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Jaipur, India for the wedding of Charu and Harshit 

Julie's visit to Jaipur in India for Roli's daughter's wedding from Saturday 10th to 16th March 2012.

One day I got a phone call from Roli asking whether I would like to join Pam (Buckley) and Annie (Love) on a trip to Jaipur for her daughter's wedding. They were obviously looking for a third person to join them and I thought, why not. I had visited Jaipur many years ago, probably in the early 80's so I thought a return visit would be interesting. We therefore got together and started discussing what we wanted and needed to do, and it was soon obvious that we would get on very well as we were all pretty organised and willing, and Annie suggested buying a bottle of gin at duty free on the way out so that was that really. There were many people travelling from Muscat for the wedding and also a group of Americans who were Harshit's fellow students from Harvard. We decided to go a few days early to do some sightseeing.

Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan and dates back to the AD1727. It is known as the 'Pink City' because of the colour of the buildings. The old city is surrounded by a wall and many fancy gates. It is a hustle bustle type of place with almost as many motorbikes as people.

The Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) View through arch

Saturday 10th March. Anyway, we met up in the departure lounge at about midnight for our 02.00 am Omanair flight direct to Jaipur and were already in good spirits. We arrived in Jaipur about 07.00 to a rather unexpectedly chilly morning in that it was only 11C, rather a shock after the temperatures in Muscat. Roli was going to meet us and soon turned up in the Golden Tulip courtesy car and half an hour later we were at the hotel checking in. It appeared that we had two rooms and were upgraded to the 8th floor - the only drawback was that they were both doubles and they didn't have a twin bedded room until later - oh well, Pam and I had to share a bed for a few hours but we were so tired that it really didn't matter. After a quick coffee and bite of breakfast we all went to have a nap having arranged for our driver (Namee) to pick us up a 1 o'clock lunchtime. Pam and I changed rooms just before going out. Annie wanted to do some shopping so we first went to the Government shop to check out prices as they were supposed to be fixed price at these shops and then we could gauge prices at other shops. From there we went to find a book shop to get a guide and a book on walking tours in Jaipur - both which we found. Then to the City Palace, inside we found lovely architecture showing the typical pink colour of Jaipur, a couple of very large silver jars and a handicrafts hall where the artisans were making jewelry, paintings, carpets etc. 

Inside the City Palace Large Silver Jar

After a refreshing drink we returned to the hotel via a shop to buy tonic water - we bought a whole case to keep us going. We got back to the hotel about 18.00 hrs, a quick shower and change, g & t's in Annie's room (807) as hers was the biggest and nicest room with a view and then the driver took us out to the Indiana Restaurant. This was basically a tourist restaurant with some music and entertainment, we ordered cheese and spinach, chicken tikka and potato in a sweet peanut sauce and some bread, all very nice. We were glad to get back to the hotel to get a proper night's sleep having missed the previous night.

Pre-dinner drinks in 807 Entertainment at the restaurant

Sunday 11th March. Pam and I actually overslept a bit in the morning and were late down to breakfast to meet Annie. Namee picked us up about 10.00 and we went to the Jantar Mantar, just opposite the City Palace. It was interesting driving around as there were people, motorbikes, bicycles, autorickshaws etc. everywhere and even a few cows and pigs. The Jantar Mantar is a giant astronomical observatory built in the 1700's and was used for measuring time and predicting planetary positions. It was a lovely place but quite hot at midday in the sun. From there we went to the The Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal), the most famous landmark in Jaipur. And then the Albert Hall which is a museum and we spent some time wandering around and then over the road to the zoo. We thought this was actually some gardens but they were obviously somewhere else so we didn't spend much time in the zoo, it was a little run down but the animals looked healthy enough. We also visited a nursery that Annie had located just to see if there were any interesting plants for her.

