Yes- Happy Diwali everyone! We’re here in Jaipur where they really like to go to town in celebrating. Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights and is one of the most important Hindu festivals. It is celebrated by families who perform traditional activities together at home including lighting clay oil lamps and cleaning the house. Both of these are done to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi into the home. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity ( both material and spiritual). In addition the festival is celebrated by setting off firecrackers and fireworks, by everyone putting on their new clothes and by sharing sweets with friends and family. In addition, here in Jaipur they all seem to collect a stem of sugar cane to take home.
So we’ve been out all day today in Jaipur having a mad rush with our guide around its various monuments and you might have thought that, like on Christmas Day back home, there’d be no-one around (the M6 is always wonderfully clear up to Mum and Dad’s etc). Oh no that’s not the case here -it’s still very busy and really the daytime seems to be like Christmas Eve with all the men doing their last minute shopping and then the real celebrating begins in the evening. So I will capture more about how that goes tomorrow.
Today we met our new guide Jaysingh who again was very lovely. First we visited the Palace of Winds which is really just a facade which the old queen used to have to hide behind to look at all the goings on in the street as she wasn’t allowed to be seen. The facade was actually named after all the windows it has -365 in the main part and about 900 along its entire length. So nothing to do with wind then which really takes away the romantic image a bit don’t you think?
Then we went out to the old City of Amber to visit the Amber Fort. Now, this is really impressive and my mouth did literally drop open when I saw it perched up on the hill and with its own version of the Great Wall of China.
We climbed upto the top of the fort by elephant-hurrah!! We had to queue for about an hour in the sun and got seriously hassled by the tut sellers here. However, Joyce and Jane did some splendid haggling over decorative umbrellas. Joyce in particular hanging on until the last minute to get a few more pence off her chap who by this stage was dangling off her elephant still trying to hike his price!! Give in mate – it’s Joyce we’re talking about here – ‘Queen of the Haggle’.
The elephant ride was good fun although we had elephant number 105 which seemed particularly slow and wonky. It was really quite uncomfortable and I began to wonder whether we were on the punishment elephant for tourists who don’t listen to their guides. Loads of other elephants overtook us and it was impossible to take photos. The views, however, of the other elephants and surrounding scenery were fab.
I am afraid to report that I cannot remember very much about which Maharajah built the Amber Fort. I do know that there are 22 Maharajahs in Rajastan still today and that the current one in Jaipur is just 14 years old. We also learned a little about the caste system today which is a funny old business. We were also particularly impressed with the hall of mirrors which is made from glass all the way from Belgium. It was very light and shiny.
After this we went onto visit the observatory and also the City Palace but by this time we’d told Jay that we weren’t interested in going to see how the jewellery was made or the fabrics ( no more emporium visits for us thanks) so I think he was a bit fed up and just wanted to go home to his family. So he whizzed us around running past things with a quick sentence or two which none of us listened to because we were all a bit hot and bothered anyway. So I think his approach worked well for all of us.
On our way back we wanted to go to another cafe that Jane had found on Trip Advisor as we had been fantasising now about their lemon cheesecake for quite a while. I always thought that Indian food would be fine up until the point when I got sick and this is SO true. Last night when we arrived here at Shahpura House (great old hotel by the way) we ate in the roof top restaurant and 3 of us ordered pizza and Jane had the Chefs Special Curry. She is a Trojan!
Anyway the cafe was closed because of Diwali so the guide and driver dropped us at another place called Coffee Today. There was only one other customer and the guy serving seemed completely bemused by us. I guess it’s the equivalent of spending Christmas Day in a Costa Coffee. Now there’s an idea Mum to save on the cooking!
So we had our refreshments and then came out to catch a tuk tuk back. There was a mad rush as we bartered with the boys for their best price. In the end we paid a little bit more than we’d been told it would be but what a result when it turned out we’d picked the Disco Tuk Tuk driver who drove us home to our hotel as the music blared out and we all sang along to ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ Brilliant!
PS we have a winner of the bird competition. It is indeed The Game Ranger herself -Laura – who correctly identified that the outsider in the group was the Damson Headed Parrot. There are apparently no parrots in India and what we saw were PLUM headed parakeets! We did actually see quite a few Great Tits.