Walking outside to meet our Jaipur guide (who looks incredibly like Ray Romano from "Everybody Loves Raymond" - check out the photos on our Facebook Album ...) we immediately realized that rain cancels nothing in India. You just buy a cheap umbrella from one of the many hawkers...and get your day started!!
Amber Fort is actually located in the town of Amber (it's just outside of Jaipur), which used to be the capital of the Kachhwaha clan, until Jaipur was made the official capital in 1727. As you drive up the hill, raining or not...the Amber Fort looks stunning, all-built in white marble and red sandstone. To add to its charm, Maotha Lake makes its foreground. The crystal mirror image of the Fort, on the still waters of the lake, seems almost to be a beautiful illusion. Amber Fort is usually pronounced as "Amer" Fort. In 1592, construction of the Fort was started by Raja Man Singh I. However, the Amber Fort took its present form during the reign of Raja Jai Singh I. You learn all of this stuff from your guide...
The line for the elephant ride up the hill was shorter than it usually is (according to "Ray Romano") due to the rain. You could see that all of the elephants (about fifty of them, I would guess) had fresh paint-jobs (bright, day-glo colors...) - not so much for us - - but - Jaipur is a major destination for weddings and - lots of people evidently like to hire elephants for their wedding! You walk up a staircase that leads to the "loading platform" for getting on the back of your elephant...Amy Suzanne was thinking that she was just going to hop up on the elephants' back and ride him bareback - but - no such luck. I think she was a little disappointed, actually!
But...as we crested the final stairs and I got my first glimpse of the top-side of the elephant we were to get on top of... and suddenly three things dawn on me... #1) It's a long way to the ground from an elephants' back (maybe 15-feet?) ... #2) The road up to Amber Fort is made of slippery-looking, very hard-looking stones...and #3) I'm afraid of heights!!!
We got on the back of the pachyderm and I was in a state of complete panic. Acrophobia is much like chaustrophobia (which I also suffer from...) - you have no control over it once the waves start. Thank God the elephant "jockey" got his beast right up to the loading-dock because if there was any distance whatsoever between the edge of the safety of the patio deck...and the platform on the elphants' back - I wouldn't have been able to get on. I don't think I am actually afraid of "heights" per se - I believe that I am more afraid of falling a long way down to a stone road beneath me !! Once that I did get on and situated (no seatbelts are provided!) - I am sure that my wife was sure she was going to lose me - I had a death-grip on the metal bar that was all that was between me and a death-fall to the road below!! She is such a trooper. She talked me into a state of semi-calmness ("Don't look down, Sweetie...look up!!") - and I actually began to enjoy the journey. I'm not that all that happy with the photos of us on the elephants' back because they were taken from a bit of a distance... but - there is photographic proof that I did it!!
The tour of the actual fort was fascinating...and the weather began to break a little and the rain stopped.
We spent the rest of the day seeing the City Palace and the Jantar Mantar - an observatory that would have been a lot more interesting if the sun was out - - the highlight was a HUGE sundial that they say is extremely accurate. It was still very cool. We went to a great carpet and textile factory and and saw how rugs were made and ended up buying three incredible carpets...and I got some traditional Indian clothes made for myself. We needed a good night's sleep after our busy day... for tomorrow (Thursday - THANKSGIVING!!) we would be heading for Agra and the amazing Taj Mahal!!
Stay tuned for our next TravelBlog: Beautiful Agra