5 March 2024

It is a very early morning as we begin our drive southeast to Jaipur. Our driver, Suraj, drives on the left side, a holdover from the British colonial period. We depart Delhi, pass the International Airport, and eventually enter the NE4, the Delhi to Mumbai Highway.

This new eight-lane highway will be the longest expressway in India and projected to reduce driving times by half. For Indians, this construction accomplishment by the current government is a destination in itself. 

Delhi to Mumbai Toll Expressway

Sections of road remain under construction, but for our ride to Jaipur, the drive is fast (75mph) and smooth. Tolls are charged, cameras are frequent, and infrastructure sparse. We experience long stretches of empty lanes, the occasional over-laden slow truck, and the ubiquitous crazy lane changes all Indian drivers know and love.

New campaign, new hopes.

 A pedestrian crosses the 8 lanes, evidently not understanding the meaning of “expressway” and the speed of its cars.  

A red sun appears above the horizon. Mountains are dimly etched through the heavy air pollution.  As we speed through relatively flat, agricultural land, not a cow walks the roadway. 

Leaving the expressway onto Jaipur Road, things slow. Motorbikes appear along with interesting roadside businesses, café tables in the dirt along the road, decaying buildings and many temples. Local artisans’ shops feature multitudes of stone art. I am forever amazed how much cargo can be packed on a small motorbike, humans and otherwise. And then, cows appear. Surprisingly, I note an absence of road kill among the heaps of trash along the road.

Our drive represents a marvel of Indian construction. We drove the expressway, some 113 miles, in under 1:30 minutes. We arrive in Jaipur, 185 miles from Delhi, in just over 4 hours. 


Jaipur, Rajasthan’s capital, is a city steeped in history, culture, and remarkable architectural. Known as the “Pink City” due to its distinct terracotta-colored buildings, Jaipur spurs visitors to drive hours to see its forts, opulent palaces, and temples. 

Amber Fort

Amber Fort

Our first stop is the historic Amber Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known for its artistic Hindu style, the immense fortress offers cobbled paths, a series of gates and tall ramparts. My last time here, in 2005, I climbed aboard a very large painted elephant who lumbered up the ramps to the fortress-palace. The ramparts provide wonderful views of the valley, Maota Lake below, and other mountain fortifications. Walls surround the city, likened to the Great Wall of China.

Raja Mansingh built the fortress in the 16th century. It showcases exquisite Rajput architecture with intricate marble and sandstone carvings. The opulent design of Rajput buildings can be seen in many examples from temples to palaces but especially for forts. The fort’s grandness, stunning courtyards, and panoramic views makes it one of the top sites in Rajasthan. 

With limited time, it is impossible to visit the whole fort and palace. The palace itself exists of six main sections all through individually designed gates. Expansive courtyards, ornate interiors, intricately carved stone and sandalwood, mirrors and tiles adorn every foot of space. 

Fortress resident enjoying the view

I also note that the Mahouts have been made to be more conscious of our environment. Elephants remain but have since unionized. The gentle pachyderms now carry just two passengers, work 4 hours a day with only 3-4 trips up the ramps.

Amer Stepwell

Amer Stepwell

Jaipur’s stepwell or balli seems unique. Amer is a square-design well with eight levels of diamond-shaped, crisscrossing steps which lead down to a what is today a green pool of water. In an otherwise dry environment, step wells were not only a way to preserve monsoonal rainwater for the dry season but a gathering place for people in the community.

Constructed by Maharaja Jai Singh in the 16th century, the practical stepwell design features steps and rounded alcoves that enable access to the well water, no matter the water level. The design is an improvement over the stepwell in Delhi as it allows for a more gradual climb with pounds of water on one’s head. And the views, surrounded by the old city and fortress towers and walls, is spectacular.

Jal Mahal

Just south of the fortress is Man Sagar Lake in the midst of which sits the Jal Mahal. This five-story “Water Palace,” four stories are underwater, displays the Rajput style in all its splendor. While origins remain uncertain, the palace is believed to have been extensively restored if not built by Jai Singh II in 1734. It offers a picturesque sight and acted as a serene retreat amidst the lake’s tranquility.

Hawa Mahal – “Palace of Wind”

Jawa Mahal, windows allowed women to enjoy a view but never seen by others.

Today, the Palace consists of two parts: the outer section is open to the public, but the inner part acts as the private residence of the royal family. I assume the women can move beyond the courtyard and windows. 

