After rattling off the road from Ranthambore, we hit the main highway, and after a chai break we arrived at the Holiday Inn Jaipur. Yes, not exactly a converted Maharaja’s palace, but a sympathetic building just outside the gates of the old “pink” city, and one with an abundance of toilet paper and in room internet access.

Before continuing with our adventures let me tell you a little about the city. In 1727, due to lack of space, Jai Singh II moved his empire’s capital from the nearby fortified city of Amber to a newly founded location, to be named after him, hence Jaipur. Now the capital of Rajasthan the city, like Dehli, sprawls, but with a walled portion of the old city housing most of the attractions. This old part is named the pink city, when it was decreed that all buildings within the walls should be painted a salmon pink color, for a visit by Prince Albert (pink being a color of welcome).

We settled in and relaxed a little, for the first time since arriving in India, then Hari collected us to take us to a restaurant featuring authentic local dance (hooray). To Sarah’s chagrin the restaurant, named Indiana, was not Indiana Jones themed, but instead was everything I hate about that type of thing – mediocre food, with a mediocre show, and worst of all audience participation. Things only improved when a parade passed by outside, signaling the end of the Dussehra fasting, and we got a brief taste of an authentic celebration.

Bright and early the next morning we met with a local guide and attacked the sights. First of all the aforementioned Amber palace complex. An impressive collection of buildings made even more impressive by it’s setting in the surrounding hills. We had an insightful tour, learning, for example about the emperors 12 wives, and the logistics of dealing with them. This place, more than possibly anywhere else (including the Taj Mahal) seemed to suffer the ravages of foreign tour groups, maybe because it is possible to take an elephant ride up the winding path to access the buildings (we did not as our car could make the trip and it has air conditioning).

Then, after stopping to see the lake palace from afar, we went to the Jantar Mantar (the observatory to you and me). It is quite the place, built in the 1730’s by Jai Singh II (who happened to be a bit of a genius), the many bizarre looking structures measure, with amazing accuracy, things astronomical and astrological using little more than plaster and marble. Then onto the neighboring City Palace, unusual to us in that it is the first time in India we have visited something inhabited (technically we didn’t as the current royalty’s layer is out of reach) and getting to see some furnishings and artwork relating to the place (including the pajamas of the 7ft/250kg ruler Madho Sing I).

Now a couple of points about guides, there are two kinds we have encountered, the first kind it an “official guide”, such as the the one mentioned above, and the one mentioned in Agra. The second is an “official guide” we encounter when Hari takes us to an out of the way place, off the beaten path, an example of which is coming up. The first kind is knowledgeable and gets in the car with us and takes us not only to the sites, but stores on the way selling not-inexpensive handicrafts relating to the main sights. It has been revealed that these guides are on the payroll of a collective of local stores. The second variety hang around at these lesser visited monuments and more or less start telling you facts the moment you walk in. They appear to be knowledgeable but don’t really speak English other than the facts they have learned by rote, so no point asking questions when done they want money, whatever amount appears not to be enough. This is just an other example of having to watch yourself at all times. Everybody in the tourist industry here is an “official” something or other, but there always is something underhand going on and no real way to distinguish official from unofficial, or indeed if official means anything at all, since there is no policing of the term. An other example is the “Official Delhi Tourist Office”, there are many all over the city, but the actual real one looks no more official than any other and it doesn’t seem to offer any advice or information. I digress…

We went to the Royal Gaitor, which is where the memorials for the royals are. We pay our 20 rupee camera permit (admission free) and get a tour (from the second sort of guide). It was actually very pleasant there, well maintained, and the tour contained lots of colorful stories about the kings, and there was hardly anybody else there (apart from some boys playing cricket)!

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  • I think we should all petition have the White House re-painted pink for the next visiting dignitary.

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