Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ram Ram Jaipur!

We're back from a mini vacation to Jaipur, which is northern state of Rajasthan. We took an overnight train and reached The Pink City at 4 a.m. Jaipur is called The Pink City because all buildings are required to be some shade of pink/peach. After a little more rest to recover from the shaky sleeper cars, we visited the Birla Mandir temple. However, Monday was a holy day and most sites were closed. So we did the next best thing: shop! We browsed through modest boutiques and crowded street markets to look at salwar kameez and souvenirs.We packed most of the sites on Tuesday. First, we went to the Albert Museum and weaved through rooms of international art. Some locals harassed us, so it was difficult to fully appreciate all the artifacts. After that, we went to the City Palace, full of royal textiles and courtyards.

Right next to the City Palace was Jantar Mantar, an observatory consisting of sun dials and other astronomical instruments. A tour guide walked us through the calculations and mechanics of the planets and the sun. It was out of this world! :P

Our taxi maneuvered through congested traffic to take us to the forts. The sun was setting as we approached the forts and shed a perfect orange on the Glass Palace, the Jal Mahal.

We had a long drive down to Chokhi Dhani, a youthful, cultural amusement park (imagine Medieval Times on steroids). There was always something eye-catching: men swallowing fire, elephant rides, Rajasthani dances, camels stampeding an inch away, people standing on nails, colorful gift shops, tightrope walkers, women dancing with clay pots on their heads.

On our last day in Jaipur, we went to the Hawa Mahal, the stunning Palace of Winds. It had steep staircases, low hand rails, 50-foot drops, but a beautiful facade. After climbing through narrow passages, the view overlooked the old city. Past the haze, we could point out most of the sites we visited before.

As we wrapped up our stay in Jaipur, we realized a major issue with our train tickets back home. We reserved seats from Delhi to Ahmedabad, even though we would board in the middle of the route. The travel agent was supposed to contact Delhi before the train left to confirm our attendance, but never did so. Therefore, the ticket master in Delhi assumed we were absent and sold our seats to another family.

When we boarded the train in Jaipur and found our seats already taken, we were left standing in the aisles as the train left the station. The ticket master could not throw us out because we had the tickets in our hands, but we were forced to produce makeshift beds and cut deals with other passengers to at least have a place to sit. The other passengers (except the ones who took our seats) were very helpful and cooperative. Without them, the night would have been a nightmare, even if Joe had to sleep next to the latrine and Sophia and Sonya had to share one upper berth.

Although we ran into some trouble, the Jaipur trip was undoubtedly an adventure.

Sorry for the long wait and happy new year!

Joe and Sophia