Our day started with an early breakfast and departure for Amer Fort. We took pictures of the fort from the roadside, then were dropped off at the bottom of the hill to ride some elephants to the top. We were bombarded by vendors who lined up outside of the bus to shove goods at us. While we rode the elephants, some vendors were even throwing goods onto the elephants so that some of my friends had to throw them back down and say “no”. The ride was slow (and not my first time on an elephant, actually). When we finally made it into the fort, our “driver” asked for tips. We could see the No Tips sign right behind him and took the police officer’s hand to dismount before he could pressure us too much, arguing that our professors have prepaid for everything.
For the next few hours, we wandered around the fort and palace, taking photos and listening to our guide who stays with us everywhere we go. We even saw a room with a 500-year-old Jacuzzi bath. A bunch of us climbed inside at once.
The doorways were all relatively short and there were several ramps that were used to push the queen and her heavy jewels around the palace. One section of the palace was decorated with bits of mirrors.
It was prettier than the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. The whole palace overlooks gardens in the middle of Maota Lake.
On our way back, we took Jeeps down the hillside. We made a stop at the Bharat Step Well, the oldest step well in Rajasthan, in the nearby village.
We then drove back to have lunch and prepare for shopping.
When we went out in the afternoon, we visited several shops in Jaipur to buy clothes, jewelry, and get tailored saris (some were because so many people couldn’t fit into theirs). My sari had fit, but I got a really fancy one too. We finally got back and some people weren’t happy with the time they were given. I decided to return with two of them for company and ended up finding a belled anklet I wanted. We had to rush when we got back so we could dress for our big outing in our saris. I wore the pink one I was given, especially because my other sari was still being worked on.
As we drove towards our evening events, we passed some monuments and even stopped at a busy intersection to jump out. There were tarps held up by sticks in front of us. Men sat cross-legged behind piles of bright marigolds and roses, threading them together with needles that had to have been a good six inches long. We dodged children with outstretched hands and were thrown into the street to “experience life in India”. Our guide literally threw himself in front of a bus that was refusing to stop for us, turning his back to it, putting his hand up to say “hault”, and waving us across. Some girls were screaming, but the chaos reminded me of what I experienced in Cotonou.
We climbed some stairs past a temple on a roof that full of music and chanting. Some curious children watched us from behind clothes on a line as we turned and climbed yet another small set of steps to an even higher point beside the temple. Up here, the ground was covered in corn and other seeds. There were moldy bowls of water left out for the pigeons. (I saw that a lot on the trip and found it incredible that the people here will go without food before they let the cows starve, and they even feed the birds.) We took group photos and pictures of the view over the city. We could see monkeys lounging on the roof tops across the street from us. The children shyly slipped up behind us to say “hi”. They were excited when I took their pictures and even more thrilled when I gave them high-fives. We left the rooftops and hurried back through traffic to the bus.
We arrived at Chokhi Dhani, an outdoor festival in the Pink City suburbs of Jaipur. We rode camels, ate corn boiled with spices and lime, had free mehendi done, and ate dinner desert-style North Indian. The food was endless and there was a shopping village. The whole place was dark apart from glowing shops and lanterns or candles. We also passed puppet shows, dancers, masseuses, and musicians. My friends and I drew a lot of attention, as we were the first women in dresses to straddle the camels. By the time we had to leave, we were exhausted. I couldn’t even pack when I got back; I just went to bed.