We started our day before dawn. I loved our hotel bed and didn’t want to go, but felt pretty well rested.
As we checked out the front desk handed us two boxes and told us they were breakfast. Breakfast had been included in our hotel, and I was a bit bummed we were going to miss it, but here we had 2 eggs, some chips, juice, a banana and a small sandwich. I can’t speak highly enough of the staff at Rattan Villas.
The road is mostly clear, though we’re dodging livestock from the start. There isn’t much growing out here, but the cattle and goats are scraping by. We join the toll road before too long and things speed up. There are still cattle and goats to dodge, and often a vehicle on our side of the road making a pass, but this is status normal in India. I’m amazed at the focus needed to drive here. I’d be exhausted after 2 hours, but today we drive 6.
This is the major problem with travel in India, or at least this part of it. Let’s say you want to go from Jodhpur to Jaipur. Option 1 is to fly from New Delhi 1hr, then spend 3hrs in the airport before flying another 1hr flight. When you add in that you need to check in early and collect bags at the end. Option 2, spend roughly the same amount of time being driven between the two for less. We elected for Option 2. But this sparked a thought. Tropic Air solves much of the same problem. In Belize it would take 4hrs to drive from Belize City to Placentia, or fly less than 1hr with stops along the way. We imagined that a similar model might work here. Base it out of a smaller airport like Jaipur, make stops along the way, quick turn arounds and a single airplane type. You could service airports that don’t have commercial flights but tourists visit like Ranthambore and Jaisalmer. It’s a fun thought, but the idea of trying to work it out in India seems impossibly daunting. And would you have a niche? Trains are as slow as driving and cheap, and IndiGo and Air India both are very inexpensive when they do fly.
We arrive just past noon and find ourselves an ATM, I’m finally out of the first $50 I’ve exchanged. It turns out the State Bank ATMs are excellent with a competitive exchange rate and no exchange fee or ATM fee. I wonder if this is because they want USD? The first ATM we find is empty, but the second one is good to go. Days later I’m hit by Wells Fargo with a $5 fee. Thanks guys.
First on our stops for the day was Amber Fort, the original location of Jaipur. It’s a lot hot hike up to the entrance from down below, during the mornings and evenings you can hire and elephant to take you up. I’m a bit cautious about this after seeing how the ones in Thailand were treated. It’s a non-starter though as we arrive 2 hours after they’re done in the morning. We arrive in the heat of the day. Sayam shows us the way and then goes back to the car and has some lunch. Still being a holiday the place is packed. At the entrance we have a really hard time finding the pay counter as the one with the signs is closed. We end up asking a Dutch couple who point us in the right direction.
Like Mehrangarh yesterday it’s both a military installation and palace. While Mehrangarh was very utilitarian, this one was far more opulent. Our audio guide is pretty good, it’s not voiced by the Maharaja like the last one, but it’s spirited and detailed. Half way through Jenn’s guide player breaks and we have to return to get a new one. We make it only a couple of stops more before it breaks again. I give Jenn mine and tell her to pass me it when there is something good. At least I can focus on my photography if nothing else. Amber Fort is built in a valley on a hill, and while it has a lake, at one point it ran out of water and the Maharaja had to move his seat of power down to where it is now in Jaipur.
From here we continued onto that new seat of power, the city palace. Here another fee and another audio guide. Much of the same information is repeated and we don’t learn much new other than about Jaipur’s love and success with polo, at one point being deemed Unbeatable. And about how the Maharaja 2 generations ago died of a heart attack while playing the game. As we’re making our way out the Calvary trots by and Jenn is enthralled. Outside the elephants in brightly colored paint have showed up and Jenn takes a #Elfie. Or is it #Elphie*?
We’ve run out of time, and everything else is closed so we go to our hotel for the night Dera Rawatsar. It’s in town but somewhat secluded down a small road with other nice hotels. They take us to our room and its two separate singles. I should have had Narendra leave a note that despite our passports having different names we are in fact married and would like a single bed. We ask if we can have a room with 1 large bed and the guy cringes a little and says he’ll be right back, he’ll check. He comes back and moves us to our new room, this ones got a full size bed of 2 beds pushed together, but is bigger and nicer so we consent. Dinner isn’t open yet, so we go swim first.
Tonight I finally figured out my laptop hasn’t been charging because of a low amp source. I need to find my ASUS plug when I get home. The internet is impossibly slow so I’m unable to get drivers, not that there seem to be any for my camera. I leave it to copy files while we eat.