The last city on our Golden Triangle tour was Jaipur, also known as the “Pink City” for its terracotta pink buildings.
We went a few kilometers out of the city to explore the Amer (Amber) Fort, and this palace was the home of many kings of Rajasthan. It sits on top of a hill, so we switched our mode of transport from car to elephant! The Indian elephant is the national animal of India, and they are absolutely amazing creatures (even though one of them sneezed on me and it was super gross).
We were informed that the elephants were well-cared for and limited by the local government to only four rides a day, so I felt alright getting a ride from this majestic beast. We bounded up the road leading to the palace, rocking back and forth while our driver sang Hindi songs to his elephant, only pausing every so often to ask us questions or greet a fellow driver.
The fort is made up of a bunch of different palaces that are connected by numerous staircases and convoluted corridors that are very difficult to navigate, so that no one could figure out where the king was at any given time.
Our tour guide gave us some time to just explore, but warned us to keep track of the staircases and turns that we took so we could find our way back. This was a lot easier said than done, and we joked that if Harry Potter were set in India, this palace would be Hogwarts, complete with the moving staircases.
We eventually made it out of the fort and headed over to a traditional Jaipur block printing shop, where they use dyes from different vegetables derived themselves to print designs on everything from tablecloths and bags to cashmere scarves and pajamas. This was one of those shops where you can feel the love and passion these artists have for their work simply by looking at their wares.
The shop owner showed us how they print something as simple as a rectangular border to something as intricate as a multi-colored elephant. After applying the dyes in the desired pattern, they then seal in the color by either sun-drying or using a chemical sealant, but he said they “prefer to use the sun-drying method because the sun is free.”
We then went back to the hotel and packed for our flight to our new home for the fall semester. We were each allotted 15 kgs (33 pounds) of check-in luggage, but our AIFS Resident Directors graciously purchased 15 extra kgs for each of us, so we had 120 kgs across the four of us. We couldn’t weigh any of our bags beforehand, but when we got to the counter, we learned that we had 119.2 kgs of luggage. Talk about a close call! But with all the shopping we did, I’m surprised we didn’t go over the limit. So with that small victory to set the tone for the rest of our stay, we went through security and boarded our plane. Next stop: Hyderabad!