Driving from Jaipur to Udaipur, a Stay in a Palace


We got on the road about 8:30 this morning. Once we were out of the town of Jaipur, we were in a rural farming community. We drove by 5 carts with men standing up driving in them with camels pulling the carts. I didn’t get a good photo, maaf kijeeyay – everyone always smiles big in India when I say that, which basically means excuse me. Actually when I say anything in Hindi people become very excited, except nahee – that is the one word every foreigner learns, so it is not special to Indians.

Every few miles we passed a temple. There are lots of temples to lots of different gods, because there are so many gods, in this diverse polytheistic country. There is a real benefit to a polytheistic society where everyone gets to choose their favorite god, and all can have a different favorite, with some people even having more than one favorite over the course of their life. The benefit is tolerance. India has some of the most faithful people in the most faith-based culture I have ever experienced. Perhaps this strong polytheistic faith that respects differences is the reason for this religiously tolerant culture. I have found it fascinating to observe.

These are just a series of photos I took as we whizzed by. I love the colors. Here there is more pink. In Jaipur the women seemed to favor orange clothes.

Do you see the women at about 9 o’clock? They are farming in sarees. I had a hard time getting a photo of this happening. Several times I saw women out in the fields farming in colorful sarees.

There I am in the mirror and there two women are with their faces covered. I was told this is becoming less common, but traditionally this is something married women do when out in public, especially if their father-in-law is around.

We passed through a few small towns, then it was town after town with humongous chunks of marble. There is a lot of marble with the occasional pieces of granite too. I will not bore you too much. I could have over an hour’s worth of film showing this. There were trucks broken down because of carrying the heavy loads. We were told the factory owners are well-off, but the factory workers are poor.

Soon after arriving and negotiating traffic in Udaipur we drove by a mosque that was just letting out. I am posting this photo because of the woman’s outfit. Her face was not covered. Everywhere we have gone in Udaipur Muslim women were wearing this style outfit. The colors and patterns are different though. Their entire dress down to the ground is the same as the women’s capelet – my made-up name for it.

By the time we booked a place in Udaipur there were only two choices, expensive or so cheap (6$) we weren’t willing to risk it. Jim chose the least expensive of the expensive places. When Jim told me we were staying at the Shiv Niwas Palace, I had no idea it was really going to be a palace!

That Palace up ahead is where we stayed. After driving through a guarded gate, we were out of the melee of the town of Udaipur and into a private area called the City Palace Complex. I really wish I wrote fiction instead of nonfiction, so I could use the details of this place in a novel.

Here is Jim in our private courtyard.

Jim took this shot from the courtyard on our balcony.

The view from our room.

There were flocks of green parrots flying around in Udaipur. Here are two. The rest of the flock flew away when I approached.

This is a view of Udaipur. Udaipur used to be forested. Then it was rapidly deforested. Now there are restrictions to limit the rate of deforestation.

When we booked here, it was mandatory that we also attend the Christmas Eve party. Here is a tree being decorated for the party.

We came out into the courtyard of our hotel and there was a band playing bagpipes. Jim dislikes bagpipes, and I like them. They remind me of growing up on Long Island. There used to be monkey grinders in New York City when I grew up too. I suppose I would no longer like those though because I grew up to be a bleeding heart for animals, and you know, because of the “monkey incident”.

Behind the gate that is the king’s royal residence.

Up some stairs and this is a view from another side into the King’s residence.

Here is a Royal Guard. I like the uniform, don’t you?

Then we went down to walk along Lake Pichola.

Here is a view back toward our hotel and other places. Our suite is at the close end on the corner on the top floor obscured by the tree. Are you getting bored with these photos? Sean, in particular, felt conflicted staying in a place like this after our volunteering work. The poverty we have seen has made us take a hard look at consumerism and what really makes people happy. I told Sean to value happiness and take what the world throws at you. It isn’t always this luxurious. It doesn’t always look like a fairy tale castle.

