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Another train ride, another game of cards, and we're now in Jaipur. Our hotel is a beautiful old palace (Bissau Palace), carefully decorated and preserved, it is a romantic little spot hidden in the alleys of Jaipur.

After getting in quite late last night, B and I sat up and had a few Kingfisher's with Chewy and his cousin (who is also a tour leader). We chatted until 2 am, asking Chewy questions about Indian culture and his life as a man in India. Talking about these things spurs so many different thoughts, and challenges you to understand your own traditions, customs and way of life. Religious or not, we all have beliefs that we feel strongly about- these conversations have helped us better understand our values, and appreciate the fortunes that are afforded to us as women living in Canada.

We have also decided that we are going to stay an extra night in Delhi. Skinny, G6 and Curly are in Delhi for four nights after the tour ends, the Norwegians leave Monday to Bangkok, and Chewy will be on a 15 day break starting Sunday. Needless to say we have a few cats to chill with, and it will be nice not to have to be in Delhi for an afternoon and then have to pack up and leave first thing Sunday.

So, Jaipur. To start the day, the Ging left our lovely room for three to have coffee while we finished getting ready. B and i went to leave.... And Ging had locked us into our room! After some confusion, then pushing and banging and yelling for someone to come open the latch that had us jailed in- B jumped out the window into the alley and saved the day. Oh Ging Cat.

After an orientation walk in the morning we headed off to the City Palace. Jaipur is known as the "pink city" as pink is considered a welcoming color, and a previous ruler made the call to make everything pink. It isn't super noticeably pink, but after being told this little tidbit I can see what Chewy is saying. We toured the Palace with a local guide- who spoke the fastest, most mumbled English we've encountered... So unfortunately the only interesting fact I have about this spot is that one of the Rulers was 7 feet tall and 250kg. His robes were on display and looked more like table cloths than clothing.

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After, we headed to the Amber Fort, about 10km from the city. Considered to be "old Jaipur", the Fort is surrounded by a 12km wall. G6 claims it looks like the Great Wall of China (however he has never seen the Great Wall, so this is obviously unconfirmed). Although the Fort was impressive in size, structure and decor, by far the best part was our guide. A tiny Indian man who spoke clear and slow English. The catch was that he would pick one person for each explanation, stare directly at them and ask (repeatedly) if you understood/see what he's pointing at or want your picture taken. The Brits were in stitches about it, and just watching them try not to giggle about this little man was enough to put everyone into a bit of a laughing mood.

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The Amber Fort

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The "picture in the mirror" ha!

We had lunch at Moti Mahal with the Brits. It was a delightful meal- the food is getting a bit spicier, which is fantastic. Thali has become one of the stock favorites for us because it is easy to try and comes with several different curries and naan/roti/chapati/rice.

The Cricket has been on and the Aussies have been chirping at Chewy about the Indian team. Tonight is a big game between Australia and Sri Lanka, and in order for India to advance, Australia needs to win. Needless to say the banter was slower today- as they were cheering for the same team. Driving back to the hotel in our tuk tuk, men are crowded around any shop front with a television, watching the game and letting out the occasional cheer (or fist pump). Some things are the same everywhere- sport has the ability to bring a nation together, no matter what the game.

The three of us discovered the abandoned rooftop restaurant at the hotel, and had a bit of a dance off as the sun went down. G6 and Skinny were quite resourceful in getting us some evening pops, and the group of us sat around outside enjoying the fresh air, good music and great conversation.

Tomorrow is the train to Delhi... Our last stop in India.

Wishing time would slow down,
The Three Monkeys

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Sent from my iPad

Posted by ellie nicole 07:37 Archived in India Tagged fort palace city mahal jaipur amber moti bissau Comments (0)

Trio at the Taj!

Ok so Ging was pumped about elephants in Orchha. B and I are little kids going to Disneyland this morning. Today, we knock off another Wonder of the World- the Taj Mahal.

We have been rotating who stays with Poutine. The system appears to be working- but when we arrive at the hotel in Agra, we are pleasantly greeted with our rooms- the bed(s) are actually two doubles pushed together, which are clearly marketed as two singles or one double depending who is looking (Hotel Amaryatriniwas, 5 minutes from the Taj). You know what that means?? Slumber party!! We took the chance to stay together for the night, all three of us curled up together to cram in a little sleep between midnight and 6am.

Agra is the most Westernized city we have been to so far, there is a Costa Coffee shop above our hotel, there are more cars on the streets and even (wait for it...) traffic lights! Ok well they weren't on, but they were there.

The system for the Taj seemed to be slightly complicated- but as per usual, Chewy had our back. The ticket counter is 1km from the east gate of the Taj. You buy your tickets (INR750 for the Taj and Agra Fort) and then you can walk, or take small bus to the queue to get in. There are many items not allowed inside, so we elected to leave everything at the hotel. There are free lockers if needed (bring your own lock), but to save the hassle- just come with your camera and some change for a chai if you want one (or you can just have Skinny loan you some money for a much needed coffee, right Ging?!)

Back to the Taj- we had a guide to take us around the grounds of the palace. I believe you could rent audio guides as well, which would likely be a good investment. As we're standing listening to the intro about the Taj, B was doing a little urban spotting. Parading through the courtyard is a Caucasian girl with bottle blonde hair and a bad spray tan, in a denim mini skirt and heels. Really? Who let you do this to yourself this morning, and where are they so I can shake my head at them? Ladies- fashion don't. The Taj is the World Wonder, not your little-too-short-leaves-little-to-the-imagination skirt. Sheesh.

When we finally got through the gates- it was spectacular. It is majestic and awe inspiring. The grandeur of this giant structure, built of marble and precious stone from around the World, sitting pristine in the well manicured gardens of the palace. Protected by the Indian Government in the 1950's (compare to the Orchha Palaces, only protected in the 1970's), the Taj is an important icon for the country. Once up close to the palace you realize the detail in the structure and the decor- which explains why it took over 19 years to build. The Sanskrit around the main entrance is crafted from single pieces of black onyx, two inches thick. The panels with intricate florals leading into the palace have been made from single slabs of white marble and carved by hand. It is splendor and luxury melted together.

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Taj at first sight

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Details in design: marble carvings

This afternoon we went to the Agra Fort, about 2.5km from the Taj. The Fort is more or less a mass walled city, which has been around since the 1600's. It was an impressive structure, and with a view of the Taj to boot.

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The group enjoyed a wicked meal at Maya Restaurant, on the rooftop patio in the March sunlight. I would recommend visiting this place just to sit on their patio- it really feels as though you have been picked right up out of the busyness of the streets and are in a pocket of the city that is hidden away (Thali is great too!).

And here we are again- on another train, sipping chai (INR5) and writing about another day which we will never forget. The days have been going faster in India- maybe because of the number of things we are seeing and learning every day. Our understanding of the people and culture is growing and expanding by the minute- one of the largest benefits of spending time in a culture you have little intimate exposure to in your home country. We are beginning to understand what life is like here, Chewy has been more than happy to answer any question we toss his way. Another little life lesson- everyone has a story.

Til next time
The Taj Trio

photo (from email)

photo (from email)

Sent from my iPad

Posted by ellie nicole 02:06 Archived in India Tagged hotel fort mahal taj tickets agra entry impressions Comments (0)

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