Since the train from Agra to Jaipur was overnight, we arrived in Jaipur around 8:00AM pretty tired and needing a large coffee. The tuk-tuk/taxi drivers targeted us the second we got off the train knowing we were tourists and would need a ride. They were trying to get us to ride in a tuk-tuk with our luggage in the cold but we managed to insist on a car, beat up as it was…it should be able to get us to our hotel.
We arrived at the Marriott where as soon as we pulled into the driveway, two guards checked the car with a dog and then we had to put our things through the metal detector before allowed to walk into the lobby. The hotel was really nice…modern, clean and very spacious. We checked in and after explaining our obnoxious delayed train ride…the manager had two cappuccino’s sent immediately up to our room and told us to help ourselves to a complimentary breakfast in the main restaurant. Since we stay at many Marriott’s, we have earned “gold status” which really is worth being loyal to this hotel chain…it gives free internet, free breakfast and free access to the “lounge” which has food, drinks and space to sit around. This particular hotel didn’t have the lounge set up yet so instead, they said we could eat/drink in their bar during happy hours daily for free and during the same hours could also eat/drink in their coffee shop for free. We like this place already!
We got up to our room and got cleaned up as we sipped on our coffee. As much as we both could have taken a long nap, we decided to push through. Breakfast was delicious…it was a huge buffet with cooks at each station making things to order but all with an Indian flair. We tried an Indian fried bread dipped in several sauces…with multiple spices and beans. We tried waffles fresh made with berries and a frittata. They also had fresh squeezed juices of various kinds…watermelon, cucumber, orange etc.
After breakfast, we hired a driver for the day to take us around to the sights of Jaipur. Our first stop was to the Amber Fort which was built-in 1592 and made of red-sandstone and marble. It stood tall on the top of a hill and as we approached, we first saw the huge fortress wall going up and around the hill…it reminded us of the great wall of China on a smaller scale. The area was very sandy and the stone fortress sort of melded right into the hilltop. We drove up the hill through the small cobblestone streets until we reached a parking lot. Giff and I got out and continued to walk until we reached the ticket booth.
We entered the fortress through the Suraj Pole (Sun Gate) which is the main entrance and first main courtyard of four. The architecture was of Islamic and Hindu style and the colors on the walls were warm with turquoise, greens, pinks and brick tones. There was also a lot of marble lattice-work which back then was used as a screen so that the Royal women could watch the festivities going on in the courtyards below without being seen. I cannot imagine my group of girlfriends agreeing to stay behind a screen while watching the men party…
The fortress was quite large so Giff and I had fun getting lost within the palace grounds…up windy stairways leading to other rooms and balconies with views of the mountains and surrounding wall of protection. One of the highlights of viewing this once used royal palace were of course the monkeys! These monkeys were different from those we saw in Cambodia and Agra…these were long-haired monkeys and quite big. They were just sitting around on the walls of the fortress keeping their eyes on the tourists for any crumbs of food or drinks of water. Their faces were a dark brown color with long white/tan fur…they had really long tails and big brown ears. They were not scared of humans at all…Giff and I with our new-found love for monkeys took pictures and with nothing to feed them…found a mint in our pocket. Giff reached over shyly and the monkey reached out to take the little white candy. He put it in his mouth and then took it back out, then put it back in…a monkey with good breath! It was kind of surreal to be standing in this old royal fortress with the background of mountains and Islamic architecture while Giff sat on the wall right beside a monkey. This around the world trip is so amazing and we are so lucky to get this experience.
After the fortress, the driver took us to a nearby smaller fortress which held the world’s largest cannon. It was kind of a tourist trap…there was not much to see and the locals pretended to welcome us…they seem very friendly seeing what we were looking at, they offered more information as to the history…which we were thankful for until they reached out their hand for money…the 5 sentences they offered is worthy of pay according to them. It was a big turn-off because it forced us to be less friendly knowing at the end of the conversations with these strangers they would want money. The cannon itself had a range of 22 miles when fired although was never really used. After the cannon, the driver drove us within the walls to a little area where they had a touristy store and snacks…we told the driver we had no interest and were not happy with his taking us to this place. There were a couple aggressive monkeys on our way back to the car, they were actually on someone else’s van just sitting on it and they seemed very mischievous. Giff decided to feed them a chocolate bar…it was very funny to watch Giff who is a pretty big guy run from the monkeys as they came after him for more.
We were ready to go back to the hotel since we were on minimal sleep but were watching the busy streets as we went by…the whole city was built-in that red-sandstone color which made everything look kind of pink with the sunlight…hence the name Jaipur, the pink city. The streets were jam-packed with people…every inch of space was covered with animals and people. There was a large park we passed by which was really quite depressing. A park should be a little space away from the hustle and bustle…a patch of green to escape the concrete, a place to relax. This park did have some green but you could only find it between the piles and piles of garbage scattered throughout the whole area. There were no garbage cans…the ground is where it all goes, so it isn’t in one area…it’s wherever people are standing and that is everywhere. Amongst the mud and garbage, people were sitting and laying in it…
Back at our hotel, we had our car checked by the guards, walked through the detector again and went upstairs to grab our computer. As we typed away on the internet, we snuggled in at a table in the bar, ordered some snacks/drinks and enjoyed our free happy hour. We relaxed the rest of the evening and went to bed early.