Back to India – Jaipur

On 22nd March 2018 we got a flight from Kathmandu back to India to spend the next four weeks exploring more of this amazing country. Sorry Nepal, apart from your beautiful Himalayas, you weren’t really for us. We were happy to be back in India!

We landed at around 1pm and had given ourselves a few hours before we had to take a train that would take us into the state of Rajasthan, probably one of the most popular states to visit in India. Our first stop was to Jaipur. We got a taxi for around 450 rupees (£4.90) from the airport to the Delhi Sarai Rohilla train station which is the older of the two stations in Delhi and our train was a huge double decker which was pretty cool. It was around a five hour journey to get to Jaipur and we had booked a later train, at 5.30pm, to make sure that we wouldn’t miss it after our flight or have to rush around Delhi which was a good call because our flight had been delayed by over an hour.

Jaipur is the largest city in Rajasthan and was India’s first planned city a bit like how Canberra, Australia’s capital city, was planned from nothing. There are a lot of tourists who come to Jaipur as it’s one of the points on the ‘golden triangle’ which is a tourist route that links Delhi, Jaipur and Agra – probably the most common tourist route in all of India. For us, it was the first stop in seeing a lot more of Rajasthan as we had heard good things about the state.

Jaipur is also referred to as the Pink City due to the colour of the buildings within the ‘old city’. We were told by our tuk tuk driver that people actually get fined within the old city if they paint their house any other colour so it’s taken very seriously. The colour comes from a paint which was designed to imitate red sandstone. I think the buildings look more orange than pink but I’m probably just being a bit pedantic there!

When we left the station we got in a tuk tuk with someone called Babu who was a very happy man who talked our ears off the entire way to the hostel. He was nice and also offered his services as a driver for a day to see some of the sites further away which is very common in Jaipur and we had to emphasise that it was very late and we had been travelling the entire day before he stopped showing us his book of reviews from past customers! We stayed in a hostel called Lostouse which seemed to be very new and was very nice. It also had a good restaurant that made really nice milkshakes which we had every day we stayed there so that always makes a place a winner with us!

On our first full day in Jaipur we explored on foot and headed into the Pink City. The city has a number of entranceways that are framed by grand archways over each road into the old city – we entered through Ajmeri Gate. The biggest adjustment we had to make whilst we were in Jaipur was the heat. We had come from low twenty degree heat in Nepal to mid-thirties in Jaipur which took a bit of getting used to and wiped us out a little bit so our first day exploring was very tiring! Jaipur is known for its shopping and everywhere we looked there were bazaars or standalone stores selling everything from clothing, hand made shoes, wall hangings and leather work. With all the travelling we had left to do we weren’t able to shop but it was nice to look at the pretty fabrics as we passed, although you had to do it skilfully to avoid being hounded by the sellers!Our first official stop for the day was to the City Palace. The palace was built between 1629 and 1732 by Sawai Jai Singh II who ruled over a city called Amber before constructing the city of Jaipur. He moved into the City Palace and had moved due to an increased population and water shortages in Amber. A later ruler called Maharajah Ram Singh is credited for the colour of the city after ordering it to be painted pink in honour of a visit from King Edward VII.

Entrance to the palace came with a combo ticket that got us into other tourist destinations in the city which was handy and showed that they had properly geared the city for tourists with it being part of the golden triangle. We also noticed this from the number of tourists around which we weren’t used to from our time in India (except for the Taj Mahal of course).

The palace was very pretty with a few different buildings inside the main complex and nearly everything covered in floral details and designs making the place look grander than the other pink buildings outside its walls. The palace wasn’t huge so it didn’t take us too long to look around but we took our time anyway, stopping in shade regularly because it was very hot! I enjoyed the detail that we could see everywhere we looked from the paint work to the carvings in the archways and it’s mad to think how long it actually would have taken to do it all.My favourite part of the palace was in a courtyard which had four entranceways depicting each season. One of the seasons was depicted by peacocks which was my favourite but they were all decorated so beautifully.Our next stop was to Hawa Mahal, also known as the Palace of Winds, which is on the edge of the City Palace complex. This also had links to the ladies’ chambers in the palace. It was built to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life and festivals that occurred in the streets without being seen. This palace looked directly onto the main road so would have been the perfect place for the royalty to people watch unnoticed. The palace was narrow and tall and as you went up to the higher floors there were loads of small windows to look through before reaching the top which offered views over some of the city towards the fort and Jantar Mantar. The architectural design of the building meant that a breeze can move through the building so it was a popular summer time spot to try and cool down.Jantar Mantar, where we went next, is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments built in 1734. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s name comes from Sanskrit and literally translates to mean ‘calculating instrument’. This place was interesting but it would have been better with an audio guide or something to explain all of the instruments a bit better. It was also nearing the hottest part of the day and, by design, the place offered pretty much no shade so we struggled to stay out in the sun reading all of the information boards they had. This site has an enormous sundial which is the largest stone sundial in the world and it’s amazing that the sun dials they have here are still so accurate.

The next day we had organised to look at sites a bit further afield and had booked our tuk tuk driver Babu for the day. He ended up not being able to come and so sent his cousin instead which we already weren’t happy about as we had specifically chosen him not his cousin who we hadn’t met before. We had been asked to be picked up at 9am to get out before the hottest part of the day but our driver ended up never showing up! Thankfully, our hostel sorted us out a new driver quite quickly but it still left us over an hour behind schedule and meant nearly all of our sightseeing happened when Jaipur was at its hottest. Our new driver, Sharif, spoke good English and was informative about the city as we drove around and was able to show us everywhere we had wanted to see that day .

