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Ranthambhore Take 2, and a visit to the Pink City


janzin

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elefromoz
On 8/21/2020 at 8:01 AM, janzin said:

  I know a lot of folks think this is a good reason not to visit the Indian tiger parks, and I can't really blame them, but its not always like this.  And, to me, it is what it is, and its worth it to see this magnificent cat (who honestly never seem very bothered by all the attention.)

 

I agree completely!  At the end of the day, the Tigers make it all worthwhile.

Ive been waiting for your Ranthambore report Janet, and loving your photos and interested in your thoughts about everything.We too were disappointed in the Full Day, but, it could just as easily have gone the other way I guess.  The Hotel looks rather nice, a bit grander than Dev Villas, I like the Dining Room. Your photos of Sawai Madhopur made me smile, usually we went through so fast we didn't see anything, tearing through the streets flat-out, I wonder if that's the same boar crossing the road. 

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Soukous
On 8/21/2020 at 1:49 PM, janzin said:

Here, indeed, is where the new system really failed us. Under the old system, we could have just waited off to the side as it was almost time for all the morning safari people to leave. We could have then re-found the cubs and had them to ourselves. This is exactly the sort of situation that made the full-day permits so valuable in the past. But alas, due to the new rules, we had to leave, in fact even sooner than the other vehicles because we had to get out of zone 1 and into zone 6 by our "deadline."

 

This was really frustrating :(

 

Yes indeed. The new system can leave one feeling a bit cheated. The argument that is given to justify the policy is that it allows the tigers some time in the middle of the day when they are not being pursued by vehicles - and having seen just how the vehicles do chase them I can appreciate that this might be a valid reason  - but the 'new' full day permit does not give the same access as the 'old' full day permit and is a lot of money for 2 'zone free' sessions. 

 

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Galana

Some great moments there @janzin.

Thanks for sharing at last.

With the world as it is you have captured some great memories 'just in case'.

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We also booked three full day safaris during our visit last February.

 

Every day, we had the same routine. We started our mornings in zone 3 (Arrowhead and her two cubs were out so it was logic for us to start in that zone).  Then we drove via zone 2 to zone 6.

In the afternoon we took the same route, from zone 6 via zone 2 back to zone 3 and/or zone 4.

Both in zone 2 and zone 6 we saw tigers during two out of three days.

 

In zone 2 we had a brief sighting of T105 and her father T57, and on our last day we had a fantastic sighting of T105 again.

 

On our first day in zone 6 we saw T39 and T34 mating. The next day, both tigers were still together but a few hours later they separated from each other.

On our last day in zone 6 we searched for T8 and her three little cubs, but without any success.

 

I agree with @elefromoz it can go both ways, sometimes, you just need some luck.

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janzin
11 hours ago, elefromoz said:

 

I agree completely!  At the end of the day, the Tigers make it all worthwhile.

Ive been waiting for your Ranthambore report Janet, and loving your photos and interested in your thoughts about everything.We too were disappointed in the Full Day, but, it could just as easily have gone the other way I guess.  The Hotel looks rather nice, a bit grander than Dev Villas, I like the Dining Room. Your photos of Sawai Madhopur made me smile, usually we went through so fast we didn't see anything, tearing through the streets flat-out, I wonder if that's the same boar crossing the road. 

 

Thanks @elefromoz Yes our hotel was a bit more posh than Dev Villas, but really its just a place to sleep and eat! We did want a place with a bit of atmosphere, but we really didn't spend much time there. Our hope was the food was going to be really good, but it seemed about the same as what we had with you at Dev Villas (I am going to get to that dinner in an upcoming post ;)  We had such good Indian food at our hotels on our first trip (in Pench and Kanha) but its not yet been repeated.

 

4 hours ago, Filip A said:

We also booked three full day safaris during our visit last February.

 

Every day, we had the same routine. We started our mornings in zone 3 (Arrowhead and her two cubs were out so it was logic for us to start in that zone).  Then we drove via zone 2 to zone 6.

In the afternoon we took the same route, from zone 6 via zone 2 back to zone 3 and/or zone 4.

Both in zone 2 and zone 6 we saw tigers during two out of three days.

 

In zone 2 we had a brief sighting of T105 and her father T57, and on our last day we had a fantastic sighting of T105 again.

