India, February 25, 2017

Day 13, Jaipur

Hot day with lots to do….we got an early start driving with our tour guide for a quick Hawa Mahal Palace photo opportunity. The palace is located on a busy street, so there’s no stopping, just slowing down for a snapshot.  The latticed windows were where the wives and concubines could watch the royal processionals coming up the avenue.

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Then we were off to Amber Fort to take an elephant ride to the top.  The line was very long, but moved pretty quickly.  Jaipur’s main industry seems to be tourism, along with gem cutting, jewelry making and textiles for the tourists to buy.  Our guide today was our favorite so far.  He was very nice, with some personal stories and a sense of humor.

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The elephant ride was a mass production, but fun just the same (featured photo). And thank goodness we didn’t have to walk up to the fort, which is sitting atop a sizable hill overlooking Maota lake.  Our guide told us the there would be photographer’s and not to buy from them until we were ready to leave, so we would be able to negotiate a better price. He also filled us in on what to pay for the photos.  Suzanne sat in the front of the Howdah (carrier) and I sat in the back, so she would be able to see.  Unfortunately for Suzanne the elephant was flinging water out of his nose to keep himself and Suzanne cool. Here is a picture of a picture. It’s not as clear, but a fun shot.

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The fort is the site of the winter and summer palaces of Raja Man Singh and was built in 1592. The different palaces are placed one on each side to catch the warmth of the sun or the cool breezes, depending on the season. The fort has a beautiful mirrored palace that is under restoration.  The lovely photo below shows the moorish influence in the architecture of this Hindu fort.

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The Palace of Mirrors was originally inlaid with gemstones, but those were removed many years ago. All the mirrors, gold inlay and colored glass, allow just a few candles to light the entire palace with their reflection.

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It was very interesting to watch the craftsman working on replacement of missing parts of the mosaic.

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On our way out of the fort, we walked a way down the hill from the fort. As soon as we were through the gate I was approached by one of the photographers with three photos of us on our elephant.  I kept saying no, as per the guides instructions and he kept shoving the photos in my hand.  Next thing I knew, Suzanne took the photos and pushed them back, grabbed my arm and was dragging me down the hill. Boy was I surprised! She was determined that we weren’t negotiating until we got to the car pick up area, where we successfully negotiated for all the photos we wanted. On our walk down we witnessed a wedding party heading up to the fort. The groom is on the left and the bride, on the right, walks behind fully veiled.

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Suzanne has been keen to visit some of the local craft shops. We will have to get Parmai to take us, because the guide was less than enthused about stopping at the local shops.  Not sure what that’s all about, but its not the first time we have been discouraged from shopping, except at the approved stores.  They can be interesting, because there is usually a demonstration of gem cutting or  jewelry making. Before lunch we were taken to one of the Indo Asia companies approved shopping stores.  They were cutting, emeralds, rubies, which are found in India, and other stones that are imported from out of country.

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The City Palace was next up, with it’s Peacock, Lotus, Rose and Banana leaf gates. My head is reeling from all the forts and palaces.  They are all unique, so thus far not boring, but it’s getting hard to keep them all straight.

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A snack shop we passed on our way to the last stop of the day, Jantar Mantar, as collection to architectural astronomical instruments that were started in 1727 and completed in 1734. We arrived at 2:30 pm and the sundial in the bottom photo, shows the time within 2 seconds.

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It’s on to Ranthambore tomorrow were we will hopefully be seeing some Bengal Tigers in the wild.

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