08 December 2008

Week 55: Should I take a bus, train, or camel to the Blue City?

55th-1st in Mumbai 9/17

One thing I’ve noticed in traveling India is that Indians always ask me for my email address, while Bangladeshis always ask for my phone number. Perhaps this is an effect of India seeing more tourists, and thus aware that a tourist wouldn’t likely be around long enough to chat on the phone in a few weeks. Or Bangladeshis realize quickly that by my speaking Bengali, I probably am in Bangladesh for some sort of longer stay.

Today I headed out to see the actual sights of Mumbai. I walked down to the Gate of India which I’d seen many times before in Saket’s photos. It was under construction when I arrived. Next to it was the famous Taj Hotel in Mumbai, which Saket had told me about as well. Took some photos and got hassled by a few people trying to sell me big balloons or little plastic marbles that grow if you put them in water. I bought a ticket for a boat trip to Elephanta Island, an hour out into the Mumbai Harbor. The water was rocking the boat pretty well, and I feared a bit for our safety. Although decent, not the safest looking craft. From the boat, as it went far across the water, I could see all of Mumbai stretching before me on its peninsula. It was very very long. Seemed to go on forever in high rises. It looked like NYC stretching along Manhattan Island. Couldn’t believe I was looking at one of the largest city in the world. I felt that Mumbai is the most “New York” of all the Indian cities. (pics: walking along the seawall with the Taj Hotel and Gate of India at the end, Gate of India under construction, Gate of India and Taj Hotel from the boat out to Elephanta Island, myself on the boat with the skyline of Mumbai behind)

Elephanta Island was covered in jungle. The national park is established there because of the rock cut temples, which are famous in this region. These are the most accessible from Mumbai. The boat ride provides a complimentary tour guide, but when you arrive touts still try to convince you to come with them.
The temples were cut directly into the cliffs stretching in about 50 yards. The carvings of the gods large and detailed. They weren’t weathered as they are sheltered, but some have had vandalism from when the area wasn’t protected. Glad to have a tour guide for a bit who could tell us about all the carvings. Further on the path from this temple are a few more temples, but only this main temple was ever completed, and thus requires the most time. Monkeys were roaming everywhere, but not excessively playful. I didn’t fear they would steal anything. (pics: the main temple on Elephanta Island and the only fully completed one, myself inside the first temple, myself standing amongst the temple's columns, one of the many sculpted rock images of the Gods)

After the last temple was a sign telling you to walk up to Cannon Hill. The climb took about 8 minutes, but at the top one could look out over the island to the harbor, from an World War 2 era huge cannon,. A second and third cannon were around the other side of the hill, and from there you could see the Port of Mumbai nestled amongst the islands. Really cool. On the way down I had lunch at a “tourist trap” restaurant, one of the many places lining the stairs up to the temples. (pics: the last temple that one sees on Elephanta Island, the World War 2 era cannon on the top of Cannon Hill)

To sit upstairs on the boat for the ride back you have to pay Rs 10, wasn’t the case on the way out. I refused. It was worth it only one on the way out, when it was free. Sat downstairs.

I headed over to Chowpatty Beach on the western side of the peninsula. There you can watch the sunset over Malabar Hill, a richer area of Mumbai, and see the Queen’s Necklace (the name given to Marine Drive’s string of streetlights lining the highway going along the western part of Mumbai.) Tons of people strolling or hanging out on the sea walls. Water looks disgusting below, some people mining for garbage along the rocks. One guy sleeping. I sat at the sandy beach area for a bit and watched little kids “ride” the four wheelers or little motorbikes, actually getting pushed by a paid hand. People were hanging out eating snacks. Sunset was pretty, and after I got some “lunch/dinner” at a beachside stall, which gave me some rolls and tomato sauce with paneer. The Queen’s Necklace really was gorgeous lit up at night. (pics: man asleep on the edge of the sea wall's wave breakers, Chowpatty Beach a bit before sunset, child being pushed around on an electric 4 wheeler that doesn't work by a beach worker, Queen's Necklace and pedestrians at night)

Back at the hotel, Uri and went out and got dinner, roaming the streets again. We ended up getting an omelet on the street. Afterwards, we went to a juice stall, and I tried out carrot juice…eh.

