After our morning at the Taj Mahal, we hopped a bus heading westward to Jaipur, the Pink City. The bus was a government bus, which meant, as ladies, we received a 30% discount. Ladies price. Awesome. We didn’t know why ladies get a discount, but again, if the anatomical bits fit, run with it! Jaipur is known as being a wonderful city, with classic Rajasthani culture and architecture, the Amber Fort, and great shopping! Jaipur is definitely at the top of most ‘Best of India’ itinerary guides.
So many things to do in Jaipur and we only had one day!
Bus from Agra to Jaipur
6 hours. On a local bus. The gentleman beside me sometimes felt the need to encroach on my leg space, and the ladies behind us felt the need to scream into their mobile devices, but that’s local transport! We did arrive in Jaipur, dignity intact, hearing less so, and got to our guesthouse, the Explorer’s Nest. It was run by an ex-Army guy, and in the main room there was army paraphernalia, including a suit of armour! And swords, and guns etc.
So we were either well defended or in the home of an absolute madman.
Jaipur City Tour in One Day
Our full day in Jaipur was an epic day of sightseeing. We walked through the Old City part of Jaipur, where I had a gang of young ruffians jump me from behind. Not with knives or anything, more by throwing one of the younger boys onto me. I turned around and sternly said “NO! GO!”
Jaipur City Palace
The city of Jaipur is known as the Pink City as the vintage old city buildings are all thought to be a pinkish hue, though I might place them more in the terracotta orange category. We worked our way to the City Palace, which was the palace, residence, and headquarters for the local rajputs back in the day. It was built starting in the 19th century and added to over the years, so it’s quite the combination of different styles, but mainly Rajasthani and Mughal.
The armory, much like our guesthouse, had hundreds of different tools to kill people. Some swords looked sharper than others, so maybe certain devices would only harshly maim.
Across from the City Palace is Jantar Mantar, built in 1728 by Jai Singh, the rajput at the time. He was into timekeeping, calendars, astronomy and the like, so he put the hard earned dollars of the Rajasthanians into building this massive and oddly pagan looking observatory complex. There is a huge sundial, for lack of a better word, that goes 27 meters in the sky and can tell the time down accurate to 2 seconds. And it was built in the 18th century!
Other clocks and dials and weird looking structures apparently forecast the weather and the harvest times, and can tell the onlooker where every “celestial body” in the universe is. I do wonder if there is anybody alive who can read these meters to find said celestial bodies. I bet NASA is kicking themselves for all that high tech gizmoy stuff when they could have just gone to India. Would have been cheaper.
We then made our way to Hawa Mahal, which was a part of the City Palace complex, and is 5 stories high, made of pink sandstone, built in 1799. All of the windows are covered with shades so that the ladies of the royal harem could watch the action on the streets below, without being seen themselves.
It’s mainly a maze of courtyards and staircases that you think are going one way and then don’t. Maddy referred to it as that weird painting with all of the staircases that feed into each other, but never go anywhere and the perspectives are all wonky. She referred to it by the artist’s name, I obviously have no idea what I’m talking about.
But Hawa Mahal was like that. I was also asked by several people to have my picture taken with them there. No.
Working Elephants of Jaipur
During our lunch after Hawa Mahal we had our first “Working Elephant” sighting. I had my back to the window and Maddy had a full mouth of food, saw an elephant walk by the window, and made some unintelligible noise in the excitement of seeing an elephant walking down the street.
This outburst started an afternoon of spotting the beasts of burden and yelling out WORKING ELEPHANT! Basically elephants walking along the road, just commuting to work, or maybe working then, carrying stuff, or pulling stuff.
As if that’s normal. Which in Jaipur it is.
There were also working camels, and we spotted a couple disgustingly huge monkeys. Wished I had an armory of my own when I saw those mongrels.
The Amber Fort, Jaipur India
We rode a tuk-tuk out to the Amber Fort (a ride during which we spotted many working elephants), which is about 10km out of town and is perched up on the side of a hill.
Building started on the Amber Fort in 1592 by Akbar’s army, and built up over the years to be one heck of an impressive place. It, like other forts in India, acted as fortress, lookout, and royal palace, before the whole regal crew moved into Jaipur proper.
Aesthetically, the Amber Fort is utilitarian on the outside, and then gorgeously decorated on the inside. Business in the front, party in the back kind of arrangement. Being on the top of a hill, it looks down on a valley and then the surrounding walls shooting off of it, Great Wall of China’esque. And since it is on a hill, that means tourists have to climb the hill to get up to it. Which is sweaty. And made better by the poor man sitting on the path with a scale in front of him offering to weigh us, for a price.
