The bus pulled into Jaipur at 5:30 am…5-1/2 hours later than expected – after multiple stops for a man who wanted to report that his money was missing. It was a blessing in disguise because the drop off spot looked a bit ominous upon first glimpse and I can only imagine what it would have felt like to arrive without the rising sun in sight. I had booked a hotel the night before and they promised to send a car to pick me up. As I guessed, the driver waited for a few hours and left when he determined the bus must not be arriving that day. Luckily, a kindly tuk-tuk driver took pity upon me and called the hotel who re-sent the tired, but gracious driver. Upon arrival, I was whisked to a beautiful space but sleepily tumbled into bed before appreciating the extent of the room’s character. When my eyes opened a few hours later, happily satisfied from a bit of sleep, I looked up and enjoyed the bright blue hand painted walls and ceiling, the cozy, pillowed seating areas, and a room beyond my imagination. I will post some photos so you can enjoy it, too.
I later learned that this relatively inexpensive hotel was formerly the King’s hunting lodge. It was reconstructed just over a year ago and is managed by a generous-spirited man who is married to the king’s niece. Again, I felt like royalty here in India. Meals were served in a cozy dining spaces. Tea was hot and served whenever desired. And the hotel staff took care of every detail for the next step of the journey. Pretty much…every need in Jaipur was met.
I spent the first afternoon wandering the old city. Jaipur is a beautiful place commonly called the “Pink City” because of the peachy-pink building colors painted for a visit by the Prince of Wales in 1876. While many of the buildings are peeling or faded, the combined visual -especially from high above the city center – is a sight to enjoy. There is a bustling and positive vibe in Jaipur that felt comfortably familiar. I was warned by many about the heat in India…but as my friend Maria would say…I am a hot-house plant who thrives in warm climates. I love the heat and the humidity seems similar to a August day in Chi-town.
The second day in Jaipur started with an early morning ride to the top of Amber Fort…via Elephant. I was prepared to fear them…waited a bit nervously to get on…and was sure that they would start stampeding at any moment…but clearly the elephant transport is a smooth running operation set up to give tourists great photo opportunities. It’s hard not to be impressed with these massive animals with the peaceful temperament. As the elephant strolled, people walked along trying to sell their wares…interestedly speaking Spanish. Sometimes, a city tour is a great way to become familiar with an area and I’m happy I took the opportunity to see Jaipur in this way…covering a lot of ground in a short time.
When traveling in Italy, there comes a moment when you reach Cathedral saturation. I am quickly learning that in India I am reaching my capacity for visiting forts…with each visit I am becoming less aware of the unique protective features and more anxious to wander local areas. I have done a lot of eating…but without diet coke or much sugar…and a daily dose of endless vegetarian delicacies…I am feeling fantastic (If anyone wants to remind me of this when I get home and you see me chug-slugging a diet coke with a handful of licorice for lunch…you have my permission to do so).
As I think about my first days here, I am awed by the level of service for guests in India. While there are a ton of people everywhere, I have encountered fewer Westerners than I expected which means it’s easy to stand out when wandering the streets. While there are persistent requests to make purchases and curious glances (along with a few requests to take photos with babies) my interactions have been positive and interesting. The global kindness of strangers and finding “help when you need it” continues to impress me.
The history, complexity, and diversity of this country are mind boggling and remind me that there is so much to learn.