Our clocks are still suffering jet lag and Dick is up by 6AM. This is not so early for him as he is a morning person and enjoys the early morning most of all. He works on this blog; as usual we are behind. We are to meet Rishi at 9AM so we head for breakfast about 8AM. This buffet is nothing like the one in Delhi but we order a hot breakfast off the menu and enjoy glasses of watermelon and orange juice along with fresh breads and fruit.
Rishi is waiting for us and we head out for our day of exploring Jaipur. Rishi grew up about 20km outside Jaipur and lives here along with his wife, daughter (17) and son (15). Our first stop of the day is the Amber Fort. This was the seat of military and court power for the Maharaja of Jaipur from 1592 to 1728. It is an imposing sight as we approach it reminding us of some parts of the Great Wall of China as ramparts ascend and descend the hillsides around it. We see the elephants taking the visitors up to the fort as we approach and Rishi says he will try to drive us as close as possible to the entrance but how close will depend on the guards. We are stopped by a barricade that is manned by the usual soldier/police types sitting in the shade. Rishi rolls the window down speaks to them and shows Carolyn’s walking sticks. He thinks he has a deal to drive us to the next level but the guy on the gate refuses to lift it. We don’t speak the language but we understand him to say that the other guy said it was OK. The guard says so what. Back and forth a few times and the gate guard reluctantly raises the bar. We ascend a very steep, stone-paved switch back to a level area. Rishi has to shift into 4-wheel drive about half way up.
Here we must get out for another steep climb of some 30 yards into the main courtyard of the fort in front of the Palace. The courtyard is, perhaps 150 yards on a side and some sort of festival is just cranking up. There are tents set up and blaring Indian music flooding forth from an over cranked amplifier. There is an active Hindu temple within the complex and a steady stream of worshipers is heading for its entrance in the corner. The entrance there is well guarded and people are having to pass through metal detectors before entering. Terrorism must be a constant and real threat here in India.
The heat is building as we climb some steep, stone stairs to the palace level of the complex. Here waits the ticket seller and 400 rupees ($8) later we are in an area used by the Maharaja for public functions. Once again, the architecture and the view down to Maota Lake, formal garden and town we came through are impressive though Amber Fort is not as nicely restored as Fatehpur Sikri or Agra Fort. The highlight of the fort is the detailed mirror work, carvings and mosaics of the chambers and hallways. The photos can speak for themselves.
We head back down and call Rishi on the cell phone he has provided. He meets us where he let us out and we head back down the hill, a different way. Our next stop another step well that is located near the Anokhi Museum of Block Printing inside the gates of the small village of Amber. There is no one around the well and we get some good photos of the light and shadow play on the well’s walls.
From the raised area around the well we also get some good photos of the formed cow dung patties commonly used for fuel that we have seen piled next to many of the homes. Also from this vantage point we are able to watch the women around a village well doing laundry and gossiping while a young man strips, soaps up and rinses himself with buckets of water from the well.
There is also an old Meera temple across the alley way.
his is delightful quite area with people going about their daily routine is probably one of the most memorable stops of the trip.
A few yards beyond the well, we come to the Anokhi Museum of Block Printing. Hand block printing on fabric is a very difficult and time consuming process that is traditional to India. It nearly died out as an art form in the 20th century but the government and the Anokhi organization have managed to revive it as an art form and as a viable source of revenue to the craftsmen.
The museum is in a restored 16th century haviel, a merchant’s home and place of business and part of the city wall when built. It sits in what was a place of honor at the time, by one of the old city wall gates. We take photos of photos of the building prior to restoration and it was in a deplorable state. Talk about a handyman’s dream! Anokhi found and used traditional craftsmen to do the work. They worked without plans and used there traditional understanding of building techniques to determine what went where and how to proceed. Now, restored to its near original condition, it is a home to the museum.
We pay 120 rupees ($2.40) to enter plus 60 rupees as a camera fee. The museum displays various regional costumes made from block printed fabric in glass display cases along with displays showing how the process is done. A local, familiar with the local traditions of a particular village or area, can tell the age and marital status of a woman by her dress. This is shown in photos. Fortunately, all signs and explanations are offered in English so we understand what we are seeing. In addition, the man selling tickets joins us and walks us through. His English is understandable and he adds to the quality of our visit. Dick given him 100 rupees ($2) as we leave and he is most appreciative. A little, by our standards, goes a long way in India.
Prior to leaving, Carolyn purchases a block printed double bed spread to be used as yard goods for recovering two rockers in our home. She also buys two hand-carved printing blocks. These purchases total 3,180 rupees ($65.83) and are capped off by the free, block printed, cloth carrying bag into which her purchases are placed.
Carolyn now wants to go to Fab India and we proceed there for some shopping. She purchases two large silk stoles like the Indian women wear. We stop at the Gem Palace jewelry store but it is way too crowed and they are intent on showing off their letters from old English royalty. We are politely ignored and do not see anything we need and soon leave.
From here, we have a little tour then head for the office of India by Car and Driver to settle our bill.
The office is on the 5th or 6th floor of an office building that is virtually unoccupied. Across the street, two more high-rise buildings are going up. It is lunch time and we can see workers on several floors of the construction site sitting around eating and brewing tea. In the open area around the new buildings, an area covered in debris and rubble, the families of the workers have erected make-shift cloth shelters in which their families are living/existing. Rishi says this is common as there is no work in the countryside where these people actually live, so they set up temporary shelter where ever the work is and the workers and their families will stay as long as the job is there.
The office of India By Car and Driver is cooled, somewhat, by a laboring window type AC unit and in the outer area several men are sitting around talking. Ramesh greets us and we pay him the 50% balance due for his service. It has cost us $387US for a car and driver for six days. We will drive roughly 1,000km and all tolls and fuel costs are paid by the company. We do not see how he makes any money but we are very satisfied with Rishi and India By Car and Driver.
We now ask Rishi to take us back to the hotel and we turn him loose for the rest of the day. He is obviously pleased as he lives in Jaipur and we will enjoy a quiet afternoon enjoying Oberoi Rajvillas, a world class hotel property. At sunset, we dress up a little and walk over to the main building. During our stroll we take photos of the property and explore a bit.
Carolyn hits the hotel shop and buys some camel bone drink coasters and a pair of earrings from the hotels branch of the gem Palace. It is now dark and we walk back to the room while taking photos of the beautifully lit property.
Tonight we order room service spaghetti Bolognese and caramel custard for dinner. Tomorrow is our drive back to Delhi and the bed calls.