After a restful night in our fully air conditioned “oasis in the desert,” we started another day of sightseeing with our trusty tuk-tuk driver Vijay. We had asked him to be there at 8:45 a.m. to make sure we started as early as possible–and it turns out he was more punctual than we were! We still managed to make it to the Hawa Mahal by opening time though, and he instructed us on where to walk and how to avoid touts in the area. Well, at first we thought he was exaggerating since we didn’t see very many people inside or on the way to the complex. As we made our way outside and to the front for the real view, this was where we put our anti-tout tips to work. Ladies with babies, crippled people, small children and old men were persistently begging for rupees, selling junk, or just trying to get our attention. By acting oblivious and shooing people away after a polite “no” we managed to find a way to enjoy the beautiful facade of the Hawa Mahal. Interestingly, the Hawa Mahal was designed to allow royal ladies to look down and observe the happenings on the street without being seen. I can totally see why this was necessary in a country where it’s fairly normal for dirtbags to catcall and act out towards any woman out alone.
Our next stop was the Jantar Mantar, an 18th century astronomical observatory. Pretty cool for a quick stop and a few pictures. On our way out we bought a “Thums Up” from the drink vendor. At first I thought it was a generic cola with a strong flavor. Reading the label I realized it was a cola product sold by the Coca-cola company! There is a long history to this strange branding, but basically India didn’t want Coca-cola in their country (calling it unpatriotic), so they made and sold Thums Up. Later when the imperialist smoke had cleared, Coca-cola bought out Thums up, and regained its cola foothold in India. It is apparently marketed as a “Manly and Grown up” beverage for its strong flavor, so of course when I bought some on my own later in the evening, my purchase of a Thums up gathered the attention of the entire shop.
On that note, I have to say, it doesn’t take much for Mike and I to be the center of attention around here. People are constantly asking to take pictures with us, and when they can’t work up the nerve to ask, they just gawk and take pictures of us when they think we aren’t looking. We went to a museum today and quickly discovered that Mike and I were the main attraction there for the locals. I don’t understand why. We asked our driver about it and he only said that it was because “we are happy,” but that only made sense to me when we were festively decorated with flowers and bindi/dots. At first, I thought maybe they mistook us for some famous people, but I’ve since abandoned that idea and have decided that it must be miserable to be a celebrity stalked by paparazzi. Mike says we should start asking for 50 rupees per picture, just like when locals think we’ve taken a picture of them going about their business. I guess westerners have taken so many “poor foreigner” type pictures that they’ve decided to cash in on it and demand payment for their image. Besides the fact that those type of pictures are passé enough to be mentioned in the “Stuff White People Like” book, it’s just way too much of a hassle to take those kind of pictures. Maybe we should make it a hassle for them too!
We finished off the day with some sightseeing at the Tiger Fort and the aforementioned Albert Hall museum. Tiger Fort was pretty cool, with great views of Jaipur from high up. While taking pictures it became clear that it’s now owned by a troop of wild and sometimes aggressive monkeys. They made for some pretty cute pictures, although these guys were a little more territorial than the ones at the Monkey temple. The also had a corner of the fort reserved for a group of like 6 or 7 monkeys with tiny babies. Mike cracked open a gate they were behind and snapped a quick picture before being vocally warned with grunts by one of the mothers. A few shops later and we were back at the hotel in time for one last delicious meal in Jaipur.
On a side note, I got a pretty yucky glimpse of “ice delivery” in Jaipur. I tried to take a picture, but with the tuk-tuk moving so fast I barely managed to get Mike to catch a glance before it was out of sight. A block of ice was being transported open to air down a dusty, stinky road lined with animal dung by a crippled man moving his “cart” using a hand crank attached to one of the pedals. I pictured this ice being offered in restaurants or smoothies, or even ice chests for water bottles like the one used on the bus to Jaipur to cool off the complimentary “Ganpatti Water” in poorly sealed plastic bottles. This thought left my mind quickly with all the chaos around me until later I saw a girl at my hotel, fresh off the bus to Jaipur happily drinking her “Ganpatti water” straight out of the bottle. I have to admit, it kind of grossed me out to think back on the ice. Little particles of camel dung and decaying rotten trash melting in your delicious frozen mango lasse. No thanks. It’s a good thing we’ve been totally paranoid about all our food and drink here. So far so good!
That’s it for Jaipur. We managed to hit all the sights we had planned on in the two full days here. Tomorrow we hop on a train at 0600 to Agra. The main attraction there just may be the main attraction in India: The Taj Mahal.