Okay, first off let's take care of a couple of things. Firstly, The "Pink City" of Jaipur is not pink. It's what I would call "terra cotta" though others in our group (including R) declared it "salmon". Secondly, Jaipur is nothing like Bermuda. Not sure why I say that except that when I think of pink buildings I think of Bermuda which Jaipur is not like -- at all.
Okay, so we cleared that up. Now let's get down to what we did yesterday. Most of the day was spent riding the bus from Agra to Jaipur. It's approximately a five-hour drive. We got a healthy dose of the real India along the way. First up was the departure from Agra which is not the nicest place I've ever seen despite being home to the Taj Mahal. Then we passed through the countryside. We drove past lots of wheat fields where they were harvesting mostly by hand from small plots. Interestingly it is not legal to own more than 1,000 acres of arable land in India. It's written into the constitution so it's not likely to change. Not that there are any big farms that I saw. These are family, subsistence operations. We also saw many brick making factories and lots of cow manure with straw circular disks that are used for heat and fire.
We stopped for a "comfort stop" after a couple hours and we ended up spending more than thirty minutes at this place because some of our bus mates were going crazy shopping. I mean they were buying blouses, goblets, tchotchkes --all sorts of stuff. I felt like saying, "People -- we are at a truck stop here. I mean would you do this at a Pilot truck stop in America? Have we completely lost our minds?" On these bus tours there is always a conflict between shoppers and non-shoppers. It seems that on our bus the shoppers are in the majority. Normally I would count myself among the shoppers but shopping here in India is geared toward women (purses, bags, bangles, etc.) or is stuff that I don't want (paintings on fabric, magnets, cheap fake turbans, etc.)
Back on the road, we made it to the Jaipur ITC Hotel in time for lunch. After a brief rest we were back on the bus to head to downtown Jaipur. The traffic was pretty heavy and the "vibrancy" of the street life was overwhelming. Honking horns here, there and everywhere. Cars going in every which direction. Cows wandering in the street. Buses and TukTuks filled to overflowing. Food being prepared curbside in unsanitary conditions. Beggars. Hawkers. People living on the streets. Monkeys crossing between buildings and climbing wires. Goats feeding on trash. Crowds. Cricket games going on in any conceivable spot. Dogs wandering. Trash everywhere. Colorful clothing. Muslims. A family of four passes on a moped (with the mother sitting side-saddle). People bathing. An electrical substation right smack in the middle of the sidewalk. Crowds. Produce being sold off the sidewalk (on burlap bags). Bicycles with impossibley large payloads. Signs. Traffic. A horse-drawn cart. A man-powered cart. Tricycles. Merchandise exploding out from shops onto the sidewalk. And did I mention the constant honking?
Stores explode into street
Our destination was an astronomical observatory in the heart of the city. It consists of numerous dials and angled constructs pointing towards various celestial bodies. With the help of these various instruments you can tell the time, date, astrological sign, and probably more things which I: a) don't remember or b) never heard/understood in the first place. We had a local guide but I am afraid his explanations tended to take for granted a rather high understanding of astronomy which I, for one, do not possess. Still it was cool to see and appreciate the work necessary to have made all these calculations.
After our visit to the observatory we visited the administrative center for Jaipur which is now, in part, an art gallery. Plus we saw some of the Maharajah's palace (but not all because the family still lives in part of the building). The architecture was clearly influenced by Islam with lots of gorgeous geometric designs and scalloped archways. My favorite portion were the Peacock doors.
When we were through with the City Palace we got back on the bus. We were supposed to stop for a shopping opportunity at a textiles place. However, the traffic was a nightmare. Apparently this "Holi" Holiday is turning into a big long weekend and thus a chance for Indians to vacation. It must have taken nearly an hour to go approximately two blocks. So our tour leader decided to forgo the shopping expedition for today, promising to go tomorrow. And our driver decided to abandon the direct route to the hotel and instead took us the long way round. I am not sure that it saved us any time (in fact I am pretty sure it did not). However, we surely saw more of Jaipur than we otherwise would have and the parts that we saw weren't exactly on the tourist trail. We saw shantytowns that I won't soon forget. This was a level of poverty that boggles the mind. People living in the most makeshift structures with dirt floors and tarps for roofs. Everything filthy and depressing in the extreme. We saw the original gypsy people who according to our tour guide left India for Europe, got lost and never returned. He said, and I believe him, that the name gypsy is a corruption of the word Egypt-y which is where it was thought that these strange people came from. We saw lots of pigs foraging in trash. And the ubiquitous cows. Plus a camel or two being walked home from work no doubt. Again it was a wild ride and we were grateful to get back to the hotel where nothing but dinner was on the schedule. We went to bed early thus concluding another day in the exhausting kaleidoscope that is India.