Our first stop in Jaipur was the Amber Fort a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unlike many of the other forts in Rajasthan, many people still live within the fort walls. I didn’t know what to expect. Our driver slowly meandered as fast as traffic would let him up the city streets to the fort. We passed numerous houses, vendors, and indications of continued daily life. We grabbed some samosas from a vendor and found them more spicy and delicious than the samosas in New Delhi. Langur monkeys dotted the roofs of the houses as we passed.
Upon walking up the stone causeway and through the giant wooden doors, into the palace, we were greeted by a fantastic view of the valley and pavilions. As Alyssa looked around, she exclaimed: “I love this place, it’s amazing.” We got an audio guide for Kylie so she could be our tour guide.
Turkish baths, columns made from 5% yogurt, carving and inlay work was astounding! However the most amazing thing for us was the layout. Twists, turns, cubbies, hidden staircases, mini courtyards through four levels of stone. If we played hide and seek here, no one would find anyone! A giant wall snaked over the mountains into the distance and reminded us of our Great Wall hike. We wanted to climb up, but our driver said only local people allowed up (We thought this was a fib so he could get us to the hotel, but we didn’t push the issue).
We stopped by the Lake Palace (Jal Mahal). It was Situated in a middle of Man Sagar Lake. Although extensive restoration projects have been done, the interior is not open to the public. It was a photo opportunity only.
The Wind Palace, properly called the Hawa Mahal, was a short visit. We stopped there and took some photos. This is the back side of the palace. After talking with a local stamp salesman (Arte del Mondo), he said: “The government is lazy in keeping it up, it is not worth going in”. We were short on time so we skipped the visit.
We skipped the royal palace tour and opted to walk around a bit. Like Delhi there was a fascinating mix of new and old. Jaipur, also known as the pink city, was a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of the building have the same pink hue as Hawa Mahal.
Like most tourists we were afforded the opportunity to see a “good friend” who was in the gemstone business. Jaipur is famous for their gemstones and jewelry. The Mughal Emperors used the artisans in the area to fashion their pieces. Consequently generations of jewelry artisans populate the area. Our guide (and salesperson) stated: “We have over 300 families making jewelry in this area, I am a 5th generation jeweler.” He gave a quick tour of how they grind stones to Alyssa and Kylie, but then moved in for the hard sell.