India - Part 5: Jaipur |

India – Part 6: Amer Fort



We checked out of The Tree of Life Resort, and I sighed inwardly at the thought of returning to Gurgaon later that day. But first we had more sights to see, namely Amer Fort.

Located high on a hill, Amer Fort was built in the early 1600s, and is today the area’s main tourist attraction. Our driver dropped us off, and we became just 3 more of the 5000 daily visitors.

Birds were everywhere. Alfred Hitchcock would have been impressed.

India - Part 6: Amer Fort |
India - Part 5: Jaipur |

As we approached, I tried to imagine what it would have been like as a scrawny 17th century foot soldier ordered to attack the palace.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

Looking up at the huge fort sitting way up on a steep hill, I imagined the scene…

“You there! Rajesh!” Captain Singh brought his horse around and stopped in front of the gaunt and trembling soldier. He was just a boy. A boy with a bow and arrows. Hardly the type of soldier Singh was hoping for. “Run up that hill, Rajesh, and give those bastards what for! Go now, boy!”

Rajesh stood in place while his trembling fingers picked at a scab on his left elbow. How the hell had he gotten himself into this pickle? Join the army, Aadhya had said, it will make you a man, Rajesh! He wished he hadn’t listened to her, but how else was he to win her heart? If he didn’t prove himself, he’d lose her forever to Sundar Ramaswami, the muscle-headed jerk who had already fought in two wars.

Rajesh tore his eyes away from the steep hill with its tortuous path and looked at Captain Singh. His crimson turban gave him a regal bearing, and Rajesh felt small before him. And weak. It was an all too familiar feeling. Perhaps it was time for him to feel something new.

Captain Singh tugged his reigns and turned his steed aside as Rajesh let out a mighty scream and charged up the hill, his two thin legs pumping as fast as they were able. The Captain smiled and spurred his horse onward, its hoofbeats unheard over the battle cries of Singh’s battalion.


I was wondering how the heck I’d manage the climb. Oppressive heat and long climbs are not on my “favorite combinations” list. I was sweating and my right hand started to pick at my left elbow. I must have been channeling poor Rajesh. As we neared the bottom of the path, I spied my salvation, and they had two tusks and a wrinkly gray trunk. Elephants! Fortunately, Handan and Barish took no convincing, and soon we joined the long line of tourists waiting to hitch a ride with an elephant to the top of the fort.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

You ever join a really long line, and your only consolation is that eventually you won’t be last, and there will be even bigger suckers than you behind you? Yeah, well that didn’t happen here. We joined in last place, and we stayed in last place almost until it was our turn to hop on an elephant. What a jip!

But all thoughts of the long line under the hot sun evaporated when our turn came up. We stood on a high platform, and our elephant drove up and parked underneath us. The attendant removed the safety rope and ushered us onto our elephant. We sat sideways in a cushioned basket strapped to the beast’s back. Our driver sat astride its neck. The elephants could not have enjoyed this. Day in, day out, ferrying pasty-white Westerners up the steep and narrow road to the top of the fort. We didn’t see any Indians riding the cushioned baskets. Perhaps it was too costly. Or perhaps they understood the absurdity of it all. In any case, there we were, and there I was – just the latest pampered and privileged American, too precious to use his own legs to carry him up the hill. But, like riding the camel in Agra, I’m glad we had the experience. Injustices abound on this planet, and our refusal to ride an elephant would have stopped exactly nothing. So when in Jaipur…

India - Part 5: Jaipur |
The view from our elephant while still at the pachyderm passenger platform
India - Part 5: Jaipur |
This was the elephant version of the taxi pool at an airport

We settled into the cushions atop our beast as the slow, plodding journey to the top of the fort began.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |
India - Part 5: Jaipur |
India - Part 5: Jaipur |

We passed a group of tourists that was walking up the hill. Not many foreigners in that group.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

The elephants were beautifully painted and adorned.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |
India - Part 5: Jaipur |

I wondered if they ever rebelled. Elephants are remarkably intelligent creatures and can turn on their handlers if provoked or threatened. What a mess that would be.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |
India - Part 5: Jaipur |

