If I were to list down the most exotic-sounding city names I have ever heard, Jaipur would be a shoo-in (along with Timbuktu, Ouagadougou, Samarkand and of course, Baghdad). Jaipur – the name alone brings to mind images of maharajas, stately palaces, bearded men with turbans and snake charmers – it’s the quintessential India in the eyes of naive foreigners like me who lack familiarity with the myriad of cultures actually found in this massive country.
more peach than pink… but yeah, i’m in jaipur all right
To be honest, it was not the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra nor the scattered UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Delhi that prodded me to come to India. It is rather the desert state of Rajasthan – a region of colors, festivals and bright architecture – which led me here. And surely, there was no better introduction to this northwestern Indian state than through Jaipur – the pink city, its capital.
fatehpur sikri is a worthwhile stop for those traveling from agra to jaipur… just be careful of the touts here, they can get very pushy
We came to Jaipur from Agra, after making a worthwhile stop at Fatehpur Sikri. Most guidebooks cite a 6 hour drive but it did not take us more than 5 hours, thanks to the reckless, hair-raising maneuvering of our driver. My initial impression of the city was that it was highly urbanized, sometimes looking even more urbanized than Delhi. Some semblance of urban planning was evident, and it shows through the many rotundas and grid-like pattern of the old city’s streets.
amber fort… reminds me a bit of the potala palace in tibet but i could be over-imagining things
We had two full days to spare in Jaipur, our longest layover in any city during this trip so there was certainly no rush on our part. We decided to make Day 1 “fort” day to give us ample time to see the city’s (and surrounds) 3 main forts. Our first stop was Amber Fort, which is actually not in Jaipur but in a small town a little bit north called (you guessed it!) Amber. Now this was another place that I really liked. It looked surprisingly impressive even from the outside, reminding me a bit of Tibet’s Potala Palace but in yellow instead of brown and white. Surely, it looked more majestic than the crumbling medieval fortresses I saw earlier in Georgia. It’s possible to take an elephant ride all the way up (Rs 900 for 2 people) but since we arrived at almost noon, there were no elephants left and we had to walk all the way up while at the same time having to evade the elephant poo and all.
ganesh gate and the glass ceiling… can you spot ganesh in the first picture?
Similar to the Red Fort and Agra Fort which we saw the previous days, the Amber Fort looked more palatial than military. It has four courtyards, one to receive audiences, one as living quarters of the maharaja, another as living quarters of royal women and of course, one used as a main entrance / to house the sacred temple. Mirrors, glittering glass ceilings and mosaics adorn these courtyards. The entrance through the elaborately-decorated Ganesh Gate was nothing short of sublime.
pretty in pink
The Amber Fort was so big that by the time we left a few hours later, we decided to cancel our plans of visiting the two other forts – Jaigarh and Nahargarh. We boarded a rickshaw to Jal Mahal instead, a floating palace in the middle of a lake. This was originally one of my earmarked highlights in the trip but seeing it left me a bit underwhelmed. It was not as picturesque as I expected, or perhaps my camera just lacked a deep enough zoom.
the floating jal mahal
the albert hall at night
We went back to wander the streets of the old city that night. A couple of curious teenagers approached us and tried to make casual conversation. By this time, I was pretty paranoid already with all the touts that I kept the chatting to a minimum. Looking back, I think this was a mistake… or maybe not.
city palace grounds
Our second morning was spent focusing just on the old city. This is the part of Jaipur which they call the “pink city,” primarily because locals had to paint the town pink in commemoration of a royal visit in the 19th century. It is still supposed to retain this color today, though the pink to me looks more like “faint” red. Once more, the town transformed itself into a cacophony of noises once the sun came up. Any thoughts one has of maharajas ultimately gives way to commerce, touts and crowded alleys. This is particularly evident near the compounds of the City Palace, where there must be 24/7 traffic. Cars, trucks, rickshaws and buses each running in different directions – it was again back to the madness I had witnessed in Agra and Delhi.
One good thing about Jaipur is that its main sights (forts aside) are all situated within a few blocks of each other. These are the City Palace, Jantar Mantar and the Hawa Mahal.
the famous peacock doors in the city palace of jaipur
The City Palace contained the similar sort of halls and courtyards that we found in the places we visited previously. A distinctive feature are the peacock doors which are particularly grand and very detailed. In keeping with the city’s favorite color, certain sections of the palace are also painted in pink for blending purposes. The maharajah of Jaipur still resides in the palace to this day.
guess which one is me!
Jantar Mantar, the ancient observatory, was just next door. There are several funny-looking instruments inside with various purposes. Some are used to measure time, spot eclipses, find out the stars’ directions and whatnot. It looked very unique to India but unfortunately, I felt really sick at this time and did not have a chance to fully explore the place. Sure, we went to the iconic Hawa Mahal (The Palace of the Winds) next but my mind just shut down for the remainder of the day.
one thing came to mind… geometry!
India finally managed to get the upper hand and quelled whatever energy I had left in traveling — at least for now. There were still two other cities and one long train ride to go.
Where I stayed:
I stayed in Krishna Palace, a charming heritage building converted to a hotel that’s located in Bani Park – a quiet area away from the hustle and bustle of Jaipur but at the same time only a few minutes away from the train station. Rooms are spacious and have great interiors. Room price starts from Rs 650 per night.
Krishna Palace Hotel
E26 Durga Marg
Bani Park, Jaipur
Check out my previous post about the Taj Mahal, the timeless monument to love