Every time, I sit down to write an article on Rajasthan, I am extremely biased because my mind completely shuts down and my heart takes over. I can travel to Rajasthan in the summer and not complain but I will try and not mislead anybody through these beautiful pictures and my biased mindset. India and particularly Rajasthan has been a popular travel destination for many people, if you know exactly what you would be experiencing, you would come back with good memories. I still find it strange when I hear people complaining that India is crowded and dirty. India is incredibly beautiful but you better be prepared to see pollution, dirt and poverty.
The new age instagram pictures of Jaipur are breathtaking and I personally feel that it is a city which has a deep and beautiful historic soul for all those who are willing to see beyond the dust and pollution. Jaipur is a crowded metropolis which is extremely polluted and dusty but I want to focus on the beauty of this city, I want to tell you about the charming and historic architecture and the stunning opulence which is well preserved. Jaipur is the majestic home to erstwhile royals and it is filled with old-world charm surrounded by colourful markets and chaotic streets. Are you ready for a slice of Incredible India?
I travelled to Jaipur for the first time in my late twenties and completely fell in love with the city. I was amazed that one city has so many forts and palaces, the level of grandeur and the ability to glimpse into a bygone era really caught my attention. I love any city which has history, art, architecture. I enjoy spending my holidays in museums, forts and palaces where the walls have so many stories. The Walled City of Jaipur, known for its iconic architectural legacy and vibrant culture, recently made its entry into the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The historic walled city of Jaipur in Rajasthan, was founded in 1727AD under the patronage of Sawai Jai Singh II. It serves as the capital city of the culturally-rich state of Rajasthan. The city was chosen for its exemplary development in town planning and architecture. It takes you into a bygone era and the details of the architecture is astonishing. There is an interchange of ancient Hindu, Mughal and contemporary Western architecture and this amalgamation makes the walled city in Jaipur extremely unique.
There is one direct flight from Bangkok to Jaipur, it arrives in Jaipur late night. I checked into the hotel by midnight but I was up at 5am the next morning to catch the beautiful sunrise from Nahargarh Fort, I was not surprised to see it overcrowded at 5.30am. I personally don’t like overcrowded spaces, I found another place opposite Amer Fort which was much less crowded because the hike up requires a basic level of fitness. The views were stunning and I enjoyed my morning hike, it is the perfect place to go sit to read a book, relax and enjoy the view of the city. It was so windy, I completely forgot that it was July and enjoyed the quietness and the wind. It was such a beautiful secluded spot to meditate, Jaipur can be overwhelmingly crowded so finding such spaces in a crazy metropolis makes me really happy.
It was a perfect balance of fort architecture, nature and views of Amer Fort. I have never seen this in typical tour group agenda but I would strongly recommend starting the day early to experience the sunrise and the hike. As an added bonus, you can get family pictures clicked inside the fort architecture, I was as usual monkeying around and I had a photographer with me who clicked a few fun pictures. On the topic of monkeys, there are many monkeys in this area but they add to the experience. Fortunately for me, I have never been attacked by them but I am always wary of saying never. Most visitors and residents of Jaipur have learnt to coexist with the monkeys. The Pink City has way too many of them and they can be found just about everywhere. The monkeys, I learned from my friend, came in two types. The aggressive red bottomed common monkeys, and the graceful silver langurs which are more peaceful. Apparently, these two do not get along with each other and I was honestly petrified of being attacked by them but they don’t typically bother you unless you are carrying food.
After the hike, I came down and visited Amer Fort which is a scenic marvel. It is built using red sandstone and white marble. The fort’s majestic appearance and its geographical advantages make it a special place to visit. The fort presents a fascinating blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture. This fort is located 10 kilometres from the main city, it is built on top of a hill. You have the option to go up in an elephant but my daughter is completely against riding on animals, she is a mini animal rights activist so I chose to drive up to the top. I enjoyed the views of the Maota Lake and the Aravalli Hills on my way up. I love the architecture at the entrance to the fort and I particularly like the area with Jali Lattice architecture, I love the way the shadows fall when the sun rises. Latticework is an openwork framework consisting of a criss-crossed pattern of strips of building material, typically, marble, wood or metal.
The design is created by crossing the strips to form a grid or weave. There are local guides outside the fort and you can hire them to show you around the fort. They will explain the history of the fort and tell you tales of Rajputana royalty. I am always amazed by the clothes and jewellery worn by the queens but I can’t help wondering how isolated it would have been for these women to spend all their time inside. After I finished visiting Amer, I drove past Jal Mahal. It is a beautiful palace in the middle of a lake, you can’t go into the palace. It is built on Mansagar Lake and flanked by the Aravalli Hills, this man made lake was created in the 16th Century. This palace was built by the founder of Jaipur as a pleasure pavilion. This low rise symmetrical palace appears to float in the middle of the lake. The light sand coloured stone walls are a stark contrast to the blue water. The Jal Mahal is located on the main Amer-Jaipur road so its logistically better to combine visiting this palace on the way to Amer Fort.
