Wednesday, October 04, 2006

day one in the Pink City

That's what everyone says here: "Welcome to the Pink City" because all the buildings (at least in Old Jaipur) are painted pink since it's the color of welcome. So here we are in Jaipur, which is northeast of Udaipur -- an 8-hour drive, or a 45-minute flight. We flew.

We've figured out that there are just 2 kinds of cab drivers/ rickshawallahs. There is the one that's going to scam you, tell you that your hotel burned down and you need to call this number, tell you that it's a national holiday so the stores are all closed but he'll take you to this one that's open, take you way out of the way for any number of reasons. Here's an example, from one autorickshaw trip we had today. In India, this seems to be how you get from point A to point B:
Looks like you could just go straight across, but that's not the Indian way, for the most part. If you can go through an alleyway, around a corner, take a back road, turn left-right-left instead of just left, that's how to get from point A to point B.
That's the old part of Jaipur, bounded by the wall (shown in red). Looks like there are roads that go straight from one side to the other, which is what we wanted to do, but we took the path shown above.

We took a rickety autorickshaw from our hotel into the old part of Jaipur, to wander around and then find a place to eat dinner. We did our wandering around (and, by the way, the bazaars in Jaipur appear to sell radios, wristwatches, and junk you could buy at any K-Mart in the US, very weird) and then we actually found a great place for dinner. We had mixed tandoori grill and it was delicious.

And here's where the 2nd kind of driver comes in, the crazy one. We already had a crazy one our first night in Udaipur, and tonight we had crazy #2. We've learned to choose a location with a lot of cabs and rickshaws, so we can select one particular cab and approach them ourselves, rather than taking one who approaches us on the street. So we did that, and the guy knew where our hotel was (a real plus) and agreed to take us for the price we stated. Cool, right? Sure, for the first couple of minutes. I didn't know autorickshaws could go that fast. He was speeding, we were holding on, he'd come right up onto a pedestrian, or cyclist, or car, he didn't care. Literally an inch away, it seemed. He'd thread the needle between a crush of vehicles, zooming and lurching and scaring me half to death. As if the speeding weren't bad enough, he appeared to be making a point about how fast his 20-year old autorickshaw went. He was speeding along and he turned around to brag to Marc how old it was. I was thinking, "eyes on the road, eyes on the road!" Anyone involved in a wreck in an autorickshaw is likely to be dead -- there's very little protection. We got to the hotel in record time.

Anyway. I also got to wash off the mehndi paste -- here's my hand today:

It's really pretty, although I keep forgetting about it and am startled when I see my hand.

And one more thing. At that really disgusting restaurant last night (the one Marc and I have to avoid thinking about or we gag), there were several geckos on the wall, all trying to make a run for it:
They were so cute, with those little feet. Every time I turned around there were more of them, but I never saw them coming out from anywhere -- they just appeared and multiplied.

So tomorrow it's a day of sightseeing and then swimming and lounging, and then back to the Old City for wandering and dinner. So far, our favorite place has been Udaipur, but Varanasi is still to come. I'm a little anxious about it, because one thing I've learned is that Hindus are loud, they bang drums much of the day and pray very loudly (though they also pray silently and reverently), and Varanasi is the holiest city for Hindus, cremations all day long, praying, a population the size of Chicago squeezed into a place the size of Amherst, Massachusetts. We'll see.

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