Saturday, 23 December 2017


We were all a bit frazzled by the time we got to Jaipur, having been up so early. Thankfully the hotel we were staying at, Dera Rawatsar, was absolutely stunning. They weren't rooms, they were mini suites. Mine had an upstairs and a downstairs, and Dad & Marilyn's had a huge day bed and drapes.

The owners of the hotel are descended from the royal lineage of Rajestan, and the whole hotel has a sense of regalness, with large battle scenes depicted in oils, a swimming pool and an open fire for outside dining.

The doors were even secured using proper padlocks, though this did mean a sliding bolt on both sides of the door, which I suppose means someone could theoretically lock you in.

That night we met with Gopal, who runs the tour company Dad & Marilyn booked everything through: Gopal's Golden Triangle Tours. When we mentioned we were thinking of going out to eat, he offered to drop us at the restaurant.

Thanks again to Google Maps, we'd stumbled upon the Peacock Rooftop Restaurant. It's a little bit of a strange one this, but worth checking out. There's no booking, it's first come, first served. You turn up and give your name, they give you a number and usher you into a side hall with a lot of rocking chairs and old furniture.

The odd thing is that there's no drinks or refreshment whilst you wait, so if there's a lot of people before you, you might want to reconsider. Thankfully, we were number three in the line. Our name was called and we walked up several flights of steps to the rooftop. It's a really nice restaurant with a couple of different levels, including one for music, one with a view of the city and a top tier for smokers, which is clever as the smoke blows up and away. The food was very good.

There was also a replica of the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) across the waiting room wall. We saw the original the next day. It was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, so that his wives could sit and gossip whilst watching the world below. Like everything else in Old Jaipur, it's built from pink stone, as pink signifies 'welcome'.


Today was a long day full of interesting spectacles. After the Mawa Mahal, we travelled out to view Jaipur's Amer Fort. The fort is extremely ancient, with each successive ruler adding to it and expanding it. Amer was the seat of Rahjistan's royal family until the capital moved to Jaipur 300 years ago. Jaipur itself is only 300 years old. The last Queen of Jaipur, Maharani Gayatri Devi, lived in the palace until her death in 2009.

The outer walls of the fort appear to scale the hilltops in all directions. Truly an impressive fete of construction. Whilst admiring the outer walls, a gentleman appeared. A real-life snake charmer, complete with hooded cobra in a basket. The snake didn't seem that charmed, and just sort of sat there whilst the man blew a pungi in its face. It was probably desperate for some peace and quiet.

The best way to get to the top of Amer Fort is by elephant. Marilyn and I joined the queue and climbed aboard.


As we ascended, we caught a glimpse of the Saffron Garden. This was quite a status symbol back in the day, as you needed a lot of water and time to cultivate growth in an area of the country that suffers frequent water shortages. Jaipur is not a region that reliably experiences monsoon. We saw it again from the towers of the fort.

The elephants park up in procession inside an expansive courtyard. There is a building called the Moon Gate, above which is a ceremonial instrument:

The upper floor of this gate was called "Naubat-khana". Naubat is a type of music and "khana" means a place for specified thing. This place used to have kettle drums and other musical instruments which were used in various occasions and events. It was believed that playing Naubat was the tradition from the time of Alexender the Great. This music has its own specific rules to be followed when it is being played, no one was allowed to speak during the event.

Ceremonial Drum

Then it was up the stairs and into the fort, with a grand view of the courtyard below.

As with all palaces, this one had a diwan-i-aam, which is the public meeting hall where the king would listen to the complaints of his subjects and receive tributes.

Elephants with Lotus Flowers in their Trunks
The craftwork inside is truly something, using ground precious stones to paint the marble, as well as inlay.

Painted with rubies, emeralds, onyx and other precious stones.

Because the region grows very hot and there's not a lot of water, an artificial waterfall was created within the palace, which flows into the garden, helping to cool the air.

Waterfall Running to the Inner Garden

One of the most spectacular rooms is the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace). It seems to be a feature of several palaces, to decorate entire halls with tiny pieces of mirror. At the fort in Agra, one of the queen's bath houses was also called the Sheesh Mahal. You weren't allowed to enter, but someone made a video to show what happened when the bath house was lit by candles. Our guide showed us.

At Amer Fort, the Sheesh Mahal was more open to the daylight, designed to reflect back the image of the king's many beautiful wives as they walked beneath.

The attention to detail in every little part is really impressive...


We saw this man working to restore parts of the palace - a lifetime's work. There was also a bath house on site, where nobles would immerse themselves in water, no doubt talking politics and pleasure.


The further through the palace you walk, the older the architecture becomes. The very oldest part can be seen up on a hill, but not accessed.

Whereas the later kings had many wives, some over a hundred, one of the earliest founders of Amer only had twelve. They lived in separate palaces around a courtyard, three on each side, with this meeting point in the middle where they would sit if they were feeling sociable.

This inscription was found beside a basil bush within the old quarters. At the Tropical Spice Plantation in Goa, we learned that you can tell a Hindu household by the presence of a basil (tulsi) plant outside. This information explains more about what it means.

After Amer, we made a brief stop by the riverside to look upon the Jal Mahal (Water Palace). This was a summer residence for the royal family, with four floors beneath the water to keep them cool. It was built in the 1700s by Maharaja Jai Singh II, but is now apparently going t be tuned into an expensive hotel.

I managed to take a snap of the book I'm currently reading: The Palace of Illusions by one of my favourite authors, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. It seemed like a fitting spot. Incidentally, also on sale at the bookshop at Amer Fort.

Whilst we were admiring the Water Palace, a young boy approached and asked if he could perform a magic trick for us. A little reluctantly, we said yes. The young magician started out by doing a coin and cup trick, but soon he was making coins disappear and reappear in the most amazing paces. They fell from Marilyn's trouser leg when he shook it, and ended by falling out of my nose! An incredibly young man. Wish I knew his name.

We headed over the road for a quick camel ride. There really is no elegant way to mount a camel. They're rather complicated beasts, with wide backs and - well, a hump in the way.

The face of the man under the steps says it all.

We went for a little stroll up the main road, which was pleasant enough until we turned around into oncoming traffic. 

Our final stop for the day was at Jantar Mantar, the observatory. It's really worth reading up on this. It's quite astounding how mathematically and scientifically advanced India was by the time this was completed in the early 1700s. It was built by King Sawai Jai Singh II and contains the world's largest stone sundial, as well as many other incredible contraptions. I only wish we had been more awake when we visited, by this time we were all flagging a bit so didn't take everything in.

Extremely Accurate Sudail
Contraption for working out where the planets are in the zodiac.

This last one is apparently for predicting whether Jaipur will have a monsoon. It's called the Vrihat Samrat Yantra (Great King of Instruments). It also predicts eclipses.

We drove back to the hotel that afternoon via Jaipur's Albert Hall, a museum built in Victorian times.

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