Jaipur, India

I’m at the end of the best day of my trip through India’s Golden Triangle. Earlier today, I was overwhelmed by the Taj Mahal and now I’m getting closer to my next destination, Jaipur and the capital of the state of Rajasthan.

The day wasn’t over yet and we had one more stop before reaching my hotel in Jaipur. We stopped at a small village in the middle of no where called Abhaneri. Here is the Chand Baori Step Well, an ornate step well of 3500 steps built between the 8th & 9th century. The oldest parts of the step well are from the 8th century and an upper palace was added later to the site. Like a regular well, this would capture water from rain. And, as the water level receded, it was still accessible via the steps. It also had a religious and ceremonial role with pilgrims who rested on the steps while quenching their thirst. I wish the top portion of the steps would be open to the public for us to experience the steps. But, they’re not accessible at all, probably a good thing. The steps are narrow and approximately 13 stories high from the bottom.

I finally reached my hotel in Jaipur where I was originally scheduled to spend two nights. But, with the loss of one day that I spent stranded in Tokyo, I had only one day here. So, I had to cram as much as I could into one day. The next morning would start early, before sunrise in fact. I went on a leopard safari that started as the sun rose above the horizon. Unfortunately, we had unexpected rain and when I boarded the jeep it was still sprinkling. It didn’t let up during the safari. The rain forced most of the animals to seek shelter and that included the leopard. After almost two hours of off-and-on light rain, I returned to the hotel to change into dry clothes and eat breakfast.

The sightseeing would start again as the driver and I picked up my Jaipur tour guide. It was still raining but at an even lower level than earlier. We were on our way to the older area of the city where the buildings consist of one color, pink. Jaipur is known as the “pink city” due to the terracotta structures that turn pink as they age in the sun. The newer buildings and homes in the area are now painted pink to match the older structures.

Our first stop was just a photo op along the side of the road at the Instagram famous Hawa Mahal. “The Palace of the Winds” is a beautiful structure that gets its name from the multiple windows that make it well ventilated. Hawa Mahal was built so the royal women could watch royal processions without being seen. This is part of the City Palace which was our next stop.

The palace was built in the 17th century when the maharaja wanted to move the capital of the state from Amber to Jaipur. It’s a mixture of Rajput, Mughal, and European architecture. When you enter the palace complex, you’ll be taken back to the Rajput era of India. The palace is made up of two parts, public courtyards and museums and the other is the home of the royal family where they still reside.

I had an amazing time walking from one colorful room to another. I felt like royalty who were lucky enough to visit these rooms. These rooms were not widely visited so my guide and I had each room to ourselves. Most people stayed in the courtyards, those who didn’t have a guide.

We then moved on to Amber Fort, the hilltop capital of Rajasthan before it was moved to Jaipur. The wall of the fort is the third longest in the world, behind The Great Wall of China and Kumbhalgarh Fort which is also in Rajasthan. The red stand stone and marble fort is also known as the Amer Palace. Its name, Amer or Amber, is derived from Ambikeshwar Temple that was located on this hill and not from the gemstone made from tree resin. The fort is filled with courtyards and gardens built with Mughal and Hindu architecture. You can, also, ride an elephant to the gate of the fort. With the off and on rain, this wasn’t available for me. It’s another example of the amazing detail and artistry that this region is known for.

The most popular part of the fort is the Sheesh Mahal, known as the mirror palace. It’s a refined piece of architecture built with beautiful precious stones and glass, coated with beautiful handmade paintings. The palace was so popular, I couldn’t get a good shot without having another person in it. I was told multiple professional photoshoots take place here. And, as we exited, a model was waiting for a photographer and his crew to setup.

The afternoon had come quickly and we had to depart to New Delhi. This would be another long drive. I actually skipped a visit to Jantar Mantar, a collection of 19 astronomical instruments built in 1734. It includes the largest stone sundial in the world. I had crammed as I much as I could in my only day here in Jaipur. In fact, I wouldn’t arrive at my New Delhi hotel until 10 p.m. The rain picked up as we got closer to the city and it added extra road hazards which caused the drive to take 7 hours.

The flight to India is definitely one of the longest and discourages most people, for good reason. The culture and the architecture of India is definitely worth it and I highly recommend The Golden Triangle. Sure, you’ll see the Taj Mahal but you’ll get so much more. I was just overwhelmed by everything I saw. I got the feeling that if I threw a stone in any direction, it would land somewhere amazing. The artistry and craftsmanship was astonishing.

Every day was so enjoyable but they were long and I needed a few days to relax. What I really needed is some time on a beach somewhere. I made my itinerary assuming this and the next morning I made my way to the airport. By the afternoon, I would do just that and feel the sand of the Maldives between my toes.