Friday, June 16, 2017

Jaipur. Afternoon of Day 1.

The camel whisperer :-)

On the way back into town from Amer Fort, Amar made a quick pitstop at Man Sagar Lake.  He had pointed out the lake on our ride to Amer and I immediately recognized as the lake where Jal Mahal (Lake Palace) is located.  I had wanted to see the palace so I was looking forward to stopping here.

Amar stopped his tuk-tuk alongside a short row of food vendors.  Business must be really tough these days.  Aside from Chantale and I, there were may be two or three other tourists....all Indians.  No one was buying any food or even bottled water from the vendors.

Chantale and I walked towards the lake.  A wide promenade fronted the water.  Trash was strewn about everywhere.  India is not clean.

In the center of the lake stood the palace, a fine example of Rajput architecture.  Apparently, there used to be gondolas that you could hire for a ride around the lake but these days, it looked to me that the palace is deserted - there were no signs of life on its grounds.

Ribbons, locks and simple sting ties.....all things that people will use for symbols of love and hope.

There was pretty much nothing to do here but look at the lake and the palace.  That you can do in about 10 minutes so that's about the amount of time we spent here.

Amar had given us specific instructions to meet back up with him at a particular spot across the road.  As we walked towards his tuk-tuk, our eyes caught sight of a pair of camels.  No doubt, the animals are there to give rides, for a fee of course, to tourists.  I've ridden camels before so I didn't feel the urge to get on the back of one and neither did Chantale.  In fact, all she wanted to do was take a photo so I gave her a few minutes to get her shots in.  😀

Back in the tuk-tuk, Amar wanted to know where to take us next.  I suggested we head back to City Palace.  So, off we went.

As we tuk-tuk'd along, Amar mentioned stopping at fabric factory.....something about a place owned by a friend of his. it comes.  The obligatory factory/workshop stop that I had read about in my pre-trip planning.  It's how the drivers make a bit of extra money.  I knew I wasn't going to buy anything and I was pretty sure neither was Chantale but Amar was really persistent so I thought, what the heck, we'll stop.

Somewhere back in the city, we visited a small factory where they basically handstamp patterns onto cotton cloth.  We had to watch a short demo of how the pattern is stamped onto the fabric.  I've seen this done so many times, it's really nothing new to me.  I politely watched but was already mentally out of the shop.  Chantale looked pretty disinterested as well.  We both had to fend off persistent requests to purchase cloth.  We used every excuse we had and eventually, the man gave up trying.

Back outside, Chantale made a quick beeline to the place next door.  Something had caught her eye and she had to check it case there was an interesting photo op to be had.  In the meantime, Amar insisted I get back in to the tuk-tuk which I did.  He then drove off!!  I was wondering, what the hell?  What about Chantale?  He wasn't going to leave her behind, was he?  I think he sensed my concern and so he turned back to tell me that he was just turning his tuk-tuk around so we would be moving in the correct direction.  Whew!  Just as he told me this, I saw Chantale emerge from the spot she had gone to and I could tell that she could not find us where she had left us.  Amar shouted over to her and she crossed the street to meet back up with us.

We continued our journey to City Palace.  Once I saw the pink colored buildings,  I knew we had reached the old city.

Our first stop, in the old city, was Hawa Mahal.  I think if you as me what landmark is iconic of Jaipur, I would say this very distinctive looking structure is it.

Amar dropped us off a short distance away and we walked towards this most famous of structures.  It truly is an impressive sight....even just standing on the sidewalk and looking up.

I told Chantale that I had set aside time tomorrow for us to visit Hawa Mahal so today all we would do is admire it from the outside.  In doing my trip planning for Jaipur, I had seen images of the facade taken from high up.  Looking on the opposite side of the street, I noticed some cafes offering rooftop views of Hawa Mahal.  Aha!  So that's where those photos were taken from.   I had noticed what looked like steps leading up to the cafe.  As I was glancing over at them, a shop keeper intersected my path, insisting I check out the items in his shop.  I told him I was not interested at which pointed, he offered to take us up to the cafe.  I lied, telling him I wasn't interested in going up to the cafes either.  I really wanted him to just leave us alone but he persisted even offering to give us his card, pressuring us to return at a later date and check out his shop. He really put a damper on things and by the time I was done shooing him off, I had lost all interest in heading up to the cafes though the thought that they might be air conditioned spots that we could sit and enjoy a drink at was still tugging at me.  Chantale would have tagged along with me - she was basically relying on me to determine where we were going.  I decided I had had enough and so we walked back to Amar's tuk-tuk.  Of course, there were other tuk-tuk drivers, slowing down and asking us if we needed a ride.  One was quite persistent until we told him we already had a driver.  Business is really bad here.  Summer's heat is not helping matters as few people would come here at this time of year....except for crazy people like Chantale and I.  😀

