Firstly today we were invited into a Hindi Temple and I got a Holy Blessing. You have to take your shoes off and then ring the bell. The bell is rung every time someone enters or leaves the Temple. Tuesday is Monkey God day and a woman is trying to hug a wall mural of Hanuman, the Monkey God. There is also the sun god and Ganesha, the Elephant God of Good Luck and Wisdom to pray to. There are people reading scriptures in a separate area. Following the guide, I placed my hands over a candle and then wipe the heat over my head, there are two candles, so I do it twice. Then you give your donation to the holy people, who then bless you with holy water. You take a sip of water and then shake the rest over your head [KB - I politely avoided any religious-ness, pretending to be engrossed in the goings-on around me!]. Blessed with hopefully good luck, we leave the Temple ringing the bell. The donations go towards feeding the hungry like we saw queuing in Delhi. Our shoes are still there, nobody seem bothered in taking them. Not sure how long they would last outside a church in the UK.
Then it's on to sightseeing - first stop Palace of Winds. It's a seven storey pink stone facade, with white marble windows. The women of the time would have watched parades through the windows as they could only appear in public fully veiled.
Then it was on to the Amber Fort, a famous fort built by Mr Raja Man Singh. Its a bit of a walk to the fort up a hill, but our tour includes an elephant ride. The tourist line waiting for elephants snakes through a park and we are hounded by hawkers. It's a long wait. The elephants only do three runs to the top each and there are 100 Elephants. They live in two elephant parks, one next to Amber Fort and the second a few miles further down road.
Finally we are at the front of the queue, Elephant number 70 arrives and I sit down. Keith has to jump as the driver has already set his sights on reaching the top as quickly as possible - we think he wants an early lunch! It's not a gentle ride, I held on really tight for fear of being thrown off. The sights as we ascend are beautiful though, we can clearly see the Maharaja's garden built in an artificial lake and Amber Fort is rapidly approaching.
We arrive in the fort and I'm glad to safely get off the elephant. Amber Fort is another huge monument, the first amazing thing is that it is surrounded by a wall on all sides. Not cool enough? Well the wall goes up numerous hills and stretches as far as my eyes can see it puts Hadrian's Wall to shame! Second thing that amazed me was the hall of mirrors a room full of different mirrors shining everywhere in the sunlight. Third amazing thing about Amber Fort is that it had natural air conditioning/garden sprinklers for the summer, it gets up to 50 degrees Celsius. They had a cool water store inside the Fort that released water through the rooms and into the garden. Amber Fort is a large spectacle and we could easier spend all day explore the secret passages, rooms and absorbing the view but there are so many things to see.
We leave the Amber Fort behind after buying lots of photos of us on elephants from a man named Lucky. Very persistent man, Keith got him down to a good price [KB - he was really bugging me and I actually gave him more than I should have, just to get rid of him! The pics were pretty god though].
Before lunch we visit a carpet and printing factory. I make an elephant picture using teak printing stamps and vegetable dye. Then we see them making the carpets, a large silk carpet can take one person 3 months to complete. We view some carpets and decide to buy a cashmere oriental design hallway runner. We are going to paint the front room at some point and it will look perfect in hallway. They will post it home after we get back. Be warned, whenever you come to visit Bath, shoe removal WILL BE COMPULSORY!
We then stopped by a bizarre water palace to get photos. The Maharaja had a palace built in the middle of a artificial lake, so he could spend days there in his private roof top garden. Garden looks nice and lush with palm trees providing much needed shade.
After lunch we visited the Solar Observatory. This was my favourite place so simple, but really clever. The Solar Observatory in Jaipur is internationally known because it houses the largest solar clock in the world. This solar clock [KB - it's a massive sundial that looks like a huge lump of mouse cheese!] is built at a 27 degree angle because of the latitude of Jaipur and is accurate to 2 seconds! There is also a smaller version. The complex also houses devices to calculate the angle of the sun and the suns/stars locations. Highly interesting place. The guide tells me that about 95% of the population believe in Astrology. When marriage is proposed they only accept if the proposed person has at least 18 out of 36 qualities [KB - I'm still doing the math on us, I'll let you know the results]. The guide also explained that when Hindi people start a new business or buy a car they ask an Astrologer for the date and time they should start the business or buy the car. Once they have started to business or buy the car they go to the temple of Ganesh and ask for a blessing. The monk will bless the car and draw a red swastika on it for good luck.
Next was the City Palace which houses the national textile collection and a display of armoury. We see the second largest chandelier and two extremely large mirrored pots that held water from the River Ganges. There are also four beautiful coloured doorways. My favourite is a peacock doorway, beautiful greens and blues.
Outside the City Palace our guide, who seems a very popular chap, is given a wedding invitation. It is the most elaborate invitation I have seen. The cover is made from red silk, embossed with a Ganesh symbol and inside, beautiful handwritten text. Our guide gives me the cover as a present, as I like it so much.
That's the end of the sightseeing except for an quick visit to a jewellery factory. We are taken to see how they design, cut, clean and mount gems. We are shown a beautiful ruby. Then we get time to wander around the jewellery shop, they have some exquisite designs. The bracelet I like has ruby, emerald and sapphires set in silver laid out in a column design, beautiful and a whopping 5000 pounds (Keith's American keyboard does not have a pound sign) [KB - yeah it does, dumb-ass £££££££]. I decide I like an aquamarine and diamond ring set in silver (March's birthstone I'm told), he tells me the price, but it's too much, so he offers a discount. The price is good, so I buy the ring. It's a clear blue colour and the gem is cut in an oval shape. The salesman is cunning and tries to also sell me some aquamarine earrings at a special price. I say no so he reduces the price again but I say Ganesh says 'not today'. I don't really wear earrings but they were pretty. [KB - easy birthday present buy for me!]
People in India are friendly and offer you a welcome drink but in the shops they are always after a sale and try very hard. Never take first price, if you walk away they will produce a special deal. We didn't have our credit card, so they gave me the ring and then came later to the hotel to collect payment. Trusting, enterprising and the best sales technique I have seen. Debenhams take note, they except multi tender payments. I am annoyed at Debenhams because you can only use one form of payment. Not helpful if you have two gift cards.
Back at hotel, I indulge in a Ayurvedic body massage practised in India since ancient times and Keith had a back massage. I am all relaxed after my massage, Keith has no bad or positive things to say. I'm not sure he is a fan. [KB - nope, not a fan. It was a bloke rubbing my back and buttocks - a bit too much for my liking!!]
Travelling to Agra tomorrow (Wednesday 13 Feb) day behind with blog, sorry.
फिर मिलेंगे। Phir milenge
Stacey and Keith