Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Amer Fort - Jaipur

On the day we landed at Jaipur, we visited the Amer Fort located at Amer. Due to the Navaratri festival, Amer and the fort were crowded. Amer hosted stalls of sweet-meats and savories local to the place. People were walking all the way to the fort to visit the temple of Sila Devi; a lengthy queue awaited people. The parking area was overflowing with vehicles.

Amer Fort is spectacular. It sits like a crown on the hill. The fort has a stone ramp on which elephants can walk up to the fort, and enter through the Suraj Pol (Sun Gate). You can opt for elephant ride; costs Rs. 900 per person. You can also avail services of a guide; check at the ticket counter. We had a guide accompanying us from the airport. To know more about the history of the fort, read Amer Fort on Wiki.

From Suraj Pol, you enter the first courtyard - Jaleb Chowk. This is where the soldiers would assemble. There is an entrance to the main palace ground and to the Sila Devi temple. The Ganesh Pol is the gateway to the private palaces of the Maharajas.

The second courtyard is called Diwan-i-Am (Public Audience Hall). Here the Raja would hear and receive petitions from the public. The 27 colonnades have elephant shaped capital with galleries above it. You can see a fusion of Indian and Arabic style.

The third courtyard has private quarters of Maharaja and family. The entrance to this courtyard is through the Ganesh Pol. This is a beautiful gate; decorated with mosaics, paintings, and sculptures. The Mughal Gardens and Sheesh Mahal are the star attractions. The Sheesh Mahal has mosaics and colored glasses. The Sukh Mahal is famous for the marble inlay work and a piped water supply that keeps environment cool. They had a Jacuzzi!

The fourth courtyard was where the women from the royal family lived. There are several rooms in which the queens resided. The architecture is such that the queens could not find out at which room the king resided. Clever!

There is a light and sound show at evenings (7.00pm); please check the timings.  The show is supposed to be good. At evenings, the fort is illuminated; would look awesome.

Also check out our hot air balloon safari at Jaipur!

Words of caution: Please get a government approved guide. If you are visiting the fort with kids, take extra care of them. Don't offer cash or kind to anyone. Beware of people who try to befriend you. Wear comfortable footwear; carry umbrella or wear a cap; carry bottle of mineral water. Use dustbins to dispose waste. Don't ever touch the artifacts!

Amer Fort, Gardens, and Amer

Gate to enter Jabel Chowk and pillars at Diwan-i-Am 

Ganesh Pol, Diwan-i-Am, mirror work, arches

Ganesh Pol


Jaccuzzi, mosaic work, stone work

Painting, inlay work, and mirror work

The exits!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Hot Air Balloon Safari at Jaipur

We were planning a visit to Jaipur, and went online searching for off-beat things to do. Voila, we found Skywaltz, which arranges hot air balloon safari. We checked out their website, and booked for a tour with them. Lucky us, we were the first tour of the season (Oct - Mar). Opted for fully refundable tickets because success of such safaris depend highly on the weather; opted for early morning flight. Yay, we were all set for our first hot air balloon safari!

On the day of our tour, we were picked up from our hotel (at 5.30am). At the safari venue, three balloons were getting ready for the flight. We were served hot beverages and cookies. The dawn was yet to break, and the balloons that were getting inflated looked beautiful. The safari was scheduled for about hour or so. We climbed in to the basket, and our captain briefed us about the flight, the precautions, and the landing drill. After practicing the landing drill for a few times, we set sail.

Oh, what a feeling! Gently the balloon glided, cutting across the wind, and leaving the land behind. We could see the Amber Palace on the hills. The landscape varied from houses, trees, tilled lands, to water-body. Birds chirped. Hares ran. Camels looked up scared. People, brushing their teeth or standing in their yards, waved at us. There were times when the balloon flew so low that it touched the trees. The balloon rose up, up, and flew away.

And then the dawn broke. The sky was splashed with hues so pretty. The Sun seemed to be in a hurry to shine; rose quickly. Imagine this sight - the balloon flying towards the rising Sun. I know that words aren't sufficient to capture such an experience. Hopefully, my photos can help imagine the beauty of the safari! After about one hour, we were ready to land. The landing was super smooth; no necessity to put our landing drill to use. We got off the basket, watching the balloons deflate. We got certificates, clicked photos of the group along with captain, and departed to our hotels.

Words of caution. Ask the safari operators about refund policy. Please listen to your captain, and adhere to the guidelines. Wear jacket and shoes (closed at the toes). Drink water. Don't get excited about clicking photos and forget where you are; you may jump off the basket! Leave children behind; probably, young adults (15+ years) are fine to accompany. If you have any sort of phobia, please let the captain know. Landings may not be smooth all the time; be prepared to have a bumpy landing or to get dragged on the ground.

One of the balloons that flew with ours sort-of landed very close to a water-body. I wondered what would happen if the balloon landed on the surface of water and people (like us) didn't know to swim. Well, there are no life-jackets in the baskets.

Having said that, please try hot air balloon safari!

Check out our visit to Amer Fort, Jaipur.

The three different hot air balloons

Landscapes of Jaipur

Our captain and the other two balloons

The dawn break