so pretty in pink
01.01.2009 - 02.01.2009 23 °C
Once we finished our little walking tour of Samode’s village we went back to the hotel and took off for Jaipur straight away.
The trip actually took most of the day, but it’s enjoyable none the less. When you’re moving around as much as we are, walking and climbing as much (I have climbed more stairs than you can possibly imagine – I’ll be in great shape to do that CN Tower charity climb by the time I’m done with this trip), you do get weary – and these longer drives let you catch your breath – and even doze off, which I’ve done several times. It’s also a great opportunity to reflect on everything you’ve seen and let it all sink in.
I’m also using the time to write my blogs because there’s no time to do it once we get to our destinations. Now that we’re in the desert posting them is a challenge but … where there’s a will there’s a way. And there is some spectacular scenery along the way – lots of photo ops – which we’re all taking advantage of. I’m uploading a few shots with each blog entry but I’ve got hundreds and hundreds to share once I’m home.
Let me tell you if you’re visually inclined and moved by beauty, India is paradise. It is the most inspiring place I’ve ever been. It makes me want to design fabrics because some of the architectural details – when you look at really small sections at very close proximity – would make the most fabulous fabrics and carpets.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll have a whole new career.
So we arrived in the Pink City (so named because it was painted pink in 1883 when Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, first visited Jaipur) around 5ish. I know I keep going on about hotels, but this one – The Taj Rambaugh Palace – which was once home to the Maharaja of Jaipur – is beyond the beyond.
It’s very large, cream-coloured and if you’re looking for the romance that is synonymous with India this is where you’ll find it – complete with peacocks strutting across the lawns and arcaded back patios.
The rooms are huge, with ceilings that have to be at least 20 feet high. I had an enormous four poster bed … a pure silk bathrobe waiting for me in the closet … the softest, fluffiest, plushest, most absorbant robe draped over the enormous soaking tub in the bathroom – where every amenity a traveler could ever need or want was available – loofahs, combs, shaving kits, toothbrushes, toothpaste, slippers PLUS all the customary shampoos and conditioners we’ve all come to expect. There was incense and fruit and beautiful bowls filled with fragrant flower petals and the softest towels I’ve ever used. I wish I knew how they washed them.
The staff delight in waiting on you hand and foot and how I will ever re-adjust to normal life I do not know! And the attention to detail (as it relates to service) would just blow your mind: When we arrived we had a half hour to settle in before we had to leave for a shopping extravaganza. I immediately plugged my laptop in so I could charge the battery and also left my iPod and camera.
When we got back to our rooms late that night there was a note on my pillow: It said that they had noticed, when they came to turn down the bed, that I had left some valuables in the room so they had put a “do-not-disturb” sign on my door. Can you believe that??
It was difficult to drag myself away from the hotel but Rashmi had arranged for a contact of hers who manufactures carpets, textiles and shawls to stay open for us. So off we went.
As we drove to their place I was surprised to see how big Jaipur is. I knew it was the capital of Rajasthan but I hadn’t realized it would be such a “city” with many modern buildings – both offices and condos – and many very high end malls. It’s much more urban than I had imagined it to be.
Once at our destination we had a very interesting demonstration of how they make the carpets – you cannot imagine how that man’s fingers flew!! This is also a trade that is passed down from generation to generation. This man learned from his dad, who’d learned from his dad and so and so on and so on …
Then we saw how they do the block printing they are so famous for in this region – and we all got a small square to take home as a reminder.
The showroom was next and that turned out to be the biggest surprise. I had no intentions of buying a carpet – it hadn’t been on my radar at all – but buy one I did. I saw a pure silk one that just made my heart do a flip but it was very expensive. Well worth it, but showing uncharacteristic restraint I insisted “no” although the vendor did lower the price several times.
In the end he wore me down and I bought a much more reasonable one – made of camel wool, if you can believe it. Who knew about camel wool? The base is sort of a tobacco colour – it’s very rustic – and I think (hope) it will look good in my living room.
Up another flight of stairs and we saw all the bed coverings, clothes and shawls. By now it was 10:30 at night – we’d been there for hours. They ordered some dinner for us and although I bought a few pashminas I couldn’t handle anything else. There was just so much of everything my eyes were crossed. Bed was the only thing on my mind.
But sleep alluded me.
I guess my brain was working overtime. I had the most fabulous bed in the world to sleep in, but couldn’t. So I blogged, had a good soak, followed by a bracing shower – by which time it was about 5:30 so I got dressed and wandered around the hotel in the dark. Still tons to see and enjoy and reflect upon.
We had breakfast very early anyway because we had a very full day: A city tour, with stops to Hawa Mahal (wind palace) and Albert Hall Museum … an extensive visit to Amer Fort … lunch at City Palace (where we were to have met the Maharaja but the 85 year old was unfortunately feeling under the weather) … then on to Jantar Mantar (an astrological conservatory) … tea at Samode Havali and then the ‘pièce de resistance’ – the family who own the carpet factory invited all of us to their home for dinner.
What a night we had! We got to meet their entire family – there had to be 50 or 60 of them at least. We had a traditional Rajasthani meal … and then we went downstairs and danced. I was so exhausted from lack of sleep I could barely keep my eyes open but it was tons and tons of fun. The warmth and generosity these people showed us was so incredible – an unexpected “moment” that we will treasure forever.
How lucky are we? How many tourists ever get a chance to experience these kinds of things? But Rashmi knows them well and that’s how we got to reap the benefit of her connections.
Before I sign off, though, here’s a little info about the sites we saw:
Hawa Mahal was built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 so that the women of the court could discreetly get some air and look out at the street below. It looks like a huge, pink wedding cake – every ‘tier’ has semi-octagonal overhanging windows – each with a perforated screen. It’s called the Wind Palace because the westerly winds blow cool breezes through those windows – natural air conditioning.
We had no time to go into the museum, but the sandstone and marble building is located just outside the old, walled city and it is the cousin to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. There are only those two in the world. Next time I will be sure to have enough time in Jaipur to go in.
After a few days you realize there is such an overwhelming number of sites to see in India, you just cannot see them all – no matter how long you stay – and you stop angsting about it. No wonder people keep returning here.
Yes, I rode an elephant (can’t post the pictures because we got prints from the “professional” photographers/hucksters that line the paths – but you’ll see them when I get home)!!
That is how I got to the top of Amer Fort (it’s in ruins but the interior palaces, gardens and temples are still incredibly beautiful – especially the Palace of Mirrors). Trust me you don’t want to climb the stairs. It was enough to have to manage them on the way down. Suffice to say we were ready for lunch by the time we got through there.
Jantar Mahal was created by India’s Newton – Jai Sing II – who knew how advanced the Europeans were in the field of astronomy, and set out, in 1726, to create the world’s finest observatories. He personally supervised the design and construction and it’s equipped with solar instruments called yantras – which actually look like large, abstract sculptures.
Samode Havali (owned by the same family who own the Samode Palace where we had just come from) is a mid-19th century residence which has now been turned into what we call a boutique hotel. It’s arranged around two courtyards – very opulent. At the pool there’s a pavilion with lounges that are like queen-sized beds with canopies over them. How I would have loved to spend an hour or so there.
We got to have tea there as the guests of the Manager because he knows Rashmi very well. See – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know …