From Agra, we headed to Jaipur, which is often called the Pink City. Anywhere that has a cute nickname like the "Pink City" makes me think it will be a small, cute city. Not true. Jaipur has about 2.5 million people and has all the traffic and dirt of India's other big cities. It does have a lot of pink sandstone building, though, which is how it got its nickname.
Inside the City Palace, they claim to have to two largest silver objects ever created. These massive silver urns were used to carry Ganges water with one of the local rulers on his trip to London so that he could bathe in it every day. It was a long time ago--today, the Ganges water would have eaten through these urns in a day or two.
Jaipur is still surrounded, in part, by city walls. It has several gates, which all look almost exactly like this one. This one is called the New Gate. I'll guess that it's newer than the others.
Even though India doesn't have that many Christians, we have seen many Christmas decorations in public places. We are fairly certain that Indians just love flashing lights and sparkly things, so they have wholeheartedly adopted Christmas decorations.
Is that an Indian version of a gay pride flag? We'd like to think so.
The City Palace has four famous gates, one for each season. The seasons, as everyone knows, are Spring, Fall, Monsoon, and Dry. These nice peacocks represent one of them, but there seems to be some disagreement about which.
Indians really love to pose for pictures with foreigners, so I humored these guys when they asked for a picture. However, they became the first Indians to ask us for money for a photo (common in many parts of the world). I told them no way, which the guys on the ends thought was funny, but the middle guy was angry about. Fortunately, he was the little one...
This is another of the gates. We asked the guy in the picture which season, and he said monsoon. My depiction of monsoon season probably would have had more raw sewage flowing through it, but to each his own.
This is inside the palace, where we weren't really supposed to take pictures. At this point, the part that amazes me is that every major city had some local ruler who lived in a palace like this up until about 50 years ago. In many cases (including this one), the descendants still live there.
Our first elephant sighting! It was some Muslim festival, so he seemed to be in town for the celebrations. He appeared to be having a decidedly less grand time than the people celebrating the holiday.
This man really wanted a picture with Tara, so we humored him. Really, it seems that he just wanted to kiss her since he gave her a kiss on the cheek right after this that I was unable to capture on film.
Jaipur has a fort overlooking the city. We tried to get there, but got hopelessly lost. This was as close as we got before turning back. We didn't want to visit the stupid fort, anyways!
Jaipur has a second palace that is essentially just a facade with nothing inside. It was built so that the rulers wives and harem could all secretly watch what was going on outside in the city since they were strictly forbidden to be seen in public.
Looking out like one of the harem members, you can see why the city is called the Pink City. Actually, this picture is from an exposed balcony, where the women would not have been allowed. They had just tiny peepholes.
Jaipur has one of the oldest observatories in India. One of the rulers in the 1700s was really obsessed with astronomy and sent scientists all over the world to study the newest equipment. This is a massive sundial that accurately displays the time to within two seconds. It also looks like it would make a nice skateboard park.
Next stop was Udaipur, where we stayed in a hotel that had the nicest decorations of any we have had. If only the toilet didn't leak onto the floor everytime we flushed it, it would have been a really nice room. You will note that the room has two small beds pushed together. This is the standard in India. Almost nowhere has one big bed--always two small one with separate sheets and blankets.
Udaipur has several palaces. This is the main land-based palace. It was built over several hundred years with each ruler adding to the palace. They kept the outside fairly consistent, but inside, you might go from an ornately wood paneled room built by one ruler into something that resembles a disco built by another.
Udaipur is most famous for its two floating palaces. They were used in the James Bond movie Octopussy, which we have never seen. This one is now a fancy hotel where we could have stayed for only $1500, but we decided it probably wasn't nice enough for our tastes.
Hahaha! A bird pooped on Tara's head! She asked me for some tissue, but I grabbed the camera instead. By accident, of course.
Udaipur has its own ornately carved Hindu temple. Here is some of the outside. No erotic carvings, though. Apparently, after about 1000 A.D., people only carved boring stuff.
