This is the second part from my experiences from India ~
Elephant ride to the Red Fort
India is keeping us very busy! From morning until late in the evening, we are discovering a country and a culture that is so different from what we know, or what we could have ever imagined! There’s a warmth to the people, and whether they live on the street, are merchants in the stores or those we are meeting along the way, the people of India have a desire to learn about western culture and want to know everything about us. Yesterday, one of the managers of the restaurant we were having dinner in came up to us to start a conversation. After our “hellos and namastes,” he said, “who do you think is the best, better and worst presidents: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Obama (why does nobody ever say Barack Omama?)? Vowing to never get into political discussions with the locals, I did feel compelled to answer the question. After Barry and I both gave our answers (we gave the same answer), he said, “correct.” I didn’t think it was a quiz but rather an opinion! Then we told him why we believed what we said to be true, and he said, “that’s correct.” I wanted to ask him what he thought about his King, or was it a Prime Minister? But didn’t we see the home of the President of India in Delhi? Which one is right? Oh never mind, I couldn’t even ask him about his political leaders because not only didn’t I know their names, I didn’t know who actually ruled his country. I obviously have a lot more to learn about the country.
Note the "no honking" sign
We left Udaipur for what was supposed to be a short plane ride to Jaipur. Before we left the US, we were told the flight was cancelled and we would be driving the 6 ½ hours. But not to worry, they would provide us with lunch along the way. Ten hours later, we arrived in Jaipur. Traffic jams, getting lost on the way to lunch and “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” were all part of the adventure. Oh, and did I mention the bus driver honked his horn the entire way? When I’m leading a group, I never use my ipod. Because I was a tourist on this journey, I turned up that volume and enjoyed the music…for 10 hours.
We arrived in Jaipur, the Pink City, late in the day. We went to a Buddhist Temple that incorporated all religions. There was an Islam dome on the structure, a Hindu shape to the roof. Yes, even Moses was there on the relief sculpture work, right next to Jesus. No one was left out. We stayed for the sunset service and just when we were about to leave, the monk sprinkled the entire crowd with holy water. I tried to dodge the flying water droplets but he was a really good aim. I have now been anointed or christened or baptised or something.
We walked through the market of the Old City and saw the flower market, the milk market (where the women test the milk to see whether it has been mixed with water by the merchants and stick their fingers in it – ewe!), the bangle market and more. Fascinating. There was even a cow walking around in the market! Everyone just walks around them as if they were not there – like they’re invisible! And the cows have an attitude, like they own the place. Actually, I believe they do!
Today we visited the incredible Amber Fort. After riding an elephant to the top entrance and entering through the gate of the palace, we toured the richly appointed and architecturally interesting structure. There was so much opulence during the time of the Raj, from marble inlay to hand painted walls and ceilings to hand woven rugs…it gives you a real understanding of what life must have been like for the kings and moguls of India during that time. Taking a jeep back down the hill, we felt like we were in the middle of an Indiana Jones movie. Again, our jeep driving honking his horn the entire way down.
Another palace, another temple and a snake charmer (yes, really!) and the day was nearly over.
But wait – a dip in the pool, a quick shower, and we were off again!
Tonight we had dinner with a local family of noble descent. They toured us through their 250 year old home, given to them by the Raj and we learned about some of their traditions and how they came to live in their house. Four brothers and their wifes all share this home, along with their kids and grandkids. Twenty something people shared the same house together – like one big, happy family! We had dinner on the patio and enjoyed speaking with some of the family members. They weren’t all outside with us as the family were all trying to watch a huge cricket match pairing Pakistan and India. These rivals who are often at war with each other are still playing at this moment. Even the Prime Minister is India is there (but does he rule the country?). We can’t figure out how to play this game, but is has been going on for the past eight hours, and the score is 210 – 9/4–whatever that means! We can hear chants and roaring of support in the streets, along with fireworks – at least I hope I’m hearing fireworks!
More to follow…