Next, it was on to Jantar Mantar, the famed observatory.  We passed through the city gates located near City Palace.  Amar dropped us just on the other side of the gates and told us where to go to get our entry tickets for Jantar Mantar.  It was just a short walk between tuk-tuk and ticket counter but it was so unbearably hot and humid, that we had pretty much just wilted by the time we reached the counter.  As we were standing in line to get the tickets, we discussed whether or not we really wanted to visit the place.  I explained to Chantale about the observatory and told her that by design, there would not be any trees in the place - we would have to be walking out in the blistering sun.  Even though we both had hats on to shield our heads, the heat of the sun is so strong, you just feel like the top of your head is burning.  Perhaps it was because I really didn't want to see the place....I think the heat took it out of me, I really didn't give a very convincing description of the place to Chantale.  We both decided to skip it and make our way back to Amar.

We walked back through the city gates, passing by a row of people, some of whom were seated behind typewriters.  I was curious what they were up to so I walked up behind them and glanced over the shoulder of one of the typists.  I noticed the keys were all in Hindi. Very cool. The young girl seated next to him told us that some legal documents still require that documents be typed up to be filled in.  A woman walked by and basically shooed us away.  It never dawned on me that the information being typed up was confidential and we really shouldn't have been peeking though neither one of us reads Hindi so it should have been okay.  We were just harmlessly curious.

In any case, we continued on our way to meet back up with Amar which was literally just about 50 feet away.

I guess we screwed up on the instructions because we walked back towards City Palace, to the spot where he had picked us up from yesterday.  We didn't see him there waiting for us so Chantale called him.  He was at some other location but within a few minutes had reached us.  He told us we were waiting in the wrong spot. We sheepishly acknowledged our mistake and got in the tuk-tuk.

Thank goodness it was a short wait for Amar because standing in the midday sun of a summer's day in Jaipur is nothing to relish.  Chantale had brought a long a cooling cloth which she had draped around her neck and wetted down every so often.  But that didn't prevent her nose....yes, her nose, from sweating.  I had to capture the shot :-)

From City Palace, in noon day traffic, in chaotic, congested old took about a half hour to get back to the apartment. 

As advised by Manisha, we had been using the Government Press Office as our landmark.   Amar dropped us off and even though he had not shepherded us around for an entire day, we paid him the 600 rupees we had originally agreed to pay him and we gave him the 200 rupee tip.  In the end, he got the 800 rupees he had originally asked for.   That came to about $12 which is a lot of money for him but wasn't going to break our pocket book so it was bit of charity on our part.

Back in the cool air of our room, I just flopped on the bed and chilled out.  Jet lag combined with exhaustion from the heat soon sent me into an afternoon nap.  While I snoozed, poor Chantale was still trying to sort out issues with her daughter's school and her father's medical condition.  Both matters are weighing heavily on her and I know that during the moments she's not distracted by the sights and sounds of Jaipur, she's stressing out.  I think at some point, she will crash from exhaustion so I'm also going easy on our agenda so hopefully, the crash won't be so hard.

Early evening, we ventured out on to the rooftop, just to check it out.  Chantale was hoping for a sunset view but we weren't positioned to have a good vantage point of the western sky.  But as we watched the traffic whizzing by below, a crazy idea came on us.  We decided we could try and capture a timelapse video of the traffic.  I have already figured out that Chantale is up for any sort of a photographic challenge so she immediately got out her equipment and set up on the roof.

Chantale will have to process the timelapse video when she gets home.  I just went and shot straight video just so I have a memory of the traffic which is really not that bad.  Okay, there are no lane markers and pedestrians seem to just ignore the crosswalks.  I could not quite figure out the sequence of the stop lights.  But somehow, vehicles of all forms and people were able to get about.  It's mind boggling how it works.

For dinner, I wanted to try a place called Tan Sukh, located on the same street as Four Seasons.  We had walked by it last night.  So, we knew exactly where to go.  Except, apparently, we didn't know EXACTLY where to go because we ended up at a place called Kanha.  We entered into an Indian sweets shop and followed the signs upstairs to what looked like a cafeteria style eatery.

The menu offered a variety of Indian foods at very reasonable prices.  So, we decided to eat here.  I stopped reading the menu after I got to masala dosa so that and a salted lime drink was my meal.  Chantale could not resist the kabob with a lassi to quench her thirst.  Despite the appearance of being a cafeteria style restaurant, all the food is cooked to order here so we did have to wait a bit for our meal.  It all came to the table piping hot as well!

Chantale's tandoori  platter was huge....for her so we shared that.

Our entire meal, with taxes, came to the equivalent of $5.40 cents.  Talk about cheap eats!

Back in our apartment, it was just time to relax.  I have to really work on getting over the jet lag - I think a day or two more and I should be okay.  Tomorrow is another full day of sightseeing.   We've only been in Jaipur for a day and half and both of us have already fallen in love with the place and want to come back one day!