The article is part of the series Travels to India, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and United Arab Emirates (UAE).
We traveled by tour bus southwest from New Delhi for 6-hours to the city of Jaipur. It's a city with a population of 6.7 million and is commonly referred to as the Pink City of India.
The Raja of Amer completed the construction of a very large fort in the mountainside and in the city below in 1743.
As we began to leave New Delhi on our 6-hour trip to Jaipur, we passed the major newly constructed city area that houses top foreign and domestic IT corporations. It's almost a city unto itself. The name of the ultramodern area is Gurgaon and commonly referred to as the Millennium City. All around us were tall modern buildings that highlighted at the top the corporate logos of major technological companies. Near there were also developments of also new apartment complexes for the employees. It's reported that the city is the center to more than 250 Fortune 500 companies.
As we left the city of Delhi we noticed that the number of trees along the road began to dwindle. The country area we were entering was getting drier and warmer. We were entering the semiarid region of the country. We were now in an agricultural region that also has many tall chimneys that highlights the many red brick production ovens.
Along the roads were were on we took note of the countless number of commercial trucks that were both on the road and parked on the sides. I realized that Delhi has a population of 16.5 million and it requires a great deal of resources that must be continuously transported mainly by train or road. Delhi is in the middle of the nation with no access to maritime transport.
Apparently India produces enough food to feed it population. It is heavily depended on the trucking industry to move the goods.
We constantly saw long caravans of trucks as we traveled throughout the country. Given the nation's population and its energy needs and for commercial vehicles it imports 75% of its fossil fuels from Iran. This raises a major international problem for India since Pakistan is situated between them. The diplomatic relationship between the Pakistan and India governments is normally highlighted as unsettled, strained and that they view each other with great suspicion.
We made two rest stops along the way and the first one was at a McDonalds. Since we are in India there are no items that offer meat. A veggie burger just didn't seem appetizing to me, but I could always depend on their ice cream cone.
Our second stop was a very nice on the road restaurant. The location was great, but I am still faced with eating mainly spicy vegetarian food. Since I like to eat meat and I not having eaten any over several days I was beginning to wonder what camel meat tasted like. I saw a few of them along the road. I tried not think about the fact that I would see a steak until we reached Singapore. Oh well, it's vegetarian for now.
Along the road we passed multiple single sex boarding schools. Apparently it's common for children to be sent to these private educational facilities.
At the outskirts of Jaipur we began to see many shops that produce white marble products and statues. We learned that this is the area that supplied the marble for the construction of the Taj Mahal in the early 1600s, which is in Agra (140 miles east of Jaipur). All the marble for the building had to be transported by land. We would be visiting the Taj in a few days on this trip.
Once we arrived and settled and our hotel we immediately went to the downtown area. Just as we were preparing to exit the hotel I found three couples in the hotel lobby area speaking Spanish. I introduced myself and we immediately started a conversation. Raul shared that they were from Peru and they were simply traveling through the country. We compared notes about our experiences in visiting this large and fascinating country. Trini and I have visited Peru twice so we were able to compare and contrast the life of the people in their country with life in India.
Our tour bus took us downtown and parked in front of a large plain two story building that did not have windows. The outside was unassuming and made me wonder why we were visiting there. Once we entered the building I realized that the building housed one of the largest gem/jewelry factory and store I had ever visited. We had the opportunity to watch two men working and polishing gems. The polishing machinery were manually driven. Walking into the showroom was also an unexpected experience. The shop had gems from the nation as well as many from around the world. While I walked around admiring the shiny wares I remembered that the largest gem in the world came from their country. For example, The Star of India is a 563-caret sapphire and is on display in New York.
India has many rare and precious stones. Many of the items in The Crown Jewels of the British Monarchy came from India.
India mines also adds to the world gold market, on an annual basis, approximately 200 million dollars worth of the precious metal (current price of gold). It's vital to remember that India has been mining for gold and precious stones for more than 8,000 years.
The next item on our day's agenda was to settle into our room and prepare to return to visit and walk through the city's marketplace, at night, plus have dinner at the house of a local family. We walked through the very busy streets and then turned into a long dark alleyway. We came to enter a very large two story house that was built around a large open garden area in the middle. The house we entered belonged to a tax collection agency administrator for a local Indian ruler when the British administered the nation. When India became independent in 1947, the governmental position of the family ended. The family kept the grand house and it has been passed down over multiple generations. It was interesting to hear from the family members who shared the stories of their grandparent's history from the 1800s to the present.
On the second day we were transported to visit the huge Amber Fort. It's an impressive 600-year old structure built on a high mountain only a few miles from the city. It's quite a steep walk or drive to the main entrance. It's also possible to go up on an elephant, but since there was a religious ceremony scheduled at the temple in the fort and there would be many people on the road, the elephant ride was not available.
Our group was divided into smaller groups and transported up the mountain on small all terrain jeeps. Sitting in the back as we twisted and turned up the narrow and crowded roads made me feel like we were on an Indiana Jones experience. At the center of the fort area was the courtyard. It is where the Raja would hear legal cases and pass judgment and the large building area to the left is where he housed his wives and concubines. The issue of polygamy of the royal families was not new to us. We had visited the historic Sultan's palace in Istanbul and the Forbidden City in Beijing which had many structures for the families. It was also common practice in ancient time in Israel. I can recall my days when I was in Catholic primary school where the teachers were talking to us about the extensive number of wives of Solomon and David. What stood out in this trip was the information of how some concubines were actually taught to discreetly assassinate while entertaining, with slow dissolving poisons, the neighboring leaders who stopped in for a visit. Well, so much for the "good old days".
We returned to the main area of the city to visit a fascinating and unique site. We visited the Second Palace and the Jantar Mantar (Astronomical Observatory) built around 1724. This historical scientific site was heavily damaged during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
The observatory area housed 13 large structures that were used to calculate time, calendar, position of astrological signs, and additional astronomical calculations. A guide explained the different structures and how they worked. Personally, I think it's one of the most complex collection of historical working astronomical displays I had ever seen. I was very impressed with the how elaborate the construction of two and three story structures were in order for them to provide so many complex and sophisticated scientific calculations. It must have been impressive at its time and I think most of us walk away with a realization that the builders had used complex mathematical equations in order to design and build it. It was an impressive site to visit.
That evening we had a group dinner and made preparations to get back on the road early the following morning as we were set to travel and go to a retreat center in the middle of the agricultural heartland of India.
That evening Trini started to have issues with her stomach. Her condition got worse during the night and by morning we felt we needed to have the hotel call the medical doctor on call. By the time the doctor arrived to our room it turned out that two other members in our traveling group had similar issues and were also treated. The local private doctor mentioned that the stomach irritation problem that they had was common around the world. It had to be treated with I.V. and a series of antibiotics to prevent dehydration. All three rested the rest of the day in the back of the bus and at the Dera Village Retreat.
After about 24-hours they got back on their feet. We were all very happy that they had faced the challenge and were ready to continue the adventure.
Armando F Sanchez:
Armando F Sanchez is a consultant on global markets, speaker, writer, and world traveler. He is the CEO of Armando F Sanchez Global Business Consulting. He also heads a media company that produces global web cast and podcast programming. Author's website Email the author