After crashing an Indian wedding, warding off aggressive monkeys on a night's trek through the Himalayas, getting bucked by a bull while shopping throughout the town (yes this actually occurred), and sleeping through a 5.0 earthquake, we sadly said farewell to Mcleodganj. I'm going to miss the days of early morning yoga, nature walks surpassing elevation levels in the US, time spent in Buddhist and Hindu prayer, and of course the kind, generous people of Mcelodganj.
After a rickety sleeper train and 6 hour bus ride, we arrived in the city of Jaipur on Sunday morning the Fourteenth. The North and simple Tibetan town of Mcleodganj now seem like another world, distant from the boiling hot, bustling, and somewhat crazy Indian cities. Included on the Golden Tourist Triangle tourist circuit with Delhi and Agra, Jaipur is the capital and largest city of the state of Rajasthan. Established in 1727 by the great Maharaj Sawai Jai Sing II, Jaipur was the first planned urban development project in India. However, beyond the major broad avenues and network of gridded streets, little is evident of such urban planning as buildings deteriorate, cows and other livestock wander the roads, streets flood due to lack of drainage, sidewalks are either non existent or in disrepair, and similar to Delhi, little traffic signaling. As we made our way from site to site, it was fascinating to observe the clearly derelict poverty stricken pockets adjacent to tourist attractions such as the city's ancient palaces or five start hotel compounds.
The city itself is scattered with impressive royal palaces and fortresses- old and new- and multiple guest homes (also old and new :/ ) making it an easy and attractive spot for travelers. After settling in at our three-dollar-a night Vinayak Guest Home, we made our way to the Old Quarter of Jaipur. The Old Quarter marked by an immense arching red stone gate is crowded by autos, rickshaws, camels, street dwellers, aggressive merchants, city residents, and tourists day in and day out. At the center of such "gridded" madness is the elegant, Maharaja masterpiece, the City Palace. The City Palace complex incorporates a vast array of courtyards, gardens, and buildings. Initially built in the early 18th century by the ruler of the preceding city of Amber, the compound illustrates a conglomeration of additions and renovations by successive rulers. The Chandra Mahal, the residence and high court of the palace, gleams at the compound's center with such a unique interaction of Rajput, Mughal, Islamic, and European architecture... truly cross-continental influence. However, it was not the residential palace that impressed me the most but its gate, the Pitam Niwaa gate (Peacock Gate) and its inner four archways. The peacock gate is finely ornamented by colorful peacock frescoes and various organic patterns; the inner four gates represent the four seasons with motifs representing summer (flower amd petal pattern), spring (green color), etc. Each gateway receiving an unbelievable amount of artistic attention.
Throughout the remaining afternoon, we meandered through the hectic fabric and jewelry markets around the Old Quarter gates; we travelled by rickshaw through the afternoon monsoon rains; climbed the surrounding Aravalli Hills to visit the Nahargarh Fort (once a strong defense ring for the city but now renowned for its breathtaking views); and somehow survived Jaipur's 5 PM traffic....
Dodging buses. Trucks. Wagons. Camels. Cows. Rickshaws. Pigs. And how could I forget.. Elephants.
The next day we checked out of our guest home and made our way to three other major sites, the Amber Fort, the Lake Palace, and the Monkey Temple. Who knew the state of Rajahstan has the most "aggressive" monkeys in India. The Monkey Temple made clear such ferocity.
Beating the afternoon monsoon rains, we ended our day with a delicious Indian meal of somosas and vegetable soups in preparation for our sleeper bus venture to the city of Udaipur.
The city of Udaipur, the "City of Lakes."
More adventures in store I'm sure.
Love your Indian city hopper,