September 4, 2015. Day 3
The drive between Delhi and Jaipur is very long, about 6 hours but I was happy to see the City waking up. A lot of people live in this city. While we complain at home about how bad traffic is, you really haven’t seen bad traffic until you visit India!
We stopped for lunch at the Samode Palace. I can’t even imagine the splendor of this magnificent palace 450 years ago when it was originally built. The luxury of detail is apparent everywhere you look. Hand carved, hand painted arches, in different colors all in sequence and in perfect harmony.
One of the loveliest rooms, done entirely in shades of blue was built exclusively for the ladies. Located on the second floor, it overlooks a large meeting room for men. Thousands of glass mirrors and precious stones decorated the rooms so that when the candles were lit, their flickering brilliance would create a mesmerizing effect. Today the palace is owned by the royal family and is used for special events such as weddings. In fact, they’re preparing to host a wedding reception for 200 guests this very evening.
Lunch was a feast for the senses. Lentils, Paneer Makhani, which is a soft Indian cottage cheese, simmering in spices and tomato sauce. The server, whose name I unfortunately failed to ask, helped in all ways to create a lovely experience. He told me he had been working at the palace restaurant for the past 6 years, and planned on working there 3 more, just so that he can marry his girlfriend. He also told me his parents accepted and were pleased with his bride-to-be because she belongs to their same cast. Post wedding, they plan on moving in with his parents which is the tradition in India where family is the fundamental pillar of financial and emotional support. After lunch we drove back to the hotel. Let’s see what other beauties the ‘Pink City’ has to offer.
September 5, 2015. Day 4
Today was a sunny gorgeous day! I was picked up at 8:30 AM by my guide Mr. Ajay Singh and we travelled to Amber Fort, also known as Amer Fort. Today is a big holiday for Hindus, as it’s Lord Krishna’s birthday. To celebrate, people head to the temple in their best attire. I was impressed by the ladies who walked wearing the most festive and colorful dresses. I was told by Mr. Singh that most people fast all day and then a celebration is held at midnight. Needless to say the Pink City was in a very festive mood.
Arriving at Amber Fort I’m told that to reach the top, I’ll have to climb on an elephant and wow was she was beautiful! Painted with beautiful designs, she was so lovely and gentle, it’s difficult to understand how these giants can be at once so gentle and docile (unless threatened).
Once at the top, we walked around this architectural wonder. The enormous fort from the year 1500, with craftsmanship of Hindu and Rajput style. Impressively, it has its own air-conditioning which operates via an intricate system of water channels that travel along elaborate cavities in the floor carved on the cool stones. This fort was also used as a private residence for the ruler and his family which included not only spouses and children, but nannies and eunuchs. To my surprise, eunuchs had what was considered a very important role, that of watching and recording the royal wives activities to ensure that in case she became pregnant they knew the baby was fathered by the king.
King Maan was a clever man. He built secret passages so that he could visit any of his wives without anyone else knowing. The wives were known to be extremely jealous of the king’s affections and even cooked their meals carefully, fearful they may be poisoned by their rivals.
After Amber Fort we visited the Royal Observatory which was absolutely out-of-this-world. Built by Mogul commander Sawai Jai Singh II it deserves a post of its own. Stay tuned for the rest of my visit to Jaipur, including an unforgettable shopping experience at one of the local markets!