Since arriving in the north of India we have been hitting the tourist trail hard. After leaving Agra we took to the rails once more, and after an afternoon in transit arrived in Jaipur. Some call this the pink city, for 140 years ago, the Raj of the time had all the walls in the city coloured with a red vegetable dye. Now every five years the citizens re-dye their shops and houses to keep the tradition alive.
Rajasthan has a lot of tourist attractions and Jaipur is no exception. We arrived in the city and met a rickshaw driver named Rehan. He was friendly and also fair with his pricing, so we took his number and called him the next day to take us around on a tour. We visited the city palace which housed the various maharajas, and contained an excellent armoury which was stuffed with savage swords with serrated edges and, amongst other items, an axe which shot bullets from the shaft – the tag read: Axe cum gun!
From the city palace we drove up to the Amber Fort which sits on nearby ridge overlooking the city. Most people walk up the last leg, from the car park to the main gate of the fort, but Nicole and I boarded an elephant instead and rode atop the little castle as the giant animal lumbered up the hill. It was a brilliant experience, and one that I had been looking forward to since arriving in India.
The elephant passed underneath the large main gateway and emerged into the fort’s main square. This is where returning armies of old would show off all their loot to the inhabitants who lived inside, and running up from our position was a wide staircase which climbed to a second high entrance leading to the inner fort.
Further inside this inner fort was another maharajah’s palace, famous for its walls which are studded with mirrors and gems. This gave a very opulent feel to the fort, and an appreciation for just how much comfort and style the maharajahs lived in.
The Amber Fort was full of high walkways across the ramparts, and I regressed to a childhood state as I ran from turret to turret. I hadn’t been this excited since I was ten! Inside the fort we also encountered a snake charmer who used a flute to summon forth a cobra from inside a basket. One Indian tourist got a little too close as you can see in the video below!
By this point we were getting hungry and asked Rehan to take us to the best samosa shop in the city. He took us down dusty roads to a small, roadside stand hosting a mountain of savoury treats. We bought a bag of samosas and sat in the rickshaw to tuck in. As I bit into the first one a rising heat nearly blew the top of my head off! The samosa was loaded with so many chillies I could barely talk. Nicole had tears running down her face from the burn and Rehan began to chuckle as he informed us that “Rajasthanis like their food hot”. After having my taste buds burned off from the first samosa I was actually able to enjoy the second one which went down much more quickly.
We then took a look at the Water Palace which sits alone in the centre of a large lake and after that headed to the Hawa Mahal, another building designed to hold the royals and their courtiers. Both were impressive to say the least.
We finished our day by visiting the Jantar Mantar, a massive observatory quite unlike anything you would see in England. For starters, the site was huge. A walled enclosure held vast geometric structures which were used as tools to monitor the stars and tell the time. A central sundial was so large that it could tell the time to an accuracy of two seconds- a remarkable feat considering this was a sundial.
Jaipur had come to represent all the aspects of India that I initially expected to see, but never did in the south. From turbans, to sandstone forts, to snake charmers and piped music, the north of India is much more culturally exciting than the south and I look forward to our next stops of Jodhpur, called the blue city and then Jaisalmer which is known as the golden city.