Julie and Annie at the Jantar Mantar The Albert Hall Museum

The front (roadside) of the Palace of the Winds The back view of The Palace of the Winds

Later in the afternoon we went up to the Nahargarh Fort in the hills  just above Jaipur City. Spectacular views of the city and quite an interesting place with its architecture and water catchment areas. There were monkeys wandering around here. We got back to the hotel about 18.00 and as usual, a quick change and then g & t's in 807 before Namee's brother, Rhitm, picked us up to go out to dinner. Just as we parked the car a wedding troupe arrived in the street with the groom on a white horse and a band making lots of noise. There were men carrying electric 'candelabras' powered by a couple of generators carried in autorickshaws in front and behind the party. We stopped to have a look and were invited to join the dance which Annie did while Pam and I looked on. The Spice Court was another tourist restaurant and had a coach party in, and therefore a buffet laid on. The food was good, though a bit expensive relatively, and the building was interesting in being an old colonial house.

View from the Nahargarh Fort A Bangle Shop

Monday 12th March. We had our usual breakfast in the hotel and set out just after 09.00 to the Amber Palace and Fort Complex. On the way we stopped to take some photos of the fort and a snake charmer stopped by with his cobra snake. We decided to walk up to the top fort first, the Jaigarh Fort while it was cooler so after being dropped at the palace we went into the main forecourt area, where the tourists were arriving on elephants, and then out again and up the hill. It was a very pleasant walk and we had a good look around the fort though managed to completely miss the biggest cannon in the world which apparently was only fired once and the cannonball went 22 miles. We looked around some gardens though we were not allowed inside but took some photos of some interesting trees for Annie to identify later.

The Amber Fort Tourists arriving on Elephants

We went back down to the Amber Fort, stopping off at a geometrically designed garden in the middle of the lake but were not allowed inside again and then went and did the tour of the main fort and palace. Lots of different parts with halls, pavilions, gardens and temples.

View of the gardens from the Fort Decorative wall with mirrors

On the way back to Jaipur we stopped at the lake with the Jai Mahal Palace in the middle and walked around the lake almost up to the dam. There were lots of birds and we even saw a mongoose. Further down the road we stopped at an umbrella shop and Annie bought a very large colourful one for her patio at home. We got back about 17.00 and after showers, rest and g & t's we had dinner at the Silk Loft roof restaurant in the hotel.

Jai Mahal Palace Black Kite, Peacok, Oriental White-Eye, Brown Rock Chat, White-throated Kingfisher, Monkeys, Black-necked Grebe, Mongoose and Spot-billed Duck

Tuesday 13th March. Today we had to move hotels to the Rajputana Sheraton Hotel which was the 'Bridegrooms' hotel. It was very up-market with a lovely pool area though the water looked a bit cold.  Rhitm picked us up about 09.00 and we switched hotels and managed to check-in straight away. We had only one room so organised another bed for Annie, it was quite cramped but totally adequate for our needs. We then went out to the Sisodia Rani Garden and pavilions on the Agra road. The pavilion was quite run down but you could imagine that it was very nice and peaceful in its heyday. We wandered around the gardens and then our driver took us up the road to the Monkey Temple (Galwar Bagh). This temple was quite picturesque but rather dirty and scruffy further in. There were lots of monkeys of course.

Sisodia Rani Palace and Garden Monkey Temple (Galwar Bagh)

Ladies at the Monkey Temple Baby Monkey

Afterwards we went in search of an area called Sanganer, (this was in our walking tours book). We got dropped off at the Jain Temple and then walked down to the main street to look for quilts and then to a pottery factory where they showed us how they made the local clay pots, to the factory shop and then on to the Hand Made Paper factory. A very nice lady gave us a tour around and it was quite interesting to see the different stages of manufacture and then the final products. We were supposed to meet our driver at another temple but he fell asleep so we ended up going back to where we started which wasn't too far. Back to the hotel where we made acquaintance with the American contingent of the wedding party and planned to use their transport to take us to the 'Brides' hotel for dinner, the Jai Mahal Palace Hotel. This was a casual affair in the gardens by the swimming pool where everybody started getting to know each other. Obviously Roli and Deepak were there and other friends from Oman, Sangeeta (my bridge partner) and Avadh, Anita, Lata, Nika all of whom I had met before. It was a little cool so we didn't hang about too long and  hitched a lift back to our hotel with the same driver later on.

