What’s Ginormous and Elephantastic and Amber All Over?

The Amber Fort in Jaipur!

IMG_4701aVerdict:  AWESOME.

Poor India.  It’s such a beautiful, crazy, fascinating place — one of the most amazing countries I’ve ever visited.  What happened in Mumbai last week is unfair and awful, and it’ll be extra-sad if it stops people from visiting India, which deserves to be explored and adored.  My heart goes out to all the families of the people involved.

I’ve been meaning to post more India photos anyway, and luckily we’re up to one of my very favorite sites, so I can show you some gorgeous shiny pictures that I hope will help balance out all the sad ones we’ve seen recently. 

IMG_4615aPretty India!

IMG_4780Shiny India!

IMG_4655India, just hanging out, being gorgeous.

Day Four of our trip was a Jaipur extravaganza, and it is RIDICULOUS how many photos I have of this day, so I’m going to split it up and just start with our morning at the Amber Fort. 

IMG_4575Driving into Jaipur

Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, the Indian state known as "the land of Hindu warrior kings", or as our guide kept calling it, the "land of fairy tales," because it’s full of floating palaces and legends of heroes and castles in the mountains.  Jaipur itself is called the Pink City, because most of it is this color:

Palace of the Winds!

Now, clearly I wanted to go here purely for the name (Palace of the Winds!  So cool!).  But I thought we’d be walking through an entire palace; instead, it turns out you just stop and take pictures of the outside, so we were only there for about five minutes. 

Still managed to take lots of pictures!

Apparently this part is basically an elaborate facade, built so that the ladies of the palace beyond it could have somewhere to sit and watch the world go by on the street outside, without anyone observing them.  All the little windows let the winds breeze in and out to keep it cool in the summertime (hence the name). 

IMG_4600And up there is the pathway/bridge where they can sneak back to the rest of the palace.

Of course, sitting behind an enormous palace screen watching the street doesn’t sound quite as fascinating as, say, a new episode of Chuck, but actually, if there’s any place in the world where the street is consistently interesting, it’s probably India.  Elephants!  Cows!  Insanely adorable tiny children who will enthusiastically wave back when goofy tourists on giant buses wave at them!  Awwwww.

I’m afraid I don’t have many pictures of these adorable children, since I generally got too excited about waving at them to remember to take photos.  WHAT.  So I am SEVEN.  It’s FUN waving at adorable children who wave back!  There were a couple of five-year-olds up on a roof who were so thrilled when we waved at them that they jumped up and started dancing this hilarious "I LOVE EVERYTHING YAY for strange people on buses I must dance now because everything is SO EXCITING!" dance, which I clearly need to learn and apply to appropriate situations, as I am sure they will arise often.

IMG_4607Beautiful things suddenly leaping out of the foliage!

After the Palace of the Winds, we all piled onto the bus and drove out of Jaipur and up into the mountains where the Amber Fort is.  I had no idea what to expect — I was picturing, you know, some thick walls and maybe a big gateway or basically something round and fort-y.  So we’re driving up this winding hill through the trees, when suddenly I notice bits of cool-looking crenellated walls popping out all over the mountains around us.




And then we came around a curve and saw the Amber Fort, stretching across the horizon and thoroughly baffling the powers of my camera:

IMG_4617aI am GINORMOUS!  I encompass THE SKY!

IMG_4623More vastness!  More staggeringness!

And the thrilling part is, the best way to get up into the Amber Fort IS:

IMG_4625ELEPHANTS!  (of course!)

IMG_4629La la la, sauntering up a hill on an elephant, as you do…

So we all got in line to climb up a set of stairs that would bring us to the top of the wall, level with the elephant’s back, and then we hurled ourselves in pairs onto some snazzy padded squares and held on for dear life as the elephant strolled and rolled and meandered up the very long hill.

Here comes our beautiful elephant!

Adam and I, of course, are like total elephant-riding experts after all our experience in Thailand, so we were like, dude, no problem, we’ll just hang on to this YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAslidingslidingslidingYAAAAAAAAAAAAAA until the gentleman on the elephant’s head turned around and made us sit all the way back in the seat, which made us look quite silly enough that you’re not getting a picture of us in action.

You’ll have to make do with these charming elephant butts instead.

IMG_4650Elephant with a View

Up and up and up we go…


All along the route there were enterprising souls sitting on the walls trying to sell us T-shirts and jewelry, but boy, is it easy to say no from the top of an elephant that’s charging by.  Kind of made me wish we’d done all our traveling by elephant!  🙂


There were also folks who took photos of us on the elephant so they could sell them to us later, just like the cameras that go off on roller coasters at places like Disneyworld, except that those cameras don’t then spend THE REST OF THE DAY FOLLOWING YOU AROUND trying to sell you said photo.  I mention this not because it bothered us — I didn’t even notice until later, because he was focusing on selling it to Adam — but because oh my GOODNESS that took dedication and energy.


