India: That night we stayed in a palace…..

That night we stayed in a palace…..

We had one more night before heading home so I asked our travel company to suggest where to stay that would be on the way to the airport. They suggested a night in a palace and recommended two. I researched the reviews and decided Samode Palace was the place for us.

We came to find out that it was not really close by to the airport; it was actually a 3 hour drive; but it didn’t matter. We got to stay in a palace.

Upon arrival I received my second blessing and a necklace.

The price was definitely not economy but that is what we expected for our last night. We were pleased to find that they upgraded us to the honeymoon suite.

We arrived to find the large canopy bed. The room was over a walkway into a courtyard so we had two different views to choose from.

Long corridor with seating area.

Our room had two private balconies.

Beautiful tub and bathroom – everything very clean!

We enjoyed looking at the historical photos on the wall of our room.

One of the views from our window.

Right outside our room we noticed a little temple. It was closed when we arrived but later we came back to find it open.

There was also a lovely seating area outside our room.

After placing our bags down we wanted to explore the nearby village. We started on our walk. Almost within minutes we notice a gentleman following us. He wanted to be our guide and help us. We politely declined. We saw some older buildings along the way. We desired to go into the shops to browse but we were constantly bombarded by people wanted to “help” us and following us around. Kids crowded around us asking for candy – I guess most tourists come prepared with candy gifts.  We just had over a week of people constantly asking for money and we had enough. We walked back to the hotel.

This sad donkey and cat were the only two things that didn’t beg us for money in Samode Village. It makes me kind of sad that the tourists cannot sustain some sort of market in the village and they feel the need to beg. I had money to spend but I cannot take the constant harassment.

After whining about our first world problems we returned to the luxury of our palace and explored the grounds. 

Beautiful vistas from the Jacuzzi.

One of the pools

 The Sish Mahal (room of mirrors)

We noticed early in the day that they were setting up for some sort of event.

We took a peak out our window and it was some sort of party.  We got to see some fireworks.

The next morning came and it was time to start another long car ride. As always there is so much to see.

The jeep ahead of us has so many people in it. Some are even hanging out the back. Can’t be very safe with these bumpy roads.

Creepy dolls staring out the window at you at the tollbooth.

We stopped at a rest stop and I get my last Thums up and some yummy cashew chicken. It could have been frozen and mass produced for all I know. I still enjoyed it. I still haven’t gotten Indian food in the US that tasted like the food I had there.

And so is the end of my adventure. I want to go back and hope to get the opportunity to do so. India is such a large country with a treasure trove of culture. I have only hit the tip of the iceberg with this adventure. Maybe again some day India!

Jaipur: Pink City

Nadivalya yantra
During our visit to the city of Jaipur in Rajasthan we got to see one of the finest astronomical observatories from the Mughal period, the Jantar Mantar. Built by Sawai Jai Singh (a Rajput king), it was modeled after one in New Delhi.
The site is full of large equipment used to measure the solar system, time, astrological signs, and also used to determine times for wedding dates.

Jai Prakash Yantra 

My astrological sign

Hubby next to his sign

Observation deck of the samrat yantra

sundial

Also that day we stopped by the City Palace. It was a palace for royals but now serves as a museum. It has a pretty impressive armory which unfortunately I have no pictures of.
It is at the City Palace where you will get the idea of why Jaipur is also named the Pink City.

Some work going on for a private event

Love the detail on this balcony

Our tour guide told us that the maharaja would bring a couple of these vases full of Ganges water with him when he traveled. It is hard to see the size from the picture but imagine it is tall as a human. Quite a bit of heavy luggage for his international trips!

Complex designs in the arch.

It will only take a couple hours of your day to visit the City Palace. I recommend you at it to your list.

India: Adventures in Jaipur

Jaipur is a very lively city in India. On the must see list of Jaipur is Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds. It looks interesting from the outside but we were told there is not much to see inside. We stopped briefly to take a picture of the building that was used for women of the court to get some air and see the street below; while being shielded from the outside.

Camels

One of the infamous emporiums they try to trap tourists in

Donkey

Orange Man

Street Vendor

Huts on the side of the road
Random palace ruins
Chicken

Street Vendor

Colorful truck

Jaipur: Palace City

One more must see in Jaipur is Amber Fort and Palace. The most popular way to get up the hill is by elephant. Otherwise you will walk up the incline to the palace yourself while dodging elephant poop.
Our tour included the elephant ride and we waited in this long line for our turn.
In retrospect the whole experience made me uncomfortable. They told us that the elephants only go up the hill maximum of 3 times a day (thus why you can only catch a ride until 11:00 am), but my gut feeling is that it isn’t a great life for the elephants. The ride was awkward and uncomfortable and I emotionally felt bad about it the whole time. Between all that and the time we wasted in line for the ride I wish we would have just walked up the hill.

