Arrived in Jaipur late at night - Diwali lights were visable as we landed it looked pretty amazing. My taxi was waiting and I was whisked off to my hotel. The traffic is pretty bad even though it was midnight, lots of motor bikes, tuktuks and scooters. The hotel didn't look too bad but not up to my usual standards and certainly not a patch on the Element!! Once I'd checked in I went straight to bed and slept well.
Day 2 Travel to meet the group at The Amber Fort.
Had the buffet breakfast – less than £3.00 - didn't have a lot of the usual stuff but had lots of Currys, tomatoes, omelette, cereal and toast, so enough to make a good breakie. Asked if I needed to check out but was told I didn't so no extra stuff to do. I arranged a taxi to the Amber Fort to meet ‘THE GROUP'. We set off – the road we were going to take was jammed with cars and Tuktuk, I've never heard so many horns, or seen such chaos, the driver did a u turn and we headed a different way lots of cows, dogs and pigs to avoid.
Arrived safe and sound – surprisingly - and Promod, the Intrepid tour gide, was waiting to meet the taxi. He explained the plan for the day and offered me a lift in a vehicle up the hill - I took it. This was where I met my new roomy, Charlotte, she is American – I'm destined to share with Americans – probably in her mid twenties and on a round the world trip heading East. Her itinerary is very different from mine but she is heading into Bali so we might have something to chat about. She’s apparently not feeling 100% hence the ride up the hill. Once at the Fort I met the rest of the group Phil and Amanda, Ed and Carmen (on honeymoon) and Dave all from the UK. Fiona and Mike, Lucy and Lizzie and Doug from Australia (Lucy is an ex-pat living in Sydney), and the afore mentioned Charlotte an American.
The Amber Fort was pretty amazing – it’s name has nothing to do with its colour even though it looks orange. The fort was built in the 16th century by a trusted general of Akbar Maan Singh. Later, Maan moved to Jaipur and started to rule the area surrounding the fort which was called the Amer state. Amer fort or Amber fort is located a little away from the main city of Jaipur. It is an important tourist destination in this city.
Amer fort was built with red sandstone and white sandstone. The fort still stands as a grand example of ancient Indian architecture. It is known for its blend of Rajput and Hindu style of architecture and mixture of Hindu and Muslim style of ornamentation. The carvings on the ceiling and the walls are extraordinary features of this fort. There are many paintings of ancient hunting styles, portraits of important Rajput rulers and others. There are a series of gates in the fort and each one has a unique structure and architectural element to marvel at. There are many buildings inside the fort including Diwan-e-Aam, SukhMandir, Sheesh Mahal and others.
Diwan-e-Aam or Hall of public audience is a large hall that stands from the support of two rows of pillars. Each pillar is ornamented. The hall is open on three sides. The king used to sit in the hall and listen to the queries of common men. This hall is famous for its mosaic glass works. Kings also used to meet important ministers and guests in this hall.
Sukh Niwaas or Sukh Mandir is a hall made with sandalwood and ivory. It is located right opposite to the Hall of public audience. There is a small channel that runs through it that carries cold water. This is an ancient method of keeping the place cool. Though the term ‘Mandir’ is used in the name, this is not a temple. It is a hall where kings and queens relax. The name can be translated as residence of pleasure.
Sheesh Mahal or the Mirror Palace is the most beautiful part of this fort. This palace has been used as a location for many local movies. The walls and the ceilings in this palace are carved with beautiful flowers and other paintings made with glass. A queen of the fort used to love sleeping under the stars. It is said thatfor the ancient custom of the land did not allow women to sleep in open air. The King called upon the finest architects in the region to solve the problem. Thus, the mirror palace was built. It is said that if two candles are lit in the palace, it would look like thousands of stars glittering in the ceiling.
Kesar Kyaari or Mughal Gardens have a beauty that cannot be tallied by simple gardens that you see around the country. This part is located on Maota Lake, in front of the fort. The garden is formed in a star shape. It is said that saffron flowers were planted in the garden. Now, climatic conditions do not allow saffron plant to thrive in Jaipur. You can find beautiful flowering plants in the garden now.
We returned to the bus and headed for the hotel – annoyingly I ended up having to check out of my original room and move into a twin room to share with Charlotte. The room was not as good – at the rear of the hotel and next to two air con units so a bit noisy, I’m surprised how easily I sleep with all the noise.
The next thing was an orientation walk around Jaipur (The Pink City). It’s Diwali so everything is manic, lots of lights, noise, music and food. The walk took us down one of the main streets which was full of lights and people all wishing us Happy Diwali. A plethora of things to see and sensory overload. The walk took us to Hawa Mahal, and a number of sights which I’ve now forgotten the names of!
On our return to the hotel we boarded the bus for a Diwali party, Pramod explained what the celebration was all about and he and our 2 drivers organised food (a sweet chickpea concoction) and drink – gin and lemonade both of which flowed freely. We danced in the aisle and had a thoroughly good time.
Dinner was quite late so non of us ate very much and we retired to bed after eating. The late hour wasn’t a problem as we didn’t need to get up too early tomorrow.
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