Friday, November 26, 2004

Jumping Jaipur

The next day I visited Fatehpur Sikri(1,2,3,3,4,5,6,7,8)

. A city built by Akbar, with just one problem, it had no water. It was deserted just 20 years after it was built, except for the canaries!

The ghost city contains three temples, one for each of his three wives. One mulsim, one christian, one hindu like his respective wives.

Then you enter a marketplace, with a huge main gate through which you got a good view overlooking Agra.

At the grand entrance to the mosque far above the heads of the people there lies four huge beehives, I was just glad they didn't get angry. At least the squirrels were placid.

Onto Rajastan next and I briefly stopped of at Bharatpur which is home to Keoladeo Ghana National Park. This has become a bird sanctuary after water was diverted into by a maharaja, at the time to stop water shortages.

Only rickshaws are allowed in, so I jumped into the back of one and we, were off. The driver was also a guide, and stopped at places where he knew the birds were likely to be. He showed me a hollowed out tree where an owl lay sleeping and also a bird sleeping in the undergrowth. I was only metres away from the sleeping bird before I made out the shape. It looked like a branch or a twig, but I then made out the shape of the bird.

I also saw some antelopes(1,2),
deer and a whole host of birds(1,2,3,4,5,6)
including a huge eagle gliding across above the water and lots of butterflies.

The land there looked like the African savannah with the antelopes on it. Also there was some nice islands with tropical vegetation and storks in the reeds. A good place to visit but I had only 1 1/2 hours there before back in the car and off to Jaipur passing an ancient ruined fort.

Jaipur, a bustling old city originally fortified but has expanded beyonds it walls rapidly. I stayed in a hotel with a moonlit rooftop.

Japiur is famous for it's gems and it's gem scams!

Also I noticed a high number of pigs running about the roadside. In addition to the usual dogs, cows and goats!
Just to complete the animals the hotel had a cat. I think I heard it annoy the dogs. There were in fine singing mood at five in the morning.
As it was Sunday the driver (Sanjay) suggested I share a drink with him and his pal. So between the three of us, we drank a small bottle of rum. Seems to be the tipple of choice. (Not as nice as Morgans though!)

The next day I had a tour of the Amber palace. And the best bit by far was the ride upto the fort.

I stepped carefully from the platform onto the chair, beneath which lay a large, grey elephant!

The decorated elephant then proceeded to amble up to the fort under the direction of the driver, who seemed to use his feet to tickle its ears! (Except for one elephant that was being naughty, he got a whack on his cushioned head with a metal stick for his troubles). On the ride up you get a good view back down into the garden island.

The actual fort itself was atmospheric, especially as I manage to shake off the crowds and explore some of the rooms myself. The rooms are bare now, but some have just the faintest light streaming through the windows, others are boarded up and some just full of junk.
As I explored further, it got darker, I came across a room that was pitch black and couldn't see a thing. At that point I decided to escape this maze and turn back and head back up to the light.
Overlooking from the balcony I could see a lot of guys in pink headscarfs milling around the courtyard.
Inside there were decorative gardens , intricately detailed decorations, shiny ceilings and stained glass windows. Also a wall above which the birds were flying, taking in the extensive views down into town.

I had a look at the fort above the Amber Palace which contained a giant cannon, the reputation was enough to secure that the fort was never conqeured as the cannon was never fired in anger. It was now home to black faced monkeys with curly tails. They would leap from the trees onto the walls

As I hadn't really planned out what I was doing I let Sanjay show me around town and briefly saw a lake palace owned by a mahraja. There is a famous one in Uidapur but I wouldn't mind owning this one either. Sanjay is going back to Delhi, so I'm back on the trains and buses again. It was good to have a driver for a short while, but hopefully it won't be quite so busy in the rest of the places so I can move around freely.

I also one to the cenotaph, situated next to a steep hill, which had many intricate marble carvings.
Later at the hotel somebody remarked that India is all "temples and graves"! Not too far off the mark though. There is a huge amount of forts, palaces, temples, mosques, mauseleums everywhere you turn.

The next day I went to for a ride to an old astronomical observatory. This park was full of large moondials, well astronomical instruments. For measuring the sun, planets and stars. Such as a spherical sundial
You could also climb up the instruments via the stairs.
Or just stare into the sun.

Still I hope to go to a very interesting temple tomorrow!

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