I reached Jaipur after a short, but annoying train ride. I lost the night train lottery by drawing not one, but two (!) families with a total of four small, shrieking children. Honestly, if you’re child really can’t handle travel, maybe Grandma can wait to see them in another five years or so.
Thankfully, the city was worth the ride. After negotiating my way through the usual crowd of touts trying to rope you into some useless wallet-opener or another (Rajasthan was the most tout-infested place of my trip, where it got to the point that I avoided making eye contact with people to keep the dollar signs from flashing in their eyes) I headed to Jantar Mantar.
This former royal observatory is now a park full of stunningly large instruments used to make all sorts of celestial measurements and observations. Reading the placards to figure out what each was for was a diverting time to kill an hour, and pictures really don’t do the place justice.
The nearby City Palace was not as time-consuming as its reputation, but did boast some pretty architecture and an impressive display of weaponry that ten year old me would’ve died to see (punch daggers! scimitars! pistol knives!) and two giant silver urns of inestimable worth.
Jal Mahal (the Water Palace) is what it sounds like- a palace situated smack in the middle of the lake. It made for cool pictures, but unfortunately it wasn’t open to tour. Hawa Mahal is another ornate palace that I unfortunately only saw in passing, but it’s many-tiered red and white facade reminded me of Peruvian pottery from Ayacucho of all things.
The crown jewels of the town, though, are its three forts- the Amber Fort, Jaigarh, and Nahargarh, all situated along a ridgeline towering above the city. Besides their beautiful, Alhambra-esque courtyards and marble architecture, the views from the top are simply stunning, among the best I’ve ever seen.
The Amber Fort was the most architecturally impressive, in particular the Sheesh Mahal, a white marble mini-palace set in a courtyard and inlaid with thousands of mirrors. I also especially liked some gorgeous latticed windows that I ran across there.
Nahargarh is located above the Amber Fort, and honestly doesn’t offer much more than some excellent views of Jal Mahal and the cityscape below.
My favorite of the bunch was the highest- Jaigarh, with its old cannon foundry and the world’s largest wheeled cannon, Jaivena, which was only fired once. That cannonball traveled an astounding 35 kilometers (22 miles) though!
The highlight of this fort besides that and the views, though, were some gardens located at the far end of the fort whose greenery formed the perfect contrast with the red sandstone walls and blue sky surrounding them. It’s a sight I won’t soon forget.