Just after we finished the Taj Mahal and Agra tour, we were ready to drive 250 km (approx 5 hours) to Jaipur; the Pink City. Jaipur is part of the Indian Golden Triangle, it is the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan and it is well-known as the pink city because of the color of the stone exclusively used for the construction of all the structures.
En route to Jaipur, we stopped to visit Fatehpur Sikri. A UNESCO World Heritage Site located approximately 35 km outside Agra. It was built in the 16th century during the Mughal Emperor Akbar and abandoned 12 years later due to a scarcity of water.
We were looking forward to arriving at our hotel The Samode Haveli. This was the best hotel we stayed it during our visit to North India. This hotel exudes the true Maharaja feel. The whole complex is very charming and super clean. The rooms were filled with original artwork, sculptures and family portraits. It felt staying in a palace!
The Pink City of Jaipur is a pleasant town and home to some superb sights and some excellent local dining places. The Mughal restaurants are delicious. I recommend you try the famous Rajasthani Thali vegetarian. This big platter is served with a selection of various small dishes. Typical dishes include rice, dal (lentils), vegetables, roti, papadoms, curd (yogurt), small amounts of chutney or pickle, and a sweet dish to top it off. Thali is mainly vegetarian but they have meat version too. The Indian sweets are delicious too but it can be overwhelming and not super healthy 😦
The shopping experience is overwhelming in the Pink City. From elegant bazaars to streets markets. An Asian advertising company showed that visitors in Jaipur spend more time shopping than sightseeing. “The epithet of shoppers’ paradise for Jaipur has been endorsed by many in India and abroad. Jaipur also caters to all pockets. You can take home Jaipur in many ways besides photographs,”. My mother-in-law and me were mad about finding the perfect Indian shoes. Unique, nicely decorated with shiny stones and comfortable. This is what we did on our leisure day while my husband, father-in-law and my daughter Sabrina were relaxing by the pool. The variety we found was endless. We simply couldn’t make up our mind. Most of the shoes are those hard leather ones with pointy ends. They are nice but only to walk from the car park to the restaurant! Not very useful. We managed to find some pairs for less than 2 dollars in the street. Nice flat shiny shoes with pointy ends but made of hard leather but made of plastic, I think. I felt like I paid real value for money. They lasted for 3 months after returning home and I got some compliments for them! People couldn’t believe they were under 5 dollars. I should have taken a photo before I put them to sleep forever…
Below are pictures of the astonishing Hawa Mahal also known as the “Palace of Winds” or “Palace of the Breeze”, so named because it was essentially a high screen wall built so the women of the royal household could observe street festivities while unseen from the outside. Constructed of red and pink sandstone, the palace sits on the edge of the City Palace, and extends to the zenana, or women’s chambers.
Coming back to the sightseeing, Jaipur is home to some superb sights including the Amber Fort (a huge fort and palace complex), the City Palace and Jantar Mantar (a huge observatory built in the 1700s by Maharaja Jai Singh. There are plenty of historical artifacts to see and incredible views over the surrounding countryside. Our sightseeing tour actually included all of these places plus the elephant ride on our way up to the Fort. For Sabrina, this was indeed the most fun part of our trip in India (apart from the camel ride). She absolutely loved it as there is no thing like this in First World Countries.
The picture below is one of my favorite. Before going up to the Amber Fort Sabrina, wearing her Hello Kitty T-shirt especially for the occasion, waited to shake hands with the elephant but instead she stroked its trunk. The elephant gently rubbed her trunk onto Sabrina’s arm at the same time looking at her with a special care and cuteness.
The Amber Fort and the City Palace
Our full day sightseeing tour started with a visit to the Amber Fort, 11 kms away from the city. Amber was the ancient capital of Jaipur state. The fort is the principal tourist attraction in the Jaipur area and is stunningly situated on a hill side overlooking a lake. The Amber Fort was built in red sandstone and marble and is a superb example of Rajput architecture. Though the fort is quite old and may even look so from the outside, it is beautiful on the inside and boasts of various buildings of prominence. The climb to the fort is on a gaily bedecked elephants. Our rider told us that they always try to keep male elephants away from the female ones because the two don’t respect each other’s space. Apparently a male elephant succumbs to the charms of his female counterpart. It becomes difficult to manage the scene then. Overall I thought they were very gentle and obedient! beautiful creatures plus the ride was gorgeous! If you want to enjoy this one life time experience you must be there by 8:00 am during peak times because most of the elephants have finished their quote of rides by 11:00. The number of trips each elephant can do in a day has been limited so it is best to head to Amber Fort early in the day to guarantee a ride and avoid the queues.
The Fort’s architecture is a magnificent blend of Hindu and Mughal influences. Made out of red sandstone and white marble, it consists of a series of courtyards, palaces, halls, and gardens. The Diwan-e-Aam or the “Hall of Public Audience” is where elephant arrive and i, the Diwan-e-Khas or the “Hall of Private Audience”(for the Royal Families), the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace) or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over the water cascade within the palace. Perhaps, the most beautiful part of it is the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace) with its intricately carved, glittering walls and ceilings. The complex is incredibly beautiful and the views are gorgeous, take your time and explore every single angle of the complex. As for us, Sabrina was getting cranky so we keep entertainer her most of the time. She expected to come down the Ambert Fort by elephant too but unfortunately you need to walk down or take a taxi. I highly recommend to walk down as the views are amazing.
Get a quick glance at the opulence of the Ambert Fort in the video below.
The Jantar Mantar
The Jantar Mantar is a huge observatory built in the early 18th century by Sawai Jai Singh who was a Rajput king. The observatory consists of fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking star locations as the earth orbits around the sun, ascertaining the declination of planets, and determining the celestial altitudes.
The Vrihat Samrat Yantra is the supreme instrument and is the largest of all Jai Singh’s instruments, with a height of about 90 feet and a base length of 147 feet. The radius of each of the quadrants is 49 feet and 10 inches. It is a sundial that can give the time to an accuracy of 2 seconds.
The City Palace
At this point, Sabrina was already tired, bored and cranky. Conveniently our next and last sightseeing place was the City Palace and the first thing we did was to entertain her by allowing some local women to do henna in her arms. After that we made up some sort of legend about the henna so eventually she calmed down and let us carry on with our tour in a peace.
The City Palace forms one of the most famous tourist attractions and a major landmark in Jaipur. The beautiful palace was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh during his reign. Among the various forts and palaces of Jaipur, City Palace stands apart, with its outstanding art and architecture. The huge complex of courtyards, gardens, and buildings blend both Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. The Peacock Gate is exquisite, and contains an alluring display of detailed workmanship featuring bright peacocks. Today, the royal family lives in the graceful Chandra Mahal (Moon Palace) bordering the courtyard. Also inside the City Palace complex is a museum, art gallery, and interesting displays of royal costumes and old Indian weapons.
The City Palace is a must-see while sightseeing in Jaipur.