Having only been in Delhi for 2 days, we were off on a 3 day trip that would take us to Jaipur, Agra and back to Delhi. Since I had only just scratched the surface of Delhi, I wondered what I would find on our journeys to other areas of the country.
We zoomed out of Delhi as the sun began to rise. The buildings and congestion slowly gave way to open fields filled with the bright yellow flowers of mustard plants. Intensely colored saris dotted the landscape of the small towns that we drove through and in the fields of the countryside, creating a rich visual experience.
As we got further away from Delhi, the make-up of the traffic changed, adding in to the mix carts driven by oxen and most surprisingly for me, carts driven by camels! Somehow I had never thought of camels being in India, an animal that I most associated with the Middle East. But there they were, hauling loads, an integral part of transportation in these regions. The traffic became even more interesting as we entered the streets of Jaipur, with all of the motorized vehicles, rickshaws, camels and oxen converging together to tangle up traffic in impossible to get out of knots. Our driver Dinesh was unfazed by it all and even in the most bottlenecked areas was able to maneuver through it to our destination.
We picked up a city guide and went to our first stop, the Amber Fort. Construction began in 1592 under Raja Man Singh I, army commander of Emperor Akbar, and completed by his descendant Jai Singh I. The fort houses the palace complex and is a beautiful fusion of Mughal and Hindu architecture, built of red sandstone and white marble. When gazing out from the ramparts of the fort, the first thing that strikes you is the fortified wall that serpentines up and over the surrounding hills, very much like the Great Wall of China and Maotha Lake below, a picturesque view to say the least. Elephants walk through the great palace courtyard, depositing riders from below at the entrance to the palace. We easily spent several hours in the fort, going from room to room, exploring the different sections of the palace and the Shila Mata Temple housed within it. The palace itself has no furnishings, leaving you to focus on the architecture, although I somehow wished that there was some type of furnishing to give you an idea of how the people who inhabited this great space lived.
From the Amber Fort, we dashed across town for lunch at The Copper Chimney restaurant. In the center of the restaurant stands an actual copper chimney, thus the name. We dined on a mix of Mushroom Mattar, Paneer Tikka, Vegetable Biryani, Chicken Tandoori and Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken) along with the requisite Garlic and Plain Naan. The surroundings were pleasant, the service excellent and the food was delicious. A nice respite from the bustle outside, we had a pleasant lunch here and I would recommend it heartily to other travelers coming to Jaipur.
After our satisfying lunch, we continued on to the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. It is mostly a facade that was built in 1799 for the ladies of the royal household to enjoy the breeze and to look out upon processions in the street below, without showing themselves to the people below. Although the facade is beautiful, I highly suggest that you go inside, as the structure is quite interesting and I loved gazing out from the screened windows and imagining what it would have been like for the women of the royal court.
Then we went on to the Jantar Mantar, a observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh II, ruler of Jaipur from 1699-1743 and a learned astronomer. The purpose of the observatory was to precisely fix the astrological dates, important to the Hindu people as these dates governed their lives. The observatory consists of oversized instruments that to this day accurately tell time and determine dates.
We then proceeded to a view of the Jal Mahal, or Lake Palace, built in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, a man made lake created in the 16th century after the construction of a dam. The 5 story palace was a getaway spot for the royalty and from the shore seems to beautifully float upon the water.
As we made our way to our hotel, we made one last stop at a hill that had a beautiful view of the city at dusk. We climbed a section of the Jaipur wall to get the best vantage point and shared the view with numerous monkeys.
We finally arrived at our hotel, the Shahpura House. Built in traditional Rajput architectural style, a mix of Mughal and Hindu, the hotel was a pleasant end to a vey long day. As we registered, the manager brought us glasses of a hot tomato based soup to sip and then we were taken to our rooms. The marble floored rooms were quite pleasant and interesting in that they gave a true feeling to the culture of the area, as opposed to a generic hotel that we might have stayed at. We had a light dinner at the rooftop restaurant, where we were entertained by local musicians and dancers throughout the meal. As we were all exhausted by that point, we turned in early in anticipation of our next day’s journey to Agra and the famed Taj Mahal.