Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan and one of the most visited cities in India. The city bustles with urban life and the locals are accustomed to taking advantage of the bus loads full of turbaned tourists on 10-day Indian trips The attractions are overpriced and every rickshaw driver wants to take you on a day tour. Needless to say, it wasn’t our favourite place to visit.
There were some highlights. Amber Fort was awesome. The city has a number of walled forts perched on the hills around it for protection, but Amber Fort was the most impressive to visit. It was busy with bus loads of tourists, but there are numerous side passages and stairways to explore that took us to quiet areas. We found an ingenious system that transported water from the lake below to the palaces and gardens above using gears and pulleys.
There were a lot of other sights scattered in and around the Jaipur’s old walled centre – known as the Pink City. It was an interesting area to explore, with bazaars and old buildings, but the traffic was bad. We checked out the Royal Albert Museum (mediocre collection of artifacts but beautiful building) and Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace where the Maharaja’s harrem could watch city life out of small windows), and Jantar Mantar (old astronomical observatory with bizarre collection of giant sundials). The most disappointing attraction we visited was the City Palace, which charged a relatively hefty price of 400 rupees to see the interior of the palace, which was rammed full of gift shops.
The highest rated attraction on TripAdvisor for Jaipur is an outing to Elefantastic, where for 4000 rupees ($80) you can spend an afternoon getting up close and personal with elephants. It seemed expensive to us, but the reviews were unanimous. People raved about it being the best part of their trips. So we went. It won’t be the best part of our trip, but it was a unique experience. We were paired with a pregnant elephant (8 months into a 20 month gestation) named Chandra. We fed her, petted her, painted her trunk, and went for a ride around the area. The highlight of most people’s trip is usually bathing with the elephants, but we didn’t get to because it is too cold in the winter months. Rahul, the owner, was great about answering questions and ensuring we enjoyed our afternoon there. I think he sensed that we were underwhelmed by the experience because when we went to pay he gave us 2000 rupees back.
Our next stop is Jaisalmer where we’ll be spending more time with animals. We’re booked in for a 2 day camel safari in the desert.