With its 47 acres, the majestic palace boasts marbled corridors, intricately painted walls, and scalloped light pink archways (Jaipur’s signature color — it was painted, along with the rest of the city, in 1853 to welcome the Prince of Wales, giving Jaipur the nickname “The Pink City”). The palace is renowned for its elegant gardens filled with a variety of exotic birds and peacocks galore. I was constantly reminded by the staff, who quickly picked up on my affinity for the national bird of India, that the peacocks were strutting around the gardens “just for me.” In fact, we finally figured out what butlers are for. They’re for reading your mind and anticipating your every desire. They somehow knew where we were at all times, as if they had a Marauder’s Map from Harry Potter (counting down til July 15!). We could leave our rooms for only 15 minutes and they’d be spotless by the time we returned. Talk about first class service.
The city of Jaipur (today the capital of Rajasthan) was founded in 1727 by Jai Singh II. Unlike our two previous stops, the layout of the city was remarkably well-planned, which speaks to the forward-thinking mindset of its founder. The city is laid out into 6 sectors separated by broad streets (cars hadn’t been invented yet so Jai Singh was clearly planning for the future), and the urban quarters are further divided by networks of gridded streets. We began our tour of Jaipur at Hawa Mahal (meaning “Palace of Winds”), a light pink facade that was used for ladies to watch activities going on in the street. I was especially pleased to find a snake charmer hypnotizing two cobras right beside the palace. See a snake charmer: check!
The wild animal tour continued at our next stop, the Amber Fort. We were given 3 options for how to get to the fort, which, like many other forts we’ve seen, sits atop a very large hill: Option 1) brave the elements and walk, Option 2) take a Jeep ride, Option 3) take an elephant ride. Obviously, we vetoed the first 2 in favor of riding Cheeto, the ginormous 3-year-old baby elephant. Random fact: it takes 20 years to train an elephant. After a brief jewelry demonstration, followed by a fashion show at a local Indian clothing store (definitely see pics), we paid a visit to Jantar Mantar, the largest stone and marble observatory in the world. The primary purpose of the observatory was to compile astronomical tables, and to predict the time and movements of the sun, moon, and planets. It has a giant dial that measures the exact time of day (give or take a half a second). We tested it, just to make sure. Still works!