Oh course while we were in line we were harrassed to buy everything.

These cheaply made umbrellas were popular to block the sun during the elephant ride. It does make a charming photo opportunity.

Elephants on the incline.

Getting on. Notice they decorate the elephants.

Great views on the top.

Once up top it was worth the wait. The palace is beautiful.

Turkish Baths

Turkish Bath

Seesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors)
Most impressive is the mirror decor in the palace of mirrors. Little pieces of mirrors glisten with the natural light. It is almost majestic. Quite a sight to see with your eyes but not as easy to capture the intensity with the camera.

Even we are part of the decor….

 From the terraces you have views that are fit for a king.

Overlooking the nearby gardens.

And gardens within the fort.

One can see Jaigarh Fort off in the distance.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped for a photo opportunity with this palace in the water. I am not sure one is able to visit the palace but it is nice to look at from afar. It was a nice end to our sightseeing day.

India Mini Palace

While staying in Jaipur, India we got the chance to stay in two palaces. The second was booked special for our last night to spend as “royals”. The first happened because all the hotels were originally tried to book were sold out. 
After looking at the online pictures of the Shahpura House I knew it was where I wanted to stay in Jaipur. This two hundred year old “house” was converted into a hotel in the 1990’s. The decor was very ornate and detailed. The hotel oozed character.
Unfortunately we were put on the ground floor which was slightly damp and pretty noisy from the sounds of people in the hallways. We are pretty sound sleepers so could get through the sounds but I didn’t like that all my clothes continually felt damp the entire stay. We also had a mishap with the laundry that had us delayed an hour for our next day of sightseeing. I suggest being very vocal about your expectations with the staff and you shouldn’t have any problems. They were very friendly otherwise and I would recommend a stay here (just not on bottom floor).
Most beautiful breakfast area ever

As with most of India, you don’t want to go wandering around town by yourself unless you really know where you are going. Not wanting to call our driver we decided to have dinner at the lively restaurant upstairs. The food was decent and we had dancers to entertain us.

Upstairs restaurant

Shahi Tukda dessert

Beer of choice in India

India cordial
Rajastan Kulfi Ice Cream
Beautiful light fixtures in hotel

Nice pool but too cold to use
Colorful door to our room

Lounge areas 

Shahpura House is definitely a more authentic India hotel experience.

Fatehpur Sikri

After 25 miles from Agra lies some very interesting sandstone buildings in the city of Fatehpur Sikri. It was capital of the Mughal empire for a time during the 1500’s. The ruler Akbar had multiple wives of different religions because of that you can see a mix of faiths in the design and architecture.
I love the integration of all the different symbols on the walls.

The central pillar of Diwan-i-khas

Panch Mahal

Diwan-i-Khas – Hall of Private Audience

“Life” designs not seen in too much Mughal architecture.

This is a bed. So high!!!

Queen’s Palace

A squirrel buddy at a nearby tree.

Jama Masjid (mosque)

Tomb of Salim Chishti

Agra

Most people visit Agra as a day trip from Delhi or as part of the golden triangle tour of (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur). We stopped in Agra for 2 nights as part of our extended golden triangle tour. On our way we stopped at some rest stops and purchased interesting oregano cookies (above).
Lunch today was at the interesting hotel Bundelkhand Riverside with exotic toilet paper.

We helped ourselves to a buffet meal.

After another lengthy car ride we end up at the train station in Jhansi. Cows can do what ever they want in India. This cow wants to walk back and forth between the trains. No one is concerned that it will accidentally get hit or anything.

Our itinerary says first class. We look forward to relaxing in comfort for our long ride only to find that below is what first class looks like. It is crowded, dirty, and loud. The upside is that it was air conditioning, they serve you a meal, and it is relatively safe – even for female solo travelers.

We are very happy to arrive at our 4 star hotel. We had a nice meal at the hotel restaurant at the top floor. I thoroughly enjoyed my butter chicken and wine.

The hotel was pretty busy. There was a private party going on in the courtyard. It might have been a wedding or a conference.

The next morning we woke up to visit the Taj Mahal for the second time (post about it is here).
After spending some time negotiating a price for a marble plate at a  local vendor, we ended up at I’timād-ud-Daulah’s tomb or what is affectionately called the baby taj.

We ended our tour of Agra with a visit to the Agra Fort.