17.12.2010 - 18.12.2010 28 °C
17th December 2010
As we had arrived so late last night, we had a mini lie in and were due to meet up at 9:15 in the hotel lounge. We made it to breakfast at 8:45 and grabbed some omelettes, toast and coffee from the buffet and joined the group while we waited for our Tuk-Tuks to arrive as we were going to see the historic sights of Jaipur. Soon we were again trundling down the bumpy roads and heading for a whistle-stop look at the Wind Palace just to take some photos of the impressive frontage only, as we were informed that the inside is completely empty. What a waste of a gorgeous building!
Our next tour stop was the City Palace where we had an audio guided tour. It was an incredibly beautiful place, over 200 years old and home to a succession of Indian Maharajas. It even boasted its own unique boutique opened by one of the Maharani (Queens), selling items that you cannot buy anywhere else but here! The Palace had some more unique items on display too – the largest silver pots in the world made from thousands of melted down silver coins. Truly impressive things, slightly cheapened by a tacky Christmas tree standing in the middle of the large pavilion! Just as impressive was an incredible array of weapons in their armoury room! Swords, knives, daggers, guns, rifles and other weapons from all over the world were displayed in vast showcases. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any photographs in there. Exiting there and going through another gateway, we found ourselves in the most beautiful courtyard with 4 elaborately decorated doors depicting each of the 4 seasons. This courtyard, apparently, is popular with Bollywood film directors as it is so colourful, and has been used in many movies. The tour finished in the Maharaja’s Audience Chamber, where he would speak and listen to his subjects. It was a huge room with a beautiful throne at the end of a massive Persian carpet, its colours brightened by the second largest chandelier in India. The ceilings were magnificently painted in intense colours, with layers of real gold interlaced with the vivid paints. On the walls were paintings and photographs of past Maharajas. On the way out to rejoin our party we saw our first real Indian snake charmers playing pipes with big, angry looking Cobras slowly rising and swaying in their baskets! We looked hard for the strings but couldn’t see any!
With us being the perennial slowcoaches, we were once again the last ones back, and found our group waiting for us! We were soon tightly packed into our Tuk-Tuks and off to visit the Amber Fort. Here we had a local guide show us round, but as his English was so bad we lost a lot of the history of the place and, although we tried to listen to what he was saying, we all started losing interest and as soon as that happened he seemed to give up too! It was a shame really, as the history of these places is quite fascinating to listen to. The Palace within the Fort was very beautiful in places however, and one room in particular really stood out as it was decorated from floor to ceiling in myriads of small pieces of mirrored glass that glistened in the sunlight.
The Palace also boasted a clever cooling system for its time. In the summer months here the temperatures can reach 45 degrees Centigrade so they built the Palace with hollow walls and two huge but discrete tanks on the roof that were filled up with cold water which flowed through the wall cavities thereby cooling the walls and thus the rooms as it went.
Unfortunately our visit here was not very interesting, although it was an impressive and beautiful structure, but this may have been due to our unenthusiastic guide.
On the way back to our hotel, we stopped off at the Water Palace (after passing a dead camel – the biggest road kill we’ve ever seen!!) to take some photos. It is basically a disused Palace standing in the middle of a large lake, with the lower floors completely submerged. The only access to it is by boat and the building is now in the hands of a private developer where, in a few years time, it could become a beautiful hotel! As we didn’t have a guide for this, we didn’t get any history about it so just took a few snaps, marvelled at a couple of people walking with massive baskets of Papadums on their heads, and squeezed back into our motorised rickshaws and headed back to the hotel, again having to take the back streets and alleys as the second day of Muslim celebrations got underway and the main roads were blocked once again.
Back at base we grabbed some lunch, resisted the temptation to go sit by the cooling waters of the pool, and instead tried to take advantage of the free WiFi service. But, as usual, it didn’t work. WiFi out here is extremely hit and miss, with more misses than hits!! Unperturbed, we went into an office just off the hotel and used their cable Internet service, for which we had to pay. After a couple of hours of dabbling we met up with our group for dinner which would be at the hotel due to the celebrations going on in the town. The meal was fairly forgettable to be honest, but we all had a good chat and a laugh and soon people were drifting off to their rooms as we were to have an extremely early start in the morning.