Confession time – I’m not a big fan of guided tours. Day trips are usually fine, but trips that last longer than that can be frustrating for me. I don’t like not being in control of where I’m going and what I’m doing, and usually I feel like I can do it cheaper on my own, exactly the way I want. But after planning everything else in India, it seemed like it might be a nice break to see Rajasthan on a guided tour, just relax and see the sites, no worrying involved. The next two days of our tour remind me very much of why I dislike guided tours.
After leaving the Amer Fort, our driver proceeded to take us all over Jaipur, stopping at expensive shops, hoping for us to buy things. Having already done my shopping and not having much money left, we didn’t get anything. But that didn’t stop the driver from taking us to 3 or 4 different places. Finally we moved on to the City Palace of Jaipur, where the royal family currently resides.
The yellow buildings are where the royal family live. For obvious reasons, this area was not included on our tour, but it was kind of fun to be only a few feet away.
The rest of the palace that was open to toursits was lovely, though there wasn’t a whole lot to see.
I think the entire purpose of these “guards” was to take pictures with tourists. They don’t look super excited about it, do they?
Just outside the palace is the Jantar Mantar, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This has to be one of the weirdest, yet coolest things I’ve seen.
What looks like the most bizarre sort of playground is actually a monument of astronomical instruments, including the largest stone sun dial in the world. It tells the time accurate to within 2 seconds. Pretty impressive!
This sign explaining how it works doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me. I think it’s saying that each side of the dial has 6 hours on it. Those hours are broken down further into minutes and seconds like usual, but only 15 minutes per hour? How that compares to our regular system of telling time beats me. If anyone gets it, definitely let me know!
When new members of the royal family were born, an adviser would come out here to record the time, location of the sun and moon in the different astrological signs, and many other things, which they believed would help determine the future of the child.
Maggie and I each found our signs!
This was by far the most interesting part of the palace, and I had to demand that our guide take us there. He was originally only going to show us the palace, then take us into an art shop. I’m not sure the artist we talked to was even responsible for the paintings we saw. The demonstration he gave us was fine, but it didn’t look like anything he was selling.
Sucker that I am, I still bought a small painting of an elephant, painted on old recycled paper with some random writing on it. I guess it just goes to show that even when you know you’re being hustled, pretty handicrafts can suck you in.
Sadly, at this point, it was time to take Maggie to the airport. Meike and I had a few more days left on the tour, but Maggie had to catch a flight home. It was sad to see her go.
The next day was our “off” day, meaning we had nothing scheduled to do. Since we needed to get to Jaipur by the previous night for Maggie to catch her flight home, we had cut a day out of Updaipur. This left us an extra day in Jaipur, though we had already seen most of what we had come to see already. Our driver was nice enough to tell us he would come drive us where we wanted to go in the city, but we had to stay in the city. Our first stop was the modern temple, Birla Mandir. It’s beautifully constructed, but no photos are allowed inside.
Our driver then took us into the city and dropped us off to walk around. Jaipur is known as the pink city, and it’s not hard to see why!
We saw the Hawa Mahal or “Palace of the Winds”, but weren’t able to go inside. This is where the women of the royal harem could come to watch parades and other amusements happening in the streets, without being seen.
Yes, this is a snake charmer with a cobra in his basket. It’s just so exactly the kind of thing you would expect to see in India.
We did manage to go up the Isar Lat, or Victory Tower built in 1749. We walked up a very narrow spiral staircase and definitely were out of breath, but the views from up here were worth it.
You can see the Jantar Mantar and City Palace we visited the night before. It’s even bigger looking from up here!
We finished our circuit of the city, wandering around the shops, admiring everyday life for these people.
By early afternoon, we had exhausted everything we could do in the city. Our driver told us if we wanted to pay more, we could go to a traditional Indian dinner show that night, but having just come from a wedding, we decided we had already had a better experience and spent the rest of the day relaxing in our rooms. If it had been up to me, I would have preferred to spend the day really getting out of the city, doing some more site seeing, but I guess it was good for us to relax for awhile as well.