I-pur like Jaipur

Trip Start Mar 29, 2007
Trip End Sep 30, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Monday, October 20, 2008

Our train from Agra arrived late into Jaipur so we had arranged for just a basic place to stay the first night (Jas Vilas)...upgrading to a very nice place the second night (Taj Jai Mahal Palace).  Turns out the more basic place was the one we liked more...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Arrival into Jaipur was a bit chaotic because we were half asleep and and it was a bit crowded at the train station.  But we eventually found our driver from the hotel for the short ride to Jas Vilas.  We booked Jas Vilas for basically just a place to crash for the night before checking out the next day for a tour and then checking into a nicer hotel.  But when we arrived at Jas Vilas...we liked what we saw so much we wish we would have stayed both nights here...but too late to cancel at the Taj.  Sleep came quick as we were exhausted.  The next morning we had a chance to check the hotel out during breakfast and I can highly recommend staying here on your next trip to Jaipur (end of commercial).  Our driver and tour guide showed up early per schedule and we were off to see the sites of Jaipur.  But first we had to check in to our new hotel (the Taj Jai Mahal Palace) which was nice, but a bit gaudy and over the top.  We received our complimentary tikas, fruit juice and garlands of fresh flowers before being escorted to our room where the thought to fall back asleep was tempting.  But no...we have sites to see and only one day to see Jaipur so vamos...we're off.

Jaipur is the largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan and was built in the eighteenth century by Sawai Jai Singh as India's first planned city.  It's often called the Pink City in reference to the distinctly colored pink buildings in the city center which were originally painted this color to imitate the red sandstone architecture of Mughal cities.  So of course our first stop had to be the city center to see the magnificent entrance gates, the beautifully colored pink buildings and the highlight of the pink city...the Hawa Mahal.  The Hawa Mahal (or Palace of breeze) was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Singh as part of city palace. It's primary purpose was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen. It is a five story high red sandstone structure complete with over 950 windows. The breeze (or hawa in Hindi) circulates through these windows giving the palace its name.  It's probably the most famous site associated with Jaipur...but actually it's a bit under-whelming when you actually see it.  There were some snake charmers nearby and I found those more interesting...we spent all of 7 minutes at the Hawa Mahal as you can't go inside.  Worth a drive-by...but that's about it.

Next stop was the City Palace and then Jantar Mantar which are located right next to each other and inside the Pink City.  The Jantar Mantar is the biggest of five astronomical observatory build by Maharaja Jai Singh during the period 1727-1734 in north India.  The observatory consists of fourteen major geometric devices (or yantra in Hindi) for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars in their orbits, ascertaining the declinations of planets, and determining the celestial altitudes etc.  Thankfully our guide knew quite a bit about these tools and was able to demonstrate most of them to us.  It's amazing how accurate they are to this day with time measurement.  Tanya and I were the subject of some intense attention by a group of local students who followed us around like little puppy dogs instead of sticking with their school tour.  The City Palace is a vast palace complex occupying nearly one-seventh of the Pink City.  It's divided into a series of courtyards, gardens and buildings...and is home to several palaces within the palace including the current home of the present Maharajah of Jaipur.  Also in the palace are two things that I found fascinating...the largest silver objects in the world...two large silver jars.  You may be asking..."Brandon, what's so special about two large silver jars?".  The interesting thing is not the jars themselves...but what they were used for.  In 1902 the Maharaja took a trip to visit England for the King's coronation.  He was worried about the quality of drinking water along the way so he had these two jars made and filled them with water from the Ganges river to take with him.  My how times have changed when it comes to drinking water quality of India vs the rest of the world.  There were other things to see in the palace but I can't remember much of the details...sorry.

Next stop was Jaigarh Fort which was a 30 minute drive  out of the city.  On the way there we got stopped by the police and our driver/guide were fined for not wearing their official guide/driver uniforms...no joke.  Anyway...we drove up a long and winding mountain road to the Jaigarh Fort to see this one thing...a big gun (my dad will be very happy).  Of the three forts in the Jaipur area, Jaigarh Fort was considered the strongest of the three as it was never defeated in battle...I think that has something to do with it's primo location and only having one point of access.  But it's best known today as the site of the world's largest cannon, the Jaivana, which was fired only once.  During the firing (according to legend), only have the half the design amount of gunpowder was used and the cannonball flew 35 km (over 21 miles).  The views from the top of the fort were great and it was worth the long drive to get here.

So now we're getting hungry so it's off to a restaurant where the plan is to meet one of the many children that Tanya and Baal Dan help in India.  This little guys name is Kuldeep and he's a keeper.  His family is very poor so he lives in the city with a elderly lady (Sister Mary) who helps out children in need.  Kuldeep is so smart, so funny and has many things in common with me (our favorite show on Discovery channel..."Man vs. Wild").  After posing for photos and enjoying a nice long lunch with Kuldeep...we were off to our last stop...the Amber Fort.  On the way there we passed a dog riding on the back of a bicycle...and had this been in any other country in the world, that might have surprised me...but nothing surprises me anymore in India.  The drive to the Amber Fort was about 30 minutes and on the way we passed the Jal Mahal (or the Water Palace).  It sort of reminded me of the Taj Lake Palace given that it sits in the middle of a lake so I took a couple snaps of it along with an elephant that was painted rather nicely nearby (again...nothing surprises me anymore).  As we turned a corner the Amber Fort came into view and it was much, much larger than I expected.  This massive fort/palace was the maharaja's royal from 1600 to 1727.  The name (amber) has nothing to do with the pastel yellow color of the fort, rather the name of the town Amber which was named after the goddess Amba.  The most unique aspect of this fort is despite how massive and imposing it is from the outside, the inside is incredibly lavish and ornate.  The interior walls are covered with murals, frescoes, and paintings depicting various scenes from daily life of that period. Other walls are covered with intricate carvings, mosaic, and minute mirror work.  One of the halls is called the "Hall of Mirrors" because each of the thousands of mirror tiles on the walls and ceiling.  At one point our guide lit a match near one of the mirrored walls to show how the light of a single match was reflected in many mirrors.  He told us that when the palace was occupied by royalty, this room could be lit at night by a single candle because of all the tiny, intricate mirrors . It's a bit of a hike up from the town, and the touristy thing to do is to hitch an elephant ride to the top (we arrived to late in the day to do that).  The palace was nice, but we were also tired and the sun was setting so we were soon off back to our hotel for a night of dinner and relaxing.  Dinner at the Taj was good as was the little dance show put on for us.  There was a group of Mexican tourists there so I got to practice listening to Spanish to see if I could translate it in my head...I couldn't.

But tonight is an early night as tomorrow morning we have to get up at 4AM to reach the airport by 5AM for our 6AM flight to Rishikesh!
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