Pottery Factory Local Transport

Wednesday 14th March. After breakfast we went back over to the Jai Mahal Palace Hotel (JMP) for the first ceremony of the wedding - this was the mantra and blessings for the bride. It was a beautiful morning though a little hot in the sunshine but we enjoyed just taking in the atmosphere.

The Guru giving the blessing to the bride The Indian Muscat ladies

We popped back to our hotel to change at about midday and then went off to the Jawahar circle gardens. These are designed in concentric circles with different themes throughout and very enjoyable with lots of plants for Annie and birds for Julie. From there we went to an orphanage for young girls, this was recommended in one of our books, and it was nice to find a cheerful, clean environment and a very good program of education for them.

Jawahar Circle Gardens Oriental Magpie Robin, Chipmunk and Jungle Babbler

On to Johari Bazaar and Tripolia Bazaar streets and we wandered around the shops for a while. Back to the hotel and then out to the JMP Hotel again early evening.

Dried Food Store Shopping Street

The female American contingent of the wedding party had been out buying sari's for the wedding and also had a case full of sari's from Deepak to try on. They gave us this case and we selected three so we could go in sari's too. So we arrived at Sangeeta's room for her and some of the other ladies to dress us. Anyway, she wasn't that keen on the ones that we had chosen so gave us some of her own to wear. We had half an hour of fun getting dressed as it is quite a complicated affair. We then went to one of the halls where there was some refreshments and entertainment in that all the relatives and friends of the bride were introduced and did some singing and dancing. It was a very jovial atmosphere and went on until about 21.00 when a buffet dinner was served.

 The American Ladies with Harshit  Getting dressed with Sangeeta

 

Annie Julie Pam

 

Enjoying the Entertainment Posing for the camera

Thursday 15th March. After breakfast we went down to the coffee lounge in our hotel and met the groom and his party. The bride's relatives arrived and there were ceremonies and the giving of presents and blessings.

Annie, Harshit, Julie and Pam The American Contingent

We went off with our driver at midday to try and find a decent hand-block printed quilt for Annie but without success. We visited a couple of emporiums as well. We then went and did another of the walking tours, this time in the old residential area within the walled city. We started off quite well in following the directions and found some interesting inner courtyards which were very secluded and cool compared to the hustle and bustle of the streets. There were a few temples and quite a few archways with frescoes. We did get a bit lost but generally knew where we were and after finding the 'dairy' a very dirty ramshackle area with some cows and pigs wallowing in mud pools outside, we headed back to the main road and Annie managed to phone the driver to pick us up by one of the gates.

Pam and Annie admiring the frescoes Typical Street Scene

Back to the hotel and later we joined the grooms party making their way over to the JMP Hotel for the main wedding occasion. We arrived almost first at the entrance and there was a band playing to welcome the groom. Lots of other people arrived and then the groom, and the procession made its way slowly and noisily, with everyone dancing, towards the gardens.

The Groom Arriving The Bride's Party ready to welcome the Groom's Party

Deepak and Roli (the bride's parents) Charu and Harshit

The groom's party was then met by the bride's parents and escorted to one part of the garden, while the bride's party went to the other. The bride and groom then sat in opposite pavilions with the guru saying prayers until the 'auspicious' time arrived for them to meet for the first time this week and get married. It was all very colourful and the gardens were decked out magnificently. Later the Muscat 'aunties' did a stick dance and a buffet dinner was served. It had been a long day so we were quite pleased to get back to our hotel especially as we had to be up by 04.15 to get our flight back to Muscat.

Us with Roli and Harshit and Charu At the Wedding

 

 

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