The Pink City: Palaces, Peacocks and Paan
Jaipur is the kind of place you visit once – and immediately know you’ll be back. There’s plenty to make this impression. It might be the way the Pink City glows as the sun rises, or the intoxicating sight of watching tittering women in jewel-coloured saris striding alongside each other or perhaps it’s the thrill of haggling for colourful lac bangles and silver trinkets at one of its markets.
Jaipur is all that and so much more. Her half-naked children hawking grubby souvenirs, vehicles beeping maddeningly and streets clogged with garbage – add to that the mischievous humour of Jaipurians with their philosophy of surrendering to the unexpected and you get a truly fascinating destination. With that in mind, four history-crazy and borderline-shopaholic friends decide to give themselves completely over to the colour and chaos of Jaipur to experience one of the most exhilarating holidays we have ever had.
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Do a little more of what you want to do everyday, until your idea becomes what’s real. 🍃 We had seen so many amazing pictures from “Patrika Gate” in Instagram that we had it on our top places to visit in Jaipur. So lavish, gorgeous and alluring, these majestic and palatial gates at Jawahar circle’s entrance is one of the most popular places for photography. It’s the Ninth Gate of Jaipur which honors Jaipur’s architecture and heritage. Jaipur is indeed, a colorful city. The Pink City! 🌠 I wonder if the kings👑 from those eras could foresee how popular these architectures were going to be and would be called “Insta-places”. ✨ Do you have any places you want to visit after looking at its picture on Instagram? We are all ears.👂 #starspullingmyhair . . . . . #photorupt_rajasthan #wondersofrajasthan #imperialrajasthan #rajasthanclicks #storiesofrajasthan #rangeelorajasthan #igersjaipur #jaipur #instajaipur #beautifuljaipur #jaipurlove #rajasthantourism #rajasthan #_instaindia #indiabeats #shuttersofindia #shutterhubindia #rop_ #india_pixelz #_instaindia_ #indianphotos #earthcouples #travelcouples #travelustcouples #travelcouplegoals #travelcouplelife #inspiredtravelcouples #couplestravelgoals #indiaview
Our mantra for the trip: Surrender to the unknown. Exploring Jaipur’s old city on our first day certainly teaches us to be ready to roll with the punches. Our first stop, the City Palace, is one of Jaipur’s wonders and is still home to the royals today. As history buffs, we are excited to explore the stories behind this sprawling patchwork of Mughal and Rajput-style buildings, lavish courtyards, ornate pavilions and serene temples, so we decide to pay a whopping extra RM100 per person to have access to the palace’s private rooms and a personal guide.
All is well until we step into the first room when the guide admits: “I trainee, my English no so good. We join my brother who very good.” Unfortunately, his ‘brother’ is busy with his own tourists so we have to make do with him. Even the simplest question would send our guide into blind panic and a mumbling of wrong answers. “Where is the current 19-year-old Maharaja now?” we ask. “He student law Cambridge,” he replies. (A quick google search comes up with him being in NYU studying liberal arts.) “How many rooms are there in the palace?” Silence.
After a while we give up and ask him to just take a photo of us in the lavishly embellished Shobha Nivas (Hall of Beauty). Suddenly, our guide becomes a different man. “Instagram!” he smiles. “Please, legs cross and hands like pray,” he instructs. In the beautifully bright white and blue Chhavi Nivas (Hall of Images) he cries, “Stand, now see up, up.” It turns out that our guide is the reincarnation of Richard Avedon, which is why we now have in our iPhones, photos of us gazing wistfully into gold-leafed mirrors and pretending we are the goddess Kali with 8 arms standing in front of a marble throne.
One fact we did manage to extract from our guide was that Jaipur got the name Pink City in 1876 when Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh painted all royal and official buildings pink in honour of the Prince of Wales’ visit. And Jaipur’s most famous pink building is arguably the five-storey crown-shaped Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Wind), a five-minute walk from the City Palace. The extension to the City Palace was constructed from sandstone in 1799, but was then washed a terracotta pink with calcium oxide paint in 1876. The most interesting part of the structure is the windows; the fine latticework were meant to act like veils – a “purdah” for the royal women. Custom dictated that royal women couldn’t be seen by the public so peeking through these tiny windows was the only way they could watch daily street life out of sight.
