Wednesday, June 13, 2012

India (Part III) - Jaipur & the Amber Fort

India continued...

So our train rolled into Jaipur's station around 1AM... seeing a trend with 1AM here... and luckily the train attendant that Raja sweet talked woke us up. Upon waking, we were in a bit of a panic as we looked outside to see the station with our blurry eyes. We barreled off the train car to meet our guide and then pack muled our bags (already at this point of the trip they were getting way too full) to the awaiting car.

We checked into our hotel Jas Villas. It was an eclectic retreat, an old mansion turned into a beautiful rental property. The entire property was finely manicured, nicely decorated and clean. The amount of detail and time spent painting intricate floral designs throughout the estate had to be lengthy. It had won rave reviews on Trip Advisor. They hooked me too when they took our reservation on trust and not plastic.
Another early morning out the door before breakfast was served and on our way to the Amber Fort.

We drove through town on the way to the Fort, seeing Jaipur or "The Pink City" in all her glory. The old buildings and bustling city life kept our attention on the drive. We stopped for a few minutes to see Hawa Mahal or "Palace of the Winds". Constructed in 1799, its main street location allowed the women of the royal household to watch the streets below without being seen. They could see through the tiny windows, but no one could see them, as was custom of royal women of the period.
The Amber Fort was amazing! Upon first sight, it almost felt more like we were seeing the Great Wall of China than a fort in India, as its walls carried for miles throughout the surrounding hills. Due to the heat, an 0600 opening time would have been better than the 0800 offered, but we survived (by rushing our guide from standing and talking to walking and talking). The best part of the fort tour is the elephant ride from the valley, up the stone path, under the archways into the fort's center courtyard. Music blared from a courtyard balcony as we entered, feeling like we'd stepped back in time. 
If you go in the summertime to the fort and want an elephant ride, be sure to arrive in plenty of time, as the elephants stop working at 1000 due to the heat. We appreciated that the animals are treated well, loved by their mahouts (who lives with and cares for the elephant with his family), and the wellfare parameters are in place to keep them safe. These are Asian elephants, so are more used to humid jungles to the south than the arid desert areas in Rajasthan.
We drove past the milk market on our way back from the fort. Already I wouldn't be too keen on buying milk from metal buckets... in India... in 100F degrees, but when our guide said people dip their arms in the buckets to check the thickness of the milk...  Mmm, I'll stick to my boxed shelf stable commissary milk. Ixnay on the ilkma arketma.
After a long night and another long and hot day, we ditched our dinner out plan for a cool hotel dinner in the a/c with a coke on ice... and bowls and bowls of fresh mango. We had our dose of chicken tikka masala too, but mango was the show stopper for dinner and breakfast the following morning.
Of course, we enjoyed some hours of shopping for clothing, jewelry, pottery, textiles and coins.
The blue pottery of Jaipur is well known, but so difficult to carry in an already full backpack.
And when you are having tea with the jewelry store owner, that probably means
you bought too much or you're just a chatty Kathy... or both :)

Our last night was spent with a friend in Delhi. I had a chance to meet a fellow blogger friend before she relocated to a new home beyond India, and also had a serendipitous moment of also running into a Dhaka friend while she toured India in the reverse route as us. The world is a small place really, and SO happy to be able to add a pin to India, even if only to a small sliver of the country. 
I'll be back, oh I'll be back, but likely family in tow the next outings, so watch out India!
P.S. Note for all you SE Asia peeps: take your SE Aisa ID card and you may be able to get into some sights for the local price instead of the "foreigner" price. Worked for us at the Taj. Also works for other area countries, namely Nepal.... just learned this 3 days before we went to India. Cha ching! 


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  3. Meenakshi hotel is the best hotel in jaipur, which is near of rail way station, it’s a reasonable luxury hotel which provide facilities in affordable rate. I think its more affordable hotel because it’s a heritage hotel also, once some one used to visit here I think no one can’t refuse for its facility best service.