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Published: February 4th 2018
Our second full day in India we traveled to Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan. The drive was entertaining as the road passed through inhabited villages and interesting landscapes. Although I had experienced the bewildering sight of cows laying down anywhere and everywhere on the roads, this time we also saw camels, and even monkeys on the way. Again, I kept cringing watching those motorcycles carrying whole families, and none even wearing a helmet. I must say, though, that I failed to see any accidents on the road, in spite of the suicidal cows creating obstacle courses, or daredevil motorcyclists avoiding them.
As we approached Jaipur, we passed a couple of hill forts that I would have loved to have been able to visit, as they looked amazing. We also passed the dazzling white sights of Sikh Temples along the way.
Of the cities we visited, I believe Jaipur to be the most memorable. Not only for the trademark pink color of its buildings and various city gates at intervals of the old city wall, but the architecture and landscape were striking. Even as we entered the city, we passed a beautiful hill top fort that we were told
is now a private temple and not accessible.
It is also, as every city in India, extremely overpopulated and in our approach we passed homeless people living in makeshift encampments along the road.
It was a welcome relief to arrive at our hotel which was a little oasis. Here, as in Delhi and the other hotels we stayed at, the security was taken very seriously. All the bags were scanned through security before entering the hotel, and the door also had a metal detector. It was very nice entering the premises and knowing that much care was being taken for our protection.
Our first stop in Jaipur was the lively bazaar. It was also my first experience with being fully stalked by peddlers intent in taking me to their pick of the many shops that lined the streets. It was a little overwhelming and, after a while, I could not distinguish one scarf or bangle from the others. It was, however, a cultural experience that was to be repeated throughout the trip.
Our full day in Jaipur started with a visit to Amer Fort. This incredible structure at the top of a hill overlooked the city
in a dramatic way, and the entrance up a wide avenue to the main entrance commanded an amazing view of Maota Lake below the castle. This structure boasted a security wall almost rivalling the wall of China, following the contour of the surrounding hills, with watch towers at regular intervals.
But the fort itself, constructed of red sandstone, was an incredible achievement of formidable defenses and exquisite and delicate beauty within the opulent palace, which is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. The beautiful archways, the intricate design of Sheesh Mahal (the Mirror Palace) were a breathtaking example of architecture.
For me, a haunting view was that of the Jal Mahal (water palace) as we were leaving the fort. This architectural showcase is a five storied building, of which four floors remain underwater when the Man Sagar lake is full and only the top floor is exposed.
The afternoon was spent visiting two interesting destinations.
Jantar Mantar. This UNESCO site is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments, including the largest stone sun dial in the world. The instruments allow the observation of astronomical positions with the named eye. Accurate to within 3
seconds, it is an impressive accomplishment built in 1734.
Afterwards, we visited the old City Palace now a Museum, adjacent to the current residence of the hereditary King of Jaipur who is currently living abroad studying. Not to be overlooked is the Hawa Mahal, or palace of winds, behind which latticed windows the women of the harem could observe the activities in the street without being seeing.
The city itself remains as one of the top examples of India from the trip.
One remarkable side stop was at a rug making facility. Some of the rugs are made by families that have been in the business for years, but at the facility we saw demonstrations of the steps that take place to produce these beautiful rugs. After the weaving, there are several steps, each being done by a person dedicated to that particular activity, like cutting the knots left after wearing. I held my breath at the end, watching a large lit torch being put to the rug until it was burned black. But after a brush is applied, the surface of the rug emerged, soft and lustrous.
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