But the temple did have this man. Not sure, but it looks like he might be casting an evil spell on me.
On the dock by the lake in Udaipur were some cows sunning themselves. Hello, cows!
More peacocks, this time out of glass. They really like the glass mosaic peacocks in Udaipur. No real peacocks, sadly.
The waterway of the lake (which only exist during part of the year and dries up during the rest) has given rise to the name Venice of the East to Udaipur, apparently. At least, Tara said it reminded her of Venice and then we later saw signs calling it that.
Sunset wasn't really so exciting, but here is one of the island palaces at sunset. From the balcony of our hotel, which we went up to again despite me having gotten in a morning argument with the wait staff of the rooftop restaurant when they insisted that French toast is normally eaten plain, with nothing on top of it, and me insisting that it is always served with syrup, honey, or something of the like.
By night, you can't even make out how much trash lines the water.
Mumbai has only really expensive hotel rooms. Because we were getting there on Tara's birthday, we didn't want to spend a lot of time walking around looking for a cheaper room, so we reserved one of the most expensive hotel rooms of our trip. It was nice, but certainly not worth what we paid for it.
Coming to Mumbai, we decided to take a "sleeper bus", which we had never done before. We were given this nifty double bed compartment. It would have been nice had we not gotten stuck in an 8 hour traffic jam and been trapped in the compartment with no where to go and no bathroom. This is at the end of our 16-turned-24 hour bus ride, which is why Tara looks so happy.
Mumbai is a British city in that most of the impressive buildings are old British buildings. The most impressive of all is the main train station, Victoria Terminus. Like Bombay being changed to Mumbai, the name of the train station was changed to something more Indian a few years ago, but when we tried the Indian name with people, no one knew what we were talking about.
This is called the Oriental Building, but it looks about as British as a building can.
And how about a nice British clocktower? Yes, please.
The Taj Mahal Hotel, which is the one attacked by terrorists a few years ago, was constructed by the industrialist Tata because they wouldn't let him into the fancy British hotels despite being rich enough to buy most of the city. So, he built the fanciest place in Mumbai. Good job, Mr. Tata.
This palace was turned into a museum. A museum that we didn't deem worth a visit, but which we thought worth a picture when the guard who said no pictures allowed turned his head.
The most popular item for sale on the streets of Mumbai is the giant balloon. I thought about buying one to put Tara into, but after much contemplation, I just couldn't see what I could tell her that would lure her into a balloon. Sure, she would have chased a Reese's Cup into a giant balloon, but I didn't have one.
The Gateway to India is a not-so-impressive arch that locals really seem to like and which was built to honor the arrival of some important British royal to India in the 1920s. Yawn.
In Mumbai, we decided to take a tour of the slums. The biggest of these lies between two major railway lines and is believed to house over a million people. Unlike many slums, this one is considered highly productive with tons of small businesses. We weren't allowed to take photos except from the overpass as we entered, but you can see that most of it is shacks. However, many of these shacks have been there for decades. Anything that is from before 2000 has been declared legal by the government, and that is apparently about 90% of the buildings.
The biggest business is recycling, and they recycle anything you can imagine. People break down objects (TVs, toys, etc.) by hand and sort it into roughly similar colors of plastic. Metals and other materials are separated out for processing. The plastics are shredded, cleaned, melted, dyed, and reprocessed. Same with the metals. They reprocess paint cans and sell them. They turn cardboard boxes inside out and resell those. But if you live in the slum, the best thing you can be is a tailor. They make a lot more money and have a lot better conditions than the other workers.
Chowpatty beach is the main beach in Mumbai. The water is toxic and no one can swim there, but lots of food and a nice walkway line the water. Tara took this nice sunset shot.
I took this purer, but not as good, sunset shot.
The main church in Mumbai had a nice Christmas tree at the front. Merry Christmas to us!
And there you have India through Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Not the most exciting post ever, but I'll try to do better in the future.