King's private audience at Amber fort.
The train stopped at Jaipur
at 9:30 am. I found my way out, and again found myself inside looking for the tourist information counter. Wanted to find out if the Rajasthan tourist department also ran a daily sightseeing tour. Turned out that they do, but it wouldn't be until 11:30 am. So, again, I found my way out - this time looking for the prepaid rickshaw counter. And yet again, I let a rickshaw guy convince me to let him take me to a hotel. Oh well! Atleast this one was half decent, given the room rents in cities these days. Was pretty close to the bus stand as I had asked for. It even had a TV with cable, which I barely watched but probably paid for.
After calling the tourism department and finding out about the day tour, I went to the bus stand where they have a tiny office for booking these tours.
Turns out that the tour leaving at 11:30 didn't have enough people for them to operate the tour. That forced me to return to the hotel and wait for the 13:30 tour, and gave me time to have lunch, etc, etc. From the looks of the tour description, didn't appear that Jaipur has a lot to see in the city per se, and only the forts outside are more likely interesting. No idea about the night life anyway, didn't stay that long or find anyone to hang out with. Basically by the time I had come down from the mountains, I had started feeling somewhat antsy about the heat and dust everywhere. I wanted to chill out with some familiar people, or find some, but didn't seem like I would get to.
Well 13:30 rolled around sure enough and I found myself again in the tourism department office, this time being told that finally there were enough folks to run the tour.
Ganesh gate.. entrance to inner Amber fort.
There weren't enough for a bus anyway, so a Toyota Qualis came around to pick me, with some 8 boring family folks already in. Well they took us around, and we stopped briefly at/just saw from outside the City palace museum, Jantar Mantar, Albert Hall, Central park, Hawa Mahal, Birla temple. The long stop was really at Amber fort, what with it multiple levels and the king's and queens' residence, the king's public and private audience halls, and the amazing mirror palace with hundreds of thousands of tiny mirrors!! The long tour of the fort was followed by some time for shopping at the huge local handicrafts store (run by some government affiliated tourism organization). The tour ran till about 6 in the evening, where they dropped us back at one of the tourism offices. I decided to stick around for another run through the city - the night tour.
At Birla temple.
This tour is particularly nice since it takes you through the city at night, showing some of the attractions from outside, and then straight to Nahargarh Fort. Its really dark at the fort, not a soul around, pretty quiet, and then you walk to this restaurant that occupies one corner of this fort and served a nice vegetarian buffet dinner. The ambience was awesome - half moon, one can see the entire city glittering and shimmering at the base of the hill on which the fort is located. Forget that I had to wait an extra hour for the tour to start, and that the entire group that went was some family party - I just enjoyed the meal and strolled around in the fort in sheer darkness, only lighted by the stars above and the shimmer of the myriad and many city lights. Serene!
Not much to do past that. Return to the silly hotel room and doze off.
The only important things (I guess) that I missed seeing were the City palace museum and one of the movie theatres there is quite famous since it is decorated quite immaculately with gems and such! Done miss it in case you get the opportunity!
-- Ashish Bhambhani.