We drove from Ranthaborn National Park to Jaipur, a journey of nearly four hours. It was an interesting drive through some of the Rajastan countryside which was very green and colourful a mixture of hilly areas and flat land. As we arrived in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan which is popularly known as the “Pink City”, we knew immediately that we were going to like Jaipur. Built in sandstone, it is named after its famous founder, warrior and world-famous astronomer, Maharajah Jai Singh II (1699-1744 ).
For hundreds of amazing photos of Jaipur, open this link.
We spent three leisurely nights in Jaipur. We had our driver, Harry, who had been with us in Delhi and we met him again in Agra. Also we had an excellent guide in Jaipur, even though all of the guides have been very good, but some have very broad accents and are a little difficult to understand,”oh goodness gracious me!.
The major highlights of our visit to Jaipur were:
- Amber Fort, outside Jaipur
- City Palace, in old city of Jaipur
- Jantar Mantar also known as the Astronomical Observatory, Jaipur
- Wandering around market in old city of Jaipur (open this link for photos)
- Family dinner at home of direct descendant of Maharaja of Jaipur – eight generations later
After breakfast in our hotel, we drove just outside Jaipur to the ancient capital of Amber to see the fabulous Amber Fort. Maharaja Mansingh, Mughal Emperor Akbar‘s most successful general, started the construction of Amber Fort in the 17th century. Before the City Palace was constructed in Jaipur, Amber was the seat of power. The fort is surrounded by fortified battlements and overlooks the moat lake. Ruins and remains are spread over the Aravalli hills.
To reach the fortress, we had the very kind help of an elephant. Sitting up high on this majestic animal, we had amazing views in all directions. However, Alf was looking forward to the completion of this journey, as the elephant in front kept spraying him and he was not wild about the cooling technique! Once at the top, we strolled through the sprawling complex of courtyards and halls. Many of the rooms have delightful wall paintings, with precious stones and mirrors inlaid in the walls. Most fascinating, perhaps, is the Sheesh Mahal (hall of mirrors) where a single lamplight is reflected in the many mirrors, lighting up the room and making it shimmer and glitter.
En-route to Amber, we stopped at the `Palace of Winds‘, otherwise known as Hawa Mahal. It is really an elaborate facade behind which the ladies of the court used to watch the daily goings on in the street below. It is extremely intricate in its pink sandstone carving. The cool wind blows through its facade of windows and latticed screens through which the queens of the court enjoyed viewing the streets of the city.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed a half day sightseeing tour of Jaipur city. This began with a visit to City Palace. The magnificent City Palace is in the centre of the pink city of Jaipur, enclosed by high walls, with fine gardens and courtyards. Since, Jai Singh built it in 1728, it has been the principal residence for the Maharajas of Jaipur and the successive rulers have each added their own personal touch to it.
We then walked to the adjacent Jantar Mantar, also called the Astronomical Observatory, made by the Maharaja of Jaipur, built in 1726, and is one of the five such astronomical wonders constructed by Sawai Jai Singh and makes accurate predictions, even to this day.
We also visited the museum, which houses a very fine collection of some of the royals finest brocades, silks, garments and robes some dating back to the 17th century.
Our sightseeing in Jaipur and its surrounding sites was extremely interesting, but for the rest of our time here we chose to spend it at leisure and enjoyed the shops and bazaars, by that stage knowing exactly how to handle the annoying vendors that keep pestering us with their “pure cashmere pashminas” and if you don’t want that they have gold bangles, socks, t-shirt, handbags, in fact they have it, whatever “it” is that you want, or in our case don’t want and they will give us discount, surprise, surprise!
Our final evening in Jaipur, we were invited to dinner with a local family. This family was direct descendants of the maharajah and were eighth generation. It was a very interesting evening and included a cooking demonstration. The home was a family home, but that means the home for five families, including sons and their wives and children, servants and dogs. Each family had their own apartment and the only part of the house that was shared, was in fact the kitchen. It was a heritage property, but they received no aid from the government for maintenance, so from time to time, they invite foreign tourists to dinner and that brings them some much-needed revenue to maintain this beautiful property and its antiques. The food was very nice and we had some interesting conversation.
For us, Jaipur will always be remembered as both stunning and special.