03 Mar 2015

INDIA by janosilva

6/12

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We made a pit stop by the Jal Mahal, AKA Water Temple, on the way to Amber Fort. I would have liked to get there an hour or so earlier to catch it at sunrise but I didn't want to drag everyone out that early (I'm saving that card for the Taj Mahal ;-P). Missing the sunset meant that we had to deal with some pretty serious backlighting which is unfortunate because we couldn't really see any details on the structure. I think we still managed to snag a couple of OK shots.

The promenade where you look out at the Jal from was already pretty crowded for how early it was. There was even a couple getting their portraits taken. They were feeding all the birds and then running through them while the photographer snapped away. I was hoping to get a bunch of birds to fly into my frame by having Sara and Kate run through them as well but it didn't work out too well. Then a stick in the mud came to tell everyone to stop doing that, so we left.

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We made it a point to get to Amber Fort early in the morning because we wanted to make sure we got to ride an elephant up to it. It is only two people per elephant so Sara and I rode together and Kate rode solo behind us. It's a pretty long way up to the fort and the whole ramp was paved with a procession of elephants.

At one point our driver turned around to take our picture but he was so close to us that he got 0% of the 3,000 elephants in any of the frames. They all basically just looked like selfies. Of course there were guys further up the hill taking pictures to sell them to people as they exit the fort. I didn't really want to buy them since they were hard copies but I figured those were the only photos we'd have of us riding the elephants so I told him I'd buy two. Ended up haggling down the whole set from 1,000 to 300 rupees.

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Amber Fort is spectacular and definitely my favorite site so far. You enter the main square on elephant and from there you take the stairs to the palace. The place is huge and we spent a couple of hours just wondering around in no particular order, just seeing where each little passage would take us. Some times it would be an empty closet, but more often than not it would be another beautiful courtyard or a balcony with awesome sweeping views of the mountains or the town down below. One of the highlights was the Hall of Victory which is decorated from floor to ceiling in a mosaic of mirrors that make every surface sparkle. Simply beautiful.

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I'd seen pictures of these Escher looking stairs and knew I wanted to go see them. The place is also the setting of a scene in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in which kids are jumping off them into the water. Fortunately I did some research because it is super hidden away in the town of Amber, just outside Amber Fort. The place is so hidden that we had to cross thru what I assume were private roofs in order to reach it. It was completely empty except for us and one guard the whole time we were there. The place was just as cool as the pictures I'd seen and made even more so by the fact that it was so quiet and peaceful with no one else there.

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After playing with the elephants we headed back to Jaipur where our diver dropped us off right in the middle of the Old City. We spent the rest of the day going to the main sites and just walking around the bazaar looking for things to buy and haggling to the best of our ability.

The sites we visited were Hawal Mahal, with its beautiful facade, and the City Palace. Unfortunately, we thought that except for the doors of four seasons at the City Palace the inside of these two places were a bit underwhelming, especially right after seeing Amber Fort. We also visited Jantar Mantar, an observatory complex built in the 16th century. In it are giant concrete structures and metal instruments that were used to measure the movement of celestial objects. Very fascinating stuff. While there we went on a hunt looking for the concrete structures that pointed at our zodiac signs. Once we found them we took pictures in front of them while doing our best interpretations of them.