We arrived into Jaipur late Thursday night and were greeted like royalty at the heritage hotel we had booked for the weekend. The entrance was absolutely magnificent and the entryway to the hotel had gold-plated everything. It was quite a sight to see. We were fairly worn out from a long day in Delhi and even though it was an easy flight, we decided to enjoy some drinks at the rooftop bar and then call it a night early so we could wake up early for a day of sightseeing.
Bright and early Friday morning we enjoyed an authentic Indian restaurant at the hotel and then made our way to the first attraction of the trip!
Frequently cited as one of the most popular and famous palaces in Rajasthan, Amber Fort (or Amer Fort as some write it) did not disappoint. It is incredible. Built in 1592, it was constructed by Raja Shri Man Singh Ji Sahib, a war chief and trusted general of Emperor Akbar.
This was the highlight of Jaipur for me. The views were just magnificent. You can see the different rooms that served various roles. The Diwaan-e-Aam and Diwaan-e-Khaas are two rooms where the king is said to have entertained guests and listened to the needs of the public. By far the most famous space is the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace) which was absolutely incredible. The whole space, walls and ceilings, are covered in beautiful patterns made of glass.
Several things to note:
1) DONT WEAR YELLOW! The bugs love it and will not leave you alone. Luckily my friends encouraged me to power through, even though I almost broke down and bought an overpriced t-shirt. Once I got to the top of the hill the bugs had mostly moved on to other victims.
2) You can ride an elephant to the top of the fort. The cost was like 1200 rupees for 2 people, but our group decided to forgo that experience. I am not an PETA fanatic or crazy animal activist, but one look at these elephants and you could tell that their care was not at the top of anyones priority list. They were beautiful and amazing to see up close, but think through if you really need to feed into that particular piece of tourist hype. No judgement should you choose to partake, just think about it first. For us, it just wasn’t worth it. Even if it would have been a sweet Instagram photo!
3) Take water, buy water, water, water, water. Jaipur is HOT. However, the walk to the top only takes about 20 minutes (and this is factoring in our million and one photo stops). So it could be worse 😉
Jal Mahal (Water Palace)
On our way up to the Amber Palace we had passed Man Sagar Lake, which is the artificial body of water that was created around the Jal Mahal, commonly called the water palace. It actually continues another 4 floors underwater and quite an engineering feat when you think about it. The majestic palace is amazing to look at, but unfortunately, you aren’t able to actually get out on the water to see it up close. It was constructed in 1750 and uses a special lime mortar to keep the water from seeping through it. Impressive how well it has held up considering it’s age and proximity to mother nature. We didn’t go see it all lit up at night, but apparently that is a gorgeous site to behold as well.
At this point we were all getting pretty exhausted, but we had a rickshaw driver who spoke great English and was very animated who pushed us on to the last destination for the day, the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds). As one of the most common tourist attractions, it was surrounded on all sides by vendors touting their goods and it was a very busy area, so we were immediately overwhelmed, but we soldiered through and found the ticket office we were able to get a composite ticket with our student IDs for only 200 rupees. It ended up being a great deal because we got into all of the places we wanted to see with that one ticket, expect for City Palace which was not included in the price.
This place is also beautiful, but we had seen so many photos of it plastered all over Jaipur and in the airport that i think our hopes were a little too high. It was still beautiful and worth the visit, but it was smaller than what we had envisioned. It was constructed in 1799 and has 953 windows! It was designed with the intention of allowing royal women to view everyday life without being seen since they never appeared in public.
After a mid-afternoon nap and a bit of freshening up, we made our way out for dinner. We were going to go to a well recommended rooftop spot, but it was all booked up so we made our way to a cafe nearby for dinner. It was started by a few Indian friends who had studied in the Western world and wanted to create the cafe atmosphere they had seen abroad. I really enjoyed it and they had free wifi, great coffee drinks, and games to play; which is the way directly to my little millennial heart. I loved it and althoguh the service wasn’t spectacular, I want them to make it, so I gave them 5 stars on TripAdvisor. Again…a little free wifi and good coffee goes a long way with me 😉