The morning began with a cup of chai tea and an assortment of biscuits before we stepped into our hot air balloon basket and drifted up into the pre dawn sky outside of Jaipur.
What was to have been a 1 hour flight was cut short at 30 minutes by a hasty descent and landing. A few minutes later as the lightning storm began we understood why. What was not Ok was that the balloon company must have been up to date on the incoming weather and in my opinion exposed the passengers to unsafe conditions in that balloon. I generally do not like to pan anything in this blog but if you go to Jaipur I would avoid doing any type of a balloon flight in the area.
The unexpected landing was in a plowed field and once we were on the ground something quite extraordinary happened. The family whose field it was appeared almost immediately – probably thinking space aliens had landed. The head of the family in his white turban, as well as multiple generations of the family all crowded around us. Our pin wielding Canadian got busy handing out Canadian flag pins and smiles broke out everywhere. One of those moments that define travel for me.
We stayed on terra firma for the remainder of the day travelling by jeep up the steep narrow roads to visit the magnificent Amber fort with its mixture of Muslim and Hindu architecture and the Lake Palace. The Amber Fort housed the royalty of Jaipur and our guide regaled us with stories of warrior maharajahs with multiple wives and over three hundred mistresses all housed in the palace. Entertainment pavilions were located in the palace for the ladies.
One special building and pavilion was covered with mirrors and precious stones/metal. This building housed the bedrooms of the King and his wives. Another outer Fort and surrounding wall could be seen above the Amber Fort – the wall reminiscent of the Great Wall of China.
Our trip back to Jaipur took us past the Lake Palace built on a rocky island in a man made lake, used by the Maharajah and his wives as a summer palace and a duck hunting spot. The biggest duck blind I have ever seen – definitely equipped with all the modern conveniences of the time.
A textile factory visit wound up the afternoon – with demos of block printing methods and a visit to the show room which contained hangings, fabrics etc etc. There were absolutely gorgeous wall hangings made from opium bag covers that the shop had purchased from one of the royal houses during an auction. Absolutely stunning – Suffice it to say I got into serious retail trouble and my luggage is getting heavier……
Bollywood films have been on my peripheral awareness but not any more. Our evening was perfect starting off with a hugely entertaining shoot em up Bollywood flick starring Salman Khan. the bad guys were really bad – black hats and all, the good guys really good 🙂 The movie goers were as much fun as the movie – hooting and whistling when the hero escaped yet another impossible situation AK47 blazing and bad guys getting mowed down left right and centre. I still can’t decide if I was watching a Comedy or not – whatever the genre it was hugely entertaining. Our movie experience was followed by a light supper on a third floor restaurant overlooking the night streets.
The village of Jojawar is not often visited by tourists and was a delight. Our hotel was a converted palace owned by local royalty for 300 years. The current owner being the 8th generation of the family. The hotel is stunning, it is hard to beat cocktails on the roof top watching the sunset while the call for prayer comes out from the local mosque.
After a wonderful dinner in the open air courtyard with heat provided by a brazier, we woke early and headed out for the small holdings surrounding the palace. Our transport was a WW II vintage Chevy truck which required a rolling start to get going other wise it had to be left running. With a roll and a belch of black smoke the engine caught and we were on our way.
The special relationship between the small holders and the palace – economic and agricultural – provided us the opportunity to visit households in a way that was truly special. House hold yards are hammered earth, with small groups of goats, cows and sheep close by the residences. Fields of wheat, chick peas and herbs flourish around the central yards. We also had the opportunity to visit a temple dedicated to Shivas mother and watch the priest confer blessings. It was a wonderful morning.