Wednesday, April 30, 2014

India Trip: Part 7 Tiger/Light Show Fail

We had to be off the train before the sun was even warm the day we arrived in Sawai Madhopur.  Jeeps came to the train station to take us to the Ranthambore National Park, where 50 Bengal tigers live.  The jeeps were open top, so we bundled up because it was COLD and the drive was a good 20 minutes to the park.  The area was more out in the country than we had seen before, and we passed lots of camel carts carrying farm supplies and women walking with bowls full of cow pies on their heads.



Right when we entered the park the guide showed us a tiger footprint.  He told us we had a 50%  chance of spotting a tiger, but that there would be lots of other wildlife too.


We saw these tiny spotted deer everywhere.

And monkeys.  TONS of monkeys.





This was another type of deer and was bigger than the other spotted ones we saw.



There were lots of peacocks around and they are beautiful to look at, but LOUD.


We also saw a family of warthogs walking by.  A mommy walked right by our jeep and then 7, yes 7 babies followed her.  We were only quick enough to get a picture of the last baby.

Anytime we saw water there were crocodiles around.  Here's a big one in the water, and then another big boy stretched out on the shore.



Guess what we didn't see?  Yep, a tiger.  After driving around for 2 hours in a bumpy open top jeep, we didn't care anymore.  We just wanted to go back to the train, get warm, and have breakfast.  Once we left I realized that those tiger prints in the dirt right by the entrance were totally fabricated.  All the places the guides were looking were no where NEAR the entrance, and the guides were too sure of where those prints were-- and they were just a little too perfect. 

Dinesh and Veru were a welcome sight when we got back to the train.  They had the breakfast table set and brought us hot chocolate when we asked. 




The day we arrived Veru asked if there was anything special we liked for breakfast.  I asked if they could make pancakes, and they said yes.  It's not that I was getting tired of Indian food, I just missed a few of my American favorites.  That night Veru found a recipe, went to the market the next day to get supplies, and made us pancakes!  He said he'd never made them before, and asked how he did.  They were more like a crepe than a pancake, and of course there was no syrup, but with jam they were quite good.  He was so sweet to try and make us happy that we assured him they were delicious and thanked him over and over. 


We had a few hours to rest while the train traveled to Chittaurgarh, so for the first time we were able to watch the countryside go by as we traveled.  Dinesh alerted us when the train was going around a bend so that we could look out and see the front of the train.  He opened the door to our car and held onto Jason while Jason snapped a picture hanging out the door.


Dinesh also opened our curtains so we could see out the windows in our rooms. It was fun to lounge on the beds and just watch the farmland and villages go by as we rocked back and forth.


A little glimpse of the bathroom in this picture.  By this time we were used to our tiny rooms and they just felt cozy.


My bed was right by the window, so I propped myself up on pillows and tried to read a book.  It was hard to concentrate though-- I just wanted to look out the window in case I missed something.  That was how I felt the whole time I was in India-- there was always something to look at.  I have to say that just being on the train as it traveled is one of the things I loved the most.


After lunch on the train we arrived in Chittaurgarh-- famous for it's beautiful horses. 
(Hmmm....not my type.  I've seen better.)


The Chittaurgarh fort was my favorite fort.  It was mostly ruins, but I don't know, it was just cool.  There were monkeys EVERYWHRE, and they weren't shy.  There were also a group of beggar girls waiting for our bus when we arrived.  They were asking for chocolate so I reached in my bag and pulled out some godiva truffles my mom had sent with my dad for me.  The girls starting grabbing at my hands so I just started tossing them over my shoulder.  I also tossed some bars of hotel soap I had brought to give out.

The lookout tower:




An overly friendly monkey.  The guide gave me some food to feed him.


He grabbed my hand and held on for dear life so that I couldn't move until he was all done.  I wasn't planning on moving-- I was too afraid he would bite if I did.


We explored the ruins for the next few hours, and were served tea and biscuits.  I'm telling you, we were never hungry and gained a few pounds on this trip.





This was a little lake house the Maharajah used for hot summer days.



At the center of the fort was a temple.  They let us take pictures inside, but it was very small.
Her are the idols and all the offerings that people bring them.


There were people selling postcards inside, and a few others selling food just outside.  This man is frying puris-- I love puris but would never eat them from somewhere like this.  Let's just say their standards of cleanliness are not mine.



The ruins went on forever.....we explored them until sunset when we had to join our group for a sound and light show.


Looking down on the city.









