When in India: Amber Fort, Jaipur

The experience in Amber Fort brought out the child in me; that as if the story of Aladdin came to life. While it remains in contention whether Aladdin was set in India or not, one thing's for sure: seeing Amber Fort was truly majestic. 

Amber Fort (also called Amer Fort) stands on top of a hill located in Jaipur, the capital of the state of Rajasthan, India. It's a huge complex of fort and palaces divided into four sections, with each having a courtyard. 

Entering the fort begins by climbing the cemented stairs and a few cobblestones. There are three ways to ascend: first is to walk for 10-15 minutes, next is to bring a car up to the fort's gate, and lastly is to ride an elephant for INR 500 (USD 8) per person.

First courtyard
The entrance door called Suraj Pol (Sun Gate) leads to Jaleb Chowk, which is the first and main courtyard. It's a significant area as the defense forces used to settle here after combats. It was also the place where horses and elephants used in battles were tethered.

The ticket booth is also located in the area beside the staircase. Entrance fee costs INR 500 (USD 8) per person.

Second courtyard
Going up the staircase, the Diwan-a-Aam (Hall of Public Audience) welcomes at the left side. These multiple pillars were witnesses to numerous important public gatherings held in the palace. 
In one of the corners of this hall, a beautiful panoramic view of Jaipur can be seen, including the serene Maota Lake. As said, it's best to go to Jaipur during monsoon season (from July to September) to catch the lush green of nature. 
Towards the right is the Kesar Kyaari (Saffron Garden) that's actually on the base of Amber Fort but its interior can only be viewed from the top. They say that saffron flowers used to grow in this garden--something that was uncommon since saffron usually survives in colder places while Jaipur has a warm climate.

Meanwhile, the artistically impressive Ganesh Pol (Ganesh Gate) is on the other side. This is named after Ganesh, a Hindu god in the form of an elephant. As Hinduism is the main religion in India, the Hindus believe that this god can remove all obstacles in life.

Third courtyard
After passing through Ganesh Pol, the amazing Sheesh Mahal is the next attraction, which is also popularly known as the Mirror Palace. Looking at it closely, it consists of small mirrors designed in shapes of flowers and other symmetrical patterns. 
This palace was especially built for the queen. As she wanted to sleep under the stars but wasn’t allowed by tradition to expose herself in open air, a palace was created with mirrors that could reflect the stars for her, thus granting her wish.

Aside from the cooling effect of the mirrors, the palace is also made up of white marble. This is why some people also call Sheesh Mahal as the Winter Palace. 

Fourth courtyard
The last courtyard consists of several rooms that accommodated the wives and concubines of Raja Man Singh I, the king of Jaipur. It also has a public hall at the center that served as a general receiving area. 
Interestingly, each wife or concubine was given her respective room with a secret passage for the king so that when he wanted to visit a certain woman, other women won't know about it. Some even said that the king had more concubines than wives and ended up with 4,000 kids in his lifetime.

Entrance fee: INR 500 (USD 8)
Open hours: 8:00AM to 4:30PM

How to get there:
Getting a taxi is the most convenient way to get to Amber Fort. Since it's an uphill, it may take 20-30 minutes to get there coming from Jaipur's city center. The taxi fare may cost around INR 200 (USD 3). Public buses and auto rickshaws going to Amber Fort are also available. 

Tips:
- Allot at least a half day when going to Amber Fort. It's a huge place with several interesting areas. Take your time to view the artworks.
- Start in the morning to have less tourists.
- Expect a higher price of bottled water, food, and souvenirs in the area. It's the most visited tourist attraction in Jaipur.
- The elephant ride is only until 11AM so plan to go in the morning if you wish to ride. But personally speaking though, I feel bad for these elephants. They looked abused and tired. 
- A lot of local tour guides offer their services that usually start at INR 400 (USD 6), but note that it's not mandatory to get one. You can get an audio tour instead or go on your own.
- Monkeys and squirrels are at the entrance. It's best not to feed nor touch them.




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