I’m sweating profusely after walking uphill for 5 minutes, I have more dhal, samosas, lassis, and naan in my system than I wish to list, and you think I want to know the harsh numerical reality of my situation. And pay for it. Absolutely not. Ignorance truly is bliss. A sweaty, heavy breathing bliss.
Once you get up to the palace, it is gorgeous with fantastic views. The palace is a series of courtyards, different levels and chambers, and decorated rooms for different uses, all very hard to keep straight… This kind of fancy room was to see this kind of VIP, but this other fancier room was to meet an even more important VIP.
There were also mazes of hallways connecting everywhere in the Amber Fort, meaning we got lost among the weaving rooms understandably easily. This labyrinth of hallways was done on purpose so the King could move between his wives’ bedchambers and have sleepovers without the other ladies knowing where and with whom he was with.
Now that is using architectural design for your benefit. Sly devil.
After the Amber Fort, we headed back to town and found some palaces of our own, in other words excellent shopping in designer outlet stores (Fabindia, drool) Neither of us bought the massive solid wood bedroom set, though we wanted to. And then we ate pasta for dinner. Because we were hungry from all that forting and shopping, and hadn’t weighed ourselves earlier that day.
Points to Ponder from the Jaipur Travel Blog
Cows literally are everywhere in India. One example of this was our first night in Jaipur we went for a late dinner and looked out the window and there was a gigantic ox standing at the front door just peering in. Not bothered, no one ran to move him, people just walked around. If cows are in the middle of the street, you drive around them. Cows have more rights than pedestrians. And probably a good portion of the Indian population. Seriously.
When we were at the Amber Fort something amazing happened. We had just arrived in the front area of the fort, a huge open space, probably where they had military drills etc, when there were several military men of current day running across the cobblestone chasing a porcupine. Of all things, a porcupine! And who knew, but those little buggers can ran! Where did it come from? The whole place was protected with extremely tall walls, it’s a fort for crying out loud. I hope the place had better security systems back in the day!
The porcupine was making a break for it and ended up running into what seemed like a drainage sewer. Then for some reason, the army guys were super touchy about it, blowing whistles, and making people move along, as if this was a matter of top secret government interest. Because yes, that porcupine did look like a fanatic terrorist and we were all in mortal peril. We did move along, go and see the fort, and miraculously happened to be leaving through the same courtyard when the porcupine was finally retrieved from inside it’s haven, caught in what looked like a large fishing net, and carried across the courtyard.
Except the guys doing the carrying were ¾ of the way across the courtyard and then stopped, apparently they hadn’t considered what they were going to do with the porcupine once they caught it, or where they were heading with it. Poor little Porky! He probably just wanted to check out the Fort, it is a very impressive sight! I think he was my favorite part of that day.
Ordering food in India is a hazard. Sometimes the waiter only takes one person’s order and then walks away. As if there were not two people sitting at the table and they both may have been hungry. At one place we were at in Jaipur we were waiting and the waiter walked by and literally threw a plastic pack of napkins on the table. Thanks. At the pasta restaurant, a very swish place, we ordered a bottle of mineral water, and the waiter brought it to the table and presented it as if it was a bottle of expensive wine, label up, for my inspection. Yes, that’s the vintage I want, giardia free. Merci garcon.
We took a tuk tuk at one point and the dude had it jacked up with a heavy duty speaker system and all kinds of frills. He also happened to be an eclectic music fan, so we were blessed with a tuktuk ride featuring Willie Nelson crooning about getting back on the road again and Bruce Springsteen dazzling us from Thunder Road. Maybe it was his Road Playlist. Ironically, he then started scolding us for paying the exorbitant amount we had paid ($100) to buy a flight from Jodphur to Delhi so we didn’t have to spent 10 hours on a train. Um, dude how much of your hard earned rupees did you spend on this sound system and the sticker on the back of your tuk tuk telling people to “Honk if you’re Horny”??? I’ll take the flight any day.
In Jaipur, we had an amazingly hot shower. So hot it would give you third degree burns. And thus began the delicate balance of scalding hot water mixed with droplets of cold to avoid complete body disfigurement.
Well that’s all from Jaipur, also known as the Pink City, also known as the City of Victory.
Though since porcupines can break through the fortress battlements, not sure how those victories came across…
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