Scoot off to Westeros, Jaipur
So you’ve finished watching the latest madcap adventures of Daenerys, Tyrion, and Jon, and just can’t wait for the next season of Game of Thrones. Except even the books can’t help you now, not when the TV version is outbacking the literary version. Oh, if only one could live out GoT, hopefully sans the bloodshed and family love. Well you can, and you don’t even have to do it in Europe.
Jaipur, India is the city you’re looking for. And with Scoot flying to the Rajasthani capital 4 times a week, getting there has never been easier.
Of course, Jaipur and Westeros are very different. After all, one features a history of wars, an 11-year-old king, and the eventual invasion of incredibly nuanced yet war-hungry nation widely thought to consist of barbarians – and the other, of course, is Westeros.
Founded in 1722 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, the combination of being a state capital and surrounded by mountain ranges makes Jaipur a breeding ground for a litany of unflinching stone forts and equally opulent palaces. With a long history of invaders and royalty, there are few places in the world as architecturally similar to the Middle Ages as India’s 10th most populous city.
Which just about makes it the best place to fulfil some intense GoT fantasies.
1. Hawa Mahal
And we start off strong with King’s Landing’s Indian twin.
Also known as the Wind Palace, Hawa Mahal has a distinct windowed facade that fulfills two unexpected functions. First, the slots that dot the facade are specifically angled to create a constant breeze to cool the entire interior, and second, these tiny windows allowed women to peer at the goings-on outside while remaining hidden from the public eye.
The stone cobbled hallways make for splitting images of King’s Landing’s own corridors, and high arch doorways just add to the resemblance.
While you’re there: Grab some traditional Indian ice cream – known as kulfi – at Shree Pandit Kulfi Bhandar. Made from a reduction of sweetened or flavoured milk, kulfi is denser than your usual ice-cream – which is an absolute godsend, since it also melts slower. The original version was a little too sweet for us, but check out the pistachio kulfi, which was perfect for our palates.
2. City Palace
Home to the Maharaja since the early 18 century, Jaipur was built around the City Palace. As an architectural enthusiast, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II purposefully planned his sprawling complex as the city centre, making the major city road lead right to the palace gates.
Adorned with vivid splashes of colour, intricate carvings, and ornate patterns, the City Palace is in itself a work of art.
The royal family still lives within the City Palace, but are confined within a solitary building. Members of the public are generally not allowed to visit the building, and the only door in is guarded by this very well mustachioed man.
While you’re there: Calculate the stars at Jantar Mantar
Apart from being just a math and architectural enthusiast, Maharaja Jai Singh II was also an amateur astrologer – a variety of talents which puts about 80% of modern people to shame. His interest in the stars eventually led him to build a variety of astronomical instruments across India, with the biggest in his home Jaipur.
And here stands the largest sundial in the world. Standing at 27 metres high, the sundial is able to tell the time to an accuracy of 2 SECONDS. If you’re wondering how they managed to do this in 1734 AD, so am I.
3. Amber Fort
Contrary to its name, Amber Fort isn’t actually painted a bright shade of orange. Instead, Amber (or Amer) gets its name from a town located just outside Jaipur, and was the predecessor of modern Jaipur.
Built over a span of a whopping 150 years and overseen by a number of rulers, Amber Fort is made up of 4 courtyards, each with its own collection of classic buildings. However, the most eye-catching segment is the Mirror Palace, or Sheesh Mahal.
With small mirrors and marble covering almost every inch of the Palace, any resemblance to the Palace of Dorne is not just your imagination.
4. Bhangarh Fort – the most haunted place in India
Here’s where things start to get a little creepy. Bhangarh Fort might not look like it now, but it was once home to over 10,000 people, and was, by all accounts, a bustling city. However, by 1783 AD, the fort was completely abandoned, and nobody quite knows why – giving rise to the fort’s reputation as the most haunted place in India.
Both legends of the place have to do a vengeful magician and his curse, which just points to the speed and surprise of the fort’s abandonment. Far from being spooky however, the compound is surprisingly tranquil, with the calls of local birds breaking the serenity.
These days, ruins of a marketplace, apartments, and temples only hint at how busy the city once was. The fort is protected by Archeological Survey of India, and is available for the public to visit in the day. However, come sunset, entry is strictly forbidden, and few dare to stick around till too late.
While you’re there: Eat with the locals!
A small village of Bhangarh has been founded outside the fort, and while we were there, they were celebrating a local festival. Friendly villagers eagerly welcomed us to the festivities, and we were treated to a meal of Dahl Baati Churma – consisting of a ball of chickpea flour, accompanied with dahl, and polished off with some brown sugar.
5. Jaigarh Fort
Just a stone’s throw away from Amber Fort lies Jaigarh, yet another fort with a storied history. The two structures are so close, there’s an intricate web of subterranean tunnels that link the forts, and was said to be used by the Maharaja to make a quick escape!
While you’re there: Check out the world’s largest cannon
Built in 1726 AD, a major reason why the fort flourished was due to its proximity to iron ore, which was used to forge cannons. It is also here where the world’s largest cannon resides. Known as Jaiwana – yes, it’s a cannon large enough to have a name – the weapon features a 20-feet long barrel, and weighs 50 tons.
You’d think a weapon like that would be particularly useful in war, but the cannon was only used once, as the massive vibrations from firing were deemed too destructive to ever be used again.
6. Gatore Ki Chhatriyan
Also known as Jaipur’s Taj Mahal, Gatore Ki Chhatriyan is a major complex of tombs and temples for previous kings and princes of Rajasthan. Each of these marble structures are dedicated to a different Maharaja, and mark the place where their body was cremated. Burials don’t happen here though, as the ashes are brought to the Ganges River and laid to rest there instead.