 

On our first day in zone 6 we saw T39 and T34 mating. The next day, both tigers were still together but a few hours later they separated from each other.

On our last day in zone 6 we searched for T8 and her three little cubs, but without any success.

 

I agree with @elefromoz it can go both ways, sometimes, you just need some luck.

 

As you say, in part its just luck, and I had high hopes after hearing from you after your trip and also Vikram telling us that zone 6 had been very active.  But we really struck out in Zone 6 and all the driving back and forth seemed mostly a waste of time which could have been spent in a zone where we knew tigers were active and actively being seen.  Its not all luck, sometimes you do best by going where tigers have been seen or are being seen and under the old rules, you could do that midday without dozens of other vehicles around.

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janzin

So to continue where I left off...we are still in the morning of day 3. We turned around to see where the cubs were going and it wasn't even five minutes later when we were able to relocate them lounging in some tall grass.

 

The light was perfect now! It was a little challenging trying to shoot through the tall grass but I got some nice portraits. I believe this is Riddhi.

 

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She did get up and start to walk towards us. A dramatic portrait. (This was my opening shot of this report.)

 

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That's the last photo I have for the morning so I don't exactly recall what happened between then (8:10) when we started back towards zone 1 for our transfer to zone 6. Obviously not much :)

 

We headed to Zone 6 and as usual, we traversed through zone 1 to get there. But this time there was a difference!  The gypsy with Chris and Abhishek were directly in front of us and suddenly they stopped as something slunk across the road right in front of them. Was it a tiger???

 

No....but almost better...

 

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A leopard! Much rarer in Ranthambhore than tigers. It was directly in front of their gypsy so we were pretty blocked until it walked up the adjoining slope. By the time we could get any sort of photo op it was walking between trees and rocks, but it was an exciting moment for sure.

 

By the way, this wasn't really all that far from where we saw the leopard on the first afternoon. So Chris and I wondered whether it could be the same one (they were both definitely males.) But after close looks at our photos (Chris got a much better one of this leopard than I did) we agreed that they were two different individuals.

 

We continued on to zone 6 and after this little bit of excitement it was pretty much par for the course...we didn't see anything much.  We did get one new bird for the trip...Indian Roller! Oddly enough we had yet to see one, even though they are quite common.

 

The light was harsh as it was midday but here you go...as I have no other photos from zone 6.

 

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As I recounted previously, we took the tarred road back again and this was the day I took the photos posted in the prior post. I think we were relieved we would not have to return to zone 6 anytime soon!

 

 

 

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janzin

As we did the day before, we picked up our lunch along the roadside and ate it in a shady spot along the entry road so that we could be first in line when the gates re-opened for the afternoon safari.  Well, in this case second in line, as Chris and Abhishek's vehicle was right in front of us.

 

Chris, and that's our guide Rajesh in the hat...I could always find him by looking for that hat!  Waiting impatiently for the gate to open...

 

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We quickly headed back to where we'd left the cubs in the morning. It wasn't too long before we found them.

 

Well, one of them anyway. Lounging in the woods.

 

 I believe this is Siddhi.

 

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She was doing a little birdwatching.

 

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Unfortunately the word was out and soon we were caught up in the usual Ranthambhore traffic jam.

 

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We managed to extract ourselves and honestly since I'm writing this so many months later, I don't recall what we did in the interim but about 45 minutes later we found the two cubs again.

 

They now were around our side of the lake and were quite close but unfortunately the light was simply terrible.

 

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Rajesh was sure Arrowhead, the mom, was around and sure enough she finally made an appearance! Again, crappy light and with an unappealing background and they aren't all in focus but this was my only opportunity to get all three of them in the frame. Sometimes you just have to go with what you get :)

 

You can see at this point the size difference between mom and cubs isn't all that great.

 

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They were walking towards us and  around to where the light was better, yay! But they were weaving in and out of the trees and constantly moving, we were following as best we could but of course we were far from alone at this point.

 

At one point they came quite close...

 

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Arrowhead came on to the road...looking for the cubs to follow.

 

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But we soon lost them as they headed off into the woods.

 

Bye bye, would we see you tomorrow?

 

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janzin

The day wasn't quite over yet. We headed back towards the "swamp" to see what might be around in terms of birds. Of course, eyes (and ears) were always open for more tigers as well.