55th-2nd on bus to Udaipur 9/18

I woke up, had breakfast in the room and headed out to the train station to take the suburban train to the bus stop. This was my first time really booking a bus outside of Bangladesh or Nepal. In those places, the bus ticket we got gave us assigned seats. This one did not, I was worried.
Walking to the train I got sweaty carrying my bag. Didn’t take a taxi or a bus, should’ve. Arrived at the bus counter, and waited for a bus with the guy who sold me a ticket. Where was the bus? It was coming he said. Just a tad late. Finally it arrived and they determined where I’d sit, my “assigned seat.” I had asked to be by a window, but I was given an aisle seat. Little did I know this was a blessing.
This bus had sleeper bunks for people, but I had one of the twelve seats in back, which were nestled underneath some bunks. The people above us got sick from the bus jolting, and vomited out the window. Luckily most people closed their windows in time when they saw the vomit coming, but if I had been there I doubt I would’ve seen, so luckily I was on the aisle.
The bathroom was horrible. I wished it wasn’t even installed on the bus. It smelled, and sitting near the back, it was really bad. Every time someone opened the door to go in, the stench crept out. I finally went back at some point to pee, and I saw why it was so bad. For all I could tell, there was no outlet for the pee to be dispensed. You just seemed to pee on the floor, it was not clear whether there was a small hole for it to go out. Felt like I was standing in a pool of urine. I used it anyway, and got out and disgustedly walked back to my seat. The man next to me did not smell to great either, so I was trapped between that smell and the bathroom smell.

Still, the ride was pretty, mountains were green and lush. We drove out of the city for two hours before the high-rises disappeared. Really cool to see all Mumbai stretch on forever. (pics: northern parts of Mumbai, tall apartment buildings still can be seen two hours outside of the city center)

At a toll plaza, there was a bunch of cows blocking a toll lane.

Somewhere north of Mumbai, for a 2 mile stretch, our bus decided to drive on the other side of the divided highway. We had crossed the road to use a gas station, but it was out of gas. So because there was no convenient way to cross back through the concrete barrier, our bus drove down the opposite side. It was horrifying. I covered my eyes. Cars and trucks honked at us as they flew by in the other direction. No one expected us to be there. And we didn’t do it slow either, we were cruising. All other vehicles had to swerve quickly into the other lane of their two-land southbound highway. Finally there was a gap in the concrete barrier and we crossed back over to our side.

It started raining at times, and we had to close the windows, that did not help the smell one bit. A lot of the rain was dripping inside, splattering on those at the window seats, another good reason I had the aisle. Then the water coming inside started gathering and pooling throughout the bus. It was then that I picked up by small backpack and kept it on my lap the rest of the time. I’m glad my other bag is a dry bag.

We stopped for “dinner” and a bathroom break. I didn’t want to eat a real dinner as I was afraid of upsetting my stomach. Instead I got some biscuits and chips, and a bit more water. It was pouring, and everyone had to walk through muddy water to get to/from the bus. So inside the bus it became similar. But this did not stop the fifteen men who would board the bus at this stop to sit in the aisle! Now, despite all the water pooling, the smells, and the closed windows, we had fifteen guys sitting/sleeping in the aisle. For those near the front, it made it impossible to go to the back bathroom, perhaps a good thing. (pic: fifteen men who boarded the bus in the evening and spent the night in the aisle)

We are traveling on the new Indian superhighway system. But it’s still under construction at points, especially in places they are building flyovers. What our bus decided to do in one situation where traffic was horrendous, somewhere outside of Ahmedabad, was too try out the back roads of Gujarat. This wasn’t very successful at all. These double decker buses were not suited for those small lanes. In the rain, it was just an utter disaster. At some point our driver realized his shortcut idea had not worked. We had to make many U-Turns just to get out of it all, and it wasted about 1 hour of our time. I really can’t tell where we went, it was so dark. Somehow we got back to the highway, and then again, sat in the same traffic.