As we neared the top, the view opened up below. Maota Lake stretched before us.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

The Saffron Garden lies in the middle of the serene lake. We only saw it from above. The saffron that grows there is said to have been planted in the 15th century by a Maharaja.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

We had an incredible view of Jagat Shiromani Temple – a place of worship dedicated to the Hindu gods Meera bai, Krishna and Vishnu.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

When we reached the top of the hill, we passed through a gate into a great courtyard full of elephants, soldiers, tourists and those who prey upon them. Our jockey sidled the lumbering beast against the exit gate, and Handan, Barish and I disembarked and bade farewell to our weary elephant and his disinterested human.

The courtyard buzzed with activity, and we took a moment to get our bearings. There were people everywhere, the locals in brilliant colors.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

This woman was offering henna tattoos. For a fee, of course.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

Unlike the Taj Mahal, which incorporates architectural and stylistic elements from both Indian and Islamic cultures, Amer Fort is uniquely Indian, with many artistic Hindu style elements.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

We posed for pictures in all the obligatory alcoves.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

And then we wound our way out of the sun and into the cool shade of the fort. Inside, we toured the Sheesh Mahal – by far my favorite name of the day.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |
India - Part 5: Jaipur |

We wandered here and there and snapped a few pictures.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

And then we descended on foot through the narrow passageways of Amer Fort. A sign for a craft market caught my eye, but what really got my attention was sitting across the small courtyard beyond the doorway.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

I ran over to him. I was so excited.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

I’d always wanted to see a snake charmer, and now here he was. He offered me the cobra, and I was all too happy to accept. He even let me wear his stylish hat. I kissed my new friend.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

You may be wondering how Handan was able to take those pictures. As you may recall, Handan is afraid of snakes. I mean like batcrap insane afraid. She can’t even look at a cartoon picture of a snake on TV or in a magazine. So how was she snapping those photos, mere feet from a vicious cobra whose only goal in life was to devour her whole? Well, it went something like this…

I was already squatting in front of the snake charmer when Handan came through the door and into the courtyard. When she saw me, she stopped dead in her tracks, grabbed Barish by the shirt and yanked him back.

She screamed a little girly scream.

“Oh my god, babes, don’t let Barish near that thing!” She said.

“Relax, my babes! It’s not real!” I said.

“It’s not?” She sounded wary.

“No! It’s rubber! Silicone!” I said, easing my way over to sit next to the charmer.

She yelled from where she was rooted, about 20 feet away, “Do you want me to take pictures?”

“Yes, of course!” I said. “And send the boy over. There’s nothing to be afraid of!”

Barish was curious but also a little scared. He came closer, but stayed a safe distance.

Handan continued snapping pictures, moving ever closer as she became comfortable with the thought of a fake rubber snake. But when I kissed the snake, doubt flared in her mind.

Why would he want to kiss a stupid silicone snake?

Then, understanding.

“OH MY GOD IT’S REAL IT’S REAL IT’S REAL!” She shrieked and did a little peepee dance, but to her credit, she kept taking pictures.

She nearly fainted when I called Barish over to join me. Reluctantly, he came to my side and sat beside me. I gave him the super stylish hat, and the charmer handed him the cobra.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

He was a brave little boy that day. His mother is bok bok bok chicken when it comes to snakes, so it took a lot of courage for him to wear a cobra necklace without shedding a tear.

And Handan was a brave little wifey that day. I’d seen her freak out of her mind over a tiny garden snake and a piece of rebar, so it must have taken every last ounce of courage for her to do what she did.

After we had our fun with the cobra, the charmer sold Barish a little gourd flute, and they both charmed the snake back out of his basket.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |
India - Part 5: Jaipur |
India - Part 5: Jaipur |

We left the snake charmer behind and made our way down and out of Amer Fort. Our driver picked us up, and on our way out of town, we passed the Jal Mahal, or Water Palace.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

It was the last sight we saw before pointing northeast and heading back to Gurgaon.

