February 21 – After breakfast we drove to the center of Jaipur to photograph the stunning Hawa Mahal (the Palace of the Winds; see my photo below.) This unique five-story building was built to the ladies of the court could view the festivals and street action from behind lattice-worked windows without being seen from the street. It is only eight feet deep and looks as if it would topple over!
Our next stop was the Amber (pronounced “Am-er”) Fort on the top of a mountain. It is beautiful mainly due to its location in the mountains. (See the photo below that I took from one of the terraces of the fort.) It’s hard to describe the number of men hawking goods. They are extraordinarily persistent and are really in your face trying to persuade you to purchase something. Some of us were unable to resist.
We returned to the hotel for lunch and then at 4PM we headed out for what was to be a glorious evening! First we stopped at a famous pashmina shop where the rich and famous shop. Several of us joined that cadre and acquired stunning pieces.
We drove on into the countryside for an evening’s entertainment. When we arrived after driving several miles down a bumpy dirt road, we arrive at what look like a cross between a ranch and an old southern plantation. We disembarked our bus and we offered bananas. They were not for us to eat; they were for us to feed the elephants! (After all, we were here to witness a game of elephant polo!) As we walked to the main house we were serenaded by a Scottish band including bagpipes. The “plantation house” had a beautiful open air bar with comfortable sofas and chairs. We ordered drinks and the servers brought delicious appetizers (chicken tikka, amazing potato balls and cheese toast.) Then the game of elephant polo began (see picture.) It was slow and elegant; the elephants seemed graceful despite their size. After the first game, we were invited to join in and ride the elephants and play polo! Most of us did so. (See photo.)
When the games were over, we watched a lovely local dance. The women were in colorful costumes and it was great fun.
Next was the dinner in the outdoor dining pavilion. Everyone enjoyed their meal, and we re-boarded our bus to head back to the hotel; sated and tired but thoroughly happy to recount the day’s events.