I slept with my backpack on my chest. In the middle of the night, as I wasn’t really ever fully sleeping, I saw a man suiting in the aisle drinking a bottle of water…my water! In my worst Hindi possible I told him that was my bottle…luckily he understood my fake Hindi (I was tired, I probably just spoke Bengali.) He put it down, but it was still ¼ empty.

55th-3rd in Udaipur 9/19

We arrived several hours later than we were supposed to thanks to our nighttime turnaround, and the rain. By the time the sun was up, we were in Rajasthan, and there was desert all around. The road was emptier here, and rolled through the hills gently.

One funny thing I saw was a man collecting the flowers off of the bushes in the middle of the highway. I assume he has called “dibbs” on those from the highway authority. (pic: man stealing the flowers on the bushes in the highway median barrier)

Arriving in Udaipur, I got off the bus and booked my ticket for that night to go to Jodhpur. That done, I got a hotel room for the day to shower and leave my things.
I started walking towards the city, ignoring the catcalls of the passing by autorickshaws. It was two kilometers into the city, not too bad for a walk. The streets got narrower as I got closer in. Alleys began shooting off here and there. (pic: alley in Udaipur shooting off from the main street)

I was looking to get inside the City Palace, but first take a ride on the lake in a boat. But the lake was very low, and someone I asked said it would not be possible to ride out unless I was going to the hotel in the middle.
I sat on the side of the lake in a worn out stone pagoda; I waved hello to the other guys hanging out in a pagoda nearby. I sat and read Angels and Demons. Soon two high school students were using my pagoda as well to have a post-school cigarette. They asked me not to tell their parents, I promised I wouldn’t. We chatted about their school and my travels. They left and soon it started to rain. I stayed underneath avoiding where the rain was coming in. It created a neat haze over the lake. (pics: Lake Palace in the middle of Udaipur's lake, myself reading in my pagoda with the Lake Palace in the background, two high school boys who used the pagoda I was in as an afterschool smoking spot, it started to rain and all the men in the pagoda next to me were huddled underneath)

I had lunch at a rooftop restaurant, and I picked a good one because it seemed to be the highest around. Could see the whole lake and nearby hills, some with palaces on top. Lunch was incredibly good; I wolfed down the curries they gave me. (pics: Udaipur and the hills beyond (some with palaces on top), the two palaces on the lake in Udaipur)

I had not realized the City Palace was going to close so soon and had to rush from lunch to even guarantee myself an hour inside. It is one of the largest palaces in India, and I didn’t want to miss it. I hired a tour guide as I felt I would not be able to appreciate the place as much without knowing its history. He was worth it. He explained stories of the royal family and how it related to the palace. We made it through the tour without staying too late. One of the kings who used to live there was paralyzed, so a lot of artifacts are from his era, with toilets and chairs built especially for him. It was neat to see pictures of the current maharaja’s family. (pic: myself in front of Udaipur's City Palace)

At sunset, I headed down to the lake to watch. The colors of the city as it set were glowing. Many others, locals and tourists, were there watching it too. Stayed until the Lake Palace lights came on, and then walked back into town. (pics: street heading down to the waterside at sunset, palaces on the lakes at sunset, sunset over Udaipur, Lake Palace lit up at night)

I stopped at a Hindu temple which was alive with noise from prayer, and was lit up. Sat and watched the activities. (pics: Hindu temple lit up at night from the street level, just outside the Hindu Temple's main entrance as it was lit up)

I walked back to the hotel, showered again. Got some snacks for the next bus. Got on the bus with no issues, and had a decent seat. Actually slept. Much better than the last ride.

55th-4th in Jodhpur 9/20

At some point at night we made a 15 minute stop for food. All I remember is that there was a music program on TV with a mustachioed cartoonish looking singer and his dancing girlfriend. They were acting out some drama. The song never ended, it had started before we arrived and was still going strong when I left. I can still picture the video weeks later.

