The next stop on the itinerary was Jaipur. This is not only the home to yet another *seriously* wealthy ruler of India, a Maharaja, but is also the center of India’s precious and semi-precious stone market…. Let’s just say that above and beyond the sights, the shopping was incredible. I totally lived up to the family motto, “We came, we saw, we shopped!”
We saw all the major sights… the city palace (where we saw the largest sterling silver “things” in the world. They are vessels to hold water from the Ganges and they are bigger than I am!). Also on the list of things to see was the Jantar Mantar Observatory. These are a bunch of instruments that track celestial bodies and the sun accurate to withing a couple of seconds, literally, and they were built 250 years ago! If you didn’t know that they were that old, when you walk into the garden containing them, you would think that you had just entered a modern sculpture garden. Truly amazing!
Then we went to the Amber Fort. It lies just north of Jaipur (while it might not be far as the crow flies, it takes about 30 minutes to get there due to India’s roads and driving techniques). Again an amazing place that shows not only India’s strength, but how absolutely wealthy these rulers were! While the fort and its surrounding structures were impressive, what I really liked here were the elephants. Before you freak out and go all “PETA” on me, these elephants are treated extremely well, this is India after all and they are revered as gods…. So these elephants are owned by individual families and this is what they do to get their required exercise. Their handlers (emplyed by the families) walk them to the fort where tourists pay (a government sanctioned fixed fee) to ride them up the hill to the Amber Fort. When they are at the top, they let the tourists off on a big platform (that has been used for this for centuries) and go down and do it again. Each elephant makes three round trips a day and the whole thing is done and over, with the elephants returning home by 11 am. So not a bad day :o)! The total income for the elephants is about 2000 rupies for these three trips which covers the copious amounts of fodder and water that they require each day. All in all a pretty cool thing. You can take a look and see some great pictures of the elephants and all their markings in my gallery (they get “drawn up” by their owners and handlers with chalk and little mirrors, etc. It’s really neat).
The shopping…. well it’s amazing. Jewlery that would cost you an arm and a leg in the states is actually affordable here. And not only is it affordable, but it’s actually economical. I bought way too much, with my mother asking me at one point, “Who is that for?” to which I replied, “I don’t know, but I might need it someday….” And just to show you how economical it was, she was in total agreement with me and started pinting to great stuff that I might be able to use someday :o)!
This posting wouldn’t be complete without a quick note about the hotel… Again, it was a former palace… A Taj Hotel called The Rambagh Palace. Yes it’s still owned by the royal family that ruled this area dna the queen mother still lives there. The fancy restaurant is located in what used to be their private dining room…. what an impressive place, I mean palace! The rooms were amazing, and the servicec even better. I would have to say that this was the best hotel on the trip, without a doubt. It was even better (room, facilities, food, service) than The Peninsula in Bangkok that has been rated as one of the best hotels in the world…. This place blows the Peninsula away!