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Published: August 9th 2017
I hadn’t had time to visit Jaipur on my last trip to India thirty years ago, so I was particularly looking forward to the tour and I wasn’t disappointed. After a good night’s sleep and large buffet breakfast, we headed off for the Amber fort, led by Uday, our very bubbly guide.
Jaipur is stunningly beautiful with its pink walls and brightly coloured bazaars, but it is also incredibly busy with unbelievably hazardous driving. We negotiated the traffic in our tourist van and I was glad to be high up. I really don’t know how the cyclists survive.
Our first stop was a quick drop off outside Hawa Mahal, better known as the Palace of the Winds. When I think of Jaipur, it is this palace that I picture. In fact, it is not a palace but more of a fancy façade. It was built in 1799 to enable the ladies of the palace to watch processions into the palace whilst remaining unseen behind screens. It was great to see it, if only for a quick photo shoot.
Our next stop off was to look at a fascinating ancient step well that
reminded me of the Escher pictures of never ending steps. The road to the Amber Fort is too steep to be approached by car and so we transferred to a jeep for a very bumpy ride up the hill to the fort.
Again, we were met by throngs of hawkers and would-be guides, but by now were getting used to ignoring them. We made our way into the impressive courtyard, which was buzzing with hawkers and visitors. In one corner, a miserable looking elephant was giving reluctant rides to tourists, and in the other, Segways were on offer - it seemed an incongruous mix.
Uday took us through to the main courtyard where we were all blown away by the unexpected beauty of the buildings. The walls and gates were adorned with fantastic frescoes of intricate design and it is incredible that their colours have lasted so long in the sunshine. We were taken through a maze of courtyards and up to the palace walls and watch towers, to be treated to a fabulous view of Jaipur and the surrounding hills.
The highlight was the stunning Sheesh Mahal which were the
private palaces of the Maharaja and his Queen. Known as ‘the mirrored palace’, the intricate marble walls were inset with tiny mirrors that reflected the light in day and made the walls shimmer at night. It was so very beautiful. We had a lot of fun taking photographs in the mirrors - another top tip from Uday.
On our way to lunch we stopped off at ‘The Summer Palace’, which is now a shell of a palace that sits like a redundant fairy tale palace in the lake, waiting for renovation. It was used by Maharajas as a site for shooting ducks. Now the ducks are all gone, and the palace is forlorn. Apparently, there are plans to turn it into a restaurant, which would make it a fantastic venue.
After a quick lunch, we set of to Jantar Mantar, one of five royal observatories built by Shah Jai Singh. He had a passionate interest in astronomy, astrology and geometry, and built eighteen massive stone instruments that can tell the time with remarkable accuracy. The site includes the world’s largest sundial and is full of peculiar instruments, all a bit odd, that stand in
Our last trip of the day was to the City Palace. Part of the palace is still occupied by the royal family, but two courtyards are home to the museum of textiles and armoury. The visit was much more exciting than it sounds - the textile museum housed an array of gorgeous gowns worm by the royal family, and the armoury had a vast collection of vicious-looking weapons, all heavily engraved and studded with jewels. The armoury itself was housed in a beautiful hall that had a heavily decorated ceiling.
We really enjoyed the peacock courtyard, which is decorated with four gates representing the four seasons. Each is elaborately painted, but best of all is the peacock gate.
We were happy to indulge in a little light shopping in the craft complex in the palace. This houses local craftsmen and women who demonstrate their work and offer goods at a fair fixed price set by the government. It was a relief to shop in peace without being hassled, safe in the knowledge that we were paying a fair price and supporting local business.
We were exhausted
at the end of the day, having whizzed around so many fabulous sights and having to process so many wonderful experiences. This hotel was the first on our tour to have a swimming pool, and it was a real treat to arrive back hot and sticky and get straight in the pool for some down time.
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