Exploring Jaipur Part 2

Just a quick recap: on this day I am in the city of Jaipur with my group. In the morning we went to three different places: the Palace of the Winds, the Amber Fort, and the City Palace. Once we finished those, we all went to lunch together. Afterwards, we were released into the city to do whatever we wanted for the next few hours until we all had to meet up again for dinner.

I wanted more than anything to explore the city all by myself and see what I could get into, but our program had a rule about being in groups of no less than three at all times, so me and two other girls went around the city together. We walked pretty far, stopping in at all of the shops along the way. One of the girls with me wanted to buy a Sari, but was extremely bad at haggling (and always paid way too much) so I helped her along the way.

A street in Jaipur

I haggled for her at one shop, and another shop owner heard us and called us into his shop where he gave us lower prices, which I was able to get even lower. While in this shop, the owner’s brother sat and talked with us as we looked at patterns and discussed prices. Once we were done, he told us he owned a jewelry shop a few blocks away, so we walked with him through the city to get to his shop. We stayed there for a while and bought some of his pieces and talked to him. One girl mentioned that she wanted to get henna done, and he told us that his father owned a henna shop! So, he walked us through the streets yet again to his father’s shop.

While there, I talked to the father as another man did the henna for my friends because I didn’t want to get any done on myself. I asked him to tell me about his religion, which was my on-assignment task for the day. It turned out that he was Sikh, which was a religion that I did not know much of anything about, so it was really interesting to learn from him.

The information the father told me about the Sikh religion

After my friends finished their henna, we left the shop and started making our way back to the group’s meeting point, stopping at shops and getting religious stories along the way. Once we met with everyone, they all compared their hennas and the clothes they bought that day, and we then left for dinner. We went to dinner at a place called Anokhi, which was an overpriced cafe that sold a strange mix of western and slightly Indian food. This cafe also had an (also very overpriced) clothing shop attached to it, where we all went to shop after we had finished our food.

Everyone comparing their henna

We then went back to our hotel to relax for the night, but first I talked to my group leaders because of weird marks I had been finding on my skin. When I showed them, they both got very quiet and told me that it was possible that they were from bedbugs, but not to tell anyone else in the group- who would definitely also all have bedbugs if I did. I was concerned but figured there was nothing I could do about it, so I just swam with everyone else and went on my phone for the first time in a week. I swam until everyone decided to go to bed, and then slept soundly after such a fun, jam-packed day.

Exploring Jaipur Part 1

The next morning started with us eating fresh mango for breakfast and all sitting around to talk about the upcoming activities for the day. Then, the excitement began even before we had left the hotel: because I found my phone!!!!!! It turned out that it was actually just in the bottom of the laptop pouch of my backpack, not somewhere in the Himalayas. I was so shocked, but it was a great way to start my day.

Our first stop of our busy day in Jaipur was a place called Hawa Mahal. This translates to “Palace of the Winds”, and it is made out of beautiful pink sandstone. Jaipur is actually called “The Pink City”, and this is an example of why. We took pictures of this lovely structure, and then moved on to our next activity.

The Palace of the Winds

The Amber Fort was our next stop of the day. We trekked up the marble paths to the fort, and explored for a few minutes then waited for our tour guide to meet us. We were then given a looong, boring tour around the fort in the hot sun. Even though the tour was boring, though, it was still great to see the fort because it was absolutely beautiful. After our tour we got to look around a bit more on our own, and then we stopped at a small shop called Café Coffee Day within the fort where we rested our feet and enjoyed cold coffee drinks with each other. This café was like an oasis in the desert because of how hot and tired we all were from walking around the fort for the past few hours.

Our group inside of the Amber Fort

For our last stop before lunch, we went to the Jaipur City Palace. Before even going in, we got to see a street performer who was a snake charmer outside, which was really interesting. Then, we went inside and got to explore. I walked around to different shops and talked to owners, and did my best at haggling. One shopkeeper let me have pants at 50% price if I would give him “a gift from America,” so I went through my bag and found a small bottle of Victoria’s Secret Perfume, which I gave to him and he said smelled “beautiful”. After I finished haggling, I went to explore more of the palace and complete my Cultural Geography on-assignment task for the day. We were told a few different options for tasks for the day, but I chose to complete the one I liked the best: to ask people a story about their religion.

The snake charmer outside of the City Palace

Since I am a ginger with pale skin, red hair, and blue eyes, I looked radically different than almost everyone around me. This led to many people wanting to take pictures of or with me, which I always allowed because I thought it was funny. Eventually though, I started asking people for money (mostly as a joke) when they’d ask to take pictures with me. On this day, a few 20-something year old guys asked to take a picture with me, so I covered my face and yelled for 100 rupees. I kept lowering the price as they kept trying to take pictures, and eventually we drew a crowd around us. When I realized they weren’t going to pay, I said “Fine! I’ll take pictures with you if you tell me a story about your religion!” which really confused them, but they complied. Since it turned out none of them were religious, they called upon another stranger to tell a story that one of the guys transcribed into my journal while the others took pictures with me, all while the crowd was still watching and taking even more photos. It was such a fun experience!

Me inside of the City Palace

After this whole event, I explored a little more and then left with my group to go to lunch at a strange restaurant downtown, which most of our group did not enjoy (but I thought was pretty good). After lunch there was even more to explore in the city…

Camel Rides and Rickshaw Drives

The next morning I woke up slightly later than normal, 7:30, and went to eat a nice breakfast with my group. We then left and met a bunch of men with camels outside of our fortress hotel to go for a ride. We all partnered up, and I sat on my camel with my friend JP. We went on a beautiful stroll around the village of Samode. It was an amazing experience, but yet we still all felt pretty guilty about riding the camels. Since we had gone to an elephant sanctuary just a few days prior, where we heard stories of animals being abused and made to give people rides, we all felt very strange about having these camels give us rides around the village even though we knew they were not being abused like the elephants were. Nevertheless, it was still a great experience that we were happy to take part in.

Me and JP on our camel

After we finished, we went back to our hotel and swam in the pool for a few hours. In the hot Indian weather the pool felt amazing, and we spent our time discussing our weddings and having handstand contests. We even ordered milkshakes from the hotel and drank them on the poolside, until we had to get our things together to check out at noon.

A man at our hotel

Once we left, we got onto our bus and made the hour long ride to the city of Jaipur, and checked into our quaint hotel called Jas Vilas. We had lots of time until our next activity, so I took a nice two hour long nap. I was on Malarone, the Malaria medicine, which is said to give users the side effect of extremely vivid dreams- and they’re right! I remember having intense dreams at different parts of the trip, but especially this day.

After nap time, I met with the three other cultural geography students about our on assignment projects, and then it was time to go to dinner. Our bus took us to a pretty fancy place where we had a delicious dinner and desert, and also got to experience some more bonding time as a group. After dinner was over, however, the real fun began. I’m not exactly positive about what happened, but I’m pretty sure that there was some sort of miscommunication about when the bus was supposed to come pick us up from the restaurant. To fix this problem, we instead all took rickshaws home! We had been begging our trip leaders to let us ride in them for the whole trip and they had always said no, but they finally gave in. It was absolutely amazing and completely terrifying. Indian city streets are extremely busy and hectic, so we kept thinking we were going to crash constantly. We didn’t, though, and we all got back to our hotel in one piece, full of adrenaline.

After we returned and all said good night, I went to the hotel’s computer room and talked to my family and friends for a few hours since my phone was still lost somewhere in the Himalayas. It was nice to calm down after our hectic night, even though I wished I could do it a million times over.