Once it got dark we joined the group for a sound and light show.  We didn't know what to expect, but it was LAME.  Basically it was just a recording of people acting out the stories of the wars and sieges of the fort-- but it went on for 2 hours.  During the recording lights would go on in different parts of the fort so it looked pretty, but that was the only good part of the whole thing.



Despite the fort being cool, this was probably our least favorite day due to the tiger no-shows and the lame night show.  We started getting to know some cool people in our group though.......more about them later.
































































Tuesday, April 29, 2014

India Trip: Part 6- Jaipur

Our first destination in Rajashthan was Jaipur-- the pink city.  We were greeted with street performers and musicians.  My uninhibited husband decided to jump right in!
 

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(Sorry the video is sideways.  But whose day just got better?)
 
We got more flowers and they brought elephants to the train station to greet us too.



 
A local TV news crew was there, and they interviewed my Dad and I about our thoughts on our trip so far.

 
Then we hopped on a bus and traveled to a new Hindu temple.


The temple and temple grounds were pretty, but it was very strange to watch people bowing and worshipping statues of the Hindu Gods. 
 
Back on the bus we passed a law enforcement memorial, so Jason made me take a picture.




 
Next we stopped at Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds.  This is where the Maharajah kept his wives and concubines, but they weren't allowed in public, so they sat at these windows and looked out.


 
Walking up the street we found a snake charmer.

 
And some great shopping.  Look at all those shoes........
 
 
Some locals selling spices:

 
Our next stop was the city palace, which is mostly a museum now.

 
This section is where the current royal family lives.





 
We enjoyed the museum.  Jason especially liked the collection of ancient weapons.
 
I hate to imagine what THAT is for.



 
They had a small Egyptian section with a mummy.  We had to take a pic for the kids.


 
I don't even know about this.

 
Uh huh.  Yep.  We were all real mature on this trip.

 
To protect his wealth the Maharajah had many of his gold coins melted down and turned into huge jugs. 


 
And more guns.

 
Next we went to Jantar Mantar, an ancient observatory used to tell time and watch the stars.  They explained how they used these giant structures to tell time to the exact minute, but I can't remember how it works. 

 
They also had smaller structures to chart astrological signs.  Here is the one for Virgo-- Jason's sign. 


And mine-- Leo.


 
From Jantar Mantar we could see the Amber Fort in the distance up on the hill.  That was our next stop.


 
When we arrived the elephants were there to take us to the top of the fort.  I remembered doing this when I was young-- it's always the highlight of Jaipur. 
 
We stood on a platform and waited for the elephant to come under it so we could hop on.
 

 
And off we went to the top of the fort. 
 
The views were awesome.
 



 
We reached the top and tipped our elephant driver.  Then we headed inside for lunch.

 
They had a huge buffet waiting for us, and it was SO good.  We had about 3 helpings of dessert because they had warm mawa pudding that we ate with ice cream.  As a child I remembered hating Indian desserts, but somehow on this trip we couldn't get enough of them.

 
Yep, we felt like royalty.

 
After lunch we explored the fort.  Some of the walls and ceilings were incredible.  This one is decorated with millions of tiny mirrors.



 
We found where their wash rooms and bathrooms were, and how they got water to them. 

 
They used a pully system with these clay jugs. 

 
The water came all the way from the river to be used inside the fort. 

 
Here is the turning mechanism to move the ropes.  Fascinating.

 
We couldn't get over how ornately decorated everything was.  So many gorgeous things to look at, we were worn out by the end of the day. 

 
After this picture we plopped down on these steps to rest, and I noticed a group of guys next to us watching us.  At one point one of the guys tried to take our picture, but I turned my head away.  This happened a few times, and I wasn't cooperating.  Finally, he approached us and asked to take a picture of us.  We agreed, and wondered what on earth he wanted a picture of us for.  We got a lot of attention and stares during the whole trip--- mostly because I look like an Indian girl married to a gora (white guy) and that's pretty rare to see in India.   
 
Gora's are pretty popular with the women there too.  Several women asked to take a picture with Jason.  Usually giggling as they walked away with their friends.  Sheesh.
 
As we left we took one last look at the city from the fort.  Right as Jason was taking my picture this goat wandered into it. 

 
They took us down in jeeps, then back to the bus, then back to the train for another huge dinner.
 
 
 
This was our longest day on the tour-- I felt sorry for many of the other people on the train who had flown in the day before and were still jet lagged.  We had walked so much in the hot sun all day, we were all wiped.  Plus everywhere we went the hawkers and salesmen were waiting to attack us.  Jason got so sick of people following us and trying to sell us things, he finally took off his flower necklace and tried to sell it to a guy that wouldn't leave us alone.   It worked.
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