Gateway To Rajasthan

Rajasthan is a northern Indian state bordering Pakistan. Its palaces and forts are reminders of the many kingdoms that historically fought for the region. The first fort we visited was the Amber fort, this is the most important in the region and the most beautiful so far.

Amer, originally, was the capital of the state before Jaipur. It is an old fort, built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh.

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In order to reach this fort you can either walk uphill for around 25 minutes or take an elephant ride. We are against riding elephants and the treatment of these gentle creatures here in India is known to be less than stellar so we opted for the walk.

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Amer Fort is known for its artistic Hindu style elements. With its large ramparts and series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks Maota Lake. It is the main source of water for the Amer palace.

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The main entry to the fort is through the ‘Suraj Pol’ or Sun Gate which opens up into the main courtyard. This is the first courtyard where the elephants arrive to drop the tourists. Here, you will get attacked by a million touts trying to sell you many souvenirs; Eitan bought a traditional Indian royal turban, he later regretted his decision as he knows he will never use that… ever.

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The third courtyard is where the private quarters of the Maharaja, his family and attendants were located.

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In this same courtyard we found the Sheesh Mahal, or the mirror palace. Luckily this was open to the public (from the outside), all the walls are covered in little mirrors, a very impressive design for an obviously very vain ruler.

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Most areas are open to the public and some are rarely visited. It was fun to get lost in the little alleys and rooms around the fort. There are stairs everywhere to secret floors and we got lost a few times.

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This palace, along with Jaigarh Fort, is located immediately above on the Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles). The palace and Jaigarh Fort are considered one complex, as the two are connected by a subterranean passage. This passage was meant as an escape route in times of war to enable the royal family members and others in the Amer Fort to shift to the more defend-able Jaigarh Fort.

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We then visited Jaigarh fort which is further up the same hill, in order to reach this one you continue walking uphill for another 30 minutes. The fort was built by Jai Singh II in 1726 to protect the Amber Fort and its palace complex and was named after him.

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This fort is older and with not much going on inside, but the view is breathtaking. You have a 360 degree view of the whole fortress and its defense wall (looks like a mini great wall of China).

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Apparently they have the biggest cannon in the world here, “The Jaivana”, but after further research we found out it was the biggest at that time, so it was really an English translation problem on the fort.

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More doors, Yeeeey!

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There was a puppet show “Kathputli” on of the fort rooms. It was very entertaining and funny but it was too short! Some scholars believe Kathputli art tradition is more than thousands years old.

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We stopped for a picture at the Jal Mahal (Water Palace), they are actually making a fancy restaurant inside that will be ready next year, the meal includes a boat ride to get to the palace.

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On the northern edge of the city centre, the walled funerary complex of Royal Gaitor contains the stately marble mausoleums of Jaipur’s ruling family. The compound consists of two main courtyards, each crammed full of imposing memorials. Nothing really that impressive and we were tired, we walked around a little bit and head back for lunch!

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Again we saw a kid peeing on this historical tomb, cant believe these people.

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We then went to the number one rated restaurant on Trip Advisor that was on the rooftop of this cute peacock themed boutique hotel.  Eitan was very happy because he ordered a pasta that was pretty decent!  We then walked back to our hotel and encountered an actual super market.  Well…sort of, it had no produce or meat but had lots of snack foods which is what we were looking for.

We had accumulated a fair amount of souvenirs so it was time to send them home! We walked to the main post office, we asked for a box and they said they don’t have boxes so we then had to search for a box (nothing is simple here!). But it worked out well because as we were walking back to the hotel we literally found a guy with a cart filled with boxes, he was nice and helped us find the perfect box. Well, almost perfect as it was full of swastikas so we had to remove them before a U.S. customs start to freak out thinking that Nazi Germany still exists.  In order to send a parcel from India you need to get a tailor or in this case a guy outside the post office to stitch a piece of cloth around your package, then they seal it with wax like if its the year 1583.

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Another local helped us skip the line by bringing us to the other side of the windows, nobody even cared. I wonder if I tried to pull that of in a USPS office, I might get shot.

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Bonus Pic Of The Day: Most Indians don’t perceive hand-holding as a sign of homosexuality. It’s merely way of showing affection, bonding, and camaraderie that all men, women and children do. However, holding hands by people of opposite sex is considered sign of romantic involvement.

I needed to google this as well, as I read on the guidebook that India is still a very homophobic country. I got this answer from Quora of why men hold hands:

The lack of discomfort about two guys holding hands in India is because of:

  • Relatively lower sense of personal space, so it’s not as big a deal
  • The lack of opportunity to have contact of any sort with the opposite sex (many Indian women might not even shake hands with men). Physical contact is important to most humans, regardless of sex or orientation.

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