There’s something different about Jaipur, and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I’d already been to Delhi and Agra so this was the last corner of the triangle for me. It was also my favourite part of the golden triangle. Jaipur is actually India’s first planned city and I think that’s what distinguished it from the others. There was more space, more order and everything was very close together which made it easier as a tourist.
I don’t know why but I was surprised that the city was indeed, pink. An orangey pink admittedly, but pink all the same. There was something a little bit thrilling about driving through those pink gates in a tuk tuk and past the streets of different bazaars. I saw people painting and restoring the buildings so clearly a lot of work goes into keeping the pink city pink.
Many of the main attractions are along the same stretch of road that leads to the Amber Fort so its impossible to get lost. We got a 10 rupee bus to the fort and then stopped at the Jal Mahal on the way back. Out of the many forts that I saw in India (and there were many), I liked the Amber Fort the best. Not to romanticise about India, a deeply flawed and complex country, but the AF was like the India in my mind. The colour and the setting are both stunning. The fortified walls ran along the hillsides in every direction and we could see other forts in various states of repair perched upon them. The fort has such a long walkway that it dilutes the tourist numbers and Amer itself is fairly small.
There were families being driven up in ‘go karts’ with limited steering which was not ideal. As annoying as the go karts were, especially when they could only narrowly miss running you over, it’s still better than the alternative – elephants.
I love seeing elephants and I think they’re incredible animals. While I understand that they now can’t be released into the wild, domestication of elephants is increasingly unpopular and I hope the animals in Jaipur and the rest of Asia can be retired soon. I also hope that the people that work with elephants can keep their jobs or retrain with the skills they have, as no doubt understanding elephants is worthwhile in itself.
The start of The Life of Pi by Yann Martel begins at the Indian Coffee House in Chennai and I was keen to visit the one in Jaipur. I was desperate to go somewhere that wasn’t a tourist restaurant and the ICH is popular with everyone and cheap. A winning combination. There are some fascinating cafes and restaurants to try in Jaipur, and they’re easy to find which wasn’t the case in Delhi as it’s so massive. The decor was simple but the waiter wore an ostentatious hat that had been burnt at the top, I don’t have a picture as I was too scared to ask him. If you want tasty food with no hassle then this is the place to go.
The city palace is known for being insta-tastic and it certainly is that. It is beautiful but I would suggest it’s overpriced considering how much of the grounds are dedicated to selling you things. There are shops everywhere and I understand the hustle, but the palace is in the middle of several bazaar-lined streets so for me, it was too much.
The nearby Hawa Mahal is one of the most unusual and iconic buildings I’ve seen in India. It does get extremely inside though.
If you fancy getting out of the pink city, you can actually birdwatch in the lake next that surrounds the Jal Mahal palace. You can’t actually go inside but that only adds to the mystery.
Many tourists dress up in some form of traditional dress at the riverside market where you can buy all manner of things.
The tourist attraction that I was most intrigued by was Jantar Mantar. Jantar Mantar is one of five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Sawaii Jai Singh II in the 18th century and it’s now a UNESCO heritage site.
There are several buildings used to measure the alignment of the sun and the planets and they’re very beautiful.
It’s not all scientific as there are several buildings dedicated to star signs where many people have their photograph taken with their star sign (including me) so it can get quite busy.
If you need to get away from it all, Jaipur has several decent parks. We paid 20 rupees to stroll around Ramniwas Bagh Park and we saw a few courting couples but that was it. We also spotted birds, lizards and squirrels so it was worthwhile. In the public park, people leave offerings for the rats so watch your step as rat burrows and furry friends are everywhere.
Next to the park is the Albert Hall which is essentially a pigeon palace. It looks nice when it’s lit up but it is a bit scruffy close up.
If you’re into phallic symbols the the Iswari Minar Swarga Sal or ‘sky-piercing minaret’ is for you. You can see it from a nearby market but the street hustlers will probably tell you that to get you into the rooftop restaurant.
I highly recommend the Raj Mandir cinema as it’s an incredible setting to watch a film. If only the quality of films could match the beauty of the interior.
The main issue that I had in Jaipur was our terrible hostel which had a boiler wire that set on fire when I turned it on. Lazy Mozo backpackers was the worst place I’ve ever stayed in my life but we moved to Boby Mansion in the centre which was much better.
It’s worth mentioning that my friend was sexually harassed in the street in Jaipur by a man on a motorcycle who grabbed her crotch. Such behaviour is inexcusable and perpetrators should be shamed for it, or nothing will ever change.
On the whole Jaipur is an incredible place with some of India’s greatest historical monuments. Like many Indian cities, there are things it needs to address and I hope that it will, for its residents first of all and the people that visit.