Merry Christmas! I hope your New Year is a happy one.

Ganesh is the God of Luck. I have been so lucky in my life. No wonder Ganesh is my favorite. I am wishing good luck for all of you and for the people of India. This generous, boisterous, lovely country has made us feel so very welcome.

Jim and I went out to eat and Sean had room service. Here is a painting of the current King.

Musicians at dinner.

Check out yesterdays post here and here.

Jaipur day 2, post 2 of 2, the Monkey Temple

Monkey Temple

Next stop monkey temple. My fear of monkeys lasted one day. It went from fear to healthy respect. If you do not have a serious respect for monkeys, I know you have never encountered one outside of a caged enclosure. A very healthy respect 🙂

The Lake Palace was on the way to the Monkey Temple. This is a private residence. The palace was built, and then the lake was made around it. All around the lake there are people begging and hawking trinkets. A real example of the haves and have nots.

This man is tying down the eggs to deliver them.

There were tent cities just outside a couple of what looked like industrial complexes and hospitals.

The Monkey Temple is outside of Jaipur just above this small town.

We bought peanuts to feed the monkeys and this cow started to follow me around. Cows like peanut too. We have seen many cows on the streets of Jaipur eating newspaper. I guess a ruminant can digest newspaper, I don’t think it would be optimal nutrition though.

The Monkey Temple consists of a series of buildings that form a complex that runs up valley to the top of one of the high hills overlooking Jaipur.

One of the monks at the Monkey Temple gave us bracelets, oil on our wrists, and a dot on our forehead. The name of the monkey god is Hanumana.

Sean and Vikas with the ugliest Ganesh I have ever seen. Vikas was our guide. He told me he works here and goes to school. He is earning money to pay for his school fees. He wants to be a doctor one day. His English was really good.

Today the Monkey Temple seems to be mainly a tourist destination. A very cool one I might add. It must have been something to see 100 or even 50 years ago when it was bustling with monks and used for its intended purpose.

Another cobra encounter, then Vikas corrected what we had been told earlier and said not 6 months, they keep the snakes for 6 years. Very large sigh! Now I am done with snake handling too. Done handling snakes, gone are my dreams of riding an elephants, terrified of monkeys …

Up, up, up to the monkey temple. I am not sure what the barbed wire is for.

At the top there was a smiling monk.

The monkeys loved Vikas. I wouldn’t have done this without him. Vikas’ favorite singer is Honey Singh. I will have to look her up.

You can see how nervous I am.

With Vikas help, and some very kind monkeys, I conquered my fear.

Really conquered my fear! There is my cow BFF behind me

Which is good, because WOW that’s a lot of monkeys. They were everywhere we looked.

Then Sean decided to conquer his fear of monkeys.

It tickles your neck to have a monkey sit on it.

This is the second time today we hiked all the way up to have a nice view of Jaipur. This part of Jaipur reminds me of the clothes women wear here in India, a mixture of bright colors making everything seem more vibrant and alive. For me they represent the joy I find in most of the Indian people we have met.

A crocodile at the top of the monkey temple. Why there is a crocodile fountain head at the top of the Monkey Temple, who knows.

If you ever come to the Monkey Temple ask for Vikas. He was really a great guide, and made the experience much better. He is also the first Indian I have heard complain about littering and water pollution. He thinks it is awful that his country men just drop their trash of the ground.

The monks and monkeys go in here and the monks smoke pot, and I guess the monkeys do too through second-hand smoke.

We are all tired. Time to go back to the Ikaki Niwas and take a nap. Tomorrow we leave for Udaipur, the City of Lakes.

Check out our tour of the Amber Palace here and yesterdays post here.

Jaipur day 2, Amber Palace post 1 of 2

Today was our day to hike. We didn’t know it when we woke up, but by the time the day was over we had hiked all over the place, and we had conquered some fears. We have been very sedentary for us.

Here are the shop names I was telling you about yesterday. This is the old part of Jaipur.

