It’s difficult to know where to start when writing about Jaipur. Like every place I went in India it is full of color, odor, movement, constant noise, everywhere crowds and beggars. Nowhere can the mind or eyes rest. But there is also so much staggering beauty.
I was in Jaipur eight years ago with my father and stepmother. We only had two full days, but we used them well, spending one of them at the Amber Fort, a palace that is perched on a hill above the city proper. We rode an elephant to the top of this sprawling complex and spent hours wandering. We gawked at fountains with no water in them, carvings, mosaics, paintings, and finally the magic chamber where a tour guide lit a candle and light flickered off thousands of inlaid mirrors.
We also visited the City Palace, part of which is still inhabited by the royal family and is guarded by soldiers in red turbans. Monkeys scamper across the roof and tourists wander among the treasures and chandeliers.
This enormous silver vessel is one of two that was carried, full of water, all the way to England by a Hindu ruler who was concerned about the purity of the drinking water there. They are believed to be the biggest silver pieces in the world.
We stayed at the Bissau Palace, gorgeous if somewhat dingy, like much of the city itself. I’ve seen cleaner rooms and bathrooms, but never a more beautiful dining room.
Relaxing in the frayed elegance of the common areas and sipping gin and tonics was a supreme pleasure. And one day I got up early and sat on the balcony outside my room listening to the sounds of the morning call to prayer at a nearby mosque.
This puppet seller sat outside the entrance to the hotel and I still regret that I didn’t purchase on one of his wares.
I’d love to bring the children to Jaipur. I know they would love the Jantar Mantar, the biggest stone observatory in the world, where fantastical astronomical instruments are scattered like a giant’s playthings. Built in the early 18th century, it is a monument to both ingenuity and a king’s hubris. The tallest instrument stands at 90 feet. Its purpose? To tell the time of day.
I’m definitely jonesing for a trip like this – I know there would be many shots and much need to filter water and avoid all fresh fruit. I know that their fair skin and hair would attract much attention (as mine did). But I think we could do it. In fact, if you’re wondering if is advisable and possible to travel to India with little kids, please visit Bachman and Soto: India Edition to read about a family who is doing just that with two children under four. I bow to their wherewithal and superior camera skills (one of my favorite parts of this blog are the photos taken by the three-year-old).