Friday, January 8th, 2016
A bunch of us were preparing to take a hot air balloon ride at dawn over the city of Jaipur. We sipped on Chai in the dark as we watched the fans blow hot air from the flames into out balloon, which according to our guide, was the largest in India.
They helped us in the basket, gave us brief safety instructions and informed us of the proper way to prepare ourselves for landing. Trevor seemed nervous. He isn’t a huge fan of heights and was reluctant to join me in the first place. However, he seemed less nervous once we were up in the air. It was an incredible experience neither of us would regret.
The scenery was surreal as we floated over the Amer Fort and Palace and passed over the walls to the city. The name “Amer” comes from the original name of the city, but the name “Amber Fort” is sometimes used as well.
There were many children and some adults too, who were on the rooftops waving at us as we nearly came into their reach. The guide was not shy about getting close to the ground!
We caught the sunrise, saw many elephants trudging the streets, and startled a fair number of peacocks, dogs, cows, and goats. Upon landing, a crowd of locals greeted us, checking out the balloons and getting a few photos with us, as always. You always feel like a celebrity when you’re a tourist in India.
After a brief stop at the hotel, we shared a rickshaw with Graham as we toured Jaipur. We first stopped at the Hawa Mahal, or the “Palace of the Winds” which was originally a viewing area used by the royal women.
We chatted about the music of the 60’s as we traveled from there to the base of the Amer Fort and Palace. A Jeep picked us up to transport us to the gate where there was no shortage of pushy vendors. It was difficult to hear the guide with all the noise, but it didn’t matter since the architecture was stunning beyond words.
Our next stop was to see the Jantar Mantar monument, which holds the world’s largest stone sundial as well as 18 other astronomical instruments.
Although impressive, I think this stop would be more exciting for those who are more into astronomy. I’m all about gazing at the stars, but a lot of the details on the instruments at this UNESCO World Heritage Site were over my head, literally and figuratively.
The City Palace was our next stop, and we strolled through the textile museum before taking the tour. As we waited to enter, a guy drove through the square in a Jaguar. We assumed he was likely one of the descendants of the former royal family. Our suspicions were likely founded when the guide pointed out the significance of the palace flags. When you see a smaller flag waving above the larger one by the palace, that informs you that the royals are present in the city. Photos were strictly forbidden once you entered the palace, but once inside, we saw paintings of the royal family of the past and present, and where government meetings were held. It was a long day of touring the city, so we were happy to finally return to the hotel, eat a good meal, and rest up for another day in India.
Jump Back to Part 14: Human Parcheesi, Pens & Puppet Sex
Jump Ahead to Part 16: Delhi Belly & Sticky Fingers
Start from the Beginning at Part 1: Don’t Forget to Pack Your Anxiety