Another hazy day. This is the Amber Palace from across the lake.

To the left of the Amber Palace is Jaigarh Fort. There is a wall you can walk on that connects the two. The distance is 1 1/2 kilometers.

As we were standing there along came a snake charmer.

“Do we want to charm that snake?” he asked. Well at least one of us did.

And touch it, kind of – sort of. Honestly, I was too bothered by the sweaty turban to care about the venomous snake I was touching! LOL, what can I say, we all have our idiosyncrasies, and one of mine is getting other people’s sweat on me, Yuch.

Here he is trying to convince me to wrap it around my neck. I drew the line at that.

The night before we went to the Amber Palace we ate dinner with a South African couple, Charles and Carmine. We got to talking about the life of these elephants. Up until this time Sean and I had every intention of riding elephants into the Palace. Charles had observed these elephants and had also observed elephants in the wild in South Africa. He thought the elephants trekking up to the Amber Palace looked dead in the eyes. There went my dream of riding an elephant up to the Amber Palace. It is not easy being a bleeding heart when it comes to animals. There are all sorts of moral dilemmas to deal with. The snake for instance, I was told the snake had something done so it could not bite for 6 months. After 6 months it would be released back into the wild, and the handler would get another snake. One problem is my Hindi is extremely limited and many of the people I am asking questions to have limited English. My guess is the story of what happens to the snake is not nearly as happy as that, and that is not that great. Charles was right too, the elephants looked unhappy.

At the Amber Palace we saw crumbling ruins of old parts of the palace in areas where people were living in more modern buildings.

This was taken from the wall of the Amber Palace. The Palace itself is not crumbling away, it was very nice to visit. These Palaces are more complexes than just Palaces. They are different than European Castles. The rooms are smaller in the Palaces we have seen in India, and there are many more of them. There are a lot of separate apartments, probably to accommodate all the family groups and members living together plus all their servants. There are lots of open Courtyards and places to observe the countryside.

Many of the walls, inside and out, have decorative painting on them.

This is the garden at the Amber Palace.

The bathrooms and toilets were interesting

This is a deep bath with 4 seats. There was hot and cold running water coming into here. There was a setup that created steam which could also be pumped into the baths.

These were used as urinals.

Here is a view from above. I am not sure how this works. You defecate in the squares, but what is the pot for? Maybe it had water and a ladle in it to use to wash the feces down.

Jaigarh Fort, above, is old and beautiful. It seems that they are slowly restoring the Palace. One day these walls will be pinkish like the front part. Inside the doors there are warrens of rooms.

Here is a restored or maybe just better preserved part. Jim and I like the older, less restored parts just as much. There were bits of glass and semi precious gems inlaid into the walls here

Many of the rooms open up to small rooms on the outside that have this stonework surrounding them. This extends from floor to ceiling without a break.

Here is a view from one of these outer alcove area, looking into another alcove area. Do you see the beehive at 11 o’ clock.

This gives you some idea about what it is like inside looking out into a courtyard. It is room after room of this.

We are deciding if we want to hike up to Jairgarh Fort, behind us in the distance. We all dressed a bit warmly for the temperature. It was chilly this morning.

One final photo of the Amber Palace before descending into the tunnels. Many of the palaces and forts of India were built with extensive tunnel systems to hide the movement of people, including troops.

We came up out of the underground tunnel to this corridor. It is still protected here because these are the tops of hills.

This is a photo of the pathways looking down from the side of Jaigarh fort. The walled walking path is the one we came up into when we exited the tunnel.

Check out the monkey jumping. There were monkeys everywhere. I decided to get over some of my fear. As my dad would say, I got back on that horse and rode it. I tossed cashews to the monkeys after we passed.

On our way to Jaigragh Fort we came to a fork in the path. We could take a broad path with no stairs up or we could walk up all these stairs. We immediately chose this path.

We met some boys from Mumbai on the way up.