One immediately recognizes the iconic sight of Hawa Mahal. The grand and historic building was built in 1799 by the Maharaja Sawa Pratap Singh. The eastern red and pink sandstone façade, facing the street, exists of five-stories of 953 small windows decorated with intricate latticework in the Rajput style. The Princes knew how to live even though their many wives never got past the inner courtyard and looking out those windows.

The Palace complex also houses museums with an array of textiles, costumes, weapons and paintings in a complex of courtyards, gardens and fountains. 

Jantar Mantar

World Heritage Site Jantar Mantar acted as an astronomical observatory. Constructed in the early 1700s by Maharaja Jai Singh II in 1728, today it resembles a collection of modernistic giant sculptures. Actually, known for his interest in math architecture and the skies, Jai Singh II constructed a total of 5 such observatories in India. Along with other astronomical instruments, supposedly, the world’s largest stone sundial exists here. Interesting fact: their zodiac and birthstones are different than the U.S., but then their view of the sky differs.

Two Scorpios in Jaipur

I like Jaipur

Of what I have seen of the state of Rajasthan and its capital Jaipur, it is colorful, less intense, a little less chaotic than Delhi, but only by a little. The constant hawkers remain under your feet. If you say “just looking,” expect a focused hard-sell to buy. Definitely, I feel no urge to window shop. Hence, as long as I keep moving, the beggars and hawkers can’t surround me. The handicapped on roller boards wave but are quickly passed. I avoid the dogs as most look sick. I want to yank that plastic bag out of the mouth of the grazing cow.

All in all, this has been a worthwhile one-day excursion to The Pink City.


Admittedly, the most exciting part of the day is our 4-hour return drive to Delhi. Years ago, India promoted a “Lane Driving is Sane Driving” campaign. It is obvious the campaign failed miserably. There is no such thing as lane observance in India. Give an Indian driver a 4-lane road and emergency berm and they will maneuver four cars, a truck, two tuk tuks, and five motorbikes into the space.

One must constantly be aware of a possible cow. Don’t be surprised by a camel or elephant beside you.

Our driver exhibited immense patience and skill. Never does he miss an opportunity to squeeze between slower cars; we slip in front of a truck with two inches to spare. Empty space is not an option. At times, I could reach out and clean another’s side mirror, shake their hands and offer to share my peanuts. I could practically read their emails on their phone.

Horn and dipper driving

A Method to the Madness of Horns

Horns, mirrors and cameras aid the driver to jockey for his space. And there is a method to the madness of horns.

Short beep, long blast, two beeps, three rapid beeps. What does it all mean? Clearly, drivers are alerting others of their presence. It means less to “get out of the way” and more “I’m beside you and don’t deviate your path.”

This is definitely a cultural thing. My tip was to never, never practice this honking culture in the U. S. Drivers in the states will not appreciate this overuse of car horns. Truly, such behavior could get you shot!

I see trucks parked along the berm, driverless. The colored lights below indicate a cafe. Drivers have parked, climbed over the barriers, and ordered their tea and dinner. Mind you, this is along the new high-speed 4-lane toll road.

Gold Star Maneuvers

Occasionally, individual maneuvers earn gold stars of excellence, or survival. One wants to cross four lanes to enter an exit? The driver simply crosses the road to the other side, much like the proverbial chicken. Or, like our driver, he misses the turn-off on the left. So he stops, backs up a few yards and completes his turn. All the while, cars whizz past on either side. I am looking in our car’s camera and watch as headlights approach from all sides. I hope my Karma is in a good position.

And if the driver becomes bored, unchallenged? Simply call someone on the cell phone. Is our driver checking tomorrow’s weather or ordering pizza? I see many motorbikes with a map app open. I surmise that a good, real-time map would be priceless on these roads. A little congestion ahead? Select an alternate route around.

I am calm, confident he doesn’t want to die. He knows the rules, the honking codes. The driver knows where to go around the road blocks, the side roads to take. He knows these streets and probably where the cows and monkeys hang out.

Says it all

We arrive at our hotel in one piece. I reward our driver with a sizable gratuity. This has been the best ride I’ve had since Disneyland, sort of a mix of Madhatter, Star Wars, and Space Mountain. Or perhaps, more like The Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror.


Retired. Have time for the things I love: travel, my cat, reading, good food, travel, genealogy, walking, and of course travel.


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