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

Chai And Biscuits

We are starting to get quite the reputation as a traveling trio. We are constantly buzzing around at all times of the day. Busy going on excursions, or leading ourselves around town, to find new restaurants or to just explore. The three of us work well together too, always taking initiative and being open minded and flexible. Super chill and fun lovin' if you will.

Yesterday after the tour of the palace, we arranged to do a sunrise walk with Indu (INR 350 each, I am waiting for Indu to send me his contact info as he was terrific). We met him at 615 and we set off to watch the sunrise over the countryside. It was a brisk morning however- we were even able to see our breath... Nothing like home however!!

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Indu- is a birdwatcher. He has identified over 70 types of birds in and around Orchha, so needless to say, on a morning walk he was busy spotting everything from owls to vultures to parakeets and kingfishers. We were walking through fields of mustard and wheat, just peacefully enjoying a morning walk. We had chai and biscuits on the banks of the Betwa River, which runs south to north through India. Indu tells us stories of how they spend time on the banks of the river in the hot summer heat, eating and enjoying beer as it is too hot to do much else (at 45C I would have to agree).

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Walking through the fields

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Chai on the Betwa

As expected- we needed some breakfast after our walk and we headed straight back to Ram Raja. The breakfast assortment was good, but the pancakes were the item that stood out because of the delicacies of the ingredients... peanut butter and nutella!! Ging was super pumped for the PB. We spotted G6 half way through breakfast eating by himself- apparently he had ordered multiple kinds of pancakes (nutella and peanut butter!!) and decided that he would join us after he had enjoyed a gluttonous morning feast.

This afternoon, we went to Indu's home to learn from his wife how to cook several Indian dishes: masala chai (!!!!!), aubergine curry, potato and pea curry, raita, chutney, spinach and potato curry, veg biryani and chapati. We sat patiently on the floor as this lovely young mother recited from memory, the full recipes for each dish as she casually made them in front of us over a propane stove. Well worth the INR500 to learn authentic recipes and enjoy another Indian lunch.

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Cooking up a storm

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The final product

We're on the train now- headed to Agra... After a few poolside Kingfisher's before departing, we're all in very good spirits for this short ride to our next stop. We have been playing cards on every train ride- mainly "Asshole." Chewy's a cheat, the Norwegian Boy is a sneaky one and Skinny likes to talk smack whether he's winning or losing. Just for those who care- we are always winning.

Orchha was a little slice of slow quiet heaven in India after being in Varanasi. I could have had a few more by the pool this afternoon and been quite alright with that...

Eating our way around,
L, B & the Ging

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Posted by ellie nicole 01:51 Archived in India Tagged food palace sunrise tour cooking class orchha Comments (1)

Easy Orchha

Overnight train: full thumbs up. We were in an air conditioned sleeper, which slept 6. We were provided with sheets, blankets and pillows to nest in- although it was quite hot on the train. After a bit of a marathon game of cards with Chewy, Skinny, and the Norwegian Boy, B and I try to curl up and watch a movie... However predictably we both start drifting off and decide to try and catch some shut eye after our eventful last day in Varanasi. Ging passed out at 8, shortly after we got on the train! All three of us managed to get in a decent amount of (slightly interrupted) sleep over the 12 hour train ride.

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When we arrive in Orchha we start to understand that India has more to offer than the complete insanity of Varanasi. Orchha is a city of 10,000 people, settled on a river and a horizon dotted with Hindu and Muslim palaces. We are staying at the Orchha Resort in the Luxury Tents. The beds are the comfiest we have had yet, and the showers.... Amazing! Hooray for hot (ok luke warm) water and water pressure!!! The hotel is a short 5 minute walk from the town centre and the Orchha Palaces.

After breakfast and a shower we head to the Palace for a tour from a local guide- Indu. The view from the palace over the valley is absolutely spectacular. It is a wonder to us that every square inch of this country is not inhabited by someone- but for as far as the eye can see it is green fields and forests, rivers and palaces.

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As usual- we dart off after the tour to find some little spot to enjoy an afternoon meal. We pick Bohu, on the corner of the main street and the road leading to the palace. This was the spiciest lunch we have had yet- we haven't had too much of a struggle with anything yet. The food wasn't unmanageable, but definitely had a kick to it! We did some afternoon shopping after our lunch- but only for about 15 minutes. The kids in Orchha have a lovely little trick where the run up to you and tie a bracelet with bells on to your wrist before you can say no. They tell you that it's free but you much promise to go to their shop. So we walk into the small marketplace and get accosted by children. I get wrangled into looking at one of their "shops" and before I know it....

Yes. Henna. Now affectionately known as the Monkey Paw. And a terrible henna job too. And of course I had to pay more than what I paid for lunch. Sneaky buggers. (As an aside- I don't mind henna, but for traditional purposes. As a tourist I don't think I have any business having it on me, but some other tourists have the token flower on their wrist...to each their own). By the time I am finished getting decorated I turn around to see children draped across B and Ging, and they both have 5 or 6 bell bracelets on. Needless to say we got out of there and hightailed it back to the hotel. Funny that we can handle the insanity of Varanasi, but the kids in Orchha put us over the edge.

After attending the evening prayer at Ram Raja Mandir, we grabbed a bite to eat at Ram Raja Restaurant (right beside the bridge, leading to the palace). The owner is a lovely Indian lady. When B and I snuck off to use the washroom (which is right beside the kitchen), I snooped around the kitchen into the hot iron pots which were brimmed with bright curries. They were more than happy to tell me that everything is cooked fresh, nothing in advance. We get waved out behind the restaurant, where there are two men making chapati. They immediately hand us a ball of dough and the rolling pin so we can make our own. B and I sat and ate our handmade chapati, and tiny potatoes pulled from the coals of the fire while these two men spoke in broken English about their family restaurant. These are the moments I love traveling.

Tomorrow- sunrise walk along the river, and an Indian cooking class. I don't think this will get old any time soon.

Chilled and fed,
The Three Muskateers

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Posted by ellie nicole 19:01 Archived in India Tagged markets palace dinner lunch orchha chapati Comments (0)

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