The Hawa Mahal also known as the Palace of the Winds, is a delicate and beautiful pink-painted palace in the heart of the old city of Jaipur. Built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh to enable ladies of the royal household to safely view city life it is a must see by every tourist who visits Jaipur.
I went to the Hawa Mahal early in the morning so that the site was my first stop of the day. When I arrived there was a long line of tour buses parked in front of the building and throngs of foreign tourists taking pictures in front of the palace. The best view is from across the street and the tourists were playing a real-life game of Frogger dodging traffic to take the perfect shot.
There is nothing I hate more than long lines of tourists and so I dreaded the lines to tour the inside of the palace. The palace is entered from a back street, and as I wandered around the back of the building I was surprised to find myself on my own. Apparently the tour buses stop at the exterior to allow picture taking and no one goes inside the palace. I thought the inside of the palace was far more interesting than the exterior. It gave a small glimpse into the lives of the women who lived there and it also offered fantastic views of the city.
Thus, my issue with organized tours. I understand that not every tour is the same, but my love of travel is based on exploration and travel. My best memories are almost always a discovery off the beaten path that is not found on any tour. Here the visitors were merely taking a glimpse of the outside of the building and not experiencing the building itself. All I could think to myself was what lemmings.
There are pros and cons of any organized tours. When I first backpacked across Europe (more than 25 year ago), no one had cell phones, I carried a Rough Guide and a map and frequently asked for directions. Now, with cell phones and apps traveling is much easier and it is almost impossible to get lost in a city (unless you want to). I like to think of myself as an adventurer/explorer not a tourist and if you want to feel the same, step off of the bus, if only for a day.