The rich cultural heritage, the blue bloodlines, the busy markets under the Hawa Mahal, the lac bangles and earrings, the whole 9 yards of Bandhej and Leheriya saris, and stimulating aroma of sweetmeats are the things that you will notice about Rajasthan’s capital royale; Jaipur. These are definitely the clichés but who cares as long as these same clichés make the pink city vibrant and cheery. Laudable architecture and brilliant craftsmanship topped with the hospitality received is something to sing home about.A short trip to the city last fall made me fall in love with the sheer beauty of its heritage. Well maintained and looked after, the beautiful palaces stand proud and tall even today without a hint of change but at the same time having beautifully blended with the progress Jaipur is seeing today.A weekend trip meant much to do and see with very little time in hand, but I was determined to make the most of it.
The best way to get around in Jaipur is but of course by an air conditioned car, take my word on this. With that at my disposal I ventured out to seek my first stop, The City Palace as any clichéd tourist would. Do I hear some disapproving nods? Let me ask you a question, would you go to Germany and avoid the cliché aka the beer? I think not, because sometimes it’s the clichés that actually make the place, and Jaipur is akin to palaces and all things royal. The City Palace is serves as a part residence to the king of Jaipur and part of it is open to tourists and visitors, but lets not get into these boring details now, you have Wikipedia for that anyway.
The palace is actually a museum of sorts housing relics and other pieces of Rajasthan royalty over the years. One of the best and interesting displays there was the huge carriage collection. The beautiful peacock door in the courtyard serves as a resplendent backdrop for that must have photo, and if you are wondering then yes I gave into another cliché here but what the heck I got a hell of a picture! It is advisable to not spend a lot of time here especially if you are on a time crunch like me. A quick walk through the various displays, a few pictures here and there and you are more than done to move on to the really good stuff now.
Take the ride to Amer palace, which looks like a picture perfect set from a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. Located a little outside the bustling city, this labyrinth of a palace also houses the enchanting Sheesh Mahal or The palace of mirrors. Beautiful mirror work embedded on the walls and ceiling, sparkling in the sunlight is a sight you will rarely see in your lifetime, a glistening jewel if I may call it. Another spectacular structure is the beautiful and well manicured lawn placed in the middle of the lake that surrounds the palace.
Walk around the palace, go trigger happy and avoid the so called tour guides. Thirsty from all that walking? The palace also has a coffee shop and a souvenir shop where you can grab a quick coffee and pick up a few souvenirs to remember your trip.
Who can come to Jaipur and not take a view of the beautiful Jal Mahal. Located in the middle of the Man Sagar lake. The mahal actually appears as if its simply floating on the serene waters.
Sadly they have stopped tours of the palace a few years back.
Next up; thanks to Rang De Basanti, Nahagarh fort has become the photostop for every Bollywood buff, who can try and avoid taking a picture here! Overlooking the city the fort captures the essence of Jaipur in a blink. Go here at night to see a beautifully lit Jaipur. Once you have taken in all of the beauty and had your fill of city gazing, grab a table at the café which rests at the top of the fort with some really great views. Order your drink (yes you can drink here!) and some basic fare (read oily French fries and Maggie). Do not expect great service or mouthwatering food, anyway this isn’t about dinner but more about the experience. A great place to just simply unwind with friends and a perfect end to a day of sightseeing.
Shopping in Jaipur:
Jaipur is a treasure trove for shoppers, from sarees to jewellery and beautiful handicraft items, you will find them all here. A few famous spots to shop are Johari Bazar fro your tye & dye sarees, Bapu Bazaar fro perfumes and Mojris (leather shoes), M.I. road for handicrafts.
Where to eat:
Head to Anokhi Café for breakfast. Serving vegetarian fare this Café is very popular with the foreign tourists. Situated in the Anokhi showroom, this small café serves some fine food and is peaceful.
Looking for a place to have some Dall Baati Churma? Then Santosh Bhojanalaya is the place to go to get your fix. Do something different for lunch, head to Rawat’s to grab a few of their delicious kachoris and ghewars.
Grab an enormous and never ending thali with an experience at Chokhi Dhani for dinner. For meat eaters, head straight to Handi on M.I. road where you can grab the famous ‘Lal Maas’ aka spicy mutton curry with wafer thin rotis.
What to keep in mind:
- Carry lots of sunscreen
- Wear light cotton clothing
- Don’t forget your sunglasses and your camera!