With the big picture of India often so overwhelming, the tiny beauties are often overlooked.
Here are some of our most memorable moments while travelling in India!
On our last morning in Jaipur, we said goodbye to the Varvarigos family. They would be continuing on for four more stops in Rajisthan. We were going to head home. That morning, we had a few final explorations of town. We were sleepy from our theme park fun the night before, but we didn’t want to wait too long to head out due to the heat. So we made our way to Jantar Mantar.
The Jantar Mantar site was built the the Mahraja Jai Sigh II between 1727 and 1734. It is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments and is really fascinating.
Above is the largest sundial in the world, accurate to two seconds.
We hired a tourguide (shown below) at the front gate–a must for this site or else it would be hard to make sense of the machines. He clearly had a presentation and wanted to make it his way. But I kept stopping him and re-explaining the scientific principles to the kids. Since the kids had a solid grasp of earth rotation and revolution, they were able to understand the structures and remained very engaged, despite the heat. Below right, Carson checks out one of the instruments.
Kaden was most taken by the astrological instruments. Indian astrology is taken very seriously. One’s birth day, year, time and place of birth can be made into an astrological chart. Often this chart is matched with a potential spouse and compatibility can determine the wedding date and in traditional settings, even if the marriage will happen at all.
After the observatory, we stopped in on a Jaipur institution–Lassiwalla. We tried a sample from the original, the oldest shop in Jaipur. He only offers one flavor–plain in a (disposable) terracotta cup. The lassi is a sweet yogurt drink. The stand next to him offered mango and banana, so we got one of the mango as well. I thought they were delicious, but the kiddos found them to be too strong. So then I had two for me.
I was looking forward to taking the terracotta cups home as souvenirs. But when we stopped in the Anokhi shop (below) for some snacks and some shopping, the taxi cab driver had cleaned the car of the garbage. He couldn’t understand why we would possibly want to keep the cup!
We found Jaipur to be a beautiful, colorful, and very HOT city!! Ready to catch our plane, though, back to the Garden City of India!
On our last night in Jaipur, I decided to take the kids on an adventure. Very little was written about Chokhi Dhani. Some guidebooks called it a resort, some a simulated village, and Lonely Planet even called it a theme park. One thing was certain–the website did not provide enough information. It didn’t even say when it opened!
Luckily, we were delighted with what we found. If Disney were to design an India section for Epcot, this is what it would look like–a lovely Rajisthani simulated village, lighted by lamps, with sand under foot. (The place is only open after dusk due to the heat during the day being too much!). Below is the view from the ferris wheel.
Our biggest thrill was riding a camel! But we could have also ridden elephants, horses, camel carts, bullock carts and more.
Let me emphasize just how very tall camels are. And to get up from a seated position, they must first lift their back legs, which causes you to lurch forward. Then up go the front legs and you feel like you are way high in the sky. I was thinking it would be like riding a horse, but I felt twice as high. Carson was happily snug between mom and sis, but I had to hold tight to Kaden so that she was not afraid of falling off. They don’t strap you in or anything! The ride lasted about five minutes. That was enough! Glad we did it, but we didn’t go looking for another ride the next morning like we had planned.
Thatched huts dotting the park with music everywhere housed all kinds of performers. We saw everything from fire dancing to puppetry to magic.
We visited a lovely artisan village with absolutely no pressure to buy. Artisans sat outside each of the displays demonstrating the crafts that were for sale. It was late though by the time we got over there, so things were starting to shut down.
We all wanted to get mehndi tattoos, but the woman doing the art had a limited repetoire.
Carson said, “Do you do monkeys?
Carson: “How about dragons?”
Kaden: “I just want a peacock feather.”
So, Kaden got a design on her leg. I got one on my arm. As you can tell from her face, she was not happy that it was the full peacock bird rather than just the feathers. And Carson opted for nothing. But I was happy with mine.
Mehndi is henna and is often used to decorate the palms and feet–especially for weddings and religious celebrations (and not just the bride). As you can see on my hand a day later, the henna is darkest on the palm rather than the arm because the keratin is greatest in this part of the body. This design was very simply–lots of scribbling actually. True mehndi artists do some very intricate and beautiful things!
We also explored the petting zoo, played carnival games, rode a ferris wheel (okay, the ferris wheel is a bit sketchy). The kids slid down slides. We wandered through a maze. With signs posted saying “please do not encourage tipping” it was so nice to engage with people and wander from activity activity without the stress of figuring out how much to pay. And if we didn’t want to do something, absolutely no pressure at all. It was so weird to not be hassled!
My favorite part was the food. While they pushed a traditional vegetarian thali sit down dinner, I knew the kids wouldn’t like that. Plus I have eaten plenty of traditional vegetarian thali dinners for as little as the equivalent of 50 cents. I did not need to pay $10 dollars for one! Instead, we could order from street vendors without worries about getting sick. Such fun! Kaden couldn’t believe that I was allowing her to get cotton candy and popcorn after so many months of refusal. We drank coconut water straight from the coconut. We watched them make “fresh lime soda, sweet!” right in front of us. I got all kinds of chats, including bhel puri and other things I didn’t even know I was eating! So much fun to eat my way across the village!