 

This was always a great spot.

 

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Plenty of birds.

 

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We drove around the lakes seeing what birds we might find.

 

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The light was beautiful on this resting Great Thick-knee.

 

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These tiny bush quail are hard to shoot out in the open...always running. But we got lucky.

 

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All in all a very successful day!

 

Good night Ranthambhore,  sadly we have only one regular morning safari left.

 

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janzin

Our last morning in Ranthambhore and we had a regular safari, which meant that we had to depart no later than 10 a.m.

 

It turned out to be a morning "for the birds."  We did a lot of birding! Naturally, we were looking for tigers...but again I won't keep you in suspense (and you can tune out now if all you want to see are tigers)...we didn't find any that morning.

 

We did have hopes as once again we were in Zone 3, so there was a chance to find Arrowhead and the cubs. As it turned out, no one found her that morning, as far as we heard.

 

But we did well with birds. And we had nice light for most of the morning.

 

I have NO idea how the guys spotted this Savannah Nightjar in the grass. We rode right by it and I think it was Mohan who saw it first, and backed up...I thought he spotted a cat! But it was this very camouflaged bird...

 

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Needless to say it was impossible to get a clear shot but I was happy to get anything as you could barely see it. At first I thought it was a life bird, but when I got home I discovered we'd seen it in Kanha. But I'm sure I had no photo that time.

 

It was a beautiful morning.

 

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Random birds of the morning....

 

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It wasn't ALL birds of course. I don't think I've posted a photo yet of Chital, or Spotted Deer. We saw plenty of course but I rarely asked to stop for a photo.

 

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And some cooperative mongoose...for a change not running away from us.

 

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We had passed this roosting tree of Indian Flying Foxes several times on past days but the light was never good. Today, it was perfect!

 

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They are not bashful :lol:

 

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There was one final sighting to put the "icing on the cake."  Just as we were heading out, and very close to the exit gate, Rajesh spotted this very special bird--a life bird for us! And even he and Mohan seemed excited as he said they weren't often seen out in the open. Mohan, who always carried a small camera, was eager to get a photo as well.

 

Painted Sandgrouse...a beautiful bird! Posing right out in the open in the road.

 

When we first spotted him he was backlit, but I took many shots just in case.

 

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After a few minutes Rajesh asked if we wanted to try to get around the other side to get the sun. Sure, why not!

 

The female was with him as well. Amazingly they stayed put as we circled around...

 

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A great ending to our morning.

 

Bye bye Ranthambhore...til we meet again!

 

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I'll summarize and compare this with our prior Ranthambhore trip in the next post.

 

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janzin

On our final evening, Abhishek arranged a car to bring us over to the Dev Villas to have dinner with him, our friend Chris, and his wife. And guess who also had arrived at Dev Villas that day...ST member @elefromoz and her traveling companion. A grand time was had by all! On top of that, after dinner Vikram's brother, Aditya Singh came by to say hello, with his lovely wife, Poonan.  We of course had met him before when we stayed at his lodge, the Ranthambhore Bagh, on our last trip. This was a really nice way to end our trip and I regret that I forgot to take any photos of the gang.

 

To sum up:

 

Compared to our last trip, our sightings this trip, especially in terms of photo ops, were somewhat disappointing. Yes, I know many would be happy with just one tiger!  :D  But its hard not to compare.


Last trip we had 10 individual tigers and only one afternoon with no tiger sighting. This trip, 5 tigers and several periods of no tigers---including those midday drives in zone 6. Additionally, we didn't have any sightings this trip with tigers actually doing much. No tigers in the waterholes, none drinking, none posing on walls...all of which we had last trip.

 

On the last trip we also had two sloth bear sightings...this trip, none. That's pure luck, I know...I believe @elefromoz did see one.

 

Of course any wildlife trip is in good part luck, but there were factors at play that we didn't have last time, the most crucial being the new regulations, as discussed before. Also, a factor that Rajesh pointed out--this year had a very heavy monsoon season so there was a lot of water everywhere, so the tigers didn't need to come to the waterholes. It also wasn't very hot when we were there, so another reason they weren't lounging in the water that much. Maybe we'll brave late March or early April next time....