I mean, the guy literally watched for us at all the other tourist sites we went to for the rest of the day, then sprang out of the crowd waving a photo of us on an elephant, like maybe we’d have changed our mind by the time we got to the Royal Observatory and were desperately wishing he’d be there to sell us the photo we so regretted rejecting the first fifty times.  See, that’s an impressive kind of crazy.  I just hope we weren’t the only people he was following around, poor guy, since we’re pretty useless at spending money.

And into the Amber Fort we go!

IMG_4706La la la, gigantic elephant-dwarfing courtyard…

I took that photo from the top of these stairs:


as we headed into the main palace…

IMG_4707 Oh, but of course my future mountain house will also have a vast entrance courtyard.

IMG_4705Where else would my guests put their elephants?

Up the stairs and through an archway, we get to the Hall of Public Audience.  Remember these pictures later if you read Tales of the Brethren Court book 3, which is coming out next year and features Jack Sparrow visiting the Pirate Lord Sri Sumbhajee in India.  Parts of this fort were exactly what I was picturing when I describe Sri Sumbhajee’s palace, like this:


Which is the screen overlooking the courtyard.  That’s where the maharajah’s most important wife (the maharani) would sit while her husband listened to his subjects petitioning him.  That way she was hidden from view, but she could indicate her opinions, and it’s kind of cool to think he listened to her. 


This is the covered hall where the maharajah sat, although I have to wonder if it was thronged by quite so many pigeons in his day.


Note the extra-cool elephant heads at the top of the columns!  I totally put those in my book!  Yay elephants!  🙂

Long, cool stone passageways inside the walls

So we went up through the archway under the maharani’s screen, and found ourselves in the most sparkly courtyard yet!

IMG_4724The Palace…of MIRRORS!

Seriously, check out the mirrors all over everything!

IMG_4734Mirrors on the ceiling!

IMG_4740Shiny sparkly glittery amazingness!

According to our guide, when you lit a couple of candles inside the Palace of Mirrors at night, it looked like you were surrounded by stars.

Speaking of stars…

The courtyard garden is divided up into star-shaped patterns with little walls of sandstone, and the columns are decorated with elaborate reliefs.

Check out the adorable butterflies!


As it turns out, the Indian translation for "Palace of Mirrors" is "Sheesh Mahal".  How fun is that to say?

IMG_4765We’re at the Sheesh Mahal!

And when you climb up above the Palace of Mirrors courtyard…

through the cool hidden stairs inside the wall…

…you can see the mountains!  And the never-ending wall that zips through the mountains!

IMG_4762I’m at the Amber Fort!  In the mountains!  In India!  Possibly pretending I’m a maharani!  The hat is what really sells it, I think.

and you can look through the screen down to the Hall of Public Audience and the courtyard below…

…just like a maharani!

IMG_4752Palace of Mirrors from above

There’s more to the fort, but those are the highlights.  It was built by Rajah Man Singh and his successor, Jai Singh, starting in 1542, so it’s not even super-old, but it sure has this eternal ancient timeless feeling to it.

IMG_4777Another courtyard on the way out…

IMG_4703Another cool sari picture

IMG_4787The road back down out of the Fort

We didn’t take elephants down from the Fort; instead we piled into some VERY exciting-looking madcap little Jeeps:

IMG_4793Ours was remarkably fuzzy.

Fuzzy steering wheel!


which took us back to our bus.  (Bye, Amber Fort!  Bye, glorious painted elephants!)

And that was just the MORNING in Jaipur.  Oh my GOODNESS.  So you can see why I loved the Amber Fort:  (1) elephants, (2) palace of mirrors! sparkly!, (3) mountain views, and (4) ELEPHANTS!  :-)  So much thrillingness.  Phew.  And believe it or not, there’s still MORE exciting sites to come, so there’s plenty of photos to look forward to (mwa ha ha).  😉

In other brief news:  I CANNOT BELIEVE that Dan and Andrew made it to the final three on The Amazing Race.  WHAT.  SERIOUSLY.  WHAT.  But at this point they’ve kind of reached a level of hilarious incompetence that’s made me not mind having them around, although I’ll miss Toni and Dallas.  I nearly fell off the couch laughing at Dan trying to march last week…what is wrong with him?  How is this the goofiest thing ever?  Oh, OK, this is totally worth including a video, in case you missed it:

Also, I am thisclose to breaking up with Heroes after this week’s episode, which I won’t spoil in case you haven’t seen it (Kari), but BOOOO is what I have to say about MANY THINGS (bet you can guess what, if you know me) and I hope they fix them soon (if they can).  Hrrrmph.  I pretty much never break up with this kind of show unless they decapitate the heroine (you know who you are, *cough*Prison Break*cough*), so this is really quite serious.  I know, I bet you’re terribly concerned.  😉

All right, more India coming soon, although next week I have to do my recommended books of the year, because Christmas is almost upon us HOORAY! and I have read some splendiferous books this year.  Yay books!  I hope your holiday shopping is going well!

Quote of the Day:
Chuck: Wait. So not only did we not get the Fulcrum list, but Jill’s never gonna speak to me again because she caught me naked rinsing off fruit punch with another woman?
Casey: Common spy problem.