WAFA 2020 - Impressions of Jaipur
This was my first visit to India and we arrived from a cold and dreary UK into the blue sky and heat of a Jaipur morning.
We were met by an extraordinarily knowledgeable local tour guide, Sanjee (I’ve booked him, and his equally fascinating colleagues, for our tours), who brought everything to life. It’s wonderful to stand in these places and soak up the history and stories - so much better than reading a guide book. And, as I discovered, there’s no limit to the number of questions you can ask.
He took us to so many places, and I will write more in another blog, but here are four sites that I feel so lucky to have seen that I’ve included them in each of our three WAFA tour programmes.
Jaipur flower and vegetable market is an explosion of fabulous colours and scents. We got there at about 7.30am and it was a hubbub of activity with local farmers bringing their produce in from the countryside using whatever means they have; I was particularly impressed by the women carrying huge sacks of potatoes on their heads, dressed in wonderful saris. There were flower heads everywhere (the heads are used as offerings in the temples) and air was an intoxicating mix of rose and coriander.
Amber Fort was the seat of power before the City Palace was built in Jaipur city and is surrounded by fortified battlements overlooking Moata Lake. I hadn’t expected buildings on this scale, but it’s the most mind-blowing set of buildings - you can see crenulated walls spreading like a lattice across the Aravalli hills. We were taken up to the fort in jeeps, bumping up the narrow roads and, wandering around this incredible structure, I was really struck by the craftsmanship and detail and marvelled at how many years it must have taken to complete.
Hawa Mahal, or The Palace of the Winds, was built in 1799 by the poet-king Pratap Singh and is famous for the 356 tiny windows that are carved into its pink sandstone facade. These latticed screens let the cool winds in and also allowed the Queen’s court to look out on life on the street below without being seen. You can’t go inside – our guide told us that it’s full of monkeys now – but it is the most wonderful photo opportunity.
Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh Garden is one of the royal gardens of Jaipur and allows you to see a maharaja’s garden just as it would have looked in the 17th century. It’s set in a wonderful location with views of the hills behind.
My trip caused me to totally re-evaluate my impression of India. What you hear about is the poverty and the high tech, which gives a rather schizophrenic perspective. I came away with a feeling of a country working very hard to make changes and move forward but still very mindful and respectful of its own heritage. I can’t wait to go back