Outside of an intriguing city called Jaipur sits a massive sprawl of buildings that seldom leave people unimpressed. We approached the area and got out on the side of the road to take distance shots of the entire panorama. Brushing off the hats that hawkers placed on our heads for purchase, we clicked the crusting landscape in our viewfinders and prepared for an enlightening, yet steamy day. There are two ways to ascend the hill towards the Amber Fort: walk on foot or hire an elephant to get you there. Seeing as it costs $13 for five minutes on an ellie that gets horrendous care and maintenance, I silenced my desires to roll around on the back of a pachyderm and employed my boots. A couple boys on the way tried to sell us postcards of the site, but never have I been inspired to write a postcard and send it even if it were free…so I moseyed on with them still calling me in my wake.
Our tour leader hired a guide that explained in great detail why we were wandering around on a mountaintop under a blistering sun. The structures boasted both Hindi and Muslim architectural elements, intertwined with a level of craftsmanship not found too often in today’s world. Mosaics caused the palaces to bling, and the intricate stone carving made it possible for the old Mughal inhabitants to develop such things as air-conditioning and one way windows. There were perfume fountains and wheelchair ramps for the royal ladies who couldn’t walk with all the layers of clothing they had to adorn. Every factoid this guide threw at us wowed us, even as our heads were slowly baking in the sun.
Both tourists and Indians wandered the grounds. It wasn’t packed but was easily scattered with interested minds and clicking cameras. It was one of those miracle destinations where the hype doesn’t surpass the reality of the site, and the aspect of tourism doesn’t take away or inhibit the experience from being awe-inspiring. Way to go, Amber Fort, you did it.
In the dead heat of the day, we dropped into the chaos that is Jaipur’s jewelry market, a strip of infinite shops and outdoor informal gem trading that had me thanking my lucky stars I don’t wear jewelry. It’s well known and apparently worthy of hype, but I saved my money and moved on to lunch and the most hilarious movie I’ve never witnessed in a theater. Bollywood, you complete me…