On the long ride home, our driver decided he wanted to rock out to some contemporary Indian pop. I have never. Ever. EVER. Heard such god-awful noise in my life. I told him to turn it down a few times, as I was sure my brain was hemorrhaging. After seven eternities, his soul-piercing music was briefly countered by a new noise – the thwap thwap thwap of a flat tire. It was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard.

We pulled over at a roadside café to change the tire.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

I snapped some pics of the roaring traffic.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

When we had mounted a new tire, we hit the café. As usual, Barish ordered whatever he wanted…

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

…while I abstained for fear of Vishnu’s Revenge, or whatever you call the gut-churning finale to a reckless Indian meal.

We piled back into the car and resumed our journey back to Gurgaon.

India - Part 5: Jaipur |

We drove in relative silence for a while, the hum of tires on asphalt the only sound. I rested my head on the seatback and watched the Indian countryside slide by as we wound our way back to Gurgaon and the bustle of city life.

At once, my reverie was shattered as a thought pierced my mind. I snapped my head around to look at Handan, eyes wide with terror.

I didn’t have to say a word.

She understood from my look.

“The passports!” she said in a panic. I nodded, but the fear was still in my eyes.

“Did you take them?” I said.

“No, didn’t you?” she said.

I turned to the driver. “Pull over here!” I said.

We pulled to the side of the road, and Handan and I leapt from the car and opened the trunk. We rifled through our suitcase and backpacks, desperately searching for our passports.

They weren’t there.

We had forgotten to retrieve them from the front desk when we checked out, and apparently, they forgot to give them back to us.

Handan was in full panic mode while I spoke with the driver about placing a call back to the hotel.

Barish, to his credit sat in the car, unfazed, and played on his iPad. Ah, the blissful ignorance of youth!

After a time, our driver was able to reach the hotel, and he handed me the phone.

“Yes sir,” said the voice on the other end, “we have your passports. We will send them to you via FedEx. Please tell me where to address the package.”

“It’s okay, my babes,” I said to Handan. “They have them, and they’ll FedEx them to us.”

Handan’s panic abated a bit, but she looked like she’d been put through a wringer. I hugged her and told her all would be fine. I think she partially believed me.

We got in the car, and our driver pulled back onto the Delhi-Jaipur Expressway. I looked back at my babes and my boy and smiled at them.

What an adventure! I looked forward to many more.



As November 2012 rolled over to December, my constant sickness and our displeasure of the filth and crowds of Gurgaon weighed on our happiness.

We were alive, but we weren’t living.

After much consideration, we decided that India, though beautiful in certain places, was not a good fit for our family. Handan and I gave notice to our company that we would be leaving in the new year.

In January 2013, we headed to Connecticut to see my family, look for work and get Handan and Barish their green cards. We figured we’d be there for a few months – enough time for Barish to finish 4th grade in the same elementary school I attended – and then we’d head back overseas. Abu Dhabi, maybe? Handan had some prospects.

What happened instead was that Handan got a job offer right there in Connecticut while we waited for their green cards.

And thus began our American adventure…

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  1. Thank you! Both of you! I find your posts so incredibly entertaining! 1) Your travel stories are very entertaining, and you’ve been to places I will never see, so I love reading about your adventures! 2) Your DIY stories are so fun, because you are very open about the screw-ups, (which seems to be the only consistent theme running through the story of my life!) The honesty and practical information on your projects is great, because after you tell us how you (may have) messed up, you go on to fix it, and that is extremely helpful. 3) Your sense of humor is a prevalent theme throughout your writing, and it’s the wry sense of humor that I happen to love. AND, 4) Handan’s pajama counts – COME ON!
    Anyway, thanks for entertaining us so well!

    1. Terra, this is such a nice comment – thank you so much! We really love to hear that our posts resonate with people. Thank you for reading!

  2. I look forward to your stories, and I also agree with every word Terra said. Oh yeah, I would have been right beside Handan screaming and (dancing) I mean jumping because of the snake and the rest of the way home I would have been looking all around the ground for his relatives!!!

