Day 8 - Fair Trade India Tour April 27 2014, 0 Comments
So after another long night on the train and again limited sleep, we arrived at the Jaipur train station on the Eastern end the Thar Desert in Rajasthan at 5am. At this point on our trip we have seen several members of our group suffer from dehydration, heat exhaustion, gastrointestinal issues and just plain lack of sleep. Annette had one day of both dehydration and heat exhaustion but recovered quickly. I have fortunately held my own, so far and I attribute it to eating like the locals. I am not really a dairy person but I have been instructed to drink several different types of local handmade yogurt and buttermilk drinks that contain live cultures and are used to keep the body cool. Hey, when in Rome, right? Who am I to argue with desert survivors?
We arrived at our hotel too early to check in so we had breakfast and sat in the air conditioned lobby awaiting room availability. The first of the rooms going to those that needed it the most, as some really did need to! Annette and I are one of the last to receive a room, tired but grateful to be hanging in there.
Back to civilization, a nice hotel, complete with clean towels and bedding! As I write this Annette is showered and clean, lying on the bed in an air conditioned room. I still am un-showered, taking advantage of intermittent Wi-Fi, checking email and sipping on a Kingfisher Strong an 8% cold beer at 10am, yes 10am, don't judge, you have not walked in my 48 hr. clothing!
After showering and resting for a bit we boarded the bus for a tour of the “Pink City”, named so because of the colorful buildings, although truly more terra cotta in color than pink. We learned that Jaipur has a stable economy and low unemployment and noticed the infrastructure to be more maintained and the trash not as apparent as in Delhi. You could find a roadside tea stall, a dairy stall and a "paan" shop selling small square packets of a variety of mouth fresheners and chewing tobacco products on just about every street corner. There still was plenty of traffic and lots of honking, although the intensity much reduced from what we had experienced in Delhi.
Next we drove to the Amber Fort, a massive red sandstone Palace that crowns the hill over Maota Lake. This impressive structure is protected by massive ramparts similar to the Great Wall of China that follows the natural contours of the ridgeline. We parked in a lot below and transferring to jeeps to take us up learning that 16th Century structure was created during the reign of Raja Man Singh, the Kacchwaha King of Amber was lived in by the Rajput Maharajas and their families.
Inside we saw large marble columns, the Aram Bagh, a Mughal-style garden known as the pleasure garden and most impressive, the Sheesh Mahal, known as the Mirror Palace in which it is said that the flame of a single candle would reflect in the thousands of tiny concave mirrors embedded in this chamber to transform it into a starlit sky. Looking out at Maota Lake below is the Kesar Kyari Bagh, an impressive garden filled with star shaped flower beds once planted with rare saffron flowers and the lake was rumored to be filled with crocodiles in its day to prevent crossings.
We made a quick stop at the picturesque Jal Mahal. A “Water Palace” seems to float on serenely in the middle of the calm waters of the Man Sagar Lake. From here we went straight to Jantar Mantar, one of the largest and best preserved observatories in the world. Built in 1728, it houses 16 giant sculptural instruments; some still used today, including the Samrat Yantra, at 90 ft. high, the largest sundial in the world.
With a little time to kill, we stopped at Hawa Mahal to walk the colorful streets for a little sight-seeing and shopping in this busy Deori Bazaar area. I could not help but compare this popular shopping area located halfway around the globe to shopping on the Square in Healdsburg, California, the home of One World Fair Trade, a world away on so many levels.
We closed the evening enjoying tea and treats at the family home of Manish, meeting both his mother and father. One room of the house has been converted into a retail clothing store, a family business in which Manish’s mother is the designer. It became evident as to where all three children became inspired to work in handmade products.