Jaipur was the city I was most looking forward to on our trip to India. Well we were all really looking forward to it, so much so, that we added a day to our itinerary when we were planning. And the legend of the infamous textiles sucked us right in like a drug.
We arrived in Jaipur after a long day in our medium sized van, where we had a sing-along for a few hours that I am sure our driver LOVED (“I feel my heart BEATING, I feel my heart beneath my skin”). After checking in, we got to our rooms to drop our belongings before dinner. It was late-ish, and rather than try and figure out where to go, the hotel buffet had our names on it. Katie and I were led to the first room.
Instantly, when we opened the door I noticed two things. Man it’s hot in here, and hmm those are big…black…ants. You thought I was going to say spiders or snakes didn’t you? No, ants. But really giant ones. And not like 2 or 3. Like 20 or 30. So I called the front desk to ask them to come spray. Our hotel was a Haveli, which is a large house that has courtyards and is split into “hotel” rooms. Because of this and the fact that we were in India, of course there were going to be bugs. What I was not expecting, was to see ants literally crawling in through the phone jack in the wall. Not good. So the front desk sent someone up to address the issue. A nice gentleman came with a broom. No spray, a broom. And not a broom like we have at home, it was like wheat tied together. You hold it in one hand and “sweep” back and fourth. It was all I could do not to bust out laughing. He got all the ants out, but when I tried to show him/tell him about the phone jack situation, that’s where things got lost in translation. At this point I was hangry and just needed to eat. Ants after dinner.
Once dinner was finished and we quickly assessed that the ants had returned (shocking I know). I very politely went to the front desk and asked to be moved. After a couple of tense minutes they got us a new room. Yay ant free! It actually worked out well because we got moved closer to our friends. Woo, friends! Now (more) Beer.
This is when I discovered Kingfisher. At home you probably wouldn’t give it a second glance, but in India it tasted like all of our hopes and dreams. Plus a round of drinks was about $17 USD for large 650 ml beers. Thank you India. We had ours while sitting around the pool even though it was probably close to 10:30 pm. There were no pool hours. Odd, but okay.
While we sat outside and talked about our trip, the coolest thing started to happen. Obviously there are a fair amount of bugs in India and they have lots of mosquitoes. Hello malaria. Well all of a sudden we started to see these black objects flying straight at the pool and sort of skimming the top as they went by. Almost at the same time we all realized it was bats skimming the mosquitoes off the top of the pool. There was a constant stream of them for a really long time and we all thought it was pretty neat.
Our first morning in Jaipur was when we met our guarding angel, Nidhi. She was our guide for the next two full days and by the end of our time together we didn’t want to say goodbye.
We started the day by visiting the Wind Palace. A really cool building from the front, but come to find out there’s not much inside to see. No need, the front is stunning. You’ve probably seen it before.
After that we made our way to City Palace. This palace really surprised the hell out of all of us. It was awesome. On the way, we stopped at this huge astrological park that has these gigantic working sundials and there’s all this science involved with the angles of everything, it was so cool. And Nidhi having been a history teacher explained everything so well I was captivated.
Exploring the City Palace was a highlight for so many reasons. The architecture was really interesting, they had a dancing court with four unbelievably decorated doorways that symbolized the four seasons, there was a weapons room, and even a room with some painting demonstrations.
Some of the City Palace
One demonstration we watched was a gentleman who paints elephants and such on really cool old paper. Or so he says. We saw him paint them but the validity of the “old paper” is definitely open for debate. Whatever he said worked, because we all purchased something from him. As we were finishing up our demonstration and making our purchases, my friend quietly comes over to me and says in a whisper “hey, I think that guy is Jason Isaacs.” I’m looking at her sideways “um, who is that?” Through gritted teeth she says, “he plays Luscious Malfoy in Harry Potter.” I’m instantly skeptical because yeah right. Why on earth would he be in India, much less at the City Palace in Jaipur? No way. Some quick Googling, and awkward staring later, I’m completely eating my words. It absolutely is him with his family at the City Palace in Jaipur watching the same demonstration we just sat through. HOLY SHIT ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? THAT DUDE PLAYED LUSCIOUS MALFOY IN HARRY POTTER!?!?!?! LITERLALLY MY FAVORITE THING EVER!!! I am sorry Jason that I didn’t know your name or recognize you. My bad, it will not happen again. After squealing like school children, we promptly exited the area before making complete buffoons out of ourselves. In hindsight we should have stayed to try and ask for a photo. But we absolutely were not going to interrupt him during the demonstration with his family. We learned after the fact that he was filming in India and was on a break, spending time with his family.