The stairs took us to a dead end. We could not get into the fort without going back down and up the other path. We actually liked this better. We did not realize there were these paths up to the outside of the fort towers. We love castles, forts, and palaces. I read a lot of history, and I like to stand in the old places and imagine what might have been and what it was like. I am not sure what these paths are for. as we walked don, we discussed the possibilities that occurred to us, but they were all guesses. This path was built for a purpose, what it was… leaves so much to the imagination. I loved it! Any time I explore something new like this it gives me more to think about.

We are headed down. I carry a limited number of shoes with me on trips like this, but still, flip flops were not ideal today.

This is the front side of the Amber palace. One of those meshed rooms above is where I took the photo of the beehive.

We are leaving through one of the elephant gates. The elephants only work in the morning. I hope their afternoons are filled with joyous companionship.

This is a view looking back at the Palace

This is a view in the other direction. It was taken at a weird angle so you could follow the wall along the ridge line. Do you see it? As I was leaving I thought this palace and the town that surrounded it reminded me of the book, Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke. It was a really good book.

These building are right outside the palace. That is the palace in the background.

Now we go to the Monkey Temple. But Sodi, I don’t want to go to the Monkey Temple… Unfortunately I don’t know how to tell our driver this in Hindi.

Check out yesterdays post here and read about the history of The Amber Palace here.

Jaipur day 1


Jim and I like to stay in B&Bs when we travel. In India we are staying in B&Bs where possible. They are called homestays here. We waited a bit late to start booking this leg of our trip, so we were not able to get a room in a homestay everywhere we are traveling to, but we did manage to get a room in a great homestay in Jaipur. Actually it started to become stressful to book our plans as late as we did. We could not get a train or a plane except for one leg of our journey around India. We hired a driver who is driving us everywhere. It is inexpensive by our standards, and oh so very convenient.

This is looking out from the Ikaki Niwas, Jaipur, the homestay we are staying at. Staying in a homestay is sort of like staying in someone’s house. We have only stayed in 2 in India, but they have been nice houses, the food and service superb, and they are quite a bit less expensive than hotels.

These are photos of the Ikaki Niwas.

It is foggy here, which is why the photos are hazy.

India is a tea drinking culture. The tea has been great. Until today the coffee had been Nescafé. This is the best coffee of the trip. Jim was delighted.

As we were driving to the Ikaki Niwas when we first got to Jaipur, it was through a slum area for the part of the approach. Jim said, “What was this place rated on TripAdvisor?” Everything was fine once we got here though. One thing we really like about B&Bs and now homestays is talking to other guests at meals. We met a couple from South Africa who are riding a motorcycle through India. You have no idea how insane that sounds to me after driving around India for over 2 weeks. I could not handle it! Driving here is nuts.

There were animals everywhere we drove in Jaipur. Today either in or on the road mingling with traffic we saw cows, pigs, dogs,  donkeys, camels, goats, horses, birds, and monkeys. Here is the drive through Jaipur.

Do you see the monkeys?

There were monkeys scrambling all over this building. These photos are from when I loved monkeys.

This is a busy street between two monuments, the Observatory and the City Palace.

Do you see the cow starting to cross the street?

When Sean saw this cow cross the street he said, “That right there sums India up for me.” You have this busy street filled with people and cars with a cow wandering around, and the cow is given the same priority and status as anyone or thing else. Everyone just zips crazily around the cow.

We are in the state of Rajasthan. When we were deciding what to do for our last two weeks we wanted to experience some of the differences that make up India. The problem with that is you can only spend so much time on the road and experience anything but driving. We are spending 3 nights in Jaipur, 3 nights in Udaipur, 3 nights in Jaisalmer, and 1 night in Jodhpur. Our last 2 nights we will spend back in Delhi.

The sights of Jaipur

 There are more animals on the road in Jaipur than there are in Delhi, and the roads are more narrow. This makes for slower driving, and more congestion. There is no way other than experiencing it to really get a handle on what it is like to be on the road in India.

