Before arriving in India, one of my besties, Sunaina, had put me in touch with a travel agent to organise a trip through Rajasthan in the north-west of the country. The agent and I had settled on an itinerary that started in Jaipur, the state capital, and took in Jodhpur and Udaipur also. Guides were organised for each city and the same driver would accompany me for the whole trip.
I arrived in Jaipur late at night and met, for the first time, the driver who would be with me for the next 6 days: Krishana Singh. Uncle Krishana (in Indian society, as in Chinese society, it is traditional to address ones elders as “auntie” and “uncle”) was a smartly-dressed man of inscrutable age (in his forties, I presume) with a stern moustache but kindly eyes. I did not know it then, but I would come to be very fond of him by the end of our time together.
Uncle Krishana dropped me at my hotel with a promise to come to collect me the next morning for a tour of the city.
As I left the hotel in the morning there he was waiting for me. Smart and friendly.
We drove to the first point of interest where we were to meet with Mahesh, my guide for the day. Krishana, as we drove, gave me some advice: “When we get to the Amer Fort there are three ways to get up there: elephant, jeep or on foot. Walking actually gives the best view and is only a short trip but the guide won’t mention it because it’s free.” Let’s see, I thought.
I met Mahesh in front of the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), a part of the women’s section of the City Palace (more on that later). Comprising 953 small windows, the building was constructed in such a way that the ladies of the palace could watch events in the street below without being seen themselves thanks to ornate screens.
As we drove onwards to the Amer Fort, Mahesh explained that Jaipur was nicknamed “The Pink City” as, in 1876, the ruling Maharaja demanded that the whole city be painted pink in honor of a visit from the then Prince of Wales. Quite what the connection is between the colour pink and the British royal family I haven’t quite deduced.
On approaching the fort, Mahesh declared,”There are two ways to get up to the fort: by elephant is 1200 rupees and by jeep is 700 rupees. Which would you prefer?”
“Is it possible to walk?”, I asked, amused at, and thankful for, Krishana’s insight.
Mahesh looked a little put out. “It’s a long walk”, he warned.
“How long is long?” – me
“Well, about a kilometer.” – him
“Great! That’s nothing! Let’s walk then!” – me
“…..” – him
Krishana had, of course, been right. It was much better to watch the elephants from ground level than to be riding one and one got to take in more of the wonderful view.
The Amer Fort, built in the 16th century was, until the construction of the City Palace, the seat of the ruling Maharajas. Sitting proud above the Maota Lake, it is arguably Jaipur’s premier tourist attraction, and deservedly so.
From the Amer Fort we drove to the City Palace, stopping briefly for a pic of the Jal Mahal (water palace) which, as the name suggests, had been built slap-bang in the middle of a lake! Great place to get away from it all but not ideal if you sleepwalk….
Visits to the City Palace and Jaigarh Fort then ensued without anything overly amusing to report so I’ll defer to the photos:
One thing worthy of a separate description was the Jantar Mantar (pronounced Juntur Muntur and enormously satisfying to say), a large collection of astronomical and astrological instruments including the world’s largest gnomon sundial which gives time readings accurate to two seconds!! I’d never heard of a Jantar Mantar before but, now that I have, this Jantar Mantar is definitely the best Jantar Mantar of all the Jantar Mantars I have ever seen.
After bidding Mahesh farewell, Uncle K. and I once more hit the road. Next destination: Jodhpur.