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May 19: A bit of sand in Jaipur

Today was our last day in Udaipur, as bittersweet as it was to leave the beautiful city that we were just beginning to explore, it meant that we were able to move on to the pink palace in Jaipur. The trip itself was extremely long as we all sat in the tour bus for 7 hours (with not enough bathroom breaks). Once we drove up to the city we all sat enthralled, staring out the windows at the not so pink palace walls. It was really more of a pumpkin color, but I guess pumpkin palace isn't as tourist friendly. The tour guide told us the history of the palace and how it was painted pink to be spruced up for the appearance of the Prince of Wales. When the tour guide was asked why pink, he simply answered, 'why not! The king said pink so they painted it pink.'.

We then watched in awe as the wind picked up and a sandstorm unfolded before our eyes. For me personally, this was the first sandstorm I have ever experienced and I was slightly worried about going outside, but once our bus made it to the city palace our tour guide ushered us out with scarves and sunglasses to protect our heads. We looked a little comical wrapped up and trying to cope with the new experience of navigating in a sandstorm. On our way to the doors to the palace, we were able to watch a snake charmer. Perhaps it should be noted that snakes terrify me. A lot. So when the snake came out and our tour guide was trying to coerce us into touching the cobra, I was hiding behind a wall of girls trying not to look at it, regardless of if it was 'safe'. I found it extremely amusing to later find out that the snakes are very deaf so the instrument playing is completely for show, and not at all related to charming the snake. Anyway, I digress. As I was saying, we made it into the city palace and the sand was manageable although a little inconvenient. However as we were going about our tour, a large gust of wind come blowing tables across the courtyard! We then quickly scuttled indoors away from the storm to continue touring the beautiful and ornate palace. Throughout our tour we learned about the lineage of the family that ruled in Jaipur, and how when male heirs were not available sons were adopted into the family. We also got to see the intricate textile gallery. At the end we saw the large gown worn by the largest of the rulers, it could probably fit at least three of us in it! We finished our tour rather quickly and then we went shopping as the storm was dying down.

While we were out in the streets we saw the Hawa Mahal, the wall full of windows, which is exactly what the name would suggest. The wall was built so that the nobles could look out at the street without anyone looking at them. After shopping in the streets we were then able to view a light show at the local observatory, Jantar Mantar. This observatory was very different than anything we had seen thus far, and was extremely riveting to me. There were giant sundial that could read up to 20 second accuracy for one and 2 second accuracy for the largest one. This astounds me that something so large could be made so well and accurately! There were various other astronomical devices in the observatory, and I loved watching the light show as it described it all so well. Today was a packed day of culture and history. I loved seeing all the sights and was amazed at everything I learned. This trip has been amazing thus far and I cannot wait for what I will learn and see next!

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