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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 26.9196, 75.7878
We left Delhi on Friday morning at 8am. We were told it was a 6 hour drive to Jaipur and we would have lunch in the hotel when we arrived.The traffic was as chaotic as ever and it took us 3 hours to clear the metropolitan area of Delhi.
The trip was long but interesting. I wondered when we would see some rural areas as the land alongside the road was very built up. However eventually there were fields with animals such as goats and cows wandering amidst the rubbish which lays in huge heaps along the Highway. After 4 hours we had a loo stop at a cafe and gift shop complex. We had a refreshing beer there. From that point on into Jaipur the most astonishing sights were the huge number of trucks either driving or just pulled into the side of the road. These often stretched for kilometres and there were a number of small stalls and hotels and restaurants which served the drivers of these. The majority of Indians seem to be very small business owners with tiny shops selling everything from car parts to jewellery to clothes to electronic devices. It is also a place
where animals wander freely. Along the way we saw cows, goats, camels, an elephant and monkeys all unfettered, living amidst the shops and houses.
The other interesting and intriguing aspect was the way that freeway pylons with no roads attached seemed to materialise in the middle of nowhere. Our driver had to pay a toll for the freeway but the condition of the road was dreadful. Many buildings were derelict and often a shell of a building stood starkly against the skyline with obviously no occupants. The landscape was very flat but as we approached Jaipur there were hills and some were being mined for their marble. Many pottery and stone carving shops could be seen there.
We arrived at our hotel in Jaipur over an hour later than anticipated and while they sorted out our rooms we were directed to the Pavilion Cafe where a very nice buffet awaited us. We had a good selection of Indian and European food. The first impressions of this city as we drove through the outer areas was that it is less crowded and polluted than Delhi. After lunch we went to our very comfortable rooms. Once settled we walked around the block but there
was little of interest nearby. There was a camel tethered in a neighbouring yard and a couple of cows grazing by the side of the road. The rest of our evening was spent having a convivial drink with some of our companions and viewing the sunset from the roof of the hotel. After a late dinner we were pleased to retire early for a 7-30 start in the morning.
This morning we were ready to leave the hotel at 7-30am. We drove first to the centre of Old Jaipur. This is called the Pink City because all the buildings in the old area are painted a salmon pink lined in white. We were told the local government now has the responsibility of maintaining the colour so that it is consistent throughout. We stopped next to the Wind Palace and went across the road to take photos. This is a beautiful facade, set at an angle of 85 degrees so that the Royal women could watch the processions without being seen behind the window screens.
From there we drove to the Amber Fort.This is a magnificent complex of buildings set high in the mountains near Jaipur. The Maharajahs built this for both
strategic purposes and as a family home. We alighted from our bus and then joined the queue for our elephant ride to the fort. this was an experience. We were seated, side-saddle, in a seat on the elephant's back as he trod his way to the top of a very steep hill. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and the views as we ascended were spectacular. Our mahoot was urging our pachyderm on and I rather felt sorry for him having to carry we two heavy-weights up that slope. We could see the the lake and gardens below and above the 12 kilometres of wall which guarded the fort.
At the top we alighted from our elephant in the square fronting the fort.We then walked to the entrance and then went to the place of public audience where the Maharajah would meet the people to hear their petitions and complaints.After our guide, Vishnu, told us about the place we had a chance to look around and take photos. The canopy and archways were exquisite wit elephant head decorations and a mixture of Hindu and Islamic architecture. We then went inside the building and admired the beautiful painted decorations on the walls.
Then we were in the inner courtyard with a fantastic mirrored canopy decorated in silver mirror patterns. Very beautiful. There were also archways in the scalloped edge style. The final entrance took us to another courtyard where the family quarters were housed. There was a central raised dais where the wives and children could enjoy themselves without men around. Many of the Hindu paintings had been covered by plaster by the Muslim Moghuls who took over the palace and are now being rediscovered and restored.
Our descent was by jeep. While we waited we watched the monkeys high up on the walls. We walked through a long line of cars and eventually we piled into 3 jeeps which hurtled down the slopes and took us back to the bus which was parked a fair away away.
We drove back towards the old town, stopping at the lake in the middle of which is the summer palace which is now empty. It is a very picturesque spot. We were then taken to a jewellery export shop and shown how they cut and polish the stones. This was sort of interesting but was a blatant commercial attempt to sell us very high priced jewellery.
Though it was lovely most of the group were not interested. From there we went back to the hotel for lunch and a short break.
At 1-30 we set out again. Our destination was the Astronomical Observatory and the City Palace. The first was amazing to me. One of the Maharajahs in the 18th century had been a keen astronomer and he set up this giant open-air observatory known as Jantar Mantar. It contains the largest sundial in the world and many other devices built to tell the exact time. It also is important astrologically with small sundials dedicated to each of the star signs showing when the sun moves into each quadrant. It was fascinating wandering around these and being told that the largest measures the time to a 2 second accuracy,
We then went into the City Palace complex. This was built by Mahdo Singh in 1900. The Royal family still live in the main building to this day. One of the buildings is now a Textile Museum which houses, amongst other artifacts, the clothes of one King who was enormous, 7 ft tall and 4 ft wide!!
The most interesting parts of this palace though were the two inner courtyards.
One displays two enormous silver urns with a capacity of 1,800 gallons of water each. When Madho Singh went to Britain for the coronation of Edward 7th he took these with him filled with water from the Ganges so he could drink this every day. Through another passageway we went in to the inner courtyard which has four magnificent doorways, each decorated according to the seasons, the most beautiful being the peacock entrance. This courtyard led to the rooms of the wives and concubines of the king.
Our last stop of the day was at a artisans complex. Here we saw the way block printing is produced and also the incredible production of carpets through the knot tying technique. Then, of course came the hard sell of carpets. While all were beautiful they were rightly expensive given the hours of work that goes in to making them. One or two of our group were interested but we had to wait for over 45 minutes while they decided whether to buy. In the end most of us just wanted to get back to the hotel. This took over an hour due to the incredible traffic jams as this was Saturday night and
the Diwali Festival is approaching, We were all glad to reach our rooms at just after 7pm.
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