empty, like the people who were laying in their beds a few hours ago had snuck off in the night. Looking at our watch, it was only 6am. Relieved, we said we are going to Jaipur. We had at least another 4 hours. "No, Jodhpur" he said again. Given that we'd just woken up we were slightly confused; we understood where we were (in Jodhpur) but were not sure if this particular train had terminated and we needed to board a 'connecting' train. Due to our non existent hindi we couldn't get much info from the linen guy other then "Jodhpur" and the occasional head wobble. After getting off the train and running around franticly asking random people on the platform Chris was able to ascertain that we were still on the correct train. Panic over. Well that is until Chris went to use the trains toilet and the train started moving, causing P a mini heart attack as she thought was still on the platform!

The 35 degree heat hit us as we stepped off our train from our refreshingly cool ac cabin. Not as hot as Jaisalmer but still very hot. After checking into our hostel we decided we'd check out the old city, grab a lassi and also a bite to eat.

According to the map in our guide book the area we were in didn't seem too far from the old city so we opted to walk there. It was a long, hot, arduous walk down the busy road known as M.I road. Being the capital of Rajasthan, this felt like an Indian city, with its wide roads and fast food eateries (felt like its been a long time since we've seen a McDonalds).

We'd read about a popular lassi place called Lassi Walla and wanted to see if their lassi's were as good as the they say. We counted about 5 shops all with the exactly the same name (apparently theres 7 in total). It seems as though once one became slightly famous everybody wanted in on the action. We managed to locate the original store (via its 1944 sign). The lassi's were thick, creamy and not much different to other lassi's we'd tasted previously, save the intentional layer of thick skin plonked on top. All drinks are served in red clay cups, tourists have been known to pocket them as a souvenir. Drinks are that popular they usually sell out by about 3pm!

After lunch we ventured into the old pink city. The old city was very much like the small cities we'd visited such as Bundi and Jodhpur complete with dozing cows, honking tuk tuks, swerving bikes and locals going about their day. To be honest we're still not used to the full on craziness of it all. We walked round for maybe an hour or so taking in the atmosphere and some pictures at the same time. We passed through a street where it seemed all the stone masons worked, hand chiselling their way through marble and limestone to create some amazing figurines.

We found our walk a very pleasant experience as despite the craziness of it all people were very friendly and charming stopping us to say hello and where we were from. There were the men sat at a corner reading their papers drink Chai, the jovial boys walking their goat and the shy gigglying waving girls. The hectic city had clearly not changed people spirits which was nice and we never really felt hassled.

With the huge sun on its way down we haggled a price with a tuk tuk driver to take us back to our less hectic street.

The following day we arranged with our hostel a tuk tuk driver by the name of Rehan to take us to Jaipur's popular sites. First on the list was the Hawal Mahal aka The wind palace. Based inside the old city, the pink and red sandstone wind palace was the home of Maharaja Sawai Singh (now a museum). We walked around the complex under the uncomfortable heat, through the courtyard and up to the roof, where we were treated to fantastic views of the pink city. 

After the wind palace Rehan took us to the Amber fort, built in the 10th century. 7 miles outside of the city, the forts walls stretched out over the nearby hilltops resembling a mini Chinese Great Wall. We haggled a price for a half decent guide who seemed quite jovial and offered a lot of hand slaps and high fives for his own jokes.

The downside with this particular guide was that he was always trying to cross sell is something after every sentence he spoke i.e fabric stores, elephant rides, day trips.

The palace itself was beautiful and intricately designed with a well kept garden and large courtyard. A common theme in all of the palaces is a room decorated with small mirrors in mosaic fashion. The reason for these kind of rooms is for candle light to be reflected throughout the room. This one made the light twinkle like stars - ingenious and designed stunningly.  One thing that caught our eye was the pretty graphic karma sutra images painted in some of the archways - way too graphic for us to upload.  Haha.

Just behind the Amber fort is the practically abandoned Jaigarh fort which once housed the kings soldiers. Apparently that fort is overgrown with vegetation and there's nothing to see inside, so we hopped back in our tuk tuk to our next stop.

During our research we'd read about one organisation that offers tourists the opportunity to either ride, bathe, feed or even paint (yes paint) an elephant. Being a quite popular organisation the price for this experience was set pretty high. Because of this we never inquired any further. There are other organisations, much smaller than the aforementioned elefantastic company. Rehan offered to take us to this elephant village he had links with. He said we could go have a look and if we were happy then we could maybe feed and bathe elephants, if we weren't happy then we could leave. Fine with us, plus we had no desire to paint one.

