Our two week tour of the colorful kingdoms of Rajasthan begins when we meet our driver, Rajeev, a.k.a. Raj of Rajasthan. He's actually a sarcastic 24-year-old from Delhi who drives like a mad man. We learn this all too suddenly when we get into his car and are spun into a continuous whiplash motion accompanied by incessant honking. Before the car moves, he honks. When he passes a car, cow, or rickshaw, he honks. Before turning a corner, beeeeep! So I ask him "Do you always honk like this?" He responds with an Indian proverb, something like "No wife, no life; no girlfriend, no tension; no horn, no car". It seems funny enough, so I convince myself that I will adapt for the next 2 weeks with Raj.
When we arrive in Jaipur a few hours- and many honks- later, it is dark. We haggle for the 350 rupee ($7.00) hotel price and are off to bed. The next day we wander through the streets, forts and palaces of Rajasthan's capital. First, we tour the Amber Fort, its yellow walls welcoming tourists riding decorated elephants. Raj drives us by the Water Palace and a royal crematorium called Gatore Ki Chhatriyan with its beautifully carved white marble. We eat a delicious lunch of vegetarian tali which is like an Indian sampler: mixed vegetables, dal, masala, raiki, roti, papad and rice. Next, we walk around the City Palace, its ornate gates leading to stately halls, where maharajas (kings) received other dignitaries. Finally, we enjoy the ever rising windows of the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds).