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Jaipur 14-18 November

At Jaipur Airport, as in Udaipur, we were treated like VIPs, with porters on the apron to carry our bags and the travel agent there to greet us and help smooth our way to the chauffeur driven car.  The airport to hotel transfer cost of  US$14 was well worth it.   We would recommend making such advance arrangements in India to other Earth Rounders.  It was Perfect Tours in Delhi that took care of the hotel bookings, transfers and chauffeur driven air conditioned car at our disposal 8 hours a day.

In Jaipur, we had asked Perfect Tours to book the Samode Haveli hotel, a Heritage hotel which still belongs to the Maharajah's family.  They still live in one wing of it.  At about US$ 50, we were expecting it to be quite run down (comparing the rate to the whopping US$ 270 we had paid at the Lake Palace). However, we were pleasantly surprised.  It wasn't quite as luxurious or well-maintained,   but it was excellent value for money. The whole place had bags of character and we had a tastefully furnished,  spacious room,  and an even more spacious bathroom with huge marble bath as well as a shower cabinet.  Aperitifs were enjoyed from the comfort of colonial style, wicker chairs in an open courtyard.  The dining room was covered in fresco painting of different colours for each of its several alcoves.





Our first evening in Jaipur was the most important of the 3-day Diwali festival of light.  There were firework displays galore and a lot of banging as fire crackers went off.  Rajisthan is famous for its puppetry and there was a puppet show every evening (as there had been at the Lake Palace).  I even bought one to add to my collection of dolls from the world over, and another 2 for Frederikke and Karoline.  The puppets needed to be sent off to Denmark to reach the granddaughters in time for Christmas, so we took them to the Post Office.  This was an interesting experience.  At the entrance to the PO, there is an official parcel packer.  We watched, fascinated, as he somehow fitted the dolls into a small box, which he then covered in plastic sheeting, before adding the final layer of cotton cloth which he measured to the exact size of the box and  expertly sewed up at the rate of a sewing machine. The finishing touch was several daubs of sealing wax.  Flemming filmed the proceedings which took about half an hour, in spite of the packing expert's deftness.




We had three whole days to do the sights in and around Jaipur.   Absorbing a whole lot of information in a short space of time can be quite exhausting, as we had soon discovered in Udaipur, so we decided to get an early start each morning so as to enjoy the cool morning air, and be back at the hotel mid-afternoon to enjoy the peaceful surroundings and catch up on e-mails and website.

The first day we concentrated on the City Palace and a reputable jeweller's shop with fixed prices.  Jaipur is a cutting centre for precious and semi-precious stones, and prices are some of the most reasonable in the world.  I decided that it was the place to buy jewellery in one of my favourite stones, the emerald.   As a result, Flemming's Christmas present to me is a pair of emerald earrings.   That evening we dined out and  met a French Canadian family who used to live in Nepal.  It turned out that the husband, Norman, worked at the Alliance française and knows our contact in Kathmandu, Sébastien Autin, who is the son of a colleague of Ray and Flemming.

The next day the first part of our programme was a stop at the Palace of the Winds, a major attraction of the pink city of Jaipur - painted pink at the orders of one of the Maharajahs in order to welcome the Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VII.  My old colleague at IOM, Zilmo de Freitas, is a keen collector of old cameras, and is now writing an article on street photographers for a magazine.  He asked me to look out for them and take photos of them.  So far we hadn't had any success in finding any of this, seemingly, dying race. But as we were driving along amidst the usual chaotic and colourful traffic, Ray suddenly spotted one.  Thrilled, we asked the driver to stop. Flemming and I leapt out and took several digital shots, some of which are shown here, as well as some with my traditional camera. Then the photographer took a shot of us and we photographed the developing process.  First he produces a negative and then photographs that to produce a positive. Just as we were about to leave, a second street photographer arrived, so we were able to get shots of both of them together.  (Zilmo, we will be e-mailing you more of the photos as soon as possible, and I will mail you traditional photos and negatives if we can get them developed in Kathmandu).





After that successful interlude, we were driven about 11 kilometres out of the city to the Amber Palace.  The setting is quite stunning.  It is perched on a hillside and the picture is completed with fortifications on the higher hills that surround it.  Flemming and I have ridden camels in Morocco, but we had never ridden an elephant - the variety in East Africa is a little too wild for that! - so we did the tourist thing and rode up to the palace on an elephant.  Back in Jaipur, we stopped off for a late lunch at the Rambagh Palace Hotel -  another Maharaja's palace, but much newer than the other ones we'd visited.  It was built in the 1930s and is very plush.  We felt as though we had stepped back to colonial times as we ate our lunch on the lawn.  Afterwards, we visited the Polo Bar where numerous 1950 photos of polo players were on display, including  Queen Elizabeth handing the Maharajah a trophy.








The third day, we drove to the Samode Palace Hotel, about 35 kilometres away.  It took an hour due to the heavy traffic, but we didn't mind that much as it often included camel-driven carts hauling all sorts of cargo including building material.  It seems that camels have replaced the elephant as beasts of burden. Elephants are strictly tourist haulers.  Samode Palace was another amazing place, witness to the opulence of the Maharajahs before 1947.  It was the best preserved 17th century palace I've seen in Rajasthan with its frescoes and walls of mirrors (mosaics of convex glass).  We were given a tour of the palace and were shown the bedroom where Ray stayed with Audrey a few years ago with a raised 4-poster bed in the centre of the room.

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The beautiful Rajasthani doorman at Samode Haveli Hotel, Jaipur

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Snake charmer in Jaipur

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Christmas presents being wrapped up in Jaipur Post Office and sealed for shipping

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Palace of Winds, Jaipur

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Focussing on the subject.

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Positive copies being made from the negative.

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The final result!

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On elephant up to Amber fort

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Amber fort, Jaipur

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Elephant parking at Amber Fort

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Flemming Singh at Amber Fort

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Royal suite in Samode Palace Hotel, Samode

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Our guide at Samode Palace

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Camel cart near Samode

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