 

All that said, we still had a fantastic time, I am not complaining!! we really enjoyed being with Rajesh and Mohan and having Chris and Abhishek there was a bonus that added that little bit of extra fun. With all its issues, we still love Ranthambhore and would go back in a heartbeat. I just hope they change the full day safari back to the way it was before.


I almost forgot...we had one last stop in Sawai Madhopur. Aditya had invited us to stop by, on our way out of town the next day, to the new home and lodge that he was building. It was literally around the corner from our hotel! So we made a brief stop there and had a nice visit with him and Poonan, and got to see the new place (which was still under construction but coming along.)  It looked wonderful and I hope that next trip to Ranthambhore, that is where we will stay.

 

Thanks to all who've read along so far. Next stop, the pink city, Jaipur.  But there will be a short hiatus while I finish processing the photos!

 

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elefromoz

Well Janet the photo ops may have been a bit disappointing for you, but your photos are beautiful nevertheless. I do wonder how Arrowhead and all the others are doing..

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Soukous
20 minutes ago, elefromoz said:

Well Janet the photo ops may have been a bit disappointing for you, but your photos are beautiful nevertheless

 

They are indeed.

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janzin

The rest of this report will contain no wildlife--unless you count pigeons (the feral kind) so you've been warned! :D

 

I've always felt that we had, in the past, shortchanged India a bit by not visiting any cultural sites (other than a short half day in Delhi and a couple of quick stops in Gujarat.) So this trip we decided to spend a couple of nights in Jaipur, since it dove-tailed nicely with an easy return flight to Delhi. Vikram arranged for us to do a "photo tour" which would of course take us to the important monuments but also through the flower and sundry markets, an opportunity to photograph the elephants making their way to the fort, etc.

 

I had seen a story on Jaipur in some travel magazine and had bookmarked a very cool looking boutique, heritage hotel. I just fell in love with the look of the hotel and when I looked at their web site I discovered they weren't at all expensive! So I asked to be booked there and Wild World India obliged, although they weren't familiar with it.  The Pearl Palace Heritage  http://pearlpalaceheritage.com/

 

What makes the hotel really unique is that each room is done in a different style, and when you check in you can choose which room you want from what's open at the time. Unfortunately, none of the really beautiful rooms were available when we checked in, late in the day; :( so that was a bit disappointing, but we still loved the hotel, which had a very homey, family-run feel.

 

The lobby.

 

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The breakfast room. The one downside of the hotel is they don't have a restaurant on site, but they have a sister hotel with a restaurant a few blocks away. You do get breakfast but you either have to go over to their other property, which we never had time for in the a.m., or pre-order a continental type breakfast which they would serve in this room.

 

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What's that man doing? You'll see in a bit ;)

 

 

Our room...a little dark but very comfortable. They showed us two rooms, the other was filled with many small mirror inlays which made me a bit crazy--too shiny!! so we chose this one.

 

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Later in our stay some other rooms were open so we wandered around looking...I wish we could have gotten this one...

 

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A bathroom (not ours...ours was even nicer with red tiles but it I forgot to take a photo.)

 

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door detail

 

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Okay, enough of that.

 

We arrived in Jaipur after a comfortable drive from Ranthambhore and met our tour guide, Devandra Singh Rathore, who was waiting for us at the hotel. Vikram often uses this same guide and he has worked with professional photographers as well as general tourists. We really enjoyed our time with him, he was very well educated and informed, easy to talk to and with a good sense of humor. Perfect English. We talked with him quite a bit about not only history but also politics and the current situation in India, etc.  (I have his contact info if anyone is heading to Jaipur and needs a guide--highly recommended.)

 

After checking in and a quick freshening up, we decided to go directly to the City Palace. 

 

The City Palace was built in 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II when the capital of Rajasthan was moved to Jaipur. It now houses a complex of several museums, and continues to be the home of the Jaipur royal family, although that area of the complex is only open with special reservation.  I am not going to give a lot of exposition about history as that's not really my forte; photos will have to do.

 

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Beautiful painted doorway

 

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Doorway detail

 

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We didn't spend a lot of time going into the museum spaces, as it was late and they were just about to close. We did manage to see the textiles which was what we were most interested in.

 

The yellow structure in the rear is the current home of the royal family--off limits except by special tour.

