January 31, 2017
First things first: the Pink City isn’t actually pink. It’s more of an apricot color, but the charm of the walled Old City holds fast no matter the color descriptive.
Arriving in the dark, starving and tired, we are thrilled to find out that the rooftop restaurant in our hotel, The Peacock, is one of the best in the city, and it does not disappoint. From several stories up, amidst twinkling lights and charming decor we listen to the bustle below us and enjoy one of the best meals I’ve had yet. Full and happy, we retire early to try and catch up on much needed sleep.
Our first full day here is all about seeing the sights. We begin at Amer Fort, one of 3 immense mountain top forts built a several centuries ago in order to protect the city of Amer. I won’t go into all of the historical details here, but will suffice to say that the splendor of a bygone era is still palpable in this majestic place.
After Amer, we stop at Panna Meena ka Kun, the second baori (step well) of the trip, and this one satisfies me on every possible level. Aside from a couple of locals hanging out, we are the only people at this site (you know how that thrills me) and considering the lack of gates and fencing, the first thing I do is climb down as far as I’m able to. Unfortunately, a security guard eventually appears and makes it known that this is against the rules, but not before we’re able to take some incredible photos.
Before heading to lunch we take a photo-op at Jalal Mahal, the floating palace, which is no longer open to visitors. There are many vendors selling food and wares along the waterfront here, and I see a street snack I had last time I was in India and am compelled to give it a try here. A clear moment of hesitation makes me question whether or not this is wise, as there are half a dozen reasons why this is completely unsanitary and high-risk, but I justify that since this is my second trip I now have the antibody’s in my system and I go for it. I ask for extra lime and spice (I’m convinced this helps kill the bacteria) and I’m happy to report there was not even a hint a of a tummy trouble! And yes, the crunchy, tomato-y, limey snack was as good as I remembered!
After lunch we spend a couple of hours walking around the Old City portion of Jaipur shopping and mostly just taking in the feel of this city and it’s inhabitants, both human and otherwise.
One of my absolute favorite things about being in a foreign land is photographing the people. I learned a few trips ago that while there are many moments when the foreign faces appears skeptical and unwelcoming, eye contact, a smile and a nod hello can go a very, very long way.
As we waited for our driver to take us to the next site, I saw a man sitting in his cart, selling coconuts and was immediately drawn to him. I approached and asked in my typical manner of gestures and smiles, if I could take his photo and he happily agreed. As is often the case in these scenarios where a particular person compels me, a conversation of sorts ensued. One where verbal language has little bearing and the warm energetic connection is the real tie that binds.
After we’re done it’s time to head up to Nahargarh, another of the three hilltop forts here. This one is known for it’s panoramic view of the vast city below, and if I had any question about the enormity of Jaipur, this view gives me proper perspective.
One of the things I noticed on the way into town yesterday and that I see again and again in this city are the kites, and I’m sad to learn we missed the annual kite festival by only a couple of weeks. If you’ve read The Kite Runner you know a bit about the competitive sport of kite fighting, and from different perspectives around the city it’s impossible to tell if all the kites I see are part of this aggressive sport or just for folly, but they are a delightful visual either way. From this perch high atop a mountain, the bobbing kites below are such a simple pleasure to watch.
One of the main downsides to a densely populated city this size is of course the palpable pollution, which makes a clear photo of the view impossible (not to mention the toll it takes on one’s respiratory system.) The only upside however, is that pollution tends to create a stunning visual effect on the setting sun.
As the sun makes it’s descent over Jaipur and ushers in the night, we head back to the hotel and it is here that we feel the full impact of Jaipur traffic. Our driver has told us that that Jaipur beats both Delhi and Bombay in the bad traffic department, and we get into a friendly argument about it. Last year in Bombay I thought there was absolutely nothing that could compare to the absurdity and chaos I witness and experienced there… but I quickly conceded my viewpoint as we joltingly stopped and started for over an hour, packed in sardine-style amidst blasting horns, yelling motorcyclists, food vendor carts and the occasional (and extremely brave/insane) pedestrian, just to get us the 2 kilometers back to the hotel.
Thus ends another exhaustingly successful day. Thank you, India.