So while the marble tombs keep the atmosphere frosty, any chills one gets from being in a cemetery is purely from an overactive imagination. Instead, the compound is quietly charming, regularly attracting couples who come here for pre-wedding photoshoots.
7. Jal Mahal
Jal Mahal is an oddity in itself. Firstly, as a palace, it doesn’t quite fulfill the basic requirements as a place of residence. Its first four floors remain submerged underwater, making the fifth – and highest – floor the only level suitable for human habitation. Secondly, Man Sagar Lake, which surrounds said structure, isn’t even supposed to be filled with water – it was a natural depression that was converted into a reservoir during a particularly dry spell in 1596 AD.
The Palace is currently under restoration, and not open to the public. However, we hear that boat rides within the lake are currently being planned, and are expected to begin service in 2017. Until then though, we’ll just have to imagine what it feels like to be standing within palace walls, imagining them to be King’s Landing’s walls instead.
While you’re there: To help alleviate any depressed moods, browse around the pop-up market along the bank of Man Sagar Lake. Our good friend Jon did, and he attracted plenty of curious locals.
8. Kanak Vrindavan Valley
Nestled just outside Jaipur between Amber Fort and Jal Mahal, Kanak Vrindavan is an oasis in the desert that is Rajasthan State. Surrounded by the Aravali Hills in the distance, the complex has appeared in many Bollywood films – which makes it extremely popular with the locals.
Go ahead and roll around in the grass, or just splash around the fountains. Either way, this is the closest you can get to the Red Keep courtyard without flying to Croatia.
9. Nahargarh Fort
Nahargarh Fort is the ultimate proof that Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh had way too much time and resources back in the day. Within the fort lies Madhavendra Bhawan, a complex of nine apartments for each of his queens. You might mistake my description of apartment to mean a HDB flat, but no – these residences are massive 3-floor terrace units of glass and patterns.
Nahargarh might literally mean “Abode of Tigers”, but the only predator here was clearly the Maharaja.
10. Samode Palace
While not actually located inside Jaipur, Samode Palace is well worth a visit. The compound was originally designed as a fort, before eventually converted into a palace by the Chief Minister of Rajasthan. And he spared no expense in sprucing up the place, fitting the main hall and walkways with mirrors and marble from Beijing and other equally faraway lands.
Today, Samode Palace has been converted into a hotel, and the dining hall is largely used for banquets and weddings.
11. Albert Hall Museum
Originally designed as the town hall by Maharaja Ram Singh, his successor decided that the building would be better served as a public museum for the people of Jaipur. And so came in the porcelain, rugs, and even an Egyptian mummy sarcophagus in the main room.
While photography is allowed around the exterior of Albert Hall Museum, the guards are rather protective of the museum’s secrets that lie within, and photography inside of the building is strictly prohibited. Really. Don’t do it. We warned you.
*Bonus* Chand Baori
While architecturally distinct from the stone and regality of GoT, Chand Baori still warrants a visit. That’s because this is where Bruce Wayne was cruelly imprisoned by Bane after breaking the billionaire’s back in The Dark Knight Rises.
Unfortunately, the Pit in real life is no prison. Instead, the stepwell functions as more of a giant water collection basin, storing rainwater for the acrid summers of Rajasthan. At the bottom of the well – over 12 floors down (!) – the temperature is several degrees cooler, making the Chand Baori a popular gathering place for locals when things get too hot.
Say namaste to Jaipur
Any GoT fan worth their salt would know that most of Westeros and Dothraki are filmed across exotic European locales like Malta and southern Spain, but you don’t have to travel to the other side of the globe to see how the Lannisters might have lived. Instead, hop on the (relatively shorter) 6-hour flight to Jaipur with Scoot from just $169!
Scoot’s flagship 787 Dreamliner – complete with extra roomy seats – makes them unlike any other budget carrier. Get your pilgrimage off to a smooth start with Scoot’s First-On-Board priority boarding and check-in so you can skip the queues, and take your time settling in the empty cabin.
To get more bang for your buck, opt for the PlusPerks bundle. Not only does the bundle include First-On-Board privileges at all airports, you’ll also be privy to selecting your preferred seat – some even with extra legroom (subject to availability), making a name or flight change up to 24 hours before departure at no processing fee, and earning Krisflyer miles while you’re at it (if you are a member, if not you can sign up here)!
All the perks, at just S$39/59 (short/long haul) per passenger per journey. If that isn’t a steal, I don’t know what is.
6 hours is generally a long time to be in the air. Which means your stomach is bound is rumble halfway through the flight. Thankfully, Scoot Cafe is well equipped with in-flight meals. From light bites like their Teriyaki Chicken Wrap ($9) to Hot and Premium Meals like their Scoot Exclusive Dry Laksa ($21.99) – you’ll be able to sate those hunger pangs until you can load up on all the paneer your stomach allows.
Opt for the India route-exclusive Chickpea Curry with Basmati Rice
Jaipur might not be at the top of your must-go list, but it really should be. With friendly people, storied history, and breathtaking sights, the capital of Rajasthan is a great introduction to the Indian subcontinent. Even Jon Snow would approve. And with round-trip flights going for as low as $338 – you have no reason not to!
Planning your India Adventure
Special thanks also, to Ravishing India Holidays, who crafted a bespoke itinerary and showed us around Jaipur! Having been pampered by them for our Amritsar adventure, we were once again well-attended to, with them providing accommodation, a private car and driver, meals, and wifi throughout our stay.
Whether it’s New Delhi, Mumbai, or the pristine beaches of Goa that’s calling out to you – Ravishing India’s personal concierge service will tailor a stress-free holiday experience like no other. Your very-own English-speaking guide, private transportation around the city, and securing the best food and accommodation the city has to offer without you having to lift a finger.
Find out more about their services here.
This post was brought to you by Scoot.