Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Jaipur, The Amber Palace (North India - Day 1)

Apart from the odd day off here or there, 9 months working flat-out takes its toll. I organised therefore for this holiday, long in the planning (and booked back in January 2011) to be my first one completely disconnected from work since joining my current employer some 3.5 years ago. Helen's had a very bumpy time with her work too and we both needed to disconnect and recharge ourselves.
Our previous India holiday (see blog posts from January 2009) was a roaring success so we used the same company to make the arrangements, Kalypso Adventures, and would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone considering a holiday in India that isn't a standard beach package.... they really do know their onions when it comes to birding and wildlife and indeed logistics, etc.
We set off to Heathrow on Saturday December 17th and from there flew directly to Delhi, landing at 01:30. We were met by both our driver and bird guide for the duration of the holiday and then set off on the long drive to Jaipur. We arrived without incident a little after dawn, for breakfast and a nap and arranged to meet again at 10am to start proceedings.
One of my objectives of travelling to North India this time was of course the different bird species we'd encounter together with, fingers crossed, wild Tiger, but we did also want to explore a little more of India proper and the Amber Fort/Amber Palace features high in that regard, hence starting in Jaipur.
We stayed in a Heritage Hotel owned by the former head of the Indian Navy, who although absent on business still called us from Mumbai to welcome us to his hotel. Everything was comfortable, though - as warned by Kalypso but somewhat disregarded by us - it was unseasonably cold (even for winter!):

After a brief but refreshing nap we headed out into Jaipur, en route to the Amber Palace, having been joined by a local guide arranged for us by the company. It being a Sunday morning the city was still quiet at 10am:
One building sure to catch the eye in the Pink City is the Palace of Windows:
As you approach the fort, the scale of the site is quite breathtaking:
We were driven up to the main entrance then walked in to explore:
Our bird guide took a snap to prove we were there:
You can see here some of the fine working of the inner palace area:
And the courtyard gardens:

From the top the view across Jaipur is also excellent:

And indeed down to the Saffron gardens, though apparently they never did manage to cultivate any there (too warm for crocuses):
From the Palace we headed back in to the city and down to the lake....

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