Jumbo elephants in Jaipur
Trip Start Jan 12, 2005
47Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Ending up our tour with the Elephant Festival
After leaving the wilds of Rathambore, we figured we would see more animals in the large city of Jaipur, our last stop on our Rajasthan tour. We ended up in the city to coincide with their Elephant Festival held every year. And we were definitely not disappointed we planned the trip that way.
First stop was our hotel, where we arrived one day earlier than expected by the hotel staff. Shapura House was a beautiful heritage hotel with pool, but the last room they had for the night was right off the dining room. And I mean right there - beside a table and the serving sideboard.
The art of bargaining
The next day we toured around the city in the morning, stopping at some of the sights in the Old City. Jaipur is known as the "pink city" because of all of its sandstone buildings that glow a salmon hue at dusk. First we visited the City Palace, where the royal maharajah family still lives. In fact, the maharajah's daughter was having her birthday party so we weren't allowed in to view the artfully-decorated Peacock Gate. Rough life, a whole palace to party in!
We also spent a few hours shopping since the city is known for both its textiles and jewelry. Rob has perfected the art of bargaining from our time in India. Basically we decide on a price that is half of what they quote, then Rob gets out the money and puts it on the table. We tell them we are "comfortable" paying this price and wave the money around. Usually they get excited when they see the money and realize we are serious and say yes. Sometimes we have to walk out the door, with Anjali playing bad cop ("Come on Rob, I am tired let's go") and Rob slowly walking out. Invariably they say "okay okay" and we get it for the price we wanted.
Only a tour guide can show you...
The beginning of the elephant festival started at Amber Fort palace, a half hour ride from the main city of Jaipur
Usually the bottom of the walkway to the palace is crowded with tour guides, elephants, hawkers and vendors trying to sell you trinkets. As well you can usually ride an elephant up the steep walk and right through the huge doors into the courtyard of the palace. But on this day all the elephants were already up at the palace getting ready for the painting ceremony. And the only person at the bottom was one tour guide who approached us a soon as we got out of the car. Rob and I had to walk quickly in the heat to get up to the palace before it closed and we tried to brush off the tour guide as we were walking. He told us in a desperate voice that we would only be able to see the splendour of the moti mahal in the palace with a tour guide. Shouting "Only a tour guide can show you!" he followed us halfway up the hill until he realized we weren't biting.
It had been at least eight years since I had been to the Fort and in that time they have really restored the place - especially the moti mahal room. At one time the room was dark and closed in and tour guides would take their tours in, light a match or flick a lighter and the room would sparkle from the mirrors on the ceiling. This time the "mirrored" room has been restored - but sure enough there were the same tour guides holding up a lighter to the mirrored ceiling in broad daylight with a crowd of people around them. Rob and I just laughed and yelled "Only a tour guide can show you!"
Elephants and more elephants
But the most exciting part of our trip to Jaipur was the elephant festival
The procession ended at the stadium where a full three hours of ceremonies followed. Rob and I got to the stadium in time to watch the judging of the eloborately decorated elephants for best costume. There was also different Rajasthani performers and bands - the atmosphere in the stadium was full of celebration. We even watched a brief elephant polo match - though with all the elephants crowding together it was hard to tell who was winning!
Holed up for Holi
At the end of the events there was a ceremony to start the beginning of Holi - an indian festival that has to do with throwing around a lot of coloured powder. Rob and I had specially bought clothes to wear during Holi since it's a messy business. In the few days leading up to Holi numerous vendors had set up carts selling coloured powder. So we felt we were prepared for anything. Unfortunately the next day, Holi, Rob's strange illness came back and he was reduced to staying in bed. I had some of the hotel staff get me with powder, but since it was a hot day I elected to stay by the pool instead of brave the streets. And when I saw all the tourists coming back covered from head to toe in colour, I didn't feel I missed out! As we drove back to Delhi later in the day the streets were filled with purple, blue, green and pink splattered people riding on motorcycles or partying on the side of the road.