I arrived very early in the morning, around 4:30am. The hotel owner had warned me not to let someone scam me when I arrived, apparent it’s really bad in Jodhpur. I found a taxi and told him to take me to the hotel, and prayed it would be the right one. Luckily, there was no silly business, and I arrived just fine. The owner came out to greet me. I showered, and went back to bed for a few hours.

After waking up, I went around and bought some soap I needed and detergent. I washed my clothes in the bathroom, and then prepared for my day.

My goal for the day was Mehrangarh Fort atop the hill, anything after that would just be a bonus. I climbed up through the city streets approaching the fort. They got very steep. The blue of the city was already apparent. I had been looking forward to seeing this a long time. I presented on cities of color in my junior year of college. As I climbed up the mountain, I kept looking back at the streets bustling below me, because I could see more and more of the city. (pics: narrow streets leading up to the fort, at times the fort was visible from the streets of the Blue City below)

I reached the entrance to the fort and went to pick up my ticket and the complimentary audio tour, which the guide books say is great. But they told me I needed a Rs2000 deposit to reserve one, or my license or passport. I had none of those. I was upset because I had just climbed all the way up. After a few minutes of begging they finally conceded to give me one for Rs1000 deposit. Kind of them.
The palace was beautiful, and the audio tour did help explain what I was looking at. I, however, liked the views of Jodhpur much more, and to finally see the blue color which gives the city its fame. I ate lunch there, and the food was actually decently priced. (pics: exterior of Mehrangarh Fort up close, myself in one of the many courtyards in the palace, the exterior of the fort was ornately carved, one of the many royal meeting rooms in the palace, the linealogy of the kings who have ruled in Jodhpur, the wide exterior wall that is walkable around most of the palace)

I sat on the edge of the fort and read my book, and took lots of photos looking out over the city below. (pics: the Blue City stretches out from the palace in all directions, myself looking out over the side of the fort's wall, looking directly on the network of streets below, myself and the Blue City)

After leaving the fort, I meandered the city streets aimlessly, just trying to see what I’d see. While on my walk, lots of kids came up to me to say “Hello”. (pics: man riding through the streets of Jodhpur with propane tanks strapped to his bike, one of many blue streets in Jodhpur)

I came upon a temple built atop a rock spire. I had seen it from the distance, and had wondered what it was. Some guys saw me looking at it, and asked if I wanted to go up. Of course I would. So two of them brought me to it, unlocked the gate, and we climbed up. The view over the city and towards the fort was nice, but they ruined it by asking for a donation of Rs 500, a ridiculous amount. At first I pretended I didn’t hear them, but they asked again a few minutes later, and this time I told them they were ridiculous. They really wanted US money, but I had none of that either. So beyond my Indian rupees I had only my Bangladeshi Taka. That didn’t suffice for them. I climbed down, and at the bottom they asked again for the money. I said sure I’ll give Rs10 and I’ll put it in the donation box. Nope they wanted it in their hands. I refused, and put in the box. This angered them and they went and locked the gate, saying they wouldn’t open it until I gave them more money. Fine I said, I’ll stay in here all day, I have nothing else to do. I finally raised my voice and yelled how they can’t expect Rs 500 from me for something they offered to do. When they realized I wasn’t budging, they settled that I should give them my Bangladeshi Taka. Sure I said, and handed them over the Tk5 and Tk1 coins I had. I don’t think they knew how little those were worth. (pics: temple on top of a rock spire, writing on the rock "Jai baba ri" spire midway up and the city in the back ground, the view from the top of the ladder to Jodhpur's fort, the two guys who insisted I pay them Rs 500 for seeing the temple on the rock spire's ladder)

