Today was a long day but the start and finish were the highlights of my India trip so far. I woke at 5:15am and was in a taxi, leaving the hotel, by 5:45am. Pitch black, wishing I was still asleep. Where was I going you ask? To have the breakfast of champions – A hot air balloon ride over Jaipur, on sunrise. Breath taking. I had the best view in the house. From the balloon, I could see villages, crops, elephants… A guy doing a poo in the middle of a field. Children and families waved from their roof tops while we glided overhead. This was the best way to see the Amber Fort too. It was the most extensive of all the forts I’d seen so far and what I imagine the wall of China might look like. After an hour, the balloon operator was scoping out places to land… He wasn’t having much luck and finally spotted a small clearing. Hitting the ground and waiting for the ground crew to arrive, out of no where, what looked like the population of a small town was racing towards the balloon. People in their cars and on motorcycles stopped and gathered around, wanting to touch, talk and take photographs…. It was then I thought, “This is what it feels like to be Angelina Jolie – I’m a celebrity, get me out of here”. I made a beeline to our taxi leaving behind my tour group balloon buddies Pauloma and Ashli to deal with the villagers. Ashli is a 24 year old travel agent from Perth with possibly the longest blonde mane you’ll find in India right now. Pauloma is a 27 year old creative writer and yogini from America California. Both quality people who I’m enjoying sharing time with. It was time to meet up with the group on the ground at the Amber Fort. As I’d seen it from above, I wasn’t entirely thrilled about seeing it again from the ground. We took an elephant ride up to the fort (I was not pleased watching these elephants being hit and prodded for tourist rides). The place was swarming with tourists. They polluted most of my photo opportunities… I wanted something more authentic and gritty. Honestly I’d enjoyed driving through the back streets to get to the fort more than being at the fort. After the Amber Fort, it was a brief stop for lunch and onto Jantar Mantar, an Observatory of Astrology built by Jai Singh in 1728. It becomes apparent that astrology is really a fine art and the instruments here are precise and purposeful. Fascinating. Next door is the the City Palace. Fearing it was yet another beautiful structure that I didn’t feel the need to spend more than 5 minutes in, I wasn’t overly keen…. And then the artwork in one of the courtyards reeled me back in. It was a small space with many doors and doorways on each wall. All decorated and painted intricately. This was my thing! Snake charmers, puppeteers and beggars lined the exit of the palace. Things were looking up. A few of the girls and I decided to stay on and try our hand shopping/ driving a hard bargain in the bizarre. So glad we did. As it began to get dark, the streets lit up.. literally, fires in the middle of the streets (On the eve of Holi, the celebrations begin with the lighting of bonfires to signify the burning of the demoness Holika). I saw men on motorcycles riding furiously down the roads holding bunches of sticks on fire above their heads and other riders chasing the fire bearers to catch fire to their own bunches of sticks. It was the riot version of a Harry Potter Quidditch game. The tuk tuk ride home was bumpy, smoke and fire filled, chaotic, long and I loved it! The city was coming alive for Holi.