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No better place to just sit for a while and take in all the beauty that Jaipur has to offer. ✨ ✨ I often feel that our generation is so busy curating moments for social media that we sometimes forget to stop and actually enjoy the NOW. Of course, the way in which we define enjoyment differs from person to person. And, if you are anything like me and clicking photos that you are proud of is something that makes you the happiest, then by all means, do you!! But, if you are not and are just doing it because of some peer pressure then I urge you to put your camera away and be yourself. Don’t get caught up in this mad world!! ✨ ✨ Travel tip: Make sure to go up the stairs on the Tumbas situated in the middle section to see this bird eye’s view of royal cenotaphs.
We pass many beautiful buildings with tiny windows, including the brand new Legacies Museum hidden in the middle of Kishanpole Bazaar, during our stay in Jaipur. One of our favourite things is to take walking tours and we decided to learn more about Jaipur’s artisans with guide Vineet Sharma who takes us through Jaipur Walks. As we snake through the narrow streets of the bazaars, Vineet gently guides us through beeping motorcycles and lumbering barrows overflowing with vegetables whilst ushering us away from street vendors hawking their wares from the crumbling pavements. In the warren of alleyways, he shows us hidden marble workshops where men carve devotional statues and secret rooms where dozens of craftsmen sit cross-legged on the floor, polishing and cutting precious stones.
“Maharaja Jai Singh II built the old city in 1727 for 40,000 people,” says Vineet as he steers us across the road of this surprisingly well laid out part of Jaipur, with its wide, straight streets running in a grid which forms a series of bazaars. “But there are now 350,000 people living within its walls, which makes this one of the densest, dirtiest, most congested parts of Jaipur!” As he says this we come across a few pigs feasting on a mound of cows’ poo and quite honestly it’s a shocking thing to see. But then we turn a corner and suddenly we’re in a different world.
Cool and serene, the Legacies Museum is a heritage building converted into an art space which displays the rich cultural heritage of Rajasthan with a diverse collection that includes textiles, jewellery, stoneware and inlay work, painting, and pottery. The old city is full of surprises like that. Just when the smell and noise get too overwhelming, there is a little temple or Ayurvedic centre to give you a brief respite. Ushering us out and over to street stands, Vineet coaxes us to try sweet paan made of betel leaf, lime paste, honey and rosewater, and some fried potato kachoris. We wouldn’t have been game enough to try them on our own, but Vineet assures us it’s safe and thank goodness we did because they are delicious.
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“Travel makes you realise that no matter how much you know, there’s always more to learn. “ – Anonymous ✨ ✨ Last week, I visited Galta Ji Temple in Jaipur and on my way there, I was just praying for this particular spot to be empty as I had read reviews online about how it gets pretty full during the day and how it’s almost impossible to take pictures without people in the background. Little did I know that instead of praying for it to be empty of people, I had to hope for it to be empty of trash… ✨ ✨ Imagine how disheartened I felt when I saw this beautiful sight from afar looking all majestic and empty & as I came closer, reality really hit me hard. Being my usual self, I still tried to make most of it by thinking I could just clean the water out in Photoshop. But, I just couldn’t get myself to even make an attempt to do so because all I ever want to do is share my honest experience of a place with you. ✨ ✨ If this photo and message could make even one of us more conscious towards our environment then why not share it, right? I believe that it’s high time we stop changing things in Photoshop and do our bit to make things better in real life. ✨ ✨ I even went to ask the caretaker of this temple about why the water hasn’t been cleaned and to my surprise, he casually replied that they don’t make an effort to clean it because visitors will come & dirty it equally bad the next day. Regardless of it being the government’s fault or the citizens of our country or even our beloved guests, I think, we, as humans can do better and should do better. To my fellow Indians, all I wanna say is that this particular place might not be your home, but this country is & to all our lovely visitors, this country might not be your home but the world surely is! ✨ ✨ #jaipur #beautifuldestinations #galtaji #rajasthan #rajasthan_diaries #rajasthandiaries #incredibleindia #instarajasthan #sidewalkerdaily #travelingpost #darlingescape #thediscoverer #travelwithme #indiapictures #india_everyday
The next day we visit Amber Fort on a hill on the outskirts of Jaipur. Fortunately our hotel, the charming Samode Haveli, is on the right side of the old city so it just takes a 15-minute drive to get there. Devi our driver drives slowly towards the massive complex so that we can appreciate the picturesque setting of the ancient former capital before it moved to Jaipur. Flanked by a lake on one side and rolling hills on the other side, its exterior is made even more glorious in the morning sun. A popular way of reaching the top of Amber Fort is to ride on elephants to the main courtyard but we choose not to do this out of concern for the animals’ welfare but boy, don’t they look magnificent.
