Where Were We?

"Where am I?" became the question I would ask myself more than one morning waking up in India. Even when we got home, the first time I woke up in my own bedroom, my mind was insistent I was somewhere else. When you hit 6 cities in about 12 days, this happens.

It was Jaipur, where we actually spent a couple of nights, that started to feel almost familiar. Jaipur is known as the "pink city" as it was painted pink in 1853 to welcome the visiting Prince of Wales. It's also known today for its mischievous monkeys that hop around on the roof lines. So famous in fact, that after a day of touring and in the respite before dinner we turned on the television to the National Geographic channel and stumbled upon a documentary on the monkeys of Jaipur, the melodramatic and kind of sad "Rebel Monkeys." How often does it happen that you find yourself in the city that's the focus of a television show you are watching? (Residents of New York need not reply, since Law & Order is always on at some point in the world.) We made sure to call Dipti and Tushar's hotel room to have them tune in too.

However, it was much larger animals that we had a date with soon: elephants! Elephants are the preferred mode of transport up to Jaipur's Amber Fort. Tourists get up early in the morning to make sure to catch a ride before the elephants hit their daily allowed limit up to the fort. While waiting, you are absolutely thronged by hawkers, some with turbans that they'll put on your head - the only invitation required is momentary eye contact. It makes shopping an entirely different sport, the quickness, the bargaining. The 20 guys in this photo I identified as enthusiastic salesmen. Black Friday is nothing!But the line moves quickly and soon you are atop an elephant. It's a swaying, slow ride and one that could cause motion sickness for the weak-hearted.As you ride up, young men on the rocks vie for your attention, and your photo. Leaving the fort, they'll find you, having already printed out the pictures on portable printers and will offer to sell them to you. The hard bargainers in our group, Dipti and Jason, seemed to compete with each other to see who could get the photos cheaper.

Since there's really no way to look comfortable riding an elephant your first time, I'll just show you my thanking our elephant, Lakshmi, for the ride. India isn't such the untouched wonder that there aren't hundreds of contrived photo ops for the tourists. And yes, we had some fun with it, always in exchange for the small (and expected, sometimes insisted) tip.
This snake charmer wanted Jason to hold this cobra in Britney Spears style, but he (Jason, not the snake) was bashful. Jason was convinced to hold the tail, after the man explained in broken English that it was the end that didn't bite. In one of the funniest moments of our trip, Jason and Tushar stopped to watch another snake charmer. An Asian tourist bent down to touch the hooded cobra from behind. Of course, it whipped its head around, causing the men to break out of the crowd like squealing school boys, an effect emphasized by their back packs swinging from their shoulders and peals of giggles in the escape. I think they may have pushed a few children aside in their haste.

Here are a few photos from the Amber Fort. Traveling in India can make you easily blase about amazing detail, because you get so used to it, everywhere. Our guide, Vansh, encouraged us to imagine the silk curtains swaying in the archways, the colored glass oil lamps blazing and the soft silk rugs underfoot, which became the equivalent of sensory overeating. Instead of my belly, my head was soon full! My eyes blinded to the exquisite detail, over decoration, over more detail.


jck said...

Again, I'm so jealous! Just one grammatical comment on your post - Maybe a comma can be added into the sentence "As you ride up young men on the rocks... " I think it sounds a bit saucier than intended.

Claire said...

Oh, but Juliet, the trip really was THAT GOOD.

Just kidding, duly noted and fixed. Thank you!


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