THE KAERU KID: India — Still the jewel, but no longer in the crown

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Jaipur features a number of architectural marvels. The Kid was particularly impressed by the Palace of the Wind (top), with its 900 windows. photo by The Kaeru Kid

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series.

Onward to Jaipur. The taxi from my Delhi abode to the train station cost $20, but the train ticket for a four-and-a-half hour ride from Delhi to Jaipur was only $11. The price included tea and a cookie, followed by an omelet, juice, bread, and a large bottle of water, and later in the trip, tea again. The food was slightly spicy, but better than what most airlines serve.

The taxi to my AirBnB stay ($15) was again more than my train ticket. My air-conditioned private room and bath for $30 a night included Internet access and any desired meals for a modest fee of around $5. The downside to the location was that it was quite far from the center of town and tourist attractions, so time and taxi costs had to be factored in, and one could not walk around to restaurants or to see anything of interest close-by. There are many low cost places that are better located. I did not visit the bazaar at night or try restaurants at night because of the hassle and cost of driving back and forth.
Beware of jewelry scams; I suggest not buying any jewelry there.

Jaipur roads are poorly maintained. There are many potholes, and numerous areas have only dirt roads. I had been to Jaipur in the past and recognized some places, but decided to revisit places like the Jantar Mantar observatory that is similar, but better than the one in Delhi. The Hawa Mahal (the famous pink Palace of Wind with more than 900 windows, but who’s counting) had lattice-covered windows so women inside could observe street activity without being seen. This beautiful edifice is a fusion of Hindu Rajput and Islamic Mughal architecture. So many other buildings in Jaipur are constructed from red and pink sandstone that its nickname is the Pink City.

Jaipur features a number of architectural marvels. The Kid was particularly impressed by the Palace of the Wind (top), with its 900 windows. photo by The Kaeru Kid
Jaipur features a number of architectural marvels. The Kid was particularly impressed by the Palace of the Wind (top), with its 900 windows. photo by The Kaeru Kid

One of the must-see sights in Jaipur is Amer (also known as Amber) Fort. It is part of a complex that includes Jaigarh Fort and is connected by a tunnel for retreating in case of an attack, as Jaigarh is better situated for defense. Nahargarh Fort is located even higher; it’s located on a hill overlooking Jaipur. Amber Fort has four levels, each with its own courtyard. The third courtyard contains a fresco named the “Magic Flower” because it has seven unique flowers hiding images that can only be viewed by holding one’s hands in certain positions. Print Wikipedia’s post on Amer Fort (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amer_Fort), and bring it with you. See: http://tinyurl.com/a3h9552 to learn where to place your hands. The two higher forts required several more hours to investigate that I was not willing to invest.

Many tourists enjoy riding an elephant up to the fort and enjoy it. I have ridden many elephants and did not savor the idea. A better choice for elephant lovers is to visit Elephantastic (www.elefantastic.in/mainpage.html) for a very close-up experience that has received excellent reviews from Trip Advisor contributors. Don’t allow taxi drivers to steer you to other elephant riding companies.

The Galtaji monkey temple. photo by The Kaeru Kid
The Galtaji monkey temple. photo by The Kaeru Kid

One of the places I visited was Galtaji or Monkey Temple for the many monkeys there. It has a natural spring and water is stored in seven sacred kunds (tanks) where people come to bathe for holy benefits. Bathing probably provided the health benefits, but the waters look filthy now. In fact, the whole area was filthy with monkey poop and trash. Admission should be charged and funds used to keep the area clean to attract more tourists. The temple’s architecture is interesting if you can disregard the trash. Only visit it if you have lots of time, though.

I took another long detour to the Abhaneri Step Well that is about a two-hour drive from Jaipur. It was historically interesting, but not worth the long bumpy ride. It is on the road between Agra and Jaipur, so if you are on this route, it is worth a short detour. Too late, I learned I could have visited the nearby Rusirani Village that received rave reviews from Trip Advisor members.

I was lured by Trip Advisor to visit the Ladli Vocational Training Center, where they take abused girls off the streets and provide schooling and training to help them advance. It is a noble cause, but there are so many such problems, especially in India, that it becomes overwhelming. I made a contribution, but honestly felt one’s limited time in a town with so many attractions could be better spent elsewhere.

Chokhi Dhani, an attraction billed as eating local food in a faux rural setting with dancing and elephant rides sounded touristy, but their Website was well illustrated with tempting activities. It did not open until 6 p.m. and arriving early resulted in a 45-minute wait. I treated my driver to drinks while waiting and mentioned wanting to visit Rusirani Village. He told me he could take me to his village and provide free overnight lodging to see typical rural life. It sounded fun, so we scurried back to my apartment for overnight supplies, but my AirBnB hostess convinced me to cancel that idea. She said she would have a friend provide a similar experience via an air-conditioned SUV the next day and that she would accompany me as a guide. She probably earned a commission, but the costs were so reasonable that I did not worry about it.

The ride took four hours each way to visit villages with deserted havelis, old mansions used in the 1800s, that contain fading beautifully painted frescoes. One can see how wealthy Indians lived in the past. There were a few small American tour groups visiting the havelis so it must be enough of an attraction to justify the long drive. My hostess took me to her friend’s upscale hotel for lunch. I later took a short ride on a camel to a local farmer’s home that had flush toilets and electricity. The main crops were mustard plants for oil and wheat. It was not worth the time and cost for the whole day trip since havelis can also be seen in Jaipur.

My India adventure continues with a visit to see Bengal tigers in Ranthambore.

(A computer glitch caused loss of my photos but an upload at lower resolution to Photobucket was done before this tragedy. One can view all the India photos at: http://s1074.photobucket.com/albums/w404/maxschnell/India%20Feb%20March%202012/.


Las Vegas Tidbits

I mentioned Raku Restaurant osechi dinner previously. I had said it was for eight people, but found out it was only for four, and the total cost including boxes and tax was $346-plus. One can save $20 by providing their own osechi boxes. It was very good, but I cannot recommend it at this price. However, they sold out, so they must have many fans. Also, the actual price for their green tea salt is $10, their original soy sauce $15, spicy oil $15, and spicy chili powder $12. They are all small portions.

The Kaeru Kid lives in Las Vegas and hopes readers will send him comments at KaeruKid@yahoo.com. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

 

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