I ate breakfast/brunch at Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar. I always love trying the local cuisine and this is the best place for an authentic Rajasthani dining experience. This restaurant is always buzzing with customers, the food is vegetarian and there are a variety of local dishes on the menu. Whenever I think about Jaipur, the very first thing that comes to my mind is the very famous ‘Pyaaz ki Kachori’. This is a kind of Rajasthani snack, a fried pastry filled with a spicy onion filling. This glorious delicacy is not to be missed. It is one of the most famous spicy snacks from Jaipur and it is served with green chilli and tamarind chutney.
It is difficult for me to choose my absolute favourite place to visit in Jaipur but if I have to pick one, it would be the city palace. I visited the city palace on my recent trip although I have visited it a few times earlier. I never get bored of seeing the doors inside. The architecture is so colourful and the intricate details are mind boggling. There are so many colourful doors, if you are a door lover like me, you will love this place. I just called myself a “door lover”, that just does not sound right, I wonder what people would think if I go up to them and say, “Hi, I am Aparna Sharma, I am a door lover” but the truth is I love doors with intricate work. This palace has so many different doors, I wanted to steal a few but they were too heavy. By now, you might be convinced I am crazy. I made my younger daughter pose for me in front of all the doors and she gladly obliged, she is also a door lover who loves to pose so we make a perfect pair. This complex includes the Chandra Mahal building where the descendants of the royal family still reside in the upper floors.
Most guidebooks on Jaipur will have Hawa Mahal on its cover, it is the famous wind palace on the Jaipur sightseeing trail. This five storey structure was inspired by the Hindu god, Lord Krishna. The first impression of this palace is impressive, it is a sandstone pink honeycombed facade replete with 953 latticed windows. The markets around and opposite this should be high on the list of things to see and do in Jaipur. Be prepared to bargain a lot when you are shopping in the markets, I would strongly recommend taking a trusted local with you. You will find a lot of silver jewellery made by local artisans and fabric with the popular Jaipur style block prints. I love shopping in Jaipur, it is so much cheaper than Delhi so it is advisable to keep a budget for shopping. The frenzy of the market opposite Hawa Mahal was extremely exciting, I went crazy shopping for locally made fabric and earrings. I walked into by lanes and discovered many different shops selling clothes and jewellery.
I also visited the Patrika gate which is known as the ninth gate of Jaipur. It is an Instagram worthy spot where you can capture the vibrant colours of the walkway. The gate is the entrance to Jawahar Circle Garden and it’s the perfect spot to get away from the craziness of the city. The magnificent pink structure houses a colourful hallway that has become one of the most trending places on social media. Each pillar of Patrika Gate is intricately carved and hand painted with stunning forts, palaces, temples, portraits of Jaipur rulers and other monuments showing the vibrant culture of Rajasthan.
There are a lot of options for places to stay in Jaipur depending on the budget. Most of the luxury and heritage properties organise cultural shows and dances in the evening. Watching the local artists perform in the comfort of an air-conditioned hotel is a nice way to unwind after a busy day roaming the streets and markets. There are new hotels which are very luxurious but they don’t have a history because they are completely new buildings. There are palaces which have been converted into hotels and most of them have retained the old world charm. Here are my recommendations, I have stayed in all these three properties.
The Rambagh Palace: Originally built in 1835, Rambagh Palace has stepped gracefully through many royal transitions—from the home of the queen’s favourite handmaiden, to royal guesthouse and hunting lodge, and later as the residence of the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II and his queen, Maharani Gayatri Devi. This heritage luxury property offers 78 stunningly restored grand luxury rooms and suites which were the chambers of the former Maharaja. This property is the epitome of maharaja grandeur and luxury and the room rates are probably amongst the most expensive in Jaipur.
The Fairmont Jaipur: This is a new property, it is built in traditional Rajasthani style but it is not a heritage property. The architecture is an ode to the pink city, it is inspired by the Mughal dynasty and Royal Rajputs of yore. All the rooms and suites are elegantly appointed, to reflect a perfect blend of traditional Rajasthani décor and modern amenities. This is a well maintained five star luxury property and the room rates are probably half of Rambagh Palace.
The Diggi Palace: This is a heritage property which is centrally located. The history of Diggi Palace goes back to the 19th Century. Diggi Palace was built in 1860. In 1991, the palace was converted to a heritage hotel and was made open for public. Amidst its creative architecture, resonates a reflection of Jaipur’s deeply rooted history dating back to over 150 years. This property is definitely cheaper than the above mentioned two hotels and it is perfectly located.