Our first stop was the Jaigarh Fort which was built in 1726. The fort had the purpose of protecting the Amber Fort and the palace as it was located in the Aravalli hills at 400m higher than the Amber Fort.

Our tuk tuk driver dropped us off at the bottom of the Amber Fort which had a path that led up to Jaigarh Fort so we went there first. It was a very hot, long walk to the entrance and once we were there we kind of wished we hadn’t bothered. There isn’t really much to see and it’s not kept in the best shape really, so aside from the views we didn’t think much of it. There is also meant to be a giant cannon here but we couldn’t find that anywhere, very odd! There is the remnants of a cannon foundry here though as there was a lot of iron ore mines in the area and the fort actually became one of the most efficient foundries in the world (back in the day) which explains why they supposedly have such an enormous cannon here, although I’m not so convinced.

The Amber Fort (sometimes named Amer Fort) is a UNESCO world heritage site. The fort was built in 1592 but took years to be completed as new bits were continually being added. It was really nice and predominately made of yellow stone that matched the desert landscape we were now surrounded by in Rajasthan. We enjoyed walking around the fort and got to see some views out into the city as well.

My favourite part of the fort and probably the most popular place for most people when they visit was the diwān-i-khās. This was an entertainment room where the royalty accepted important guests and the whole place was covered in mirrors and silver tiles. It was beautiful and glistening in the sunlight. The pictures definitely don’t do the place justice and it was somewhere you could look at for ages and see a new pattern or mirrored mosaic – definitely a place to impress your guests!

We were at the two forts for a couple of hours and so we were getting into the hottest part of the day at temperatures of around 35 degrees by the time we left so we were hot but managing in the heat. It was cool to look around the Amber Fort and I imagine that it would have been an incredible place to have been brought to as a guest of the state.

Jal Mahal, also known as the Water Palace, was a small stop off during our day. We had thought this would be a lot more than it actually was as you aren’t allowed to go into the palace and we literally had a five minute photo stop on the side of the road looking out onto the palace in the middle of Man Sagar Lake. The palace was built in 1799 and was designed to keep the Royal family cool in the hot summer months. Although the palace is five storeys high, only the top storey is above the water so it looks a lot smaller than it actually is. The other storeys being under the water kept them cool which is really clever. It’s a shame you can’t get across to it to have a better look!

Our next stop was to the Gaitor which is also referred to as the Royal Cenotaphs. This is a royal cemetery that seems to be relatively unknown by tourists as it was empty aside from two other people when we visited. We had been able to use our combination ticket that we bought at the palace the day before which was handy not to have to pay again. The stone monuments are really pretty and are covered in intricate flowered designs and have domed roofs held up by pillars. It was a peaceful place to walk around and even in the midday heat we enjoyed our explore here.

Our final stop of the day was to Galta Ji which is the also referred to as the monkey temple and had a mix of macaques and langurs. Macaques are the brown monkeys that we have seen all over India and South East Asia and we’re slightly weary of them as they’re the type of monkey that attacked Niall and always try to steal your food if they think you’ve got any. We were much more interested in the langurs which were beautiful, big monkeys with extremely long tails, grey fur and jet black faces. Although there weren’t too many langurs, these were our favourite to see particularly as we hadn’t seen them before. To get to the temple our tuk tuk driver parked at a car park and told us to walk up and over a hill. We thought this was because that was the only way to get to the temple but once we got there we saw it was right next to a road and car park and so our tuk tuk driver had just been lazy in not driving us around the mountain and so made us walk instead – very annoying. On our way up to the monkey temple we passed the Sun Temple which was a small stone temple covered in carvings that looked over the city. The temple’s proper name is Surya Mandir which directly translates to mean the temple dedicated to the sun god, hence the name Sun Temple. This Hindu temple was established in the 18th Century but is really only worth a visit for the views. The views were nice over the entire city but we unfortunately couldn’t hang around for too long as we had to remove our shoes to enter the temple but it’s all outside so in the desert heat our feet were burning from the stone floor being heated up so much in the midday sun!

Galta Ji is another Hindu temple but this one has been built into the rock face around a natural spring that’s been turned into a square pool. There are a few temples here in the complex and this is where the monkeys live. Even though it’s free to go in here people wait by the entrances to charge you 50 rupees as a ‘donation’. I had read that the temple was free to enter so knew we didn’t need to pay which was lucky because they act like it’s an entrance fee over a donation so you wouldn’t know you didn’t need to pay. They also charge you for using your camera and this is enforced in the temple by other men wandering around the site so we didn’t take any pictures whilst looking around. It was cool to see the monkeys and it was clever that the temple was built into the rock but there wasn’t as many monkeys there as we had expected. Considering we had been to the monkey temple in Kathmandu, Nepal that was teeming with monkeys, I think we had both expected more monkeys at this temple but, never mind, we still enjoyed it and maybe it made a difference that we got there during the hottest part of the day – they may have all been hiding out of the sun!

The heat had started to defeat us a bit and we had got through everything faster than we had expected and nearly all in the midday heat which hadn’t been the smartest so we decided to head back to our hostel, into the air conditioning and relax for the rest of that afternoon. We took Jaipur at a relaxed pace as we were still recovering from being in Nepal and the last bits of being unwell.

Jaipur had been nice and we had enjoyed our time here but I think both of us had expected a little more from the place particularly as it’s part of the Golden Triangle. Hopefully we would find the rest of Rajasthan more impressive!

Next stop: Pushkar

Sending Love x

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