On the car drive back to the hotel, the kids actually said, “Thank you mommy for taking us there. That was some of the best fun that we had in India!” I agree!
In Jaipur, we stayed at the beautiful Alsisar Havelli hotel. The hotel was originally a palace built in the 1890s. It didn’t feel old though. The place was charming and remarkably clean. The staff was attentive but not pushy and we felt very much at home.
Jaipur is known as the pink city for the terracotta buildings of its old town. The last time the old town was painted was for the state visit of Bill Clinton back during his presidency.
Below is the outside of the Palace of the Winds, a beautiful exterior, but apparently too dilapidated for touring inside.
Below, these colorful hats were a common souveiner sold in Jaipur
Jaipur has one of the floating palaces of Rajasthan. It also is not tourable, but beautiful to behold. Camel rides were offered right by the photo stopping point for this palace.
Below, these two women were wading through the water near the palace. Our tour guide suspected they were going to swim over to the palace to look for duck eggs laid by the ducks who live on the property. Below right, a streetside vendor of flowers that are usually used for religious purposes.
We toured the city palace as a part of our visit to Jaipur. Below is the gate toward the palace plus one of the historic buildings on the palace grounds.
The royal family of Jaipur still lives in this part of the palace grounds (below). The flag signified that they were were present in the palace on the day we visited. I finally got the answer from this tourguide of why the royals in India do not receive the attraction of royals in Europe and elsewhere. First of all there are many royal families in India, so royalty is a regional thing, not a national one. But even more so, in India, royals get involved in politics all the time, running for office and otherwise. Thus it is in the interest of the opposing parties to not play up the importance of the glamour of these individuals or it could cost them the election. Thus the continuing intersection of politics and royalty make them not a source of universal press interest or attraction. I also think it has something to do with the fact that most of the royal families also were lackeys of the Brits. But my tourguide disagrees.
The City Palace is especially known for it’s amazing doors and archways. I thought that these peacocks were incredible!
The palace hosted a few small museums, including costumes and weaponry. Carson and Ducky really enjoyed looking at the weapons!
After braving the heat in Jaipur, we returned back to the hotel for a long afternoon of swimming and a delivery of a Domino’s pizza!
Arriving in Jaipur, we set off at 7:30 in the morning for the Amber Fort–an adventure that turned out to be one of our most favorite days in India! The palace was lived in by the Rajput Mahrajas and their families. The Amer (Amber Fort/Palace) was built in 1592 during the reign of Raja Man Singh who was in Akbar’s army. Jai Singh expanded the structure
As we stopped on on the edge of the lake to get this photo, were were accosted by so many sites it was hard to know where to look! To our right–a SNAKE CHARMER! With a live cobra and all. I love the look on Carson and Dionisi’s faces as they gasped the cobra emerging from the basket! Kaden on the other hand wanted NOTHING to do with that snake.
Instead Kaden went with Gogo to pet the elephant that was waiting at the left side of us. Add in a few vendors and you have a complete circus. Here, the circus is surrounding my friend Kathryn as we try to board the van!
Once we arrived at the Amer Fort, we immediately saw the elephants lined up and ready to take us up the hill! So exciting!
We waited in a line in this beautiful garden, watching this beautiful woman water the grounds. And all the time we were badgered by another circus of vendors. After the debacle at Fatehpur Sikri, Kathryn’s husband Satiri turned to the two of us and said, “If either of you buy anything I am not speaking to you!” And he had a good point. Kathryn and I have a weakness for shopping from the vendors. And if we buy one thing, we are surrounded by ten more. It is quite unbearable. So we were on our best behavior despite being tempted by many things in line. Plus, the prices were too high anyway. We thought at first we were getting quite the deal, but then learned they were quoting us in DOLLARS not rupees, which we had never heard vendors do before. So, no wonder we thought we were getting a deal!
Finally, it was time to board our elephant and take the 15 minute ride up the hill. Which felt like about two minutes it was so much fun!
The scenery was gorgeous, and even up the mountain, vendors tried to sell us things from below!
We even called Daddy from the elephant and said, “We’re on an elephant, right now!!”
Entering the main plaza was fabulous. Elephants parading in a majestic courtyard. Hidden in the second floor, musicians played the welcome music that was played for the kings arrival.
Above, Carson tries out a musical instrument with strings and a bow. Below, one of the most beautiful palaces I have every seen.
Before entering the palace, I found a ramp for Carson to get his energy out with his friends in the hopes that our trip through the palace might be a bit less dramatic than the Taj experience! Here we are heading up the steps to the entrance!
The marble is nice and cool to the skin out a hot, hot day!!!
With such beauty around, the boys were most interested in…. pigeons!
Carson checks out the main courtyard and the elephants below from the secret space where the women looked out long ago. And to the right–wine, wine wine!
The mountains were spectacular, and the fortress walls offered supply routes and protection for the palace.
Above, Kaden’s self portrait in the main courtyard.
Just as we were getting to hot to bear it, there, in the middle of the palace–a Cafe Coffee Day. Air conditioning. Cold drinks. Bliss. If only Fatehpur Sikri had a place to cool down and take a break!