I found the city gate and climbed onto the city wall. One guy said I couldn’t go up there, another insisted I could. I listened to second guy. I roamed some more and came upon the central square with the clocktower. I found a spice shop and was called in by the owner. Although I wasn’t going to buy anything, I sat down to talk anyway. I think they realized I wasn’t buying. I stayed for about an hour, and ended up talking politics. (pics: one of the city gates in the city wall, the fort seen from the top of the city wall, the clocktower in the middle of Jodhpur's Blue City)

I went to dinner at some hotel, and the hotel owner told me he had just opened the place. I asked why there were so many pictures of himself on the wall, and he said he just wrapped up his career as a model, and those were his many photos shoots. He had a big bushy mustache and looked like a stereotypical old Bollywood good guy actor. He did not lack in pride. Bad part of the restaurant was sitting down and two other guys leaving telling me “the pasta is not good” just after I’d ordered. (pic: view over a part of Jodhpur towards the fort from where I ate dinner in the evening)

55th-5th on train to Bikaner 9/21

Although I would’ve liked to have a night train to Bikaner, it just wasn’t possible. So I had booked a day train from Jodhpur to get me in to Bikaner by the afternoon. My camel safari was the next day, and I could use today to relax.

I got on the train and no one was on it. Everyone had seemed to get off at Jodhpur, despite the train continuing on another 6 hours. I sat down and had a whole compartment to myself.
The desert passing by was pretty incredible. It was the least dense I’d seen in India. On the train I finished Angels and Demons (pics: myself in the empty train cabin, the Rajasthan desert as our train drove past, our train passing through the desert, a little boy selling ice cream on an empty desert road)

Apparently on my train as well was the winner of a recent Indian Idol-like contest. He is from Bikaner. When we arrived, a huge crowd was waiting for him, and put garlands around his neck. They carried him on their shoulders and brought him to a waiting car. Huge crowds cheered him, and TV crews filmed his arrival. They drove off in song. That night on TV I saw the footage from his arrival. (pics: Bikaner welcoming home their superstar at the train station, footage on TV that evening)

Arriving at the guesthouse, I was welcomed by the Camel Man’s wife. She was very friendly, but was the deliverer of bad news that no one had signed up for my tour except me, meaning I have to pay an extra Rs 400 to go, to cover costs. I was upset that I would be alone, and that I’d have to pay money for that, but decided to go anyway, as I’d never have a chance at this again.

To use the internet at a store nearby, I had to give my passport. They said it is because they are worried about terrorists, due to recent terrorist attacks in India, and they are doing this region wide to curb terrorist activities.

55th-6th in Bikaner 9/22

Today was the camel ride and although I’d be going alone, I was very excited for it. After a breakfast where I even got to have pomegranate, I headed out by jeep to the camels. My guide was there, and he would be with me all day. He spoke limited English, so it ended up being quite quiet. But that was okay.

The desert itself was very quiet, not even any wind. I was surprised at the lack of noise. The silence at times was really deafening, I could hear it ringing in my ears. I realized that I should have worn long pants on the camel, as I got several ticks while riding on it and had to flick those off. We walked quietly through the desert. Stopped so the camel and the guide could get more water. Saw a peacock in a tree. (pics: my typical view from the top of the camel, myself on my camel during the tour, shadown of myself and the camel, camels grazing on the side of the path)

For lunch my guesthouse had prepared a lunch and put it in a metal stacked lunchbox, the typical system of South Asia, and my first time eating with one. It was tasty, but I surely couldn’t eat it all. My guide gave me some of his lunch, which was spicy lady’s fingers, but wasn’t as spicy as he claimed. We sat there under a tree in the heat of the day resting. Drank lots of water. We were quite a way away from the camel which he had let roam and eat, with a rope around its front legs so it can’t walk fast or far. Some cow herder came by and sat with us for awhile and chatted with my guide, not sure if they knew each other.
We napped there under the tree. I only realize now that he could’ve left me there napping in the middle of the desert.

