From Agra we drove to Jaipur, stopping first at Fatepur Sikri. Fatepur Sikri was one of Akbar’s greatest projects, to design a perfect town. However he didn’t properly consider the location and a lack of water meant that it was abandoned only a few years after it was completed. The beauty and inspiration of the place has been very well preserved however and some of the design is breathtaking. After an hour or so of exploration we drove on to Jaipur. The hotel was lovely with a pool, plenty of outdoor seating areas, the occasional visiting peacock and a serenity unexpected in its location, and very rare in the busy city of Jaipur. The staff were very friendly too and quite a bit of fun.
The next day I was met by my guide and we did a tour of the palaces of Jaipur - the Wind Palace, effectively just a façade that was built so the royal Rajput women could view the comings and goings of the street, the Water Palace, now permanently flooded. From there we visited the Amber Fort, high up on the hill and we arrived, very royally on elephant back!
After the Amber Fort we drove to the spectacular city palace and the even more extraordinary Jantar Mantar, an observatory built in 1728 by Jai Singh that houses all kinds of incredible instruments including the world’s largest sundial and instruments to measure everything from the height of the North star, local time and various measurements of the heavenly bodies that were used to predict fortunes but also, more usefully effectively predict when the monsoon would start. It was a busy day but a very enjoyable one.
The following day I did my tour of the gem shops and the block print workshop, getting demonstrations of how the famous crafts of Jaipur are created and I was happy to see that there was again no sales pressure, and some beautiful souvenir options.
In the evening I headed to Galta on a whim and was very happy I did. The temple is dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey god and it is considered auspicious to feed the monkeys here. So I bought myself some nuts at the entrance and handfed the monkeys throughout the temple. Some three or four hundred gather at sunset awaiting the feeding, and despite this wonderful spectacle, there were very few tourists around, unlike the main city. On walking back to the entrance there was quite a bit of excitement and as I drew closer I saw why. Perched up on the side of the mountain in the disappearing light was a tiger, surveying the scene. Apparently there had been two of them a few minutes before but I missed one. Still it was the first tiger I had ever seen and was quite exciting. The next day we drove back to Delhi and then it was time to fly back to London. Time up on this trip but as I write Rahul is out exploring the temples of the holiest city of Varanasi before heading to Khajuraho to check out the temples and their saucy carvings from the Kama Sutra. Expect to hear more from him soon.