After my first Indian train journey (will write a whole separate post about train journeys), we arrived in Jaipur an hour later than scheduled, but our hotel man was still waiting for us, under the Ghandi statue as promised. He took us to our hotel, which in first impressions didn’t look so nice, but once upstairs and on our floor it looked really pretty, slightly Arabic (?) styled arches along a corridor, open on one side, with chairs for relaxing/eating in, and our room at the end. We didn’t do anything after we arrived, just relaxed and read on the seats outside our room.
The following morning after my first decent shower since arriving in India, we headed into the Old City. Jaipur’s nickname is The Pink City because in 1876 Maharaja Ram Singh ordered the whole city to be painted pink (traditionally the colour of hospitality) to welcome the Prince of Wales. Now, it is the law that all residents of the old city paint their property pink (personally I would call it coral)!
Our guide book showed a walking tour, so we decided that it would be a good way to get to know the city. We walked through a huge gate into the city and followed a road up, which was said to be a bazaar. Unfortunately none of the shops were open, except for some stunning shoes, which didn’t fit my wide feet, and some fabrics. I find it hard to choose when it comes to fabric things, and hate being pressurised by shop keepers, as is the way here. But he laid out a range of wall hangings and there were two which I loved- and went well together to hang on a wall (one day, when I have a wall to call mine!). They gave us a cup of yummy masala chai, which I could get used to. I left the shop feeling very happy with my purchase, two hand made and embroidered wall hangings more than a metre long and about 30cm wide, together cost just over ten pounds. Happy!
The first place where we stopped was a very interesting building called Hawa Mahal. Hawa means ‘wind’ and mahal means ‘palace’ – it’s called this because the building has no foundations (if I understood our guide correctly). Hawa Mahal was a built in 1799 by a maharaja so that ladies of the royal household could watch the goings on outside the palace and processions in the city, without people seeing them watching. There are many beautiful windows and screens in this building. The top floor was for queens, then the floors go down according to how important the ladies were to the maharaja, making the first floor for concubines.
From Hawa Mahal we walked toward Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar (see post Delhi- My First Taste of India for description and explanation). On the way we found a stall making samosas and lentil pakora so we grabbed some of those for lunch on the road. This Jantar Mantar is much better preserved that Delhi’s and restoration has been done well and often. The buildings still work as an observatory to this day. Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar is home to the world’s largest sundial. We took the audio tour this time instead of paying for another guide who didn’t know anything (like in Delhi). The audio tour was actually very informative and showed just how complicated and how much detail and attention actually goes into these incredible devices. Well past my level of intelligence! I pretty much cooked while walking round here – out in the sun in the middle of the day, the temperature was high twenties, pretty hot since I haven’t acclimatised yet!
From Jantar Mantar we headed to a minaret which is called Isarlat Minar – the heaven piercing minaret, which is 35 metres high. We struggled to find it between car parks, walls and piles of sheet glass, but the climb to the top of the 260 something steps (which weren’t so much steps and more like dips) was well worth the view.
After a long and hot walk though bazaars we eventually found the Indian Coffee a house which marked the end of our walk. We had planned to have lunch there, thinking the walk would only take us a couple of hours, or three at most. However, it was lucky we grabbed those samosas on the road as we didn’t make it to the coffee place until five o’clock by which point I was hot, tired and grumpy.
We had made an arrangement with the driver who had met us from the train station, so the following morning we met him for a tour of a few places. We headed out to the Amber Fort, which is over 400 years old. It housed the maharaja and his wife until the area got too crowded and they moved out. It is something else. Driving along the road, you go round a bend and there it is, on the cliff top in front of you on the other side of a lake, bright yellow and glowing in the sun. People think it’s called Amber fort because of its colour, but actually it’s pronounced Amer, which means heaven. Our driver, Ash, waited at the bottom while we walked up the steps, admiring the views, goats, and monkeys on the way up. We decided against an audio tour or a guide and just looked around without the overload of information. The heat was incredible here, especially for my pasty white skin, I’m going to struggle when we get to Kolkata and it’s 38 degrees!!
We’d originally planned to head from the Amber Fort to Nahargarh, another fort on the mountains over looking Jaipur. After a couple of hours walking round Amber Fort though we were too hot and tired to do anything, so headed back to our hotel via a view point of a beautiful palace in a lake.
After a couple hours of rest from the heat we headed up to Nahargarh for the sunset and a drink. It was actually a lot further than I realised. Up, up and up we went. We saw wild peacocks in the dry scrub at the side of the road and a mongoose ran in front of the car too at one point. I hope it was off to fight with a snake! Ash wanted to show us his favourite place and so we stopped at a view point right across the city. It’s a huge city with a population of six million!
Once at Nahargarh Ash quickly found us a spot on the top of a wall to watch the sunset over the city, and went off to get us some chairs and some chai. We waited until it was dark then headed back down the road to find a restaurant that he likes to go to.
Jaipur was more beautiful than I ever expected. I’ve seen so many beautiful buildings, noticed some amazing patterns and met some really lovely and hospitable people, and animals. It’s the driest place I’ve ever been I think! I’m actually a little sad to be moving on.