First sorry this is one of the more neglected corners of the Internet. I am going to try to post more so that I have a little diary of my experiences to look back on when I am old and gray!
I am also aware that I have done a lot of whining about India. While the traditional itinerary for Rajasthan includes the Taj Mahal, and some quick trips to the major cities and monuments in the area, Nick and I decided to buck traditions. I almost instantly vetoed the 8+ hour drive to the Taj after being driven for five minutes on the Indian highways. Nothing is worth the severe carsickness I would have endured! Instead we explored areas closer to Jaipur. Here a some pictures of our day trips around Jaipur.
We went to the most amazing abandoned fort –Bhagrarh, which is an absolute must if in the area, and by far my favorite thing in Jaipur (besides shopping for jewels). It is simply out of this world beautiful, the type of beautiful where you are forced to feel spiritual and think about how lucky you are. With very few European and American tourists and absolutely no tour busses, this for me was really special. The 17th century fort was invaded by the Mughals and has been abandoned since then. The legend of the fort is a complicated story, think Grimm fairy tale, of a beautiful princess and an evil wizard. The wizard fell in love with the lovely princess and tried to use his magical spells to capture her heart. Unfortunately for him the princess recognized his spell in the form of a perfume, and tossed it at a boulder. This caused the boulder to role down and kill the wizard, but he still had time to curse the city and insure its total destruction. The fort is in the Sariska Tiger Reserve, so Bengal tigers are rumored to live in the fort at night. Regardless the National preserve leaves the landscape open and untouched.
We also made our way to the ancient stepwell, Chand Baori. This is one of the oldest preserved historical sites in Rajasthan. The well, designed to conserve water in the arid climate of Jaipur has over 3,500 steps leading to down the well. The well sinks almost 13 stories. It was constructed in 800 AD and the temple on site is still in use. Like most things in India despite its ancient status it is filled with color, this time in the form of green algae living on the surface of the water. Most of you have already seen the Stepwell as it was used to film the underground prison where Bruce Wayne is held and then climbs out of in the Dark Knight Rises.
We also spent a day with Elephants, while Elephantastic boast being the number one activity on Trip Advisor, all and all a staged day riding around on Elephants in a dump is really not all that exciting. Feeding and getting to touch an elephant is all well and good. Painting it was awesome but washing it was pretty much the pits, and riding it in the Indian sun, was also not so great.
We also made it to the Sunken Palace, Jal Mahal, unfortunately our driver was more interested in selling us a rug. When we arrived he hustled us to one spot, let us take one picture and quickly forced us into the car for something he promised was very special. I was sure we were going to get to see the palace via the boats which take you there, but alas it was yet another rug shop…..
On our final day we took a workshop on block printing in Bagru at Jai Text Art. Block printing is a Indian form of textile pattern printing. Prints are placed on fabric via carved stamps. The complicated stamps, which are hand carved, each place one color or one part of the pattern. The fabric is transformed over a series of days as more and more colors are added to the print. It is a complex and time consuming process, one that I have only begun to appreciate. Especially after I began to realize how difficult lining your stamping up is! This was an amazing day, with a complete tutorial on natural dyes and a trip to the owner’s summer cottage I absolutely loved it. It would be on my must do list.