Elephant ride at main entrance Amber Fort Maharaja's Palace, Jaipur, India

India: The Golden Triangle PART ONE

Paneer Tikka

Debby and I had booked a post-cruise extension, a five-night tour of India's Golden Triangle: Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi. We bade Viking Mars a sad farewell, and the ground staff transferred us to Mumbai airport for our flight to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan State in northwest India. Getting our Paneer Tikka sandwich, served as a snack on board, was fun. 'Paneer' is a type of Indian cottage cheese, and 'Tikka' refers to chunks of cheese marinated in spices and then grilled in a tandoor or clay oven. 

 

On the way to our hotel, we admired the mix of colonial buildings and ornate structures with oriental facades and minarets, with pink walls surrounding the properties. Fleets of small, yellow taxi vans and packs of motorcycles passed us by while elegant ladies dressed in beautiful saris strolled on the sidewalk. 

 

Procession, Jai Mahal Palace Hotel, Jaipur, India

We enjoyed a traditional Indian welcome at the splendid 18th-century palatial Jai Mahal Palace Hotel. A broadly smiling gentleman 'riding' a hobby horse led the procession that circled the fountain at the entrance. Next came a lady in black pants, her head completely covered in a green scarf, whirling in circles, and her wide, colorful, multi-layered skirt flaring widely. The 'horse,' dressed in decorative gear, followed suit, twirling the long pink skirt covering its body. A man dressed in white baggy trousers, a wide tunic with an orange and red striped turban, and a long pink scarf followed, turning a big, pink umbrella with long tousles and bells in circles above his head. 

Musicians in Welcome procession, Jai Mahal Palace Hotel, Jaipur, India

Four men in similar attire played tiny cymbals, a tabla (Indian drum), and aulos (double flute.) Our accommodation was in downtown Jaipur, near historical sites such as the Amber Fort and City Palace. It was like stepping into another world! An ornate, heavy wooden door opened to our beautiful accommodation. The beige and brown furnishings enhanced the elegance of the bedroom. A big sliding door opened into the huge bathroom outfitted with marble walls and gilded mirrors. 

Jai Mahal Palace Hotel

Dinner was in a magnificent building with tiled floors, enormous chandeliers, and walls richly decorated with memorabilia from the previous century. Photos of British Royal family members and American presidents who stayed at the hotel were on display. A parade of chefs in toque hats stood at attention behind tables filled with various Indian foods. Other waitstaff escorted us into a sumptuous dining room that took my breath away. It looked as if it was a fairytale ballroom. The golden walls had decorative golden trimmings, and many tall, delicate chandeliers hung from the ceilings.

Dining Room in Jai Mahal Palace Hotel, Jaipur, India 

Two musicians sat cross-legged, playing a set of tablas and a sitar. I could not resist trying my hand at the table as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner at Jai Mahal Palace Hotel, Jaipur, India

It was time for the feast—a taste of everything curry, except the flatbread, spinach, and another unidentified vegetable. I tried the soup and had a bite of the fish, mutton, and chicken. Yum!! The curry was mild yet spicy and full of flavor. Exotic spices like garam masala, cardamom, cloves, carom, mustard seeds, ginger, and fennel came to mind.

 

Early in the morning, we enjoyed sitting in our enclosed little courtyard, which we had all to ourselves. The floor and walls were tiled with scalloped trimmings around the edges. We were delighted when a peacock roosted on our building's roof. I wish we had more time to enjoy the wonderful Mughal gardens. Golf carts patrolled the pathways, picking us up and dropping us off where we needed to be.

 

The Pink City, Jaipur, India

After breakfast, we joined our guided tour. of the famous 'Pink City.' In 1876, Maharaja Ram Singh painted most buildings pink to welcome Britain's Queen Victoria. Pink is the color of hospitality, so Jaipur became known as "The Pink City."

 

 

 

 

We stopped for photos at the Hawa Mahal, also known as 'Palace of Breeze.' This beautiful red and pink colored sandstone building has latticed windows and turrets with white trimmings.

 

 

 

 

 

Camel on the road to Amber Fort 

Next, we visited the opulent 16th-century Amber Fort at the top of a natural hill outside Jaipur. It was quite a journey. Along the road, we saw cows, elephants, and a camel strolling on the asphalt. We then entered a small village with the inevitable fruit stalls and store displays on the sidewalks: colorful umbrellas, carpets, and wall hangings. I loved looking at all the beautiful, colorful saris. Compared to our Western casual dress, the ladies were so elegant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amber Fort, Jaipur, India

We parked at the bottom of a steep hill. Still recovering from major surgery a few weeks before, I was relieved that there was limited transport available for those who could not comfortably do the uphill. The Maharaja's Palace (Amber Fort) is a colossal complex and a stunning example of Hindu and Muslim architecture. We admired the incredible craftsmanship and artistry: the stone carvings in the pillars and walls, unique patterned tiles, and mosaics covering floors, walls, and domes. The different chambers and courtyards were impressive, but The Hall of Mirrors (Sheesh Mahal's) intricate mirror work was stunning. The delicate, reflective mosaics on the walls and the lace patterns like doilies on the ceilings created a pavilion of sheer luxury.

 

 

 

Elephant Ride at Amber Fort, Jaipur, IndiaThe views from the higher levels of the Palace, overlooking Lake Maota, are impressive -  a panorama of surrounding hills, the valley, and the lagoon below. Then, one steps back in time when looking down on the vast courtyards with canons and guards at the entrances and elephants taking visitors on rides.

 

 

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur, India

The Hawa Mahal, also called The Palace of Winds, is a red and pink sandstone temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. 'Hawa means 'wind, ' and 'Mahal' means 'palace.' The name refers to the draughts caused by the 953 ornate louvered windows installed to allow the ladies of that era to observe processions and street scenes without being seen.

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