Since arrival, the most fascinating part of our journey, our constant companion so far, has definitely been the Indian traffic, its apparent (lack of) rules amidst the chaos, where the lines are merely suggestions for the lanes upon which the vehicles should stay. Everyone seems to understand, from trucks to cars to motorcycles to bicycles to pedestrians to even the dogs and cows. Organized chaos. We have not hit anyone. Yet.
We were on the road by 6:30 AM. Almost five hours later, we had arrived on the outskirts of Jaipur, greeted by a massive fort – Fort Amer to the locals, Fort Amber for tourists. Spanning three generations of Hindu kings, the fort took over 135 years to build, completed over 400 years ago. The walls of the fort surrounded the city in a stretch of 18 km, with many temples in between.
Without doubt, it’s one of the ten most impressive “things” I have ever seen, awe inspiring in its size, breadth and beauty. I was struck by what life could have been like here four centuries ago, markedly different than anything I could fathom. The fort housed the king, his many wives, government magistrates and local subjects. A beautiful hall of mirrors encircled the king’s chambers, a separate wing for his wives, secret passages giving him access to each upon his preference for the night.
Like the previous day, Derek was once again a superstar, gawked at by many, asked to be the center of their pictures, kids giggling, and slightly embarrassed and shy around him. Our driver Raj is convinced he’s a movie star, and if he really isn’t, should be, along the likes of his two favourites – Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. I am drawing up paperwork to be his agent; I see a future here.
The fort teemed with Indians on their vacation, not many tourists around unwilling to brave the Indian hear. It housed many monkeys (though we only saw three), goats, dogs, pigeons etc. There were puppet shows, musicians and shops.
After a couple hours, we made our way to the Palace on Water, Jamtar Matar Observatory, a textile plant and Chokhi Dhaani. In between, we stopped for more amazing Indian food for lunch (chicken Jalfrezi, aloo gobi, tandoori chicken with rice & naan washing it down with King Fisher). The Jantar Matar Observatory was impressive in that it housed outside the world’s largest sundial as well as various instruments for both astronomy and astrology with regards to the twelve signs of the zodiac. We were shown how carpet was made using camel hair, impressed how much softer it’s weave was than merino wool or silk. They were not happy that we didn’t purchase much, as the only item bought was a pashmina by me. By the time we went to Chokhi Dhaani, we were beat tired, though we still spent a little bit of time there being a part of the traditional Rajistani villages, replete with its splendid colours.
By the time we had called it a day, it was almost 10 PM, having lived a very full 18 hours, ready to call it a night but happy for today’s experiences.
Tomorrow, Fatehpur Sikri and the Taj Mahal. Agra. Epic.