 

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Somehow, we managed to find time to fit in a few moments at the gift shop. Did I mention Jaipur is a great city for shopping? Alan managed to buy a shirt in the five minutes we were there!

 

After touring we were famished (another day without a proper lunch) so we stopped in the lovely on-site restaurant for a needed tea break. This modern restaurant, Baradari, is right in the center of the complex and we returned here for lunch the following day.

 

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A cup of chai and a tasty cheescake to match their marble floor.

 

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On the way back to the hotel, we briefly stopped in the midst of traffic to grab a shot of the spot-lit Albert Hall Museum.

 

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Vikram had given me several dining suggestions and I'd done a lot of research on dining but when it came down to it, we were just exhausted! and decided to eat at the hotel's restaurant, The Peacock, which was outdoors on the roof of their sister hotel. Another nice perk is that the Pearl Palace will ferry you over and back in one of those little tuk-tuks, at no charge.

 

The Peacock turned out to be quite good and we actually ate there both nights, out of pure laziness.  It seemed strictly for tourists, I don't think we saw any local people there, but the food was good and it was just...easy. Live music too.

 

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And Alan got to wear his new shirt!

 

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And this is what the man was doing on the floor of our hotel...

 

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michael-ibk

Very enjoyable report Janet. Fantastic photos - but that goes without saying in your case.

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janzin

Thanks @michael-ibk  I am glad to see some folks are enjoying the city photos.  Actually there will be some animals coming up--although not wild ;)

 

 

 

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janzin

The plan for the following morning was to get out early to catch the Amer (or Amber) Fort reflected in the lake, then go watch the elephants come in; and visit the fort.

 

Of course the fort is probably the most famous attraction in Jaipur. More on that later.

 

The fort does look lovely in the early morning, and we had a nice clear day for reflections.

 

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The elephants of course are the ones used for tourists to go up the steep hill into the fort. There have been new rules put into place about limiting the hours the ellies can work but controversy remains over their treatment. I had already told Vikram we had no interest in riding those elephants but I didn't really object to photographing them.  Many of them are adorned with paint and painted toenails.

 

We positioned ourselves on a side street where Devendra said the ellies would come through, heading from their overnight quarters up to their staging area at the fort.

 

And come they did! The light sadly was behind them most of the time but it was a lot of fun attempting to shoot these huge elephants (most were very big!) coming straight towards you. Even though they are walking slowly, it was more challenging then I expected due to the low light.

 

The March of the Elephants.

 

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While we were waiting, in between elephants I took a couple of street scenes.

 

Flower vendor...but we'd get to the big flower market tomorrow.

 

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Devendra told us people paid to feed these sacred cows the grass, as it was good luck, or some kind of offering.

 

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After watching the ellies do their walk, we moved up to where they were amassing at the foot of the fort, waiting for the tourist throngs to hire them.

 

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Kinda cool to be among so many of these large beasts, although of course we had to keep our distance.

 

After we'd had enough of the elephants (they kept coming and coming...) we went to meet our transport up to the top of the fort. We had a choice of walking up, or taking a little vehicle up and down, or taking it up and walking down. We told Devendra that we'd take the vehicle up and walk down, which turned out to be the best idea.

 

On the way up we stopped for a few minutes at the Panna Meena ka Kund stepwell. Impressive, although we saw a much more striking one in Gujarat last trip. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/panna-meena-kund

 

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View of the city wall taken from the stepwell.

 

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Galana

Fascinating stuff. I liked the look of the Hotel.

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janzin

Thanks @Galana More to come soon...

 

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michael-ibk
18 hours ago, janzin said:

I am glad to see some folks are enjoying the city photos.

 

I do, especially since we visited Jaipur ourselves back in 2012. Great city and sights, this brings back lovely memories.

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janzin

We were deposited by our little vehicle at the top of the fort. Again, I'm not going to give a lot of history; wikipedia can do it better. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amer_Fort

 

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Since we were there bright and early, we had it mostly to ourselves. The folks on the elephants come up more slowly :)

 

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I thought these ladies were a bit overdressed for elephant riding! I imagine it was a wedding party.

 

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Ganesh Pol Entrance, the entry into the private palaces of the Maharajas.

