I’m finally in Rajasthan, where I’ve wanted to visit since I returned from my last India trip. I love the architecture here, and the surrounding hills are lovely.
I arrived in the evening at the Rani Hahal hotel. Of course the rickshaw wallah tried to get me into a different hotel (where he would get a hefty commission), but sometimes, having reservations can be handy. The Rani Mahal is a beautiful building with spacious, clean rooms decorated in typical Rajasthan style. It’s a bit far from the center of town, but I was happy with it nonetheless.
The next day I hired a driver for the day through the hotel. It was pouring rain and I didn’t feel like getting soaked in a rickshaw. So we headed off first to the Birla/ Laxmi Narayan Mandir. The Mandir is a beautiful Hindu temple constructed with white marble, with intricate carvings. From the outside, the temple doesn’t look that large, but the inside is cavernous. It’s not exactly an ancient building though, as it was constructed in 1988.
Next up was the Albert Hall museum. This building was an interesting mix of Rajput and English architecture, and inside was an equally interesting assortment of carpets, paintings, sculptures and textiles. They were really nice to look at, but in large quantities, my interest wanes.
Afterwards I went into the gates of the old city. In 1876, the ruling maharaja had the whole city painted pink in preparation of a visit by the prince of Wales (I found no reference as to why pink and not some other color). Homeowners associations may not exist here, but everyone in the old city still has one choice for exterior paint color: pink.
Within the city walls are the Jantar Mantar, the City Palace, Hawa Mahal and several bazaars. The Jantar Mantar is a group of astronomical structures/instruments built by Jai Singh, a local ruler, in 1728. Apparently he was so into astronomy that he built five of these collections throughout northern India.
The City Palace was also built by Jai Singh and has been built upon over the years. It remains the residence of the Singh royal family, and their quarters are blocked off. There’s still plenty to see in terms of stately architecture and museum items.
I looked in the old city for the Hawa Mahal, but couldn’t find it to save my life. Or a nearby restaurant that looked good. In defeat, I returned to the car and driver and had a late lunch without seeing the Hawa. But I think I saw a good amount without it, and was satisfied at the end of the day.
After lunch we stopped at the Jal Mahal, or water palace. It was a summer home for the royal family, in the middle of a scenic lake with a beautiful backdrop. And closed to visitors.
Last stop was Amber (pronounced “Am-mer”) fort. Amber fort is a majestic mix of yellow and pink sandstone with white marble. This was really the crown jewel of Jaipur for me. Grand courtyards, towering walls, giant doorways, inlaid stone artwork, and spectacular views made it definitely worth the trip.