Friday, July 25, 2014

India Part 9

On Thursday, July 10, we started out our trip to Jaipur with a visit to Fatehpur Sikri, a fort built in the 1500s that was only utilized for 15 years. It was full of ornate stone carvings that looked like they were done in wood.
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On our way back down from the fort, we saw a snake charmer. I think this is more of an outdated stereotype but he definitely played it up for the tourists.
After that, we made it to Jaipur and visited a milk collection centre. India is the largest dairy producing country in the world and they achieve that from farmers that only have one or two cows. Amul Dairy and other milk cooperatives have milk collection centres where villagers can bring small quantities of milk and have it tested for milk fat composition and get paid for what they bring twice a month. Many of the people bringing the milk were children. They were so sweet. They all lined up and paraded through our bus just to get a look at it!
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On Friday, July 11, we drove past the Palace of the Winds. This amazing palace of the Pink City” was full of windows and was breathtaking!
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The next stop was my most-awaited: an elephant ride up to the Amber Fort. I was so excited to experience this! We paired up and rode side straddle in a metal seat. I suppose I was expecting a smooth forward-facing ride like a horseback ride, but that is not at all what we got. Elephants are rough! It was absolutely amazing to ascend the hill on such a magnificent creature.
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After our ride to the top, we disembarked and met in the center of the Amber Fort. There were monkeys that were feet from us. They were climbing in the trash for food and playing around as if we weren’t even there. I am sure they are used to tourists snapping their photos.
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The Amber Fort was probably my favorite fort we toured esthetically. It had fully intact frescos that were original to the Fort from the late 16th century. It was cool and breezy. They had a gorgeous garden out in the middle of the lake in front of the fort as well.
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One of my favorite parts of the fort was the Maharaja’s bedroom. It was surrounded by mirrored frescoes.
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The gardens were all maintained and very intricate. I could just imagine having a garden like this, but mine would be more practical: it would have a different herb or vegetable per square.
For the ride down the mountain, we loaded up in groups of five in jeeps. Our driver stopped halfway down and let some of the guys in our group drive. I would have loved the opportunity to try it out but we were rushed for time.
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A beautiful young girl asked to board our bus and she showed us some magic tricks. She reminded me so much of my niece Rivers. She had honey brown eyes that were so different than any we had seen while we were there.
Our next stop was at a jewelers co-op. They demonstrated how the craftsmen honed each uncut stone until it shone brilliantly.
Raw, uncut Indian emerald
Partially polished ruby
Of course, I tried to resist, but I did buy two rings. I bought this oval emerald ring and a square cut peridot ring. I snatched up the emerald because it is my and Wyatt’s birthstone and the peridot is Justin’s.
(Side note: I realized on the day we were leaving that I was having an allergic reaction to the emerald ring. I am allergic to nickel and I was afraid I had been duped and that my certified silver ring wasn’t actually silver. When I got home, I asked a local jeweler to check it out. It turns out, the emerald ring was silver that was rhodium plated with NICKEL. In the U.S., if something is rhodium plated, they do it with white gold. I assumed it was the same process all across the globe so I didn’t ask for clarification. The jeweler isn’t able to rhodium plate it with gold now because it won’t bond to the nickel. I might have to get some kind of shellac to make it where the nickel doesn’t come into contact with my skin. It is too beautiful to not wear! It was a great souvenir of my trip. The jeweler was not at fault. They sold me a piece and told me it was rhodium plated. The peridot ring is okay and is not nickel plated.)
We also visited a fabric block printing co-op. Can you believe this man is 80 years old and has been working at his craft for more than 60 years?!?
We also visited the observatory. This is hundreds of years old and yet they have instruments that can tell the time within 20 seconds of accuracy!
After our visit to the observatory, we shopped at some local street vendors. I got a haul of souvenirs for friends and family!
I haven’t mentioned the searing heat we experienced in India. It was blazing hot and humid. I drank liters of water every day. This was the temperature when we came back to the hotel one afternoon!

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