Jaipur is actually called the “Pink City”, ever since Prince Edward’s visit back in 1876. The Maharaja Ram Singh had ordered that the city be painted this rosy shade, a color representative of warm hospitality, in advance of the royal’s visit. I kept my eye out for the bubblegum hue, but it really is a more natural shade of terracotta. We decided to up our accommodation budget for our three nights here, staying at the Umaid Mahal, a lovely midrange heritage hotel, with a sparkling, mirrored mosaic entry, mini pool, Durbar Hall, colorful Indian frescoes painted on walls and ceilings, and rooftop linen restaurant, far from any street noises below. The splurge was in honor of my November 2nd birthday, as I need no gifts, only good memories!
However, our arrival began with the discovery that some Ayurvedic hair oil that I had purchased days ago, had opened and leaked all over the interior contents of my backpack. There were literal puddles within my bag, as Dan helped me empty dripping packing cubes of now, stained garments. A vigorous washing session ensued for the next hour as we tried to remove oil from my baggage and clothing, with lukewarm water and bars of soap. At least this mini catastrophe was occurring on the first of three days spent in one place, and my backpack had some time to dry out before repacking.
Our second, and full day in Jaipur was spent driving to and from the major sights. Once again spending time in forts, palaces and museums, per below.
Hawa Mahal, an elaborate facade that enabled Royal women to watch the city and street processions unseen, plus some examples of these thoroughfares:
Amber Fort and surrounds, with its gates, courtyards, palaces, and secluded women’s quarters :
Jantar Mantar, the observatory and UNESCO world heritage site, which was much more impressive than I would have ever thought. Built in 1728, and acting as an astrological and astronomic center, with large sculptural instruments of calculation:
The City Palace/ Museum complex:
The next day was my birthday, and I didn’t want to do anything touristy. Instead, I started my 43rd year with an hour-long Ayurvedic massage (with lots of oil!). At this date, I had hand washed several clothing items that seemed to be permanently stained, and had a professional launder also try a second scrubbing, with poor results. I now had an excuse to shop for new clothes, an experience I find daunting in India, with all of the haggling and fear of getting ripped off. Our family lasted a half hour in the bazaar without buying a thing before calling it quits. Instead, we opted to spend 3 hours in an old traditional movie theater, enjoying the spectacle of Bollywood cinema. This was one of the highlights of our Jaipur stay, a chance to be entertained by a familiar media, albeit a cheesy production that we didn’t always understand. I had then been planning to have a fancy western dinner, but the owner of our driver/car company (Rajasthan Tours) invited our family to share a meal in his family’s home instead. He lives about 45 minutes away from the city center with his wife and children, and his brother’s family and cousin, all housed under one roof. When we arrived, I was immediately presented with a big pink birthday cake. They gave me the honor of cutting slices after singing me “Happy Birthday”. However, as opposed to doling out those pieces, my host grabbed a utensil and spoon fed me my first bite. He then proceeded to use the same spoon to feed each guest individually. This was a new tradition! The cake then disappeared, never to return for the rest of the night. There were about 5 children for Stella and Gabriel to play with, and they were ecstatic. I later learned that they all ate more cake, as I was glad to know. As Diwali was around the corner, the kids were already stockpiling fireworks, and practicing letting some of them off on their own. This is how we found ourselves separated from a gang of kids playing with matches and mini explosives, while we drank beer and whiskey on a rooftop! Bad parenting 101, thankfully with no tragedies to report.
All in all, I enjoy experiencing my birthday in foreign places. So far, I have had the fortune to celebrate it in Prague, Dublin, Hue, La Paz and Reykjavik, not to mention fun North American destinations like, Kauai, Austin, Vancouver, B.C., New York, and probably more cities that I am forgetting. My children also gifted me with a hand-beaded necklace, made entirely of random beads that they had found all over Petra. A special memento indeed!