As in many places throughout Jaipur, we are keenly aware of royal presence. It’s easy to imagine the Maharajas of the past entertaining in the marble-floored open-air sitting room of Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience), which has a double row of columns; the brackets at the top of the columns incorporate elephant motifs. But the showstopper here is the breathtaking Sheesh Mahal (Mirrored Room) where every inch is covered with tiny mirror fragments, colourful mosaics and intricate flower carvings.
Our Bollywood-style audio guide script (lesson learnt from past experience) explains, complete with lyrical music and booming voice-over, that the Maharaja ordered the hall to be built
so that his Maharani would be able to stargaze whenever she so desired. The room was built thus so that the “reflection from a single candle is like a thousand stars”.
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😍 . . #jaipur #beautifuljaipur #rajasthan #indianphotography #worldphotographersclub #mobilephotography #streetofindia #indian_lights #indianphotographyworld #yourshotphotographer #shuttersofindia #clickability_24#mobile_photography #world_photography_hub #coloursofindia #world_photography_page #_visualsofindia #enticing_gallery #_instaindia_ #aviktheboss #maibhisadakchap #_soi #_coi #gun_eat #sharewithmonk #shwetamalhotra03 #vob #vibezofinsta #_visualsofindia #jeeteraho #tagsanket
On the drive back to the city, we watch little children dodge murderous taxis and slumbering cows whilst pressing their hopeful faces against car windows, trying to sell pink plastic dolls and yellow nylon elephants. Jaipur can be overwhelming as you see the most desperate people right outside some of the world’s most glorious monuments.
There’s so much sensory overload that at the end of the day, you really need to gather your thoughts over drinks or dinner to talk and laugh over what you have seen during the day. We found another way to relax is by shopping.
Indeed, to shop in Jaipur is to participate in a tradition that dates back to the Mughal era. Then, Agra was the capital of the empire and Jaipur was a relatively sleepy second city. But what it lacked in governmental might it made up for in riches. For centuries, the city was one of the world’s most important craft centres renowned for its block-printed cottons, metalwork, hand-painted clay pottery and most spectacularly, fine jewellery.
Some of the best things to buy here are textiles – block-printed fabrics, shawls and made-to-measure clothing. Our favourite is the nondescript Riddhi Siddhi Textiles, which is crammed to the rafters with gorgeous block-print bed covers, sheets, huge Rajasthani-style duvets, tablecloths, napkins, towels and textiles. We peek into a room where rows and rows of items are customised for famous European brands like Graham & Green which then sells them at much higher prices overseas. Another is BR Enterprises, which sells similar stuff but with a slightly more traditional spin. You can happily while away half a day here as the shopkeepers unfurl item after item, first at their smallish store and then if they like you, in their vast warehouse across the street. The service at these two places is incredible – you can dream of something and have it made the next day.
Idli, a colour-drenched boutique full of eclectic clothes and accessories that interpret Indian handiwork with a Parisian spin, is one of the best shops for fashion. Another favourite is Anokhi, known for its modern spin on hand-block printed textiles and clothing, while Suvasa is filled with sophisticated but wearable clothes and furnishings in cotton and silk. Top of the list for gems must be Gem Palace, the city’s most famous and wonderfully atmospheric jewellery store. A short five-minute walk away is Amrapali, a leading Jaipur brand beloved by Bollywood stars. This store offers a wider and more affordable range of designs and collections, and turns out to be our favourite destination for vintage and new baubles. Lastly, we must give a shoutout to Ratnavali, a warehouse which not only has a huge collection of beautifully crafted jewellery but also the best aftercare service.
All this shopping made us hungry. Personally I don’t think food is Jaipur’s strongest point, being so far from the sea and fresh seafood. However, we did like Café Palladio, Anokhi Cafe and Jaipur Modern Kitchen for light non-Indian lunches. For local food, try Four Seasons for its vegetarian thali and Niros, one of Jaipur’s oldest restaurants, for great paneer tikka and daal. For dinner, hit the stunning Bar Palladio for a good Italian meal or the terrace of the palatial Rambagh Palace for an Indian feast.
On our last night, while sipping our drinks on the terrace of a fading palace, we watched peacocks strut across the lawns as the last rays of sun lowered over the Pink City. Romantic and glamorous, Jaipur has been everything we imagined and more. After all, it’s a city which was painted pink for a prince, a queen who slept in a room filled with stars, and ruled by a king who moved through a whole city on elephants.
Related: Jodphur: Inside the Rajasthani Hidden Crown Jewel