We hired driver Abès for a full-day of Jaipur and environs by tuk tuk. David and I are both fans of tuk tuks. We enjoy the exhilarating feel of being in the thick of things, weaving through traffic, eye-to-eye with those in other vehicles, then enjoying the breeze when our driver hits a straightaway. I try not to focus on the fact there are no seatbelts much less airbags or even walls in these vehicles. They’re fun! Since tuk tuks are vehicles of southeast Asia, it’s often hot, but surprisingly not as much as you might expect. With the temperate springtime weather in Jaipur, we strongly preferred tuk tuks to taxis. And, boy, are they cheap.
We started our day early, heading back to the Pink City to visit the City Palace. Also known as Maharajah Sawai Man Singh Museum, the City Palace is much more extensive than Hawa Mahal (the Palace of the Winds) and houses artifacts including textiles, clothing, weapons and decorative arts. The palace was built between 1729 and 1732. Guards in period costumes stand watch at the many ornate gates and doorways in the extensive palace. There’s also a restaurant on-site. Entry to the City Palace is expensive by Indian standards at 700INR ($9.83 US) pp. There was even a special visit to the Royal Apartments on offer for 3500INR ($49.15). Photos of the apartments were lovely, but we declined. We spent an hour or so in the palace.
After the City Palace, we left the Pink City to stop at the royal mausoleums. We were the only tourists visiting these beautiful white structures, a peaceful break after the bustle of the Pink City.
Next up was our major destination for the day, the Amber Fort. (See top photo.) Also known as the Amer Fort or Amer Palace, the fort sits on a hill 11 km outside of Jaipur. Construction began on the Amber Fort in 1592 on the remains of an 11th-century fort. The Amber Fort and six other hill forts in Rajasthan were declared UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2013. Its architecture–consisting of four courtyards and gardens plus palaces and halls made of sandstone and marble–is a mix of Rajput (Hindu) and Mughal (Islamic) styles. This extensive palace and fort was the seat of power in Rajasthan until the capital was moved to Jaipur in 1727. Entry to the Amber Fort is 550INR ($7.71 US) for foreigners and 25INR for Indians. For students, it’s 25/10INR.
After spending almost two hours in the Amber Fort, we headed back to Jaipur for a quick stop to view the beautiful Jal Mahal (“Water Palace”) in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake. Then, Abès insisted we make a few shopping stops, assuring us there would be no pressure to buy. Right. We were skeptical, but the stops at a textile factory and a rug maker turned out to be interesting and there really wasn’t much pressure. But, David –who’d never been treated to the roll-out-the-rugs routine– was smitten by a large silk rug… so now we homeless vagabonds have yet another rug to add to our collection of rolled-up rugs. Oh well, the price was right and he’s a happy man (and he does unroll it in a back room when we’re at my parents’).
Our last stop for the day was the Hanuman Temple. Hanuman is the Hindu monkey god and we find his temples are usually interesting… and full of monkeys. We thought we were heading to the famous monkey temple outside of Jaipur, Galta Ji. And it turns out we did, sort of. Abes dropped us off at the base of a long uphill walk past many monkeys and other animals, including a deformed cow with a “twin” growing out of its rear which we were told was holy. We passed hovels with open walls where rats ran over and around beds. Residents came out to put vermillion on my forehead. I resisted at first, but finally gave in to a little girl who expected nothing from me. All along the way, monkeys slept, played, fought and fed on offerings left for them by pilgrims.
At the top of our climb was a small temple with a sweeping view over Jaipur. Monkeys lounged on the walls around it, but the building was nothing like the photos I’d seen of Galta Ji with its large pool. I found out later this was the Sun Temple, a part of the larger Galta Ji complex which was another 2 km away along some path we never saw. Oh well, this temple was uncrowded and we were welcomed by a monk and encouraged to pray. We paid our respects to the god and enjoyed the view. This little temple was a fascinating stop in its own right and we were happy to call it a day.