Such a GREAT weekend! I love Jaipur!! It’s my favorite city in India so far (not that I’ve been to many, but still). Delhi and Faridabad are so dirty; there is garbage, animals, and feces everywhere, and the air is all polluted and smoggy. Jaipur didnt have any of that! The smell was not bad at all, trash did not line the streets, and the whole city just looked and felt nice!
We arrived at the bus station at 10:45am then caught a tuk-tuk to the hostel (he got lost). The hostel was very good: it was clean, had western toilets, wifi, and sufficient blankets on the bed all for a cheap price.
We got settled in, then the tuk-tuk from Elefantastic came and picked us up to go on our elephant adventure! It was quite a far ride, but we made it before too long. Upon arrival, the owner Rahul talked to us a bit about him and his farm. He is a 4th generation elephant owner and trainer, and his ancestors took care of the elephants for the royal family. He told us how they care for the elephants: each of the 24 elephants has its own apartment, and a family lives in an adjacent house where they care for the elephant 24/7 for their whole lives. The elephants are not ever chained or beaten, get regular baths, and are well fed. He had our elephants out for us already, so we got to go up and meet “our” elephant for the day. There were 2 of us to each elephant, and I was paired up with Francisca on a very pretty and well-mannered one. We spent about 45 minutes just petting her and talking to her and feeding her to get her used to us. Then we got to climb up! I won the most graceful climber award haha. We didnt use a platform but instead climbed up their head! I put my foot on her lower trunk with my hands grabbing on her ears, then she raised me up with her trunk and i let go of her ears and walked up on to her head then back! We didnt have a saddle either, just a blanket secured with some ropes to sit on. We all climbed on our respective elephants, then a rider guided our train on the ground by walking next to us and issuing commands to the elephants whenever they started drifting from the route. It was super cool, but elephants arent the most comfortable thing to ride for too long. After the ride finished, we were taken to Rahul’s parent’s house and fed lunch. Rajhastani food is the best Indian food I’ve eaten yet! It was basically the same stuff I have all the time here in Faridabad, but the spices were in different proportions which gave it such a different and better taste. From lunch we went back to the elephant farm and got to paint our elephants! The paint was all natural and non-toxic for the elephants skin, made by combining the powders used for Holi with water. The elephants were so good about standing still and letting us just paint all over them. We also got to give them water by running a hose over their trunk and letting them suck the water up then bring their trunks up to deposit the water into their mouths.
After our Elefantastic adventure, we went down to Jahari Bazaar to do some shopping. It was one of the most stressful and chaotic things ever! We werent even out of the tuk-tuk when 5 shopkeepers swarmed us trying to make us come to their shops. Whether we seemed interested or not, at every shop people came out and tried to get us to walk in so they could sell us things. Some would even follow us down the road and we would ahve to say no at least 6 times! Saying no after looking in the shop was even worse, since they would insist you name a price you were willing to pay and didnt understand when I you said you just didnt want to buy it no matter what the price! I was so overwhelmed and got a huge headache. I did find and purchase the red elephant pants i wanted, and got a gorgeous long skirt.
Dinner was at a nice rooftop restaurant on top of a hotel. The tuk-tuk driver got lost getting us there (surprise, surprise) but we finally made it. I got palak paneer since it was recommended, but I wasnt a fan of it. Maybe its just the way this restaurant made it, but it tasted and had the texture of spinach baby food with the paneer cubes in it. 3 of us also split a bottle of Indian white wine, which I also didnt care too much for haha.
We were up the next morning pretty early to do some sightseeing of the historical parts. We wanted a nice coffee shop for breakfast, so the hostel owner recommended we go to Indian Coffee House. After finally finding it, we go in and get seated in the "Ladies and Family" room off to the side, then promptly forgotten about. We got up and moved to the middle section of the cafe to try and increase our chances of being served, and the waiter finally came over so we could order. After more waiting, our food comes out....before the coffee! We didnt want it to get cold so went ahead and ate it, except I couldnt eat my egg and cheese omelette due to it being full of onions (not mentioned at all in the menu). We were so aggravated we still hadnt received our coffee, so decided to leave and just pay for the food. But right as we were walking out of the restaurant, the waiter came in with the coffee. So we drank it, then left.
I was so excited for the next part though, and it met my expectations. We started at the Amber Fort (Amber Palace) and got a guide to lead us around and give us some history. We got to see the chambers of the Maharaja’s 12 wives, the Hall of Pleasure where the Queen would bathe and be cooled by a natural cooling system, gardens, the audience hall, and the absolutely gorgeous Hall of Mirrors! The hall of mirrors is said to be better than that of Versaille, and has thousands of small mirrored metal pieces in beautiful designs. They would bring a large oil lamp to middle of a domed aprt, and it would create the vision of little stars in the night sky the way it reflected off the small mirrors. We also got to go into a temple in the palace dedicated to the goddess Kali. A goat is sacrificed and cooked every morning and given as an offering to Kali along with other food and whiskey. We rang the bell, were given water by the priest, and a blessing on our foreheads (those red dots you see but never know what they're all about). The Amber Palace was the seat of power for the Rajputana Kingdom, and for those of you who have seen the movie Jodhaa Akbar, the palace was Jodhaa Bai’s home before she was married to Akbar the Great when her father was Maharaja. Her brother took the throne next. It was super cool to actually see this piece of history I had watched a movie about.
We took a tuk-tuk from the Amber Fort to the Albert Hall Museum, which also used to be a small palace. It was a gorgeous building, with great pieces in it. Some were Indian,and some were international. The weapons room was my favorite.
Late lunch/early dinner was at a fancy schmancy place called Niros, where I tried Kadai paneer. I liked this one much better than palak even though it was pretty spicy.
The hostel was our next stop to gather our things, then we made it to the bus station for the ride home. The bus ride took almost 7 hours!! It was crazy. Jaipur is way closer than a 7-hour trip but apaprently that’s normal. Since everyone had to be dropped off at home, I didnt get into bed until 3am. My host family was so nice and let us sleep in rather than going to our palcements since the girls who were in Dharamsala didnt get home until almost 7am from the bus and we were all tired.
But despite the long bus ride, the tuk-tuk drivers who had no idea how to get anywhere, and the chaotic bazaar, I absolutely loved my weekend and would recommend Jaipur to anyone.