Leaving the City Palace on somewhat of a high from our encounter we left to find henna. Nidhi had asked us when we first met if there was anything we really wanted to do while we were in town and henna was what we all said. Because you have to be careful with henna ink, we didn’t want to go somewhere random. But naturally she had the hook up. Everyone got their hand done, and then we arranged for the artists to come to our hotel later that evening to do our feet. Wet henna walking around was not going to work.
Lunch time! We ate at an awesome restaurant, before going to the textile store to spend some Ruperts. Unfortunately, I have a somewhat horrifying story to share before I start talking about our textile experience.
One of our group members had seen these candy bars advertised all over called 5 Star. She had looked for them everywhere but oddly couldn’t find any. Nidhi, our angel, stopped on our way to lunch and bought us a bag of them. So after our lovely meal we decided to dig in.
We sat down in the car and noticed that my friend had gotten pooped on by a bird (most likely a pigeon). Eww. But I had wet ones so she wiped it off. Then I noticed I had some on my foot/toes. Eww. Again, wet one to the rescue. Now it was time for those 5 Stars. It was chocolate and caramel and kind of like a brownie, what’s not to like?! They had been in the car so they were a little melted as we ate them. I was enjoying mine and noticed I had some melted chocolate on my hand and licked it off. No sooner had I swallowed that I realized I had bird poop all down the front of my shirt, on my purse and on my…hand. Yeah, the hand I had just licked the “chocolate” off of. Yes, I ate bird shit. I absolutely ate bird shit. I thought it was odd-looking chocolate. Nope, it was pigeon shit. The good news was that I didn’t immediately throw up, or ever get sick for that matter, but the fact remains, I ate actual shit.
Right so, textiles. I have to say I’m sad I don’t sew. Sorry mom, I know you tried to teach me and I never cared. Well now I do. Maybe it’s not too late? This place was great. (Heritage Textiles). They were so helpful and not overly pushy at all. Everything was fixed price, which helped on that front. I decided to have a salwar (long shirt with two slits, one on each side. Can be short, long or ¾ sleeve) custom made with elephant fabric, and then bought some scarves, pillowcases and a new comforter. It was all super reasonably priced and we got to come back the next day to try everything on to make sure it fit. What’s cool is that Jaipur is known for its stamped fabric (block printing) and after having seen where it was made, I fell in love with all of the patterns.
The last thing on our agenda before dinner was more henna! Our henna artists were waiting for us at the hotel when we got back. It was cool and we definitely felt VIP. I’m pretty sure we got them some more business while we were there since everyone stopped to ask us about it. We had a blast!
Dinner this night was at Bar Palladio, an Italian restaurant in one of the other nice hotels in Jaipur. I must admit I was disappointed in the food, but we had a super awesome night. The restaurant was decorated in really vibrant colors, awesome fixtures and the perfect blend of traditionally hand stamped local fabric.
Our last day in Jaipur started out at the Amer Fort. I’m going to be real with you. All of us were super disappointed with this Fort. Our recommendation would be to start there if you are going to Jaipur because the City Palace is so awesome that seeing the Amer Fort first would help you like it more. By no means was it bad, just definitely not a fan favorite. We enjoyed our jeep ride to the top, our stop at the textile museum and temple though!
View from the Fort
Unfortunately we did not have time for the actual monkey temple, but we saw plenty of monkeys at the temple we stopped at near Amer Fort, so I’m calling that a win. Plus, there are mean monkeys in India and nice monkeys in India. And quite frankly monkeys that close to me actually is not my thing. The ones we did see were luckily the nice ones. Despite that, as we got out of our car, one of them looked right at us and shook his head “no.” I’m not kidding and I have witnesses.
On our way back into the city we stopped quickly at the Jal Mahal. They are actually making it into a hotel, which is really cool and just another excuse for us to go back. Darn.
Before heading out for our safari that evening, we wanted to go to a few “street” shops. Nidhi lead the way and everyone got what they were looking for. She did a great job navigating us to shops that wouldn’t try and take advantage of us, but then she never got involved in the haggling. It was perfect. We adore her and cannot recommend her enough. Tear, we had to say goodbye.
So sad to say goodbye!
Now to get ready for the elephants!