Today was our first full day together, and it was a good one! After breakfast – a buffet filled with delicious Indian food as well as hearty English fare – we piled into two minibuses for our morning out to the Amber Fort (above pic is from the bus). We transferred at the bottom of the hill to several jeeps for the steep ride up.
But first, a famous step well, built 400 years ago to collect water during the rainy season. The structure is well-known for its Escher-like stairs. Some claim that you can’t go up and down using the same set of stairs unless you’re a local. I didn’t dare try! Another view:
It was also a gathering place for women (as it was for us!).
Carol and Caron sitting in one of the little gazebos at the top.
And of course, the ubiquitous monkeys.
Back in the jeeps for the final stretch up the steep hill to the fort or palace, another UNESCO World Heritage Site and an example of Mughal-Indian architecture. Once inside, you enter a series of beautiful courtyards. (Thanks, Getty images.)
We met our guide who explained the fort to us, though between the noise of the crowds and his strong accent, it was not terribly illuminating. There are three palaces here, winter, summer and monsoon, where the princesses lived. No man was allowed in except for the king. Again, we marvelled at beautiful carvings and painted walls. Inside the palaces were more decorated walls, the winter palace with inserted mirrors to reflect the light on cold winter days. This one featured sparkling inlaid glass in intricate patterns.
and more beautiful carvings and decorations.
And looking up from the fort, long walls along the ridgeline to keep out…someone?
Elephants were seen everywhere, including in real life (though one is advised not to take a ride for the sake of the animals’ health).
It was a fascinating site, though I felt very much like a tourist. But it’s a great memory to invoke when I next read about the Mughals.
On our way back, here’s a glimpse of the small town of Amer from our jeep. I was trying to capture the incredible traffic and the millions of small food stands and shops though I missed the elephant lumbering along, so you must just imagine it.
After the Amber fort we stopped by a bookstore with an interesting selection. I’m really liking the Dalrymple book so hope to read more of him when I get home. Here we are waiting for the rest of the group: Pamela, Janice, Marty, Carol, Lucie, Caron and Cathy.After all this glory, we took the minibuses back to the Trident for lunch and a brief break. After lunch we each introduced ourselves to the group. There were many stories to tell (some on the bus ride from Agra, and some here): Pati and her benign optic nerve tumor, Sujata and her recovery from breast cancer, Amy and her year of refocusing that included a decision to stop designing fabric, Ginger and her story of finding her true love in Saskatchewan, et al. It is an amazing group of women!
At this point, we were supposed to visit the Jaipur Literary Festival (William Dalrymple is one of the organizers!), but Sujata and Amy got word that it would involve big crowds and lots of waiting in line, so instead we went into Jaipur and visited the Patrika Gate.
This is a modern tourist attraction that opens out to a park right in the middle of Jaipur. The arches and ceilings are covered with beautifully detailed paintings of local heroes, sites and mythology.
As always, the patterns and colors were mesmerizing, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
After this, we stopped by a local crafts area that was here as part of the Pink City Festival.
The craft booths were mildly interesting, but this creepy monkey man was the most memorable.
He just looks odd here, and people are certainly laughing, but he was very creepy, and some of the children were really scared of him. He scurried around just like a monkey and tried to steal things from people. I think he must have been a version of Hanuman.
Our final stop was to a popup shop that catered to the not-me audience, lovely things like shoes, purses and clothes, but I was really dead on my feet by now. Home, late dinner and then fell into bed. A rich, full day!
What a fascinating day!
It just got better!!