Saturday, December 01, 2012

2012 Asian Adventure - All I Want For My Birthday Is An Elephant Ride

Day Twenty-Nine - Happy Birthday To Me!

Day twenty-nine, the last 'real' touring day of our Asian adventure, just so happened to have fallen on my forty-ninth birthday.  I'm not a big birthday celebrator, though my attitude towards them is improving slightly (I no longer mope all day long), but being in Jaipur, India on my birthday ... it was kind of cool.

Palace of the wind.
We were picked up by our driver and guide and headed out.  First stop was a drive by the Palace of the Winds.  The palace, designed to look like Krishna's crown, was built to allow the royal women to see the activity in the street below without being seen.  Our car stopped long enough to get out and take some pictures of the magnificent facade.  I also got a good picture of a camel cart.

The Amber Palace.
The next stop was the Amber Palace (Amber Fort, Amer Fort).  The palace is located at the top of a hill.   You could have walked up the hill but there was a more interesting, if not a bit touristy, way to go up to the fort.  You can ride an elephant.

Waiting for our elephant ride.
We stood in line to get on our elephant.  We'd been warned about all the people who would try to sell us junk.  We were told to ignore them.  We ignored them and we were not bothered.  A poor lady in front of us must not have gotten the memo.  She showed interest in some doodad and that opened the floodgates.  They harassed her, tag-teamed her, and followed her and her elephant nearly all the way up the hill.

Our turn came and we got on our elephant.  We rode sidesaddle as it slowly followed the elephant parade up the hill.  The elephants only work for a few hours in the morning and head home before it gets too hot.  The treatment of elephants is carefully watched to ensure no abuse.

Palace columns.
As our elephant entered the walls of the palace we handed our camera to our guide so he could take pictures of us.  It was interesting.  I can't say it was fun but it was a new experience.  Riding animals have never been on my to do list but sometimes you just have to give in and do the tourist thing.

We toured the palace.  It was extensive and intricately decorated with vistas of the surrounding hills, the old city walls that ran along the hills, and the city of Jaipur.  There were other travelers touring the place including a group of high school/college age kids.  As we waited out turn to enter the next part of the palace the group became a flash mob and did an impromptu Bollywood sing and dance routine which had everyone laughing and clapping.

A smile in the Amber Palace.
After the Amber palace we stopped briefly to see an island fort not open to the public yet before stopping at the obligatory shopping stop.  This one had to do with block printed table cloths and fabrics.  We watched and participated in a a demonstration of how the patterns are made using overlapping blocks of different colors.  We bought two table clothes and talked about American politics with the store owner as we waited for the credit card to go through.

We went back to the hotel for lunch before heading out one more time.  This time we went to Jantar Mantar, a large astrological observatory with amazingly accurate sun/moon/star driven instruments.  The highlight here was a 90 ft (27 m) tall sundial - the tallest in the world.  Its shadow moves at 1 mm per second (2.4 inches per minute).  The complex was built almost three hundred years ago (and refurbished in 1901).  There is an instrument for each astrological sign.  By coincidence our guide stopped to explain about them in front of my symbol, cancer.

Jantar Mantar - on the left is the tallest sundial in the world.
From the observatory we walked to the nearby palace museum. I took an obligatory picture of a snake charmer ... and almost caused a riot when he thought I wasn't going to pay for the privilege of taking his picture.

A palace museum balcony.
The museum was interesting.  Lots of old weapons for some reason.  There was no AC in the museum and the Indian heat was getting to me by the time we left the building.  The palace was very beautiful but I think my ability to appreciate it all was slowly wilting.  After we left we went back to the hotel and cooled off for the rest of the afternoon.

Day Thirty

This day was a transition day.  We got in the car and we drove back to Delhi.  It was about an eight hour drive.  We stopped at a small roadside restaurant and had some good food along the way.

This was the one and only day in India I did not sweat through my shirt by the end of the day.   It felt good to be in an air conditioned space even if it was a car.

Day Thirty-One

It was our last day in India.  Originally there was nothing planned for this day and, after talking to the tour company representative (who kept calling us to find out how we were doing ... every day!) we discovered the plan was to check out late morning and go to the airport over ten hours early.  We negotiated with the tour company and the hotel and managed to add another tour stop this morning and to extend our time in the hotel so we wouldn't be sitting in the airport for so long.

The extra stop, actually just a stop we'd postponed from our first day in India, was the Akshardham Temple complex, a modern Hindu temple.  The temple was opened in 2005.  It is an impressive complex.  No cameras are allowed in the temple (you go through a strict security checkpoint where all cameras and cell phones are taken and put in lockers before you can go in).  We walked around the main temple with its engravings of elephants.

To go in the temple you have to remove your shoes and leave them at a shoe check area.  After you remove your shoes you are warned to only walk on the white tiles.  This is totally understandable since, even mid-morning, the dark colored tiles were hot enough to roast your toes.  We toured the temple and marveled at the intricate decorations before going back out and retrieving our shoes.

Next stop in the complex was a "show" that would tell us about the history of Hinduism.  There were two lines - one for native speakers and one for English speakers.  The English speaking line was only three or four people long but they made us wait as several groups of native speakers went in.  We were in the shade but it was still hot.  My shirt sweated through first.  Then I noticed what I thought was a stain on my pants.  Closer inspection made me realize that I was sweating through my pants.  I have never sweated through my pants before.  The heat here was insane.

They finally let us in where is was cool.  A recorded narrative took us from room to room where we watched, and I kid you not, animatronic figures illustrating the history of Hinduism.  I wasn't sure if I was at a Hindu temple or at Disneyland.  It was informative but also a bit cheesy.  After the show the next stop would have been an IMAX history of the child-yogi and a boat ride "through 10,000 years of Indian culture".  All I could imagine was the Tunnel of Love.  We both had enough.  We were hot and already sapped of all strength so we skipped these, walked through the gift shop, and headed out looking for our driver.  I think he was surprised we came out so soon.

Back to the hotel for a nap, shower, fresh clothes, and lunch before heading to the airport for flights numbers twelve and thirteen (a fifteen hour international flight followed by a three hour domestic flight).  Security at the Delhi airport was crazy.  You had to go through security a couple times.  We walked to our gate and sat own.  That's when someone realized that we were not being checked when we entered the gate area so we all had to leave the gate area and re-enter.  Some X Rays, magnatometers, and wandings later and we were back in the same seat we'd been sitting in earlier.  You couldn't bring food and drink to the gate (and I didn't have change for the vending machine in the gate area)  so I sat there reading my book hungry and thirsty until we finally got on our plane.  This ended up being a very long day.

Pictures from days twenty-nine (07/20/2012) can be found in my 2012-07 India Google Photos album.  No pictures were taken on the last two days.

Our 2012 Asian Adventure comes to an end.

2 comments:

  1. Wow you rode an elephant!! COOL!!

    I love the picture of the decorative peacocks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MissB : It was cool. One more thing off my bucket list.

      Thanks!

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