Finally we were heading North. The south of India had been fantastic, but we had heard amazing stories of the food and culture in the North and were keen to get there to see it all for ourselves.
With Holi festival only a short time away, we decided to do only 1 night in Jaipur then leave for Jailsmere. We planned to do Holi in Jaipur, so we would have more sightseeing time then. We organised with our hostel, Pink turban hostel to return at Holi and go to an event they were helping organise. We figured we could still get the Amber fort and one other item ticked off the list while we were here the first time round, so map in hand we headed off that afternoon to explore the town and see Nahargarh fort (also known as the tiger fort).
The steep climb took us a good half an hour and having us wish we had a motor bike. Puffing, but still alive, we tried to figure out where we were meant to go now that we were at the top. There was a wax museum and exhibition area behind a gate to one side and a ruinous amphitheatre to the other. From the amphitheatre you couldn’t see the city, so puzzled we decided to see if you had to go via the Wax museum to get to the viewing areas. It turned out we could simply walk through the gate, bypass the ticketing area for the museum and walk down a smaller path to the side of the building to get to the old castle and the point where you could look over the city.
When we got to the castle area, we saw that there was a restaurant at the top of the hill. We figured the beers would be expensive there, but a beer on a balcony at sunset while you gazed over a city sounded enticing. And it would have been fantastic, if we had gone. As we got to the entrance of the restaurant we saw that it was 200 rupees per person just for the privilege of going in! This would have made for some VERY overpriced drinks, so we opted to watch the sunset from a viewing point just underneath it.
We ended our day by walking down to the town below, grabbing a taxi to Kaylan rooftop restaurant, as Stu was feeling not so great and wanted something western where I wanted Indian and this place was meant to be very good at both. We were met by a cheery Lady as we entered, who turned out to be the owner. She poured us free chai and sat with us to have a chat before talking us through the menu. I ended up with one of the best vegetarian curries I had for the trip, the mushroom Bahje, and Stu’s four cheese pasta also went down a treat. After another cup of free chai and a chat about Jaipur and the owners life there, we headed home full and happy.
The next day we rose early and headed to the markets to grab some fresh food to make our own breakfast, a luxury when you haven’t cooked for yourself in over a month. The market wasn’t really running that day (or we were in the wrong spot, not sure) so finding the ingredients was hard, but we managed to gather everything we needed for a good omelette for super cheap. Breakfast done, we headed to Narayan Singh Circle bus stop and jumped on the AC5 (one of about 3 buses that go via the fort, just yell at the money collector hanging out the bus and if they are going there they’ll usher you on) which took us to the fort in around 40 minutes.
The fort is imposing and gives you an idea of the might of the empire at the time it was built. A winding staircase overlooking a large moat and still stunning (in places) gardens lead you up to the main gates and you cannot help but feel a sense of awe as you imagine it in it’s glory years.
We had been told it was worth the 200 rupees for a guide here due to the rich history of the site. Be careful not to fall for one of the ‘fake’ guides at the bottom of the stairs as you walk towards the fort. Wait until you get to the gates of the fort and make sure your guide has a government issued pass to certify he is allowed to be a guide within the fort.
At architecture and history of this building is phenomenal. Every small element of the building is not just ornate, but serves to keep the building warm, cool, dark or light. The stories of the kings and their many wives, the sacrificial practices that still take place at the fort today and the stories of failed invasions and lavish parties come to life as you walk with your guide.
This fort is definitely on my must see list of forts in India.
Feeling like we had learnt something and seem a real gem of India’s history, we headed back to town for dinner before taking the night bus to Jaisalmer.