Our main concern was the welfare of the animals kept, we didn't want to feed the harmful industry of animal abuse. We'd read many a story on the mistreatment of elephants in captivity in Asia. Arriving at the village we were pleased to see the elephants weren't chained up and didn't seem to be in any visible form of distress. Still unsure, the guy who ran the elephant village reassured us the elephants were well cared for,  fed well and were bathed and walked everyday. He even highlighted the general understanding of how bad the wooden elephant seats can be to an elephant. 

Feeling more at ease, we got up and joined the group of French girls already feeding and petting the gentle giants. We were introduced to Layla, a friendly and calming creature. We were able to get very close to Layla, feeding her reeds whilst admiring her beauty. The manager convinced Chris to climb on top of her. Chris said he almost felt like a Maharana (king) being up top. The manager then asked P if she wanted to go up but she refused not feeling the need to ride it. 

Mistaking her reluctance as solely fear (she still had her reservations due to the whole elephant in capativity idea), the manager made it his personal challenge to get P on top of an elephant, at one point getting all workers and the French girls to clap and cheer her on.  She gave in but could not really enjoy or relax. Rather than the trunk lift and scramble on method, he led P to a set of steps (like a cherry picker) so she could easily slide onto the elephant.

Not happy with her lack of impressed state, he even had the elephant walk around for a minute or so with P on it. He was determined to make her enjoy it. No one else actually got that experience. After getting off, P still had her reservations. For Chris the experience was amazing he wasn't sat on those terrible seats and enjoyed getting so close to these gentle creatures. For P however she read an article after returning, about the abusive treatments elephants go through to take them from being the wild animals as they are to tourist/local riding creatures and so was deeply saddened she had contributed to such an industry. She wondered if people knew about this. See following article:

With the sunset drawing near we hopped back into our tuk tuk and headed to Galta Ji temple aka Monkey temple. At the top of a hill lies an active temple, the whole area zig zagging up the hill is covered with cheeky macaque monkeys. After our experience in China we're always dubious when it comes to monkeys. Walking up, we passed a number of monkeys rexaling on the wall. We even spotted one monkey riding a pig! Ha not something you see everyday.

At one point it seemed all the monkeys went a bit crazy with excitement and started to rush in our direction. Turns out they recognised an approaching car; the driver stopped, got out and started handing out bananas. Don't think we ever seen monkeys so excited before.

On our way up we also passed by a holy man with thick long dreadlocks, smoking marajuana seemingly content with life. To be honest we never actually made it to the temple at the top of hill. We didn't really need to, we could see exactly what we came up here for - the beautiful sunset over the pink city of Jaipur.

Transportation: Jaisalmer to Jaipur 13 overnight train cost1016 rupees each AC3

Accommodation: Vinayak Hotel

Additional photos below
Photos: 44, Displayed: 28


21st November 2015

Another good adventure!
We are continuing to enjoy your adventures. Glad you are conscientious about the elephants. We rode them up to the Amber Fort when we were in Jaipur and felt sorry for them standing in the heat all day. I remember the Hawa Mahal had scaffolding up for repairs and I was really looking forward to photographing it. One of our favorite cities in India. I related well to your story of "getting separated" on the train. It is one of the most frightening things to think of being in a foreign land and not knowing where your travel partner is! Thanks for sharing your journey with us!
22nd November 2015

Another adventure
No problem. Thanks you for reading and sharing your views. Even though we know it will work out if we do get seperated... in that exact moment all I felt was panic and dred 😊
22nd November 2015

One of the cutest photos I've seen in a long time! I know exactly how P felt about the elephants - my desire to be near elephants has to be balanced with not contributing towards their suffering, but it's such a complex issue. And with even greater habitat loss with expanding human numbers in Asia, the problem is only going to get worse :(
22nd November 2015

Yes I agree, the challenge of keeping them safe is a real complex one. They are hardly protected in the wild or in capactivity. In capativity they can be overused and abused for tourism's sake and in their own habitat they are ay risk of being captured and killed for their ivory. More standards need to be implemented to keep them safe 😯
22nd November 2015
Village life on outskirts of town

Village life
Is a life like this simple or complicated. Ah, so many questions.
22nd November 2015
Village life on outskirts of town

Village Life
A question that will evokes a lot of thought... makes a really tranquil picture though 😊
22nd November 2015

Sunset over Jaipur
Special moments in each town. India is a mix of emotions.
23rd November 2015

A good read
I was wondering if you had internet connection in your smartphone or did you write the blog in a cybercafe.
23rd November 2015

Re: A good read
Thank you Bhuvanesh. Whilst in India we did have internet data on our smartfone but also used the wifi at the hostels we stayed at. Generally the wifi is good. We write most of our blogs on our phone. We do also have a small laptop although we rarely use it as it can be difficult to take out sometimes. Thanks for reading.
27th November 2015

That is funny
That is one funny photo. You were lucky to catch that one. /Ake

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