When we awoke, he went off to get our camel. All of a sudden I see him running far far away. After a minute or so I realize he can’t find it. I see him going out into the distance, but I don’t see a thing. He’s looking back and forth. Uh oh. I went and helped look in the other direction, but didn’t see a thing. Finally I see him following a pack of camels, pelting one, ours, with stones. I could tell he was cursing at it, or at least I would be. Finally after he managed to get our camel away from the pack, he grabbed it by its rope and brought it back. He told me that the camel had found “some camel friends” and went to hang out. He seemed humorous but still pissed. Doesn’t happen every time he said. (pics: my guide (in the red circle) running off into the distance to find the camel, my guide and the camel after he recaptured it)

Overall I felt the camel walked slower than I thought it would. It was quite hot all day long, and in the silence I had lots of time to think. A storm approached later, and the wind picked up. Luckily it never rained.

I showered in the guesthouse’s owner’s shower, and waited until it was time to leave for the train. Talked to the wife again, she wanted me to buy dinner but I was out of money. At the train station I sought out some snacks on the nearby main road, and waited. Some young boy came to talk to me, about high school age. He spoke to me in Hindi and I did my best to understand. We looked at the train list and he pointed out there were other foreigners on the train. Low and behold, I was sharing a cabin with them. They were a group of Spaniards, and we talked for about an hour before finally settling into our bunks. I was off to my last stop of Jaipur

55th-7th in Jaipur 9/23

The train arrived at about 6 AM. We got off and us foreigners were hassled nonstop about hotels. I started walking out of the station area and into the city to find a hotel. Meanwhile the touts from the platform followed me. One tout asked where I come from, and I said Bangladesh. Doubting me, he said he was also from Bangladesh. But his demeanor changed when I believed him and excitedly in Bengali asked him from which district. We instantly started talking about Bangladesh, alienating all the Hindi speakers also trailing us. Because he was Bangladeshi, I felt a connection with him, and said I would go to the hotel he wanted to take me to (after bargaining about the price of course.)
The hotel was decent, and I really think that the touts aren’t always trying to scam you, just trying to get hotels not in guidebooks to have a tourist actually show up.

I had a train to catch to Delhi in the evening. I would arrive there, take a taxi to the airport, spend the night there for a few hours, and fly out early back to Kolkata.

After going out and unsuccessfully finding currency exchange, I ate breakfast and checked my email. Got some bad news, my flight from Delhi to Kolkata at 5 AM tomorrow on Indigo Airlines was cancelled, and they had put me on the evening flight. Didn’t know what to do. I would miss my bus back to Bangladesh in Kolkata by several hours!

I was very nervous that I may not get a ticket on another flight, but I decided my best option would be to buy a new ticket on another budget airline when I arrived at Delhi airport at night. I would have to deal with having to buying a second ticket and losing money. With that goal, I set out to exchange some money again and go see the city. This was not a good situation.

In my walk, I passed by all the airline booking offices. I saw the IndiGo one, so I went in and asked if my flight could be refunded because I can’t take it. The guy said they don’t handle Indigo anymore, just hadn’t taken the sign down yet. Oy vey. He refused to help or answer my questions.
Frustrated, I went downstairs to exchange, and the exchange guy informed me that he also sells plane tickets. I asked if he could help and he set to work trying to solve my situation. He called IndiGo for me, and found out I can be refunded because they caused the issue. Together we canceled it, and looked for a replacement flight which he could help book. We found a flight on JetLite, but he needed both my passport and cash to get it. I had neither on me as I had not intended to be doing this so quickly.
It took me 30 minutes to go back to my hotel, get these, and come back. He told me where I could find an ATM, but when I looked it wasn’t there. He sent his friend with me, and we found it. But it wouldn’t take my card. Had to find another. It worked. We went back to buy the ticket. He went to the website, and uh oh, the price had gone up 30% in those 40 minutes. I was stunned. I had had this all figured out, and was not going to lose any money on it all, and now in those 40 min since we had seen the ticket, the price had gone up. I was upset. Berated myself for not just buying the ticket online when I had gone back to my hotel. I had come back to him to buy because he’d been so nice before. I had to go out and get more money. But now that ATM was out of cash. Searched for another and it took two tries before I found one that took my card.
Now we tried booking with the more expensive price, but it didn’t work. JetLite was not functioning online.
We decided a change in plan was necessary. We scrapped the idea of going back to Delhi, and looked into direct flights from Jaipur to Kolkata. There was one the next morning for not too much more money. We went with it. We bought it. I would be missing my 10 AM bus in Kolkata, and would have to try and get a new ticket on the last bus of the day at 1 PM over the phone. As well I’d have to cancel my train ticket to Delhi or be out 700 rupees.
I was angry. My last day in India and all my plans had toppled horribly. In hindsight, I should not have gone back to his office, and just bought the ticket online. It could’ve been so much easier.

