Our day started off with breakfast at the hotel, after which our guide for the day, Mr. Sharma, met us at the hotel and rode to the Amber Fort with us. On the way, we stopped for a photo op of the Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace); not really a palace at all, but a 5-story structure with 152 windows that allowed the royal ladies to watch processions and events on the street below without being seen.
The Amber Fort is situated at the top of a range of rough hills, and we chose to make the ride up on elephants. There was a long line, but it moved fairly quickly, and we amused ourselves with marveling at what some foreigners (especially women) choose to wear in India. It’s like they never read anything about traveling here. I would feel incredibly uncomfortable in some of the outfits I saw! Anyway, I guess if all they’re doing is staying in their hotels, getting on tourist buses to popular historical sites, touring, getting back on the buses, and eating all meals in their hotels, they could remain oblivious, but if they were to walk on the street for 2 minutes, they would immediately realize how inappropriate their clothing is.
So here we are on our elephant, our driver busily counting his money he had made so far off tips:
The Amber Fort is gorgeous, from the entrance onward:
There are several rooms with mirrors covering the walls and ceilings:
One area gave a great vantage point of this garden, designed to look like a Persian carpet:
After finishing our tour of the Amber Fort, we headed on to Jantar Mantar, an outdoor astronomical observatory in the heart of the old part of Jaipur city. It was built in the 18th century and is truly stunning when you think about the science involved. It also houses the world’s largest sundial, which is accurate to 2 seconds.
I had a very bizarre experience at Jantar Mantar; I was wandering a bit by myself, and several young girls in burkas stopped me, holding out a camera. I thought they wanted me to take their photo, but no, they wanted their photos taken with me! It was rather surreal, and I sat with them for several minutes as they rotated in and out of various seating arrangements and cameras. After they left, a little Indian girl wanted her photo with me, too. I dress conservatively here, but I guess my short hair and western clothes make me an oddity anyway.
The last stop on our big day of sightseeing was the City Palace, right next to Jantar Mantar. There was a nice display inside of textiles. It was really cool seeing all the old maharajahs outfits. We also saw a weapons museum, with guns so big they needed 3 men to hold them, and lots of interesting swords and daggers. There’s an inner courtyard that provides access to the family quarters (where the descendents still live), and it has 4 small beautiful gates representing the four seasons. Here’s a picture of part of my favorite gate, the peacock one:
The last room we visited was the Hall of Public Audience, which is now a museum. Portraits of all the former maharajahs ring the room in chronological order, and it was fascinating reading about each man.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel to relax before picking up my earrings in the early evening. They were perfect, exactly what I wanted, and as we were getting ready to leave, Dad just happened to see the most perfect matching pendant. I still think the shop manager planted it there for us to find, it was just too coincidental!
We had a celebratory birthday dinner at the hotel, a meal made up entirely of different delicious appetizers:
There was also a lovely and talented Rajasthani dancer:
And a birthday cake, very thoughtfully provided by the tour company:
All in all, an absolutely wonderful day!