  3. Another awesome chapter! Remarkable how elegant and ornate the interior of that fort is. Did they remove the venom glands of that snake? Yeah- kudos to Handan for taking pics and to Barish for actually holding it. I’d be happier looking at it from afar! Funny thing is that the interwebs must have picked up on the snake part of the story because it tried to entice me to buy a random assortment of rubber snakes at the conclusion of the tale 😀

  4. My husband and I did the Golden Triangle a few years ago!!!! It was the best vacation ever! Your blog has reminded me of the color and the noise!!!

  5. I just found this site and have read and thoroughly enjoyed your stories. THANK YOU Esp. the humor. Wow. I would love to have you continue on with after India and wherever you are now. Up to date.

  6. I didn’t think that I’d be sitting here at 3am just having ready the life story (well, some of it!) about two people I don’t know and have never even heard of, yet here I am. And I am very happy to be here.

    Something about your tales are so honest but also heartwarming. From meeting your fiancé for the first time and freaking out over whether she was even real, to living in Afghanistan and having mortar shellings become a daily inconvenience, the beauty of Vietnam and having to leave too soon, and finally the juxtaposition of the beauty of India and the filth of India. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed something like this as much as I have tonight.

    There’s such realness to your words, and the smatterings of humour just really made me laugh like I don’t usually when reading posts online. But at some points I was crying with tears of laughter. I feel like I know both of you and I want to say how wonderful you both are, how brave, how smart, how wise, and how proud I am of you and your life together and also with a full family with Barish! Handan sounds like a force of nature to reckon with, but also full of so much love and goodness. Barish is a trooper, to have uprooted so many times and yet be such a happy and smiling boy. And you, what you’ve done for love and for your family is so wonderful.

    It probably seems weird to say I’m proud of people I’ve never met, but I am. People like you make this world beautiful and I am so glad I share it with you, even so far away (from the land down under!). Please continue to share your stories with us and continue to make this world a better place, just by being who you are.

    1. I was having a pretty rotten day yesterday – feeling as cold and blue as the wintery weather outside – and then I read this comment, and everything brightened. I can’t thank you enough for that! This is perhaps the best and most sincere comment we have ever received, and it brought tears to the corners of Handan’s eyes when I showed it to her. Thank you thank you thank you!

  7. I happened on your websight on hometalk which I follow and I loved your ideas
    and your blog is excellent you have a real gift for writing. And the pictures and narratives are perfect.

  8. I just read the stories of starting your lives together and was positively enthralled! You have had more journies in a few short years than most have in a lifetime. I’ve never been out of the US so I lived vicariously through you, picturing myself along side (or cowering behind) you and your almost fearless wife. I would have been a bundle of nerves living/working in Afghanistan, always on edge waiting for the next explosion or invasion. I’ve always wanted to see Vietnam and now I know how truly lovely it is. The spiders would have me frozen in fear too afraid to move…or ever close my eyes again! Then the Taj Mahal. I could even feel the sun in my face and arms when you walked through the dark gate and the Taj came in to view. I think you would also build a monument to the love you have for your wife. Perhaps not as large or ornate but equally symbolic and heartfelt. Thank you for taking me to countries I will never see in person, I enjoyed every minute. I have 1 question, what happened to those precious dogs?

    1. Awwwww, thank you for this awesome comment, Charlitte! I indeed would build a Taj Mahal for Handan if I had the means! Don’t worry – our Vietnamese landlords welcomed our little dogs into their family 😀

  9. Amazing…..simply AMAZING!! If you don’t mind me asking where are the 3 of you now October 21, 2019? If not in the U.S. do you ever plan to return here or are you having too much fun being adventurous? I think it’s really cool that you Greg are the one that does the crafts (mostly) in your videos. I just want to say the 3 of you ROCK , love your story and stay safe.

    RA Rush
    Las Vegas, NV

    1. Thank you so much, RA! We moved back to the states in 2013 and are currently in Connecticut, but who knows what the future may hold?? 🙂

  10. Are you going to finish your story? Travelling and working all over the world is a far-cry from crafting in the US of A. I’d love to hear the rest!