I grabbed an autorickshaw and went to go cancel the train ticket. My ticket said I had to arrive 4 hours beforehand to cancel, and I was going to make it by a few minutes. There was a roadblock for construction, so I had to get out and walk the rest of the way. Now I’d be late. At the station, they told me something different. I could only cancel after 4pm, and it was only 2 PM. Had to wait. It seemed I would never actually get to see Jaipur now. I tried one more option, the foreign tourist desk, but they only directed me back to the place that told me 4 o’ clock. In the meantime, I called the bus company in Kolkata and asked them change my ticket to the 1 PM bus for tomorrow. Whether they understood me or not I didn’t know. It was a big question mark. I would find out tomorrow for sure if they’d understood who I really was and if they’d changed it.
This whole time at the train station I was hassled by autorickshaw and taxi drivers. Frustrated, at 3:30 I went back to cancel the train ticket, and this time they let me. Different guy at the desk. Got 75% of my ticket price back.

Now with the headaches over, I was ready to finally see Jaipur. Having limited time, I made a goal to just see Jantar Mantar, ancient observatory in Jaipur. Thought it was completely unique to the city. Guide book said it looked like you were in Alice in Wonderland. The authors were right.
This observatory is from the Mughal period, built in the 1700s. It has the largest sundial in the world. It was incredible how big the place was, and the size of the equipment too. I was blown away. The work they performed there involved such complex calculations and measurements of the heavens. Really made me appreciate what was possible with trigonometry and a strong grasp of math. Oh, and an a strong love of astrology.
I had a guide give me the 30 minute tour. I couldn’t imagine seeing the place without it. Nothing would make sense. He was incredibly knowledgeable about the whole place, and was able to explain the tough concepts, and answer my detailed questions. Many times I had him repeat his explanations so I could understand.
Apparently I also had come to Jantar Mantar on the autumn solstice. What that meant is that some of the equipment, which act differently on the solstice, were doing as such. One piece of equipment is oriented in such a way that amongst other information it tells the angle of the sun, but today both sides were in shadow because the sun is between the two hemispheres. 363 days a year the equipment can be used, but today, the dual sided instrument was completely in shadow, the sun’s rays perfectly missing it. I felt pretty lucky to come here on this rare day. I felt my friend Saket should come here, he would love it. (pics: one of the many astronomical devices at Jaipur's Jantar Mantar, myself in front of the largest sundial in the world, Jantar Mantar's many astronoical devices look like a fantasy land, this one did not work on the day I was there as the sun does not shine on either side during the solstice...the day I went)

I was hoping to catch good views of Jaipur, famous for being the Pink City (Also from my junior year of college report) but there was no place to really see it like there was in Jodhpur. I tried a nice rooftop restaurant for a good view, and to treat myself to a late lunch. No views, you could tell it was pink, but couldn’t appreciate it. I also couldn’t decide between the Mughlai biryani and the pizza, so I got both. (pics: after the stressful I treated myself to a good meal, the Pink City of Jaipur...but I could not find a good place to view pink color at its best)

I rode a local bus back to my part of town. It was difficult riding because I couldn’t speak Hindi to the conductor. Stuffed from the late lunch, I ate only a small dinner. Before going to bed I arranged for an autorickshaw to come pick me up in the morning.

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