Jaipur is the main “gateway” city to the desert “fort” cities in Rajasthan. It was a planned city, started fairly recently in 1727 when the Maharaja decided to move down from his more imposing, but more logistically challenging mountain fortress. The Maharaja laid the entire old fort area into setsquares, each with a different economic, political and religious purpose. Thus, the streets are straight inside the old fort. The second unusual thing is that in the 1870’s the entire downtown core was painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales. It has remained “pinkish” ever since although with time the pink is more terracotta in color. The effect is very striking. It reinforces the wonderful old complex wall structures that are found within the walls. The city now has two million occupants and has long ago spilled outside the walls with the usual “modern“ jumble of shoddy haphazard buildings. Just inside the more remote north gate, we found our `Marigold Hotel`. It was a rambling mansion builds with a large enough height that a man riding an elephant could enter his house (only one of the two in the entire city). The hotel meanders skyward for four floors in a maze of terraces, courtyards and rooms with an incredible view from the rood. Flower pedals were dropped on us from above as we checked in. The bedroom was more of a small suite with intriguing wall features. The best part is the price was less than twenty dollars a night. Perhaps this is why he liked Jaipur (some give Jaipur a miss and continue). On the street one sees the transition to the desert with camel cards mixed with donkeys and the usual cows, dogs and goats, rickshaws, motorcycles and taxis. In the morning and evening elephants with painted faces, are lead through the streets either going or coming from work to carry tourists up the steep incline to Amber Fort.
Inside the old city are two major sights. The first is a five-story high pink sandstone honeycombed building—the Hawa Mahal—build to enable the ladies of the royal household to observe Jaipur life without being seen. It had to be big; the Maharaja had over 100 wives and an unknown number of concubines. With its main purpose to see out via the stone honeycomb slabs, it has air moving lightly and thus it’s named `the palace of the winds`. The second main site was the open portion of the Maharajah`s Palace. The current Maharajah still lives there in all his “Raj” Royalty. The guards and security are real. Five years ago, sixty-six people were killed and hindered wounded in the city by a bomb blast blamed on Islamic extremists. The armoury is stunning, and has some of the best collections of weapons in India. Even if flintlocks, daggers and swords are not your thing the way, they are displayed is striking. They are laid out to form wall murals of elephants, camels, and well as intriguing designs. The palace holds many inner courtyards each with its own “something” to see from carriages to silver chrome chairs to turban displays to two solid silver urns said to be the largest sterling silver objects in the world. These urns were hand beaten from 14,000 melted silver coins and designed to contain 4000 litres of “holy Ganges Water” each.