Sunday, September 16, 2007


We decided the best way to attack the hustle and bustle of this city was by group, so we joined forces with the Welser's to head to Amber fort. Just outside our hotel we met the auto rickshaw driver, Raees, who assured us that all six of us could fit in his rig. (The size of the back seat of a VW bug). It was a tight squeeze, but I think it was what was holding us in. The streets here are spotted with pot holes at least a foot deep. This coupled with the fact that you are also dodging and sharing the roads with bikes, cars, camels, elephants, cows and people makes for a memorable ride. We all decided who needs amusement rides when you can come to Jaipur. Off we bounced astonished at the small places in traffic we managed to squeeze through.
Cresting the top of the hill, we viewed the Amber fort in its glory, built into the hill side. There we entered the gauntlet of tourists waiting in line for an elephant booking. Swarmed by vendors selling things, we managed to make our way toward the front of the line, but not before having puppets, hats, film, paintings etc. flashed in front of our faces for a hopeful sale. These men are persistent and I mean PERSISTENT. It does not matter how many different ways you say "No thank you" they are certain they have the best price and that you need what ever it is they are touting.
Taking a seat on the elephants was so incredible. To feel the sway of their body weight shift from left to right as you lumber your way up the hill to the fort's entrance was an experience of a lifetime...we just couldn't stop smiling and laughing. Once there we were met by a guide, arranged by Raees, who took us throughout the fort sharing the most interesting stories about the kings and queens who lived there. Turns out that the fort was designed and used to keep the queens happy. "Changing the climate" was the goal so there were winter and summer palaces. The winter palace was designed so that when candles were lit in a room full of tiny mirrors the reflection off the mirrors helped to warm the room. In summer, the open air palace was outfitted with gutter type piping that dripped scented water onto hanging mats of kush kush to keep the women cool. This fort was equiped with a ballroom and pool too.

Entering a Rasjastani market, I had my first experience with a carpet salesman. He had several boys throwing out rugs and explaining their qualities to us. They were beautiful, but I don't know how we would manage a 6 foot roll of rug with our other luggage and a baby so had to pass. Lunch followed to refuel for another outing in the evening were Karen and I had the attentions of a couple of shop workers showing us sample after sample of whatever we decided looked interesting. It is hard to get used to this sort of attention while one shops, but it was kind of fun. You take a seat and point to what you would like to see. Then they start there dance of flinging out samples, holding them up to themselves for you to look. We would very casually say, "Kind of nice, but do you have in other colors?", or "No, I don't like that", "This is okay, what is your best price?" and "Too expensive!" The idea is to not let on how much you like something and always be prepared to walk away.
Dinner happened to land us at a spot with night time entertainment. Naturally, the dancers gravitated to the Welser boys trying to persuade them to join the dancing. It was very cute.

Falling into bed marked the end of another long day and Devi is now 10 months old!

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