It took nearly five hours to cover the 240+ kilometers from Agra to Jaipur. The streets were dark at around 9:30 PM and we found our way to the newly constructed Marriott. With my cell phone powered off, finding directions wasn’t easy. Stopping and asking the old way didn’t work as many locals didn’t know the hotel. I took out my Kindle and thank God for its global 3G capabilities, was able to find the address after several minutes of waiting. The arrival at the hotel was nothing short of fabulous. The tiredness went away instantly with the sweet upgrade to a ultra-luxury suite. We caught dinner at the Okra which had a great view of the swimming pool and the Jaipur Pastry shop.
The next day we again asked for a guide mentioning that we wanted someone who didn’t oversell purchases. Mr. Mallik was a Botany teacher who had retired on the VRS program and took up to being a guide. He was very informative and suggested a half day tour would be sufficient and avoid repetition like visiting forts of the same kind. It made sense to us. Driving on the streets of Jaipur you get the impression that the city is working to keep visitors happy. The main street is broad enough for three lanes of traffic on each side and lined with nice street lights. Our first stop was the Hawa Mahal, actually its back side with the wall of windows (953 in all) where the royal ladies could watch the life on the streets without being seen. Jaipur is also called the Pink City, due to the dominant color in the monuments and house facades. More than three hundred years back, the city had planned roads that were a perfect grid according to the Hindu Vastu shilpa. The roads are laid out east to west and north to south.
Jaipur is a city of forts. The next stop was at the stunning Amer Fort (aka Amber Fort), built in 1592, sits atop a hill. You can take elephant rides up to the top, but the line was about an hour and a half long. We skipped the elephants and drove as close as possible to the Lion gate entrance. The Ganesh Pol (Entrance) leading to the private residences, the darbar Hall, the latticed gardens, Mirror Palace – where Moghul-e-azam was filmed (Pyar kiya tho darna kya performance) all make up interesting visiting. Surrounding the fort are plantations of Acacia which is an expensive crop. The government owns the lands and they auction off the crop upto Rs. 700 per Kg; compare this with the rate of Rs. 2 per Kg for tomotoes.
Jaipur is one of the few Indian cities with a huge lake (Man Sagar) within its boundaries I have been to. It also houses the Jal Mahal. The lake and this palace is currently undergoing restoration and rebuilding efforts to make it a tourist hotel. The entire lake is being cleaned 24×7 using equipment stationed permanently on the lake. The plan is to have traditional, custom built boats ferrying visitors to the palace once the restoration is complete.