Jaipur has 4 million people and is called the Pink City. It used to be all white from whitewash, but it was blinding in the dessert sun, and during an official visit from some long ago dignitary, someone ground up some of the local rock and added it to the whitewash making it a browny, tawny, ochre colour which fades in the sun to a lighter colour that some foreigners call pink. And thus the nickname of 'the pink city', as opposed to Jodphur, which is called the 'blue city'.
We set off early to get to the line-up before 8 am to ride elephants, up to the Amber Fort, on a hill overlooking the city, with a seven mile stone wall and fortresses surrounding it. The ruler of the day, Man Singh, built the massive structure at the same time Shakespeare was busy writing plays. The elephants are restricted by law to not make more than 4 to 6 trips up to the fort each way, taking only two people at a time, and only taking them up, not down. This is because one elephant went rogue, killing a tourist, after being worked too hard, especially in the very hot months. For a while, no elephants were allowed, but the 'elephant owners cooperative' appealed to the government, because elephants are costly to maintain and feed and they were going broke. The government hired a veterinarian to study why the elephant had acted in so violent a manner, and it was determined that they were being treated harshly by taking too many people, too often up and down from the Fort. Now they are often finished their maximum number of trips by noon and can go home early.
It was a bumpy, rolly, poly ride. Exhilarating for me. Hard on Brian's spinal fusion. Our elephant's name was Sonia, her mahout called himself Rahul (a joke referring to the Gandhi ruling family, not the Mahatma). It was included as part of the tour so we didn't have to pay extra, which was a bonus as I had mentioned to Brian that I wanted to try it. We missed out two years ago when we visited.
The Fort, this time, was much cooler with lovely breezes blowing up from the man-made lake on one side using the Bernuli (sp?) effect with no lake on the other side. Lots of tours though. Last time it was very hot with fewer people. A dark skinned man with a black moustache, in his mid-forties, approached Brian, grasping his hand, speaking quickly, either asking or telling, "Sir, you are the Maharajah of Gujurat?" When Brian said no, he grabbed his goatee, pushed it back under Brian's chin, and said, "Then you are a Muslim man." Brian said no again, got his chin back, and we all had a good laugh.
After wandering about listening to the tour guide for several hours, we headed out to a textile and carpet weaving factory, where we received instructions on how to hand print cotton with vegetable dyes and how to set the dyes to not fade or run, then all the steps in creating Asian carpets from weaving, combing, cutting, washing, setting, burning and brushing to create the lustre of good quality rugs. Then drinks and food provided by the company to lubricate us customers before they began throwing carpets of various hues, sizes, and materials onto the showroom floor. They had Kashmiri wool, camel wool, silk on cotton, silk on silk, etc. We struggled then left, while 8 others succumbed and purchased. It helped sales to the Americans to have no duty, whereas Canadians, Australians, and others must pay minimally 15% more. We both eyed a lovely one for the TV room that was silk warp, silk weft, gorgeous, till we thought of the cats, which saved us $3,000 Canadian. Ha, ha.
Back on the bus (after several women ordered custom made shalwar kameez outfits to be delivered later that night to the hotel), and back to Le Meridienne to change rooms as our AC was still not working. They put us in a different wing, and how happy we were! Like a different hotel altogether. Huge bathroom, all modern with separate glass rooms for showering, toilet, and a 6 foot long tub, king bed, and balcony over the outdoor dining, and pool area. Marble everywhere. (Very nice, till the wee hours of the morning when we awoke bathed in sweat. It appears the hotel shuts down the AC after some time. I mentioned days ago that electricity and utilities are very expensive in this land of 1.28 billion people. Seems many of our group suffered from the heat and little sleep, while it was refreshingly cool on the balcony at 4 am.)
We headed back out to the tour bus, after 45 minutes to change our room, and refresh ourselves. We went to the inner part of the city through the pink gates. And shopped for 45 minutes, before going to the astronomical observatory and a museum dedicated to the Royal Family, the reigning Maharajah of Jaipur and his ancestors. As women can't reign, the present Maharajah is the 14 year old grandson of the previous one, who only sired daughters.
Home at dark through many hawkers to the bus. Room service and luxurious baths with one hour of wifi purchase and "so to bed".