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Published: September 21st 2018
Elephants passing through the Suraj Pol (sun gate & main entrance for important people). We walked up.
We were picked up at 9am by our tuk tuk driver from yesterday and headed over to the Amber fort. Our driver was very entertaining and tried to give us plenty of information on the way. Unfortunately, like many self appointed ‘guides’ we’ve met most of his ‘facts’ contained errors which we were only too happy to correct. I think he was a little surprised (I’ve come to the conclusion that most people don’t seem to read the guide books) but we hope that he will now tell people the city was painted pink to celebrate a visit from the prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, not Prince Albert.
That’s not to say we didn’t learn a great deal from him, at only 23 he’s been working for 8 years to help pay for his siblings as his father is getting too old to work and his youngest sibling is just 9yrs old. He could tell us a great deal about unemployment, views of the current government and other tidbits about how the area is changing.
As we arrived in Amber we got out first views of the stunning fort. Amber was the former capital of the state before
Walk up (following line of the wall)
they built Jaipur due to insufficient water at Amber to supply the increasing population. Building of the fort was started in 1592.
We walked up to the fort from our drop off point at the bottom, through beautiful gardens, past a rather dried up lake and up to the main gate. On the way a certain amount of care needs to be taken not to get run over by one of the many elephants used to take people up to the Suraj gate (although they have a separate road to pedestrians for most of the way).
The number of hawkers and tauts is a real pain but once inside the palace you’re mostly ok. Except for security guards letting you into places and then demanding ‘tips’ (whilst this is not allowed and signs ask you not to Im not brave enough to refuse when isolated and away from other tourists).
The ticket price does not include an audio guide and the signs are rather limited. In hindsight not getting a guide was probably a mistake as the palace is full of winding corridors and dead ends and can get quite confusing. None of the rooms are decorated as
examples of how they were used either which meant we felt the most interesting parts were from the outside looking in.
There are 3 notable exceptions to this though. The marble baths, which used to have hot & cold water, which we haven’t seen in the other palaces we’ve been to in India. The water delivery system, a series of 3 ox driven mechanisms to deliver water from the lake at the bottom to the clay water pipes which supply the palace from the top. And finally the tunnels which were used as an escape route to Jaigarh fort in times of war. These poorly signposted tunnels are, for the most part, open air and go all the way up to the Jaigarh fort above the Amber fort. This is a steep, hot climb and we were very relieved to find they wasn’t a dead end at the top!
Jaigarh fort is more recent than the Amber fort, built in 1726, just a year before they started to build Jaipur. Whilst less to look at from the outside we found the (much cheaper) Jaigarh fort more interesting than the Amber palace. Unfortunately we did get caught out again by
Line of elephants taking people up to the fort
staff ‘helping’ us and then demanding a tip (although we learnt our lesson and quite literally ran away & hid from the next one!). This fort is huge. There’s an old canon foundry there and examples of both the tools used to make canon and the canon themselves. There are stunning views, a beautiful garden, a small palace area and the worlds largest wheeled canon. Unlike the more expensive Amber fort the toilets are free to use, and actually very clean.
Both palaces seen we walked back down to meet our tuk tuk driver. We had been gone for about 5 hours - apparently this is a record as no one else has even taken more than 3.5 hours to look around them both!
Next stop was a water well in Amber itself. Whilst of minimal interest to us we did enjoy seeing all the narrow streets and old buildings in the area.
Usually our driver/guide then takes people to the ‘elephant village’. This was described as a great place where elephants can live naturally with their families and you can go and feed and wash them. Somewhat dubious we politely declined this trip. Since coming back to
Walk up to fort
the hotel and looking it up we are really pleased we did.
The ‘elephant village’ was a government project opened in 2010 to improve the lives of the elephants working in Jaipur (mostly at the fort) and their owners. Whilst this sounds like a great initiative the area designed to enable the elephants to relax in a suitable environment has now been turned into a tourist destination where you can ride, feed, paint and wash your elephant for a (rather large) fee. Personally I think these working animals should be allowed to rest in peace and would strongly suggest not visiting one of these places (which I’ve discovered also offers ‘volunteering’ schemes).
On the way back to our hotel we stopped to look at the Jal Mahal (water palace), in the Man Sagar lake. Unfortunately, despite significant conservation attempts, the palace is suffering from subsidence & damp (unsurprising given 5 storeys of the palace are underwater when the lake is full) and so both the palace and lake are currently not open to tourists.
Our last sight for the day was the Hawa Mahal. This 5 storey building built in 1799 to enable the women of the Royal household
to watch the city. It’s a pretty building and has good views.
Walking back to our hotel we chose to go down little backstreets and discovered the metal working area, a street of printing presses, the medical area and some beautiful old buildings and cobbled streets. Jaipur is defiantly more attractive off the main roads, if you can ignore the piles of rubbish and stink from the open sewers!
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