 

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Detail, Lord Ganesh

 

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Courtyard gardens

 

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Sheesh Mahal, or Mirror Palace

 

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Detail, mirror palace

 

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View of Jaigarh Fort, the fort above the Amer fort

 

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These small frescoes were recently restored.

 

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Love these small paintings in the cornice. Note the tiger hunt.

 

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After a leisurely tour of the palace, we walked down. It was quite an easy walk with nice views...you just had to watch out for the elephant crossings (and their dung ;)

 

 

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Edited by janzin
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Galana

Certainly looks like  a worthwhile place that I could take Lady G to visit.

Thanks for sharing.

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janzin
2 hours ago, Galana said:

Certainly looks like  a worthwhile place that I could take Lady G to visit.

Thanks for sharing.

 

I haven't even got to the shopping yet :)

 

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janzin

Speaking of shopping... ;)

 

When we left the Amer fort it was still a bit early for our next stop (which was to be the Jantar Mantar and then lunch) so Devendra asked if we wanted to go to the shop where we could see a demonstration of block printing etc.  Now I know some people don't care for those sort of stops but we actually enjoy them, as long as we don't feel we are being shuttled for a hard-sell. In this case he totally left it up to us and in fact, we were interested as the one thing I did plan to try and buy in Jaipur was a razai, which is a block-printed very lightweight quilt which is a specialty of Jaipur.

 

So, we gladly went along; the shop he took us to was Indigo Carpets & Textiles. Uh-oh, carpets are a weakness of ours but we certainly had no intention of buying any.

 

We were shown a demonstration of traditional block printing, which Rajasthan and especially Jaipur is famed for. The wooden blocks are carved by hand and the dyes are all natural. Its a very labor intensive process requiring great precision. https://adventure.com/rajasthani-block-printing-traditions/ Its also an art in danger of dying out as the families move on to other endeavors.

 

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There was a brief demo of the carpet weavers and cutters.

 

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Okay, so let's go look in the carpet room.

 

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See those two carpets in the center, the blue one and the red/orange one? Well, they are now sitting on either side of our bed :lol:  Yes, we had no intention but we could not resist as the price was great and included free shipping to the States, no VAT or taxes to the USA for handmade items!  We were a bit skeptical of the shipping but they arrived at our home in 10 days just as promised.

 

Well after the carpet room we went up to the textile room and...Alan bought another shirt which was to be custom made--they promise overnight (so we'd have to return the next day-uh-oh.) And I looked at dozens of razais but soon realized even the light quilt was too much to fit in our suitcase and shipping would be as expensive as the quilt :(.  So I settled on a very lightweight double-sided coverlet which is really two block print sheets back to back; it easily fit in my suitcase and looks fabulous on my bed.  I'd actually have liked to spend more time going to different shops and seeing more variety but our time of course was limited.

 

Elephants on one side, palm trees on the reverse.

 

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I also bought a pair of pajamas and a block-print scarf :) but that was actually on our return the next day when we picked up Alan's shirt.

 

So, shopping done (for now) we moved on to the Jatun mantar.

 

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janzin

After the shopping expedition we moved on to the Jatar Mantar, a UNESCO Heritage site consisting of architectural astronomical instruments built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh I, the founder of Jaipur, Rajasthan. The monument was completed in 1734. To me this was actually the most fascinating monument we visited in Jaipur, the precision of these instruments is amazing and they are all still functional today.

 

The 19 instruments consist of sundials, and instruments to measure time, predict eclipses, track location of major stars, ascertain the declinations of planets, and more. There are 12 instruments that are connected to each of the signs of the horoscope. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jantar_Mantar,_Jaipur

 

I actually purchased a book on the various instruments as I love this sort of thing.

 

 

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Of course we had to take each others photos in front of our horoscope sign.

 

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No, you won't see my photo here ;)

 

The Jantar Mantar is right across from the City Palace so after about 45 minutes at the site, we returned to the Baradari restaurant, where we'd had tea yesterday, for a very nice lunch (we had pizza!)

 

The post-lunch plan was a walk through the markets.

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Galana
47 minutes ago, janzin said:

Uh-oh, carpets are a weakness of ours but we certainly had no intention of buying any.

Tell me about it. I have such things in every room in the house bar Bathroom and Kitchen. There is one behind me as I sit here typing.

A weakness. I should stick to shirts.

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