Our first sightseeing in Jaipur was to the City Palace.

The City Palace is in the center of the city of Jaipur. It is surrounded by little tiny bodega type shops. Many of the shops only have their name written in Hindi letters. Jaipur seems less well-to-do and less fixed up than Delhi, and much more touristy. Jaipur is surrounded by big hills with forts on many of the hill tops. The City Palace sits on the plain below the hills. The palace is located where the royal hunting lodge used to sit. Every time you think you have come to the end of the palace, you go through a door and there are more rooms. It is huge.

Many of the buildings in the City Palace are stuccoed a pinkish/salmon color. This color stucco is on many of the monuments and temples in Jaipur besides the City Palace. Because of this Jaipur is called the Pink City.

The uniform of the people who work at the City Palace.

The City Palace is laid out on a grid pattern with palaces, pavilions, gardens, and temples, along with lots of small doors and cubby holes.

Look at all the work on the arches.

There the pink color is. The pink color is in honor of Prince Edward who later became the King of England. I wonder why they chose pink for him?

Don’t you just love the workmanship? You see elements of Islamic, Rajput, and European influences.

Sean and I are in a doorway. There are 4 in this courtyard. The next series of photos show some of the detail in each archway. There are four small gates, known as Ridhi Sidhi Pol, that represent the Hindu gods.

This gate is dedicated to Shiva and Parvati

This gate is dedicated to Ganesh

The peacock is the symbol of India. We see them everywhere running wild in Jaipur.

A Christmas tree at the City Palace.

Check the pigeons out. There are thousands upon thousands of pigeons in India. I wonder how they got here? All the pigeons in America came from pigeons brought over by British settlers. We call them pigeons but they are not actually pigeons, these like the ones in America are rock doves. There were pigeons in America, but they were driven to extinction by settlers in America.

This urn is one of two of the largest silver objects in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The second object is an urn across from this one.

You see that white building in the back. There is music coming from there. Some street musicians are playing in a room up there. Does that make them room musicians?  Anyway, I went up and joined them.

It was fun, and I didn’t have to sing. Jim and Sean would not join! Ah guys, you only live once! Don’t you know!

The City Palace is filled with museums and exhibits. They do not allow any photography in them so you won’t see most of what we did.

Across the street from the City Palace is the Observatory, the Jantar Mantar. In it there is an awesome collection of astronomical instruments. It was built between 1727 and 1734 by a Rajput King who must have been a very good astronomer. I was impressed and bought a book about the site. I plan on weaving pieces of what I learned at the site into the astronomy part of the textbook I am working on right now. The King who built this built 5 of these across India. (I am reading and re-posting these articles two years later, and I did not do this because it is too hard to find the information about this site outside of India.)

The name Jantar Mantar means calculation instruments.

The observatory has 14 geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars’ location as the earth orbits around the sun, ascertaining the declinations of planets, and determining the distance of stars. There is even an instrument that predicts the arrival time of monsoons.

These instruments are huge. You cannot climb on them even though they have stairs. I know because I got yelled at for doing it.

We are in front of this sundial.

The astrological signs are represented too. 

The sundial

Cool hunh?

Next stop, a drive up a steep road to the Nahargarh Fort, also called the Tiger Fort.

In front of the fort we had some yummy street food. It is crunchy, a little spicy (I have come to the conclusion it is not spice I dislike, it is jalapeños), and has lime squeezed over the top.

The Nahargarh Fort overlooks Jaipur.

These walls go across about 11 kilometers of the hillside.

We thought it was an amphitheater, but it turned out to be a place to collect water.

 There is a lot of work going on at the fort, with more of a manual labor component and less mechanized than you see in the US.

Check out the bamboo scaffolding. I had not noticed it before, but Jim said this is what they use in Delhi too. He has seen people standing on it working. His comment was that you would need really strong feet to work on this.