    1. I will try, Sherry! There’s not much left to tell before we packed up and headed to the states, but I will try to close out that story one of these days!

  11. Here I`ve sat for the last 3 hours reading about your travels and would gladly stay longer. Please do an update on your`s and Handans life. I will never go to any of those places,(except thru your journey) but am so glad you posted this Stumbled on your crafts first then started to read your “about us ” and was hooked. I`m 83 so no travel for me but yours was so interesting loved it.
    P.S Loved your gnomes also!.

    1. Hi Sally – welcome to The Navage Patch! That story does have a tendency to hook people, lol. I try to post 2-3 times a week, so there should always be something fun to read. Hope you’re having a safe and happy holiday season! 🙂

  12. Your story is so interesting! I have enjoyed following your adventures and I look forward to hearing more from you. Yes this is the first time an About has been addictive!

  13. I came here for a stairs DIY since I am trying to finish the basement. But end up reading the whole story of “About Us”! It was fun and i love it! The experience, the adventure! ?

  14. Like you said tour about us is highly addictive. I say Very highly addictive! I spent all night last night reading until I got to Taj Mahal. Then I MADE myself stop and go to sleep. It’s ok though because I have insomnia so reading all night is better than tossing and turning. Especially something educational, comical, fun, and interested to read. So tonight when I finished with your trip back home. I was like that’s it! Ur kidding me! Lol
    But I got to thinking about how I found y’all in the first place which was on Brroke Riley’s Re-Fabbed. And your desk make over! And then ur table makeover. And ur 9 faux drawer cabinet for your office.
    So now I’ve got to find out what, when, where, why, and how you came back to the U.S. And what Barish is doing now, etc
    Leslie R. Morrison

    1. I’m happy you found us, Leslie! I know I need to finish that story – wrap up India and bring us back to the States where we currently live (in GA). Baris is off to college in the fall. Scroll through some of the posts – you’ll find some info sprinkled throughout! 🙂

  15. I hadn’t planned on reading the “about us” or “our adventures ” section of your blog. I never do because I have too much to do and thousands of digital books in my library to read and a little farm in WI with a giant garden that still needs watering after 3 1/2 hours. I’d gotten an email from you in my inbox this morning, read it, the highlights looked intriguing so started in and here I sit. When my husband comes home and asks about what I’ve done all day I’m going to have to throw you under the bus lol.
    In all seriousness, I receive a dozen emails each day for craft and cricut stuff: fonts, files, tips etc along with diy projects. Your emails are the ONLY ones I do not delete after a glance.
    Your emails and blog are well written and compelling. It was fun to travel with you and your family to places I would never have gone to. These are “real” stories not fiction that I normally read. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a treat, thank you for writing it!
    Take care,

    1. Wow, this is such a beautiful comment – thank you, Jean! I am honored to have been able to distract you for so long, and I’m so happy you liked our story. Thank you so much for taking the time to write as well as read! 🙂

  16. So I just finished reading your adventures & have that feeling of when you’ve just finished a very good book. A sort of when will the next be out feeling…& I got to thinking. Why don’t you write a book on actual paper & publish your stories? The lovely “boring” Vietnam tales would most likely be fun in a book form & the horribleness of Gurgaon would be an adventure better lived in imagination. Just saying, I think you have the material & definitely the talent. 🙂 this was mesmerizing & I rarely read nonfiction.
    You & Handan are an inspiration! Keep up the great work & interesting stories.

    1. Thank you, Nicole. It lifts my spirit to read this. I would love to write a book someday, but first I have to carve out the time to dedicate to it. Someday, I hope to make the time for it!

  17. Such a wonderful tale of your travels and adventures! I can’t imagine working in Afghanistan as you did. I only wish you had given a heads up on the pix of the cobra … I’m as fearful of snakes as Handan!!

    1. Oh, no! I’m sorry about that, Marcia! But yeah, we had a pretty incredible few years overseas that gave us some fantastic memories!