Don't get me wrong. My typical idea of a great vacay is one in which I visit three museums in a day followed by a concert, ballgame or some form of theater at night.
I don't go on beach vacations or to resorts in part because I don't enjoy laying out or just sitting around.
So I certainly don't mind a whirlwind of activity and I respect Gate 1's efforts to fit in a lot of sightseeing in a limited number of days in order to keep lodging costs low--and the entire tour package surprisingly reasonable.
Our tour leader Sameer has been terrific in coordinating daily agendas, so I am not seriously kvetching, but even though Thursday was essentially dedicated to the bus ride from Delhi to Jaipur, we had a 6:00am wakeup call ahead of a 7:30 departure (sandwiched around complimentary breakfast).
Our ride was broken up by a potty break at McDonalds--always interesting in terms of global variances; i.e. no beef in India--and lunch at a homey place midway to Jaipur.
After we got to Jaipur and checked in, 40 minutes later we were back on the bus to hit a local bazaar.
I don't mean to be disparaging to people having to make money any way they can, but the vendors swarmed like bumblebees, and though not dangerous, their aggressiveness was aggravating.
Paolo and I bought merchandise mainly from a shop where an older, calmer gentleman didn't haggle and was never insistent.
Depending on the exact environs being counted, Jaipur is a city of 3-5 million people.
To Westerners, it still seems rather ramshackle and chaotic--with cows, camels, elephants, monkeys, goats, sheep, dogs--wandering the streets amid cars, trucks, motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles and tourist coaches.
But compared to Delhi, Jaipur seemed relatively organized, modern and calm.
And Friday was rather stuffed--yes, perhaps overstuffed--with superb and unique travel experiences.
Including, before 8:30am, riding an elephant up to the huge Amber Fort.
From a horde of elephants lined up like taxis at the airport, ours was named Mala. And he (or perhaps she) got us where we needed to go.
With a huge complex of building ornately painted or otherwise lavishly adorned, Amber Fort made for some incredible sightseeing and snapshots.
Later we took a rickshaw ride around the part of Jaipur with structures whose pigmentation gave rise to its Pink City moniker.
Especially as the bike peddler charged with lugging Paolo and me around continuously avoided impending collisions, the Hawa Mahal didn't seem quite as luminous as it had in photos.
The afternoon touring continued at Jantar Mantar--a centuries old collection of huge astronomy/astrology apparatus--and ended with a visit to the City Palace complex, which had some attractive buildings without being all that astonishing.
We did get 2 hours of downtime back at our hotel but then were back on the bus for a group dinner excursion.
This was at a restaurant within an ornate hotel in a posh part of Jaipur, it was a cool choice, it was fun hanging out with our tour mates and we were treated to a woman dancing while balancing 5 bowls on her head.
But a glass of wine made me even more tired and tour weary than I already was, and I felt it best not to indulge too heavily in the Indian buffet.
That basically covers the last two days. It could probably use some editing or even more writing but it's nearly 11 and of course I have to be up at 6 AM for the ride to Agra.