06 August 2009

Jaipur: The land of the kings, the land of the Steves

Last weekend I grabbed my backpack, ducked out of work early and caught a quick flight up to Jaipur in Northern India.  Jaipur is known as the Pink City (painted that way when some Brit visited in the 1850s), the capital of the state of Rajasthan (the Land of the Kings) and is an interesting mix of hinduism, muslim-ism, history, architecture and heat. Accompanying me this little sojourn was Katie, a Yale lawie out in Bangalore for a two month summer internship.

PICT0031 After an inauspicious Friday night (involving first wandering, then rickshawing around lost until 1am) we hit the ground running Saturday morning. And by that I mean we jumped on a cycle rickshaw to the old city, a partially walled section of Jaipur where almost all the buildings are painted pink. Walked around a bit, hung out with our first snake charmer then explored the city palace which is a fairly impressive complex of buildings set in the middle of the packed city. From there it was off to the Govind Devji temple which I believe is the first giant tented evangelical Hindu temple (most Hindu temples have room for like 7 people, this one probably sat 700 with tvs and speakers to broadcast the action) and the Hawa Mahel, an amazing palace created with tons of tiny windows so the muslim chicas could look check out the city without the city checking them out. After a much need shower, we headed to Katie's co-worker's friend's house for a nice, if somewhat awkward, meal. The best part is a tie between a crazy mother telling us how afraid she was of the witches in Salem, Massachusetts because "those people look like they know magic" and listening to Bob Dylan while driving home which was one of those odd yet thoroughly enjoyable moments in a different country.

City Palace Hawa Mahel

Sunday we organized a car to explore the surrounding sights but no sooner had we started than we ran smack dab into the middle of a giant hindu parade complete with a brass band, decked out elephants and about five hundred people in bright orange dancing to drummers and bringing water the Shiva temple. Pretty cool way to start the day, then we headed out to Amber and its humongous old fort. It was super impressive, surrounded by 25 miles of boundary walls (the great wall of India) and totally open on the inside so you could wander through everything including the ramparts, turkish baths and of course, the "pleasure palace". From Amber we checked out the 16th century Jaighur fort which houses the world's largest cannon and took six elephants to aim (accurately I'm sure) for the only time it was ever fired, though it did shoot over 20 miles. Following lunch we hiked up to the Temple of the Sun God, ran into some more singing Hindus, wondered if there are any calm, relaxing places in this country (I think this is why meditation started), dodged the requisite beggars, camel ride touts and dude selling sandalwood Ganeshes, shot some photos of a palace built in the middle of the lake and concluded our weekend of being super tourists.

Or so we thought. After dinner we searched for a place to enjoy a Kingfisher and randomly wandered into the Hotel Sahn's pretty fantastic rooftop bar. It had a neat view over the old city and a giant outdoor TV playing a very Indian mix of wet t-shirt and pelvic thrusting music videos (though without any kissing - heaven forbid) followed by commercials for Unwanted-72, India's very own morning after the pill. Ultimately, we were the real highlight of the bar with Indian after Indian coming over to us, trying to literally put food in my mouth (wtf, mate?), hitting us with pickup lines ('I have a bet with my friend I can't talk to you'), talking about Woodrow Wilson and asking us random questions. By far the best was the dude who asked me what Steve meant, the best I could come up with (while keeping a straight face) was the King of Horses and then reassuringly told him that "a long time ago, back in England, the Steves used to have huge armies of horses". He accepted this, smiled and bobbed his head... India.

Amber Fort 
Great Wall of India
Jai Mahal

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

how did you know that's why we named you "Steve"?