Built mainly in 1734 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur, the fort was constructed on the summit of the ridge above the city as a place of retreat. Walls extended over the surrounding hills, forming fortifications that connected this fort to Jaigarh, which we will visit tomorrow. During the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the Europeans of the region were moved to Nahargarh fort by the king of Jaipur for their protection.

 There are 9 separate squares in the palace all identical. The king had 9 wives and they all needed to be housed separately. My question is, doesn’t the king need any alone time?

This guide had us laughing so hard. He came up me and pointed off the top roof of the palace and said, “Jaipur”. He continued to follow me all around the roof, which was huge, pointing off the roof saying again and again, “Jaipur.” A couple of times he stopped to tell me water and say monkey and bite his finger when he said it. I thought it was so strange. I think those were the only English words he knew. Jim and Sean stopped walking with me to see what would happen. I started laughing so hard.

The fort was built on a very large hill so that Jaipur surrounded it, so yeah, Jaipur surrounds it. He had a guide badge that showed someone other than him on the badge. Finally I told Jim it was going to cost us a bit to get rid of him. The guides here wanted money if they gave you any information, even of you didn’t ask for it. Jim gave him 20 rupees and the guy said no 50. Jim said, “But you didn’t do anything.” The guy said, “50.” Jim said, “If I give you 40 will you leave us alone?” And the guide nodded yes. It was really quite funny. If only the “guide” spoke as well as he understood that interchange.

Look at that guy with his bare feet.

We came upon these workers and they hopped right up from a coffee break and started to work. They asked us if we wanted photos and then wanted money for it. The amount they wanted was 20 rupees, basically 30 cents. 

The process they were using to make all this was archaic.

Here is more of the wall. Look how steep the hill is along the edges. It is an impressive feat of engineering.

Kite flying is very popular in Jaipur. We came upon someone flying a kite on the wall. They let Sean fly their kite.

It was not possible to get the kite and Sean in the same photo.

Along the wall back to the fort. I got a little ahead of the guys.

I turned a corner and there was a monkey! I called to Sean, and he caught up with me.

Sean and I approached the monkey to get the much desired close up

Guess what? Monkeys don’t like that. The first thing Jim knew, Sean was running the other way and I was backing up slowly and then running. That monkey came at me with his canines, big, BIG, big canines, bared. My knees didn’t stop shaking for ages. There was a guy there, a local, who threw rocks at it, maybe even an employee, to get it to leave. We laughed until we cried. And Sean and I have a new respect for monkeys. And we no longer like monkeys. Oh no, not a bit! In fact I am now officially afraid of monkeys and so is Sean. Did I mention how big and sharp their teeth are!!

I am not sure if these were peacocks with no tail feathers or peahens who aren’t brown, but they are one or the other running wild.


Then we went shopping and bought some stamp art. This is art that is done painted onto old manuscript paper. It is something Jaipur is known for. We always like to buy a art on our travels.


This is the back of the painting.


The homestay, Ikaki Niwas, let me come into the kitchen for a cooking demonstration. You know I was all over that. This is one of the people who works here chopping onions faster than I have ever seen anyone do it.

Here is Davika. She is one of the owners and the mistress of the kitchen. I had bought some wonderful spices in Dubai and India. She went over them telling me how to use each of them. We ate here all 3 nights. It was so good that we didn’t bother looking for somewhere else to eat.


Indian kitchen (the 4 I have been in) have all been set up similarly to each other and different from the ways ours are set up in the US. They have a very nice toaster/convection oven like this one, instead of a built in oven.


3 of the 4 have had microwave ovens

All have had a portable stove similar to this one. I asked Davika about it, and she told me her husband had told her how different American kitchens were from Indian ones, so I am going to assume the 4 Indian kitchens I have been in are standard.

Almost there, making curried papardum. I will have to try my new recipe on any who are interested when I get home.

Most Indian homes have a shrine in them. Here is the shrine at the Ikaki Niwas Homestay.

Check out yesterdays post here.