Day 11: Jaipur
The Pink City
I know what you’re thinking. But no. Jaipur is not known as the Pink City because a boatload of gay men and 2 lesbians visited there. The real story is that it’s due to the pinkish color of the stone used in construction of all buildings. That plus the fact that the Maharaja in 1876 decided to paint the whole town pink to welcome Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales on their first tour there. Since then it’s become the law; no matter how many queens come over.
The city’s “must see” sight is Amber Fort. Started in 1592 and then expanded later, this magnificent fort/palace was indeed a show stopper, but it was the elephant ride up that made it exciting. We were intrigued about the possibility of riding an elephant when we first heard about it, but our tour books talked about some concerns regarding animal welfare. We checked with Jeff, our tour operator, and learned that changes had been made to ensure the elephants were treated well and were not put in a position that could cause injury, so up we climbed.
Some of you faithful readers may recall my near death experience with a charging wild elephant on our South Africa trip. (OK, maybe I exaggerate in hindsight, but you try taking deep calming breaths in a jeep while a big ass elephant comes from behind and lays his trunk on your shoulder.) This was a much more pleasant experience, and other than being flung across the saddle box like a deck chair on the Titanic, it wasn’t bad at all.
The fort/palace was quite stunning with stairways, courtyards, and easy access hallways for the maharaja to make social calls on his concubines. We marveled at the history and craftsmanship of the inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings still gorgeous more than four centuries later.
We took a jeep ride down from the fort since the elephants are protected from injury by not being allowed to walk down with passengers. After a short bus ride, we visited an artisan coop known for it’s textile and rug craft. We were fascinated to watch demonstrations of the artistry and skill of hand stamping fabric design and couldn’t believe how the rug makers could reproduce a pattern while working with hundreds of strands of yarn at one time. After the artisan demo came the sales pitch. I dodged a bullet when Johnny thought we “needed” to buy a rug for under our dining table, and even though we could use one, I didn’t want to take a chance guessing about size. We did pick up a silk tie with elephants on it for him and a fun table runner with elephants on it for the house, so don’t be alarmed if you notice an elephant theme next time you visit.
John went on to an additional tour to yet another palace and a planetarium. I decided to opt out to have some down time and get a little writing done. We ended our evening with dinner with Eileen and Cindy at our palatial hotel and played our usual game of “Highlights So Far.” The rickshaw ride in Old Delhi is still on the short list but the boat cruise is a strong contender for number one.
Based on the parts we’ve seen from our one day tour, we’re thinking Jaipur is our favorite city thus far. It seems cleaner and less chaotic than Delhi and Kolkata, but I’m sure there are parts we haven’t seen that would contradict that. I loved learning about the majestic past of palace life and juxtaposing that with the rich heritage of unknown artisans and craftspeople who created such enduring beauty. And of course, what’s not to love about all those pink buildings extending a warm welcome to this fabulous city, even if you’re not a queen.