Our Chief Experience Officer, Melissa Hansen, recently took an unforgettable bucket-list vacation in India. For the rest of the month, we’ll be sharing her travels — and some of her photos — with you here on the blog. This is the third entry in the series. Enjoy!
This morning we set out for our all-day transfer to Ranthambore, where Royal Bengal tigers are known to roam the reserve at Ranthambore National Park. With a delayed flight, which then delayed our drive, I was quite tired by the time we arrived at our hotel. I ate a small portion of my dinner, then headed to bed since the next day would start early, and I wanted to be fully rested and in tip-top shape for the adventure. Our time in Ranthambore had a singular focus — to see the elusive Bengal tiger. Though there are only a few places in the world to view this endangered cat, India boasts a high number of sightings, so we were optimistic.
As day broke, we climbed into ragtop Jeeps with our guides and entered the national park with high hopes. Driving deeper into the park, the scenery was ever-changing. Rugged mountain ranges evolved into golden plateaus that spilled into heavily wooded forests. And though we saw monkeys, antelope, peacocks, and a variety of birds, we were not successful in seeing the tiger. Perhaps a future trip to India will change my luck! And perhaps our luck would have been different this time had it not been raining. None-the-less, it was a lovely and exciting drive and, tiger sighting or not, I had a healthy appreciation for the surroundings and the potential of the experience.
We arrived in Jaipur as the sun was setting and immediately went to our hotel, the Rambagh Palace, otherwise known as the Queen’s Palace. The lights of the palace glittered as we arrived, and I was struck by the grandeur. As we climbed the stairs to the lobby, a staff of brightly dressed employees threw rose petals on our heads, making for an extra-special entrance. The stately rooms were beautifully decorated and in-keeping with a heritage feel. I imagined myself as a guest of the princess.
I woke early the next day to ensure that I had plenty of time to walk the sprawling gardens before breakfast. In the backdrop of the morning sun, bright green parakeets and proud peacocks roamed about. After many photographs, I was finally ready to go inside for a cup of masala chai and a heaping pile of fresh fruit and baked yogurt.
And then we were off to explore Jaipur. The Pink City, as it is called, is aptly named for its terracotta colored walls, and is one of the most colorful cities in India. Past the pink walls, we drove until reaching the Amber Fort, perched high above the city. The gorgeous walls of the fort glitter with silver, gold, and a beautiful array of accompanying colors. Impeccably maintained, only 5% of the walls have been renovated. The Amber Fort is an interesting and impressive display of history with countless photo-worthy moments. It is a must-see in Jaipur.
Next we headed to the colorful Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing to get a lesson on block printing and how block printing on fabrics paved the way for the iconic Indian fashion known across the globe. Naturally, the Anokhi gift shop provided a terrific opportunity for us to stock up on shirts, scarfs, and sundresses.
A quick stroll through the City Palace to see the King and Queen’s thrones put into perspective the wealth and magnitude of the royal family. Here you can see displays of royal clothing and imagine what life was like.
With much to see, we turned our focus to the famed Jantar Mantar, a UNESCO site dedicated to astronomy and astrology. We stood in awe as the largest working sundial in the world kept impeccable time, with only a 2-second time differential. And we snapped photos as we learned how the astrological signs are mapped out. With a great deal of importance placed on astrological auspiciousness in India, readings are performed before houses are purchased or marriages are arranged.
As the afternoon forged on, so did we, making our way to the Gyan Museum, a high-end jewelry manufacturer with a modern concept space and galleries featuring over 2500 works of art. We watched in awe as raw stones were cut, polished, and placed into rings, earrings, bracelets, and pendants. We learned about the life of the gems, noting that 90% of the world’s gemstones pass through India. Unbelievably, we were allowed to drape unfinished pieces of jewelry — with hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of diamonds — around our necks and wrists as we wondered who would be the lucky person to eventually own these beautiful works of art. And, for the cherry on top, we found that you can purchase your own custom jewelry before you leave.
Our incredible day in Jaipur was punctuated with an incredible dinner at Suvarna Mahal, the upscale Indian restaurant inside the Rambagh Palace. Here, I consumed the most delicious Indian food I have ever eaten. The dahl was beyond comprehension and I nearly cried when I had my last bite. And just like that, another marvelous day in India came to a close…but not before I could have my astrological sign read just outside the restaurant. A perfect end to a spectacular day!
If you’ve missed the previous two posts in this travel series, you can find them here and here. And if you’d like to experience the beauty of India in person, we have several incredible trips on our Experiences page, ready to be booked — including a Luxury Journey Through Northern India and an extended Vacation Getaway to India and the Maldives.