So much about Delhi intrigues me. The spice markets and the grand monuments. The tree lined roads and innumerable modes of transportation. I have friends in Delhi and enough knowledge of certain neighborhoods to make me feel somewhat comfortable with this harsh environment. I can’t say I enjoy the street side groping (by any stretch of the imagination), which occurred to me twice on this trip, but I take pleasure in being in the city nonetheless. But we moved on for a new, and arguably better, state where history slaps you in the face and leaves you twitching in awe. Our whole group seemed pumped for Rajasthan, and with due reason. The last 12 kilometers of our full day drive towards Jaipur revealed the beauty that is Amber Fort, a scattering of structures that span very dry mountaintops and calls to mind the Great Wall of China and Indiana Jones movies. But we were to experience that wonder the next day, so we headed to our lush hotel and the palaces of the city.
We took an audio-guided tour of the City Palace, which is never as satisfying as the hopeful tourist anticipates, but upon finishing the succession of numbered stops and enthusiastic explanations, I plopped down at the gate to view the outside world for a bit. Upon entering the City Palace, we were bombarded with hawkers and beggars who were enthusiastic and as forcefully pitiful as was humanly possible. As I watched them all from afar, away from the baseball-cap-wearing, touring public, I saw them in their element: eating popsicles and giggling around the street, relaxing at the nearby drink stand, enjoy the balmy weather and watching the birds dart around the sky, Hitchcock style. One baba in brightly colored cloth tried to make eye contact with me for some change, the kind of eye contact that makes you think he’s trying to suck out your essence with his optical powers. Freaky. But it was another world away from foreign eyes.
The nighttime brought a buffet of good smells right to our noses in the beautiful courtyard of our hotel. And with a vocal performance and puppet show following the meal, we truly felt like we were “on vacation.” Though we were paying a hefty price for the meal and encouraged to tip the puppeteer like Rockefellers would, our entire tour group could be together without the hassle of avoiding skewed restaurant suggestions, transporting everyone on the cheap, and searching for high quality, semi-authentic entertainment. Sometimes going with the tour flow ain’t so bad.
And then, the following day, we saw Amber Fort...wow...