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Not quite a typical day—no days are typical in infinitely various India—but this busy day in and over and around the Pink City of Jaipur is a good sample of the wonders of what Mark Twain called “the most extraordinary land the sun visits on his rounds.”
We’re at our exquisite lodgings in the Rambagh Palace, and we’re up in the quiet pre-dawn, ready for a hot-air balloon ride over Jaipur. We follow the gentle dictates of the wind, wafting high above villages and old fortresses, waving to school kids on their way to class, office workers on their bikes, families breakfasting atop their homes.
After coming to Indian earth, we head to the gorgeous Samode Palace for a bountiful breakfast before setting out with our Micato Travel Director for a colourful and deliciously eventful day of sightseeing in the Pink City.
First to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Jantar Mantar, a 300-year old astronomical observatory. Its sundial, just one of many huge instruments, is the world’s largest. Seemingly as whimsical as something out of Dr. Seuss, the Jantar was strikingly accurate in its calculations of the movements of the sun, moon, and planets.
A short drive takes us to Jaipur’s immense and fabulously ornate City Palace, still the home of the royal family that ruled the city for centuries. Micato has a special relationship with the erstwhile rulers, and after a wander in the Palace’s fascinating museum, gardens, and courtyards, we’re discreetly ushered into magnificent, normally off-limits private rooms and view-rich aeries atop the Palace’s family quarters.
Leaving the main Palace, we gaze up at the adjacent Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds, a high, fantastically filigreed screen from which women of the royal family gazed in privacy on Jaipur’s forever active street life.
After wandering awhile on those multicolourous streets, we relax at a leisurely luncheon at one of the Jaipur’s finest restaurants, where, with the guidance of our Travel Director, we can sample a variety of local and international dishes and freshen up before the afternoon’s activities.
Off to mammoth Amber Fort, where we marvel at its intimate courtyards and fountains, and delightedly succumb to bedazzlement by the Sheesh Mahal, or Mirror Palace, which surrounds us in a magical mist of reflected light.
We drive a little way north from the hilltop fort to Dera Amer, a lovely private estate in the Rajasthani hills owned by an old Micato friend. Here we’ll spend an afternoon helping bathe and taking a short walk alongside lovingly cared-for elephants, and enjoy an al fresco feast in a flowered arbor.
Then back to the Rambagh Palace for a nightcap, a dance performance in the Palace’s gardens, or an early night aftera typically vital Indian day.