Jaipur. A most wonderful place to be.
This was one of our busiest days in India, we managed to pack in a lot of activities, saw a host of sights and generally had a great time!
We started with a drive by visit to the Palace of Winds (Hawa
Mahal), its a beautiful structure but deceptive in name, its essentially an elaborate viewing platform that allowed women to watch the activities on the street without being seen. It’s name relates to the sound heard as wind passes through the viewing slots.
We moved on quickly and headed for the Amber Fort, it dominates the skyline and it’s worth reading up on a little of it’s history (or getting a good guide who can tell you!) Amber was the former capital before Jaipur came along. We had been warned in advance that there would be hawkers trying to sell us things and that we should avoid engaging with them in any way. This was sound advice as they pounced on us as soon as we got out of the car, they were pushy but friendly- we avoided them.
The most common way to get to the fort itself is by elephant and we had booked a ride up the steep winding hill. Its a great way to capture the view and get a feel for the just how imposing the structure is. I was a little worried about the elephants (as always) so asked a bunch of questions, for those like me, this is the important info:
The elephants and their owners are paid and regulated by the government. There are strict rules regarding the number of rides they do a day, they are allowed to do no more than 4 trips a day and each trip is around 15 minutes long. As you can only ride if you have booked this means the numbers are capped as are the times to avoid the heat of the day. The government provide what was described to us as an ‘elephant village’ for the herd to live in which has a large water area so that they keep cool, you are not allowed to touch or feed any standing elephants and their owner stays with them at all times. It’s conjecture but as the trip was booked through a responsible tourism company it gave me more of a comfort factor. Certainly the elephants seemed well cared for with no hooks in sight. We saw the walking down the road on their way home by the time we were done.
Anyway- Back to the fort itself. It’s a spectacular structure with temples, gardens and ornate decor, there are some clever details for heat and water distribution considering it was built in 1582. I’ve found it hard to write about a lot of the things we saw because to be honest, unless you actually are stood in front of them it just feels like empty words.
We have a huge amount of photos but we have yet to work through them all, with 3 cameras between us I suspect that will take quite some time.
After our coffee stop was disturbed by some disruptive monkeys we moved on and went to look at some Jaipur crafts. Guides will take you to see local products and whilst there is no obligation to buy, you do certainly need to be strict with yourself! Having already picked up a marble table and a bag full of fabric items I was determined to be disciplined and only buy something if we really wanted it.
We took a visit to a store that showed us how to block printing is done and I had a go at making a small print (which I forgot to take home) its trickier than it seems to do an image that overlays different colours but I enjoyed having a go and later ended up buying some small blocks to have a go with at home. We learnt about handwoven rugs and carpets (amazing skill) and despite much deliberation didn’t end up buying one which I still think was wise. They look incredible but wouldn’t go with our house. We took a visit to a jewellers too and saw people shaping gemstones and then making jewellery.
Lunch was a stop suggested by our guide and I didn’t catch the name of it which is a shame because it was great and we were able to take in the sun on the roof terrace.Jordan ordered a mutton dish and I had aubergine, of everything we ate in India, for some reason aubergine ended up being my favourite.
We moved along on our journey to the City Palace, a huge complex of palaces, gardens and courtyards. In order to support the original family and the ongoing preservation of the site there is now a museum on site too. It contains armoury (no photos allowed) outfits, paintings, carpets and other decorative items that relate to the history of the palace. In the courtyard are a pair of giant urns that once were used to transport water from the River Ganges to the UK as it was all the Maharajah of the time would drink. There was a third of these, but it was dropped into the sea on his return to India as an offering of thanks.
Our final sight seeing stop of the day was at Jantar Mantar, an Astronomical Observatory that could easily be mistaken for a sculpture garden. The giant sundial is still correct to this day and our guide showed us how to read it.
On our way back to the hotel we made a stop in the market area and collected a few items to take home, several varieties of tea and some spices to kickstart our Indian cooking experiments at home.
What did we do that evening? Well, we learnt to cook of course!