so much has happened in the past week, but i'll review some of the highlights. general prognosis...india is schuper schweet!
day 1 was a blur of sights, sounds and smells of old delhi. chandi chowk is a maze of a marketplace, spanning throughout old delhi with crowded alley ways and vendors. incense burning everywhere, i assumed to mask the oftentimes incredible stench of urine and cow shit. speaking of cows...they are everywhere and manage to survive on roadside foliage, garbage and food left out by the residents. all of the cars, motos and autorickshaws avoid them as they meander through traffic. jake and i went on a 4 hour expedition through old delhi, snapping hundreds of amazing photos and temporarily getting lost in a dead end through the maze of alleyways. it was like stepping back in time and everything was worth photographing.
we then went to humayun's tomb at sunset and marveled in the architecture that served as a template for the taj mahal.
the next day we hired a driver and went south to the state of rajisthan where jake surprised me for my birthday with 3 nights and 4 days at the most amazing place i have ever seen...the 15th century neem rana fort palace. restored between 1998 and 2001, the palace is set into the red hillside over looking the valley floor where the village nestles into the base of the mountain and countless minarets rise skyward across the plane. smoke plumes and dust storms circle over encampments and the palace catches all of the breezes that the valley floor misses. the palace itself was absolutely incredible. i know for certain that i could never do it justice by trying to describe it, so i won't even try. i'll let some of the pictures do the talking...
but i will say that the food was terrific, the service impeccable, the horizon pool refreshing in the often oppressive heat and the peace of the place (before the corporate mid-week crowd descended upon us) was an amazing contrast to the busy streets of new and old delhi.
for the first night we stayed in kath mahal (the wooden palace)...a beautiful multi-level room with rich dark wood screens and a private balcony with an expansive view of the valley (we giggled maniacally at our good fortune as we shared a bottle of wine later that evening). we agreed that we could be perfectly happy just sitting on the balcony all night after watching the sun set over the small range of westward mountains. but we meandered down to the bar where we watched a local family perform traditional music and dance on the patio while we kicked ourselves for not being able to take pictures (my camera did not want to cooperate with my batteries and jake underwent a major tragedy when he found a small crack in his lens). we were entranced by the young dancing boy who wore black kohl around his eyes and badly applied red lipstick that matched his traditional rajputhani costume making him look like a young maharaja. we enjoyed a sumptious dinner on the uppermost terrace overlooking the pool, surrounded by white lights, the soft breezes and the tinkling of silver on china.
the next day we went to amer palace in jaipur, about 3 hours south from neem rana. more great pictures but disappointment that the elephant rides had been suspended due to a recent squashing that occured when a bad handler pissed off his gigantic keep.
but at least we found this snake charmer who diligently lured his cobra from the requisite basket as you would expect. despite his gaurantees of safety, we were happy to shoot from a distance with the zoom.
on our way back to neem rana, we drove through the pink city, jaipur. frustrated as we were shooting from a moving vehicle, we couldn't take our eyes away from the city's colors, textures and faces. jaipur embodied the 'india' we came looking for and it was positively beautiful during the golden hour. if we hadn't been so determined to race the clock and get back to the palace for dinner, we would've been happy spending a few hours wandering the streets.
the following day we went down into the village and visited the bowery step well that is dug 7 stories into the earth with countless steps and arches. the well is rumored to be haunted at night. on our way, a crowd of locals followed us out of curiousity and perhaps the hope of a few rupees.
we made the acquaintance of a gypsy named santos who accompanied us on our walk and entertained us with stories of her life. a small boy bearing an uncanny resemblance to the dancer from the night before approached us and took interest in my camera. santos introduced him as her nephew and then invited us into her tent encampment to visit with her family.
as our amazing luck would have it, santos' nephew was the younger brother of the boy who dances at neem rana every night and he soon came running up to us grinning widely. we took some amazing pictures and felt so fortunate to be spending time in their home surrounded by the doe eyed children and skinny dogs, watching our own private performance.
we spent one day meandering through the village, laying out by the pool and just enjoying the luxury of the palace.
while we were in no way ready to leave, the corporate crowd that filled the palace for a conference wore on our nerves as they barked into their cell phones during the normally peaceful breakfast hour, consistently snagged our favorite table in the corner and discussed management techniques. so we got back into our hired car and returned to delhi yesterday and ordered mcdonald's to be delivered. they call it 'mcdelivery' and it comes on a little red motoscooter. we had the McAloo Tiki burger...a veg burger made of potato, veggies and spices that kicks ass over anything that mcdonald's serves in the US.
soon we'll be off to agra to see the great taj mahal and hopefully back to jaipur for the amazing shopping and photo opportunities. we're hoping to get to pushkar to see the camels in the desert if we have the time.