Textiles, Castles and More Creepy Men: Jaipur

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It was a quick drive from Pushkar to Jaipur, so we arrived there before lunch. We decided to eat at the hotel restaurant despite its high prices. Kelsi was in no shape to wander the streets in search of food. Plus the hotel had international foods as well as some comfort options like chicken noodle soup. Still feeling ill, Kelsi ordered the chicken noodle soup, and enviously watched me devour my curry. When the soup came out I had to laugh: the thing was FULL of capsicum. Who has ever heard of chicken noodle soup with green peppers floating through it. She sighed and then started picking out the pieces and putting them on my plate. Poor Kels.
Kelsi and I had a million things we wanted to see and do that afternoon so we could have the whole city walking tour planned for the following day. But our plans were quickly squashed by Raju.
“No, no, not possible. Too hot, too far, not good in afternoon” he had a plethora of excuses of why we couldn’t do what we wanted to. He came up with a whole new plan. We tried to argue, but since he still had included everything we wanted to see, we figured we’d just let him win the argument.
First stop was the water palace. We only took photos, but the place looked gorgeous in the afternoon sun, sitting inside a large lake. Up next, the textiles factory.
The bad thing about having a driver, is he takes you to expensive and commission driven places at every stop of the trip. Spices here, silver there, each place claiming to have the best of something and craftsmanship unequalled anywhere else in India. Jaipur’s claim to fame was it’s textiles. This stop was definitely not on our list, but we were obliged to stop anyways at Raju’s wishes. The initial tour was pretty neat. The place makes all it’s own fabric, and was set up by a woman from New Zealand who created the factory to help people in poor and small communities. It is a co-op, and many families come in from the countryside to create their own textiles. They have wonderfully colored sheets of fabric hanging from wooden beams high over head.
“The sun helps set the colours. After drying this way, they will never bleed” said our guide.
The place also offers jobs to the handicapped and widows, who would otherwise be left out on the streets to beg. It was only slightly awkward when we walked inside the building and saw two men at sewing machines.
“This man is handicapped” our guide announced, pointing to one man diligently sewing away. “Show them your leg!”
The man turned around to reveal a crippled looking leg to us. They had altered the sewing machine so he could still work it properly. Next we walked inside.
“This woman, she is a widow” said our guide.
“Namaste” she said to us.
The difference between our cultures is incredible. We are so politically correct that it would have been horrific if we came in and announced someone’s handicap or the fact that a woman’s husband had died. Here, no one seemed to care.
Then came business. What were we going to buy. I hate this part of the tour. At every place, it is inevitable that either Kelsi or I are going to get guilt tripped into buying something. This time, it was my turn.
The prices in the shop were insane. The guy had given the price of $50US for some scarves that Kelsi was looking at. I will admit, the quality was the best we’d seen, but look at us! We were scrubby backpackers wearing 2 dollar pants we’d bought in Delhi and were too afraid to wash because they will undoubtedly disintegrate. A cashmere or silk scarf was not what we were looking for.
I had been looking at skirts however. All through the markets we’d been searching for something that we could wear in India and then use at home as well! Some sort of maxi skirt that was adorable and we could say “yup, got that in India”. The problem was, all the skirts were very cheap. They were see through or falling apart. Most of them were so full of pattern that I’d never wear it back home. Here, they had a great selection of samples.
“We take your measurements and make it for you perfectly!” Said the guide. I got to pick my own fabric and colour and style and everything. Then it took just a couple hours to put it all together.
After having tea and looking at nearly every scarf and cushion cover that they owned I felt obliged to buy something. It was $30US for a skirt. Absolutely unheard of in India! The price was insane, and I knew it. But I figured it was helping poor families, and widows and handicapped people. And the fabric was made there which was pretty neat. Plus, it would be made to fit me, so it would be a great buy for back at home! I picked out a bright teal colour and chose the style of skirt from their selections. They took my measurements and I was told to come back the next day to pick it up… Did I just spend $30 on a skirt? I’m crazy. But it would look amazing, so who cares!
Them came the city palace tour. For 300 rupees (which is fairly expensive for an entrance fee here) we managed to do the most ridiculous whirlwind tour of the place. Two weeks in and we were already over city palaces. We attempted our usual photo mission, where we try our best to make it look like we are the only tourists at each popular landmark. Then we played “man or woman” with the wall paintings. Before a half hour was even up we were back at the car and ready to go. City palace, check.
After, it was back to the hotel to rest for the night. We decided to venture off to find a cheaper place to eat, rather than spend crazy tourist prices at the hotel. We were conveniently out of town again, however, so our choices were limited. We ended up at this sketchy looking place called AC Restaurant just down the street. The place was fairly empty, but we sat down anyways.
When we opened the menus we realized the prices were almost equal to that at the hotel. Fail.
Just after we ordered we heard some commotion outside. Soon after, our waiter and three other guys came rushing into the restaurant. They had come to see us. Fabulous.
The three guys sat at the table next to us and just sat there staring at Kelsi and I. I am so happy my back was turned, because I probably would have gone nuts. Then they started taking photos of us, and giggling at the pictures as they passed them around the table. It took all the effort in the world to just sit, eat, enjoy our beer and ignore them. We ate our meal, then paid and quickly left. What a way to ruin a quiet dinner.
Afterwards we called it a night. Our full day of activities had been thwarted and replaced with buying expensive clothing at a textiles factory, taking a photo of a building in the water, and being mobbed by creepy young men for dinner… Did I mention this was St. Patty’s day?! Probably the most depressing Irish celebration I’ve ever had. Better luck next year!

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