INDIA, Jan. 2009


Photos © Ruud Leeuw

Our very first visit to India... At the airport of New Delhi we were met by a chauffeur and he drove us through Rajasthan. We completed a circle, visiting Jaipur, Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, returning by nighttrain to Jaipur.

Click on the thumbnail images to view a larger image

Good to see a decent bed again
Upon arrival in Jaipur, after that unsatisfactory nightly trainride, my first priorities were a shit, a shower and some shut-eye...

The night on the train, taking us from Jaisalmer to Jaipur, was a warm, sweaty & restless one. One has to be on high alert for thieves and there is no information on where you are. So we sat up, ready to disembark, at 04:15 for a scheduled arrival of 04:30. Only to arrive at 06:30, in itself a minimal delay for the trains in India, but a rather inconvenient time of day to sit up and wait.
It did not help my disposition (I needed to go to the men's room badly) that we took the wrong exit (following exit signs) at the trainstation, the phonenumber I'd been given of the driver was a wrong number (I could not understand the person I spoke to, bu tit certainly wasn't the chauffeur), we climbed the stairs over the rails back again and found ourselves at the correct side but at the far end of where our driver waited for us... Poor man, must have waited in the cold night for hours; we were sure glad to see our trusty Vinod.
I made it clear to him I wanted to see someone of the travel origanisation that afternoon, to cut the trainrides from our itinerary.
The above photo shows our room in the Dera Rawatsar hotel, after a few hours of sleep. We tried to get our mobile phones, laptop and camera batteries recharged. Sockets in India are either burned out, too wide or otherwise in bad shape. Converters sometimes worked and sometimes we used items (shoes, books, shamppo bottles) to balance the plug to make sufficient contact to reload the battery to some extent.
We liked the Dera Rawatsar better than the hotel we stayed the first time, Hotel Madhuban, mainly because of the excellent staff. The restaurant here was excellent too (the first time I dared to divert from my vegetarian diet, tried some chicken without ill effects).


Hawa Mahal -  'Palace of Winds'
Strange traffic
After lunch we were visited at our hotel by staff of Kaustubh Holidays, who had learned of our malcontent. We made it clear that we wanted to cancel the two remaining train rides (Agra - Varanasi & Varanasi - Delhi).
In two hours the train arrangements were cancelled and replaced by car transfer Agra - Delhi for a connecting flight to Varanasi and a flight Varanasi - Delhi; plus two additional nights in hotels.
I had booked this vacation with who booked this with Odyssey Tours & Travel, who in turn split it in regional packages; in Jaipur I was helped by Kaustubh Holidays, but they booked the airline tickets with another travel agent. It is easy to loose track of who is responsible for what, but I was helped in a very efficient way.
My worries were not over, as explained on previous pages, I had succeeded only once (the day of our arrival in New Delhi) to withdraw cash with my Visa creditcard. And I needed to pay Rp 20.000 (Eur 315,-) in cash by dinnertime for the revised arrangements... To my immense relief the Citibank ATM prompty delivered the required amount and it was finally time to enjoy what was left of the day.
Upon a visit to the Fort of Jaipur we passed the Hawa Mahal - 'Palace of Winds', which is sufficiently explained on the other Jaipur page. Since we were late, there was no more time to visit the Fort by elephant.

The Fort at Jaipur

Amber Fort (also known as Amer Fort) is located in Amber, 11 km from Jaipur in the Rajasthan state.
It was the ancient citadel of the ruling Kachhawa clan of Amber, before the capital was moved to present day Jaipur.
Amber Fort is known for its unique artistic style, blending both Hindu and Muslim (Mughal) elements, and its ornate and breathtaking artistic mastery.

Inside the Fort

The Fort resembles a palace.. There is an immense open square with the gates capturing the distant landscape with yet more defense works in view and part of this fort.
I bargained for a print and while we agreed on a price, I found the seller did not want to give me change on a banknote I had given him. It took threats to involve the military who were passing by, to get my change.
Like a friend told me beforehand: "You have to be firm with this people!"

Fort at Jaipur
There were hardly any western tourists, rather more Indian family type visitors.

I was told that the Indian tourism industry was also had hit by the Financial Crisis (late to become worldwide Economic Crisis.

Amber was originally built by the Meenas in the town they consecrated to Amba, the Mother Goddess, whom they knew as `Gatta Rani' or `Queen of the Pass'.
Built over the remnants of an earlier structure, the palace complex which stands today was commenced under the reign of Raja Man Singh, Commander in Chief of Akbar’s army and a member of the Emperor's inner circle of nine courtiers, in 1592. The initial structure of the fort was entirely completed by his descendant, Jai Singh I. Amber was modified by successive rulers over the next 150 years, until the Kachwahas shifted their capital to Jaipur during the time of Sawai Jai Singh II.

The Fort
The fort has been built with white marble and red sandstone.

Such decorations!
The decorations and inlay is worthy of a palace.The marvelous decoration of the Amber Fort is influenced by both, the Hindu and Muslim manner of ornamentation.

Detail in close up
A detail in close up


The garden in need of water
One can see the area could use some rain.
Note the labyrinthine design of that garden as well as the defense works in the distance.


Defense works in sunset
inner courtyard at Jaipur Fort
Empty courtyard
The Fort is divided into four subparts and one can feel lost in the many corridors that circle the subparts.
The rooms in the Fort are empty, there was no exhibition of any kind on display. Except for decorations on walls and gates there was nothing to examine closely. It felt bare. But a lovely place to escape the crowds.



Restorations at Jaipur's Fort
 Restoration in progress


Like the China Wall
Noting the defense works extend as far as the eye could see.
One can only imagine the amount of work and labor involved!


Kite Flyers
Kite flyers enjoying the space of the fort.

MAKAR SAKRATRI (in January) is a festival of kites, people fly kites on this whole day.


The structure which is known today as "Amber Fort" was initially a palace complex within the original fort of Amber that is today known as Jaigarh Fort. I think it could be that palace in the distance..?
Connected to Amber via fortified passages, Jaigarh Fort is located on a hill above the Amber complex, and is constructed of red sandstone and white marble. It overlooks Maotha Lake, and was reputed to be the treasure vault of the Kacchwaha rulers.

A look on the rooftops; if you look closely you see people flying their light paper frames.
All day thousands of people were flying their kites for the International Kite Festival.
That evening there was a grandiose display of fireworks. What a day to be in Jaipur, it had turned out to be all right!


Monkey at work

A day of joy

Elephant at Jaipur
I think he is inviting me for a ride; but he may also be demanding money for the photo. Next time, maybe

